“I think the reason I became vegan stemmed from a multitude of reasons, but initially was something I decided could be done while trying to reach specific fitness goals.”
How did you get into veganism?
How long have you been vegan for?
“I went full blown vegan 2 years ago come this Thanksgiving. I was 75% vegan for about a year before that, meaning I would eat chicken/eggs/cheese a few times a week. It was really only something I would eat for breakfast, or if I ever went out to eat at a restaurant. I actually made the decision that I wanted to gain more weight, more muscle mass, so I thought becoming fully vegan would be a perfect way to go about it. It is a great way to consume a lot of carbs and to not worry as much about a number of calories being consumed. When bulking I try to get in around 4000 calories a day.
I think the reason I became vegan stemmed from a multitude of reasons, but initially was something I decided could be done while trying to reach specific fitness goals. Once I learned that I could get all the necessary macros and nutrients needed to support my fitness lifestyle I really didn’t have any more excuses.
I wouldn’t say I went vegan cold turkey because there was a period of time (approximately one year) that I was eating 75-90% vegan each week. I would still eat chicken, eggs, and cheese. I basically skipped the whole vegetarian stage, but I wouldn’t say I went from eating burgers and steak straight to veganism. I hadn’t eaten red meat for at least a year or two before going vegan. I was already fairly health conscious… or so I thought!
The long-term reasons for why I am vegan, besides the obvious choices (health, environmental impacts, and animal rights), my family medical history is not the greatest. My grandfather, father, and brother have all died from cancer. I am the last male left in my paternal lineage, so it’s definitely something I worry about down the road. I do believe though that most of the time (90% at least) cancer causing issues are environmental. The things we put in our bodies, on our bodies, these chemicals, and foods that people just assume are natural… really aren’t.
I think it’s sad that people just choose to ignore facts that are readily available to them, but if something inconveniences them in the slightest they’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist. I think it’s sad because I know what death looks like and how it affects others, so if there is even the slightest chance that it can be prevented I would hope that more people would understand that it’s not just a better choice for themselves but for everyone else that they would leave behind too.”
What inspired you to share your lifestyle on social media?
“To be honest, I always hated the idea of social media… I didn’t have Instagram and still don’t have a Facebook account, but I thought that once I started my vegan lifestyle that it would be a great way to show others what you can accomplish while sustaining a plant-based lifestyle. I think we can all agree that if you really want to consider yourself vegan then you’re actively trying to do the most good in this world. For me, that would include spreading a positive message while trying to motivate others to follow in your footsteps. Going vegan is great and I am proud to say I am making a positive impact, but the more people you can convince to live in a similar fashion will only magnify that positive effect. If one person sees what I do, and decides to go vegan, great. If I can convince 10,000 people? Even better!”
How long have you been body-building for?
What drove you to get into it?
“After graduating college in 2013 I weighed around 245 pounds. There’s actually a comparison photo on my IG where I am in University of Michigan apparel on the left, and that was taken during my senior year of college. I was very unhappy with my appearance, and you couldn’t pay me to take my clothes off in front of people. I decided to start eating healthier and follow a consistent workout regime shortly after graduation, and that lasted for about a year before I moved down to Miami. This was strictly cardio and more bodyweight type movements, which helped me drop from 245 lbs to 180 lbs.
I was running 4-5 miles a day and spending about 1-2 hours in the gym almost every day when I first moved to Miami. I had no idea what it meant to be a bodybuilder, or how my diet was affecting my results. I shortly learned about macros, and as I became more serious with weight training I learned that it could be a lifestyle easily sustained on a plant-based diet.
Long story short, I’ve been lifting heavy weight for about two and a half years and went vegan shortly afterward.”
What are the biggest challenges, if any, of being both a bodybuilder and a vegan?
“Just time and convenience, really. I work at least 40 hours a week, and my job isn’t your typical 9-5 office desk job either. I can be in the field for days at a time just after being informed the day before…
Now it’s not typically like that, but it can be tiresome and I will struggle when it comes to prepping my meals after a long day. My average day usually works from 730-330, home and then gym by hopefully 5 pm. I usually don’t get home until 7 pm and in that time I am expected to have bought groceries, cook dinner, and prep for the next day.
It’s not being vegan or the food choices that becomes challenging, just the amount of time I have in a day.”
Can you tell me a little more about your average daily/weekly food intake?
What do you typically eat?
How many calories?
How do you get much-needed protein to the gym?
“It really all depends on what my current goals are at the time, but I will range from about 3000-4000 calories on any given day. Right now I’m closer to the 3000 calorie range because I’ve been trying to lean down a bit.
My ideal week would include an endless variety of options, but honestly, out of laziness, I stick to a few basic staples. Each morning will start with a huge protein shake. It is very easy for me to make as I try to get out the door every morning as quickly as possible. If I have time the previous evening I will make overnight oats. Simply throw rolled oats with some almond milk, peanut butter banana, chia/hemp seeds, and frozen berries into a mason jar and leave it in the fridge overnight.
My protein shake is usually clocked in over 1000 calories. It will have 3-4 bananas, a couple tablespoons of natural peanut butter, a couple dates, almond milk, ice and 30 grams of Run Everything Labs plant-based chocolate protein.
Lunch is any combination of brown rice, black beans, roasted sweet potato, lentils, avocado, quinoa, paired with some mock meat. I really like Tofurky Italian sausages or their chik’n. I’ll also make my own seitan or teriyaki tempeh.
Dinner is usually a repeat of lunch, but with more roasted veggies. You’ll typically find large trays of roasted sweet potato, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts in my oven.”
Can you also tell me a little more about your gym routine?
How much time do you spend there?
How much are you lifting at the moment?
“I try to make it to the gym seven days a week. I will usually burn out somewhere in the middle of the week though. Right now I have been taking a rest day once a week, but I just listen to whatever my body is telling me. I know when I am exhausted, and on that day you’ll probably catch me taking a 3-hour nap in the afternoon.
So I spend a little less than two hours at the gym. During that time I will squeeze in a 10-15 minute warm up with some form of cardio, and then I will spend about 15-20 minutes every other day with some core exercises. An average week will be something like Chest, Legs, Biceps, Triceps, Back, and Shoulders. If I go to the gym all seven days, I will usually mix and match a couple muscle groups on that final day.
Right now my PR squat is 315 lbs, bench is 275 lbs and deadlift 405 lbs. I’ve been recently struggling with a hip injury though, so, unfortunately, I’ve had to focus most of my energy on upper body workouts.”
You’ve mentioned about being in PETA’s world’s hottest vegan. Can you tell me a little more about the experience and how it came about?
“PETA holds a contest for sexiest vegan every year. They pick one male and one female. I do a lot of animal rights activism and noticed one day that they were accepting applications. After being selected as a finalist it came down to a public vote. Unfortunately, I did not win, but it was nice to get some recognition. They even had an article about it in the local paper here in Miami during the competition.
If anything, the experience taught me that I could really reach a lot more people through social media if I put in some extra effort. Whether it’s about my food, my fitness, or my activism… I’m just happy there are people out there who are interested in what I have to say! Or how I look? Whichever it is, I’ll take it haha ☺”
Is there any particular message related to your lifestyle that you’d like to get out there?
“I wouldn’t even know where to start. I would hope people could understand the severity of what our choices mean for the future of this planet. We live in a world with limited resources. There is actually only one planet, and it’s not something we should take lightly. Time plays a huge factor here, but at the end of the day, this planet will not be able to sustain an ever growing human population at this rate of resource consumption. We will die off, and I know that sounds extreme. I know it may not happen for a couple hundred years down the road, but unfortunately, life will only get more and more difficult from now until the end. Water shortages, hunger, greenhouse gases and climate change… these things are no joke. What people don’t seem to understand is that animal agriculture is the number one cause of each and every one of these issues. Animal agriculture is the source of more greenhouse gases than all transportation sectors combined. All the grain/feed, water, and land use it takes to feed and house these animals could be going to those that are thirsty and hungry.
I think that there is a major global disconnect. Here in America food just magically appears on our plates, but no one has any clue at what cost…
There are plenty of documentaries out right now that briefly touch on most of these issues: Cowspiracy (environmental issues), Forks Over Knives, What the Health, and Food Choices (health issues), and Earthlings (animal rights issues).
I don’t think I could ever fully explain all the benefits that choosing a vegan lifestyle has, not only on one’s own personal wellbeing but on a global scale to ensure a hopeful future for next generations. The biggest issue though is just a lack of education. This is a sad truth, but the people controlling what we eat are being paid by the same people that benefit most from all the lies. Pharmaceutical business alone is some trillion dollar enterprise thriving on people alive enough to pay the bills but sick enough to keep buying the medications. They don’t actually want you healthy. Where is the money in that? Feed them food and give them chemically filled products that keep them alive, but just enough to where they still need multiple prescriptions and doctor appointments to keep footing the bill.
Am I happy that everything in this world that is subsidized, and that I am being forced to pay through taxes, are the same things I try to avoid altogether? How else do you think a Big Mac meal costs less than $5? Or individuals with diabetes and heart disease knocking on death’s door, but has Medicare or some other form of public insurance that the rest of the population pays for with their hard earned taxed dollar?
The world we live has been designed this way, and most people go on day to day without ever questioning if it makes any sense at all… These people choose to be ignorant; if not for the fact that they just assume that the higher order has our best interest at heart. They REALLY fucking don’t… Why the fuck would they if it meant no more money for them and their fat cat buddies?
Vegans come across as crazy, but in reality, we are just sick of all the bullshit. We just want everyone to become self-aware, and realize that the life they’re living isn’t really a life they chose for themselves but was a life that was forced on them. Generation after generation of pure lies and deceit; we just want it to end. We want people to see where their food comes from, stare into the eyes of all the innocent animals suffering and dying, eat a burger that takes over 600 gallons to make in front of an entire village without clean drinking water. That sort of shit is fucked up. We each have to be held accountable and responsible. Once you know the truth it’s really only you versus your conscience and if you are able to live with integrity. Everyone wants to claim that they are a good person, a loving being, someone who is compassionate… but are you really once you know all the facts?”
Matthew James aka Vegan_Thor / Tampa, Florida, U.S.A.