We here at Engine 2 like to talk about being “plant-strong” well we found one of the plant-strongest people we could find and talked to him about his healthy plant-strong life.
Derek is originally from San Diego, CA where he spent all his free time in athletic pursuits from organized sports to martial arts to surfing and kayaking. He took up weightlifting in early high school and this love of weight training carried him naturally into bodybuilding as his physique developed. Derek also realized early on that he has a contagious enthusiasm in the gym: he can’t wait to get everyone around him as excited as he is about fitness. And he hopes he can get you excited about fitness and healthy plant-strong food!
Derek has become increasingly passionate about health and, as he continues to study biology, he is awed by the amazing intricacy of all aspects of life coming together so that it may thrive. This is why a natural approach to health is the only approach that makes sense to him and the only way that will guarantee phenomenal and lifelong results.When he met his wife Marcella four years ago he began educating myself about veganism and reading the works of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Fuhrman, Derek saw the scientific literature regarding the detriments of animal product consumption firsthand and knew there was no going back.
He has since been spreading the word and striving to lead by example using fitness and bodybuilding as a means to demonstrate the amazing health benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet.
We asked Derek some questions, that you had for him.
1. What got you started on the path to becoming plant-strong?
I have always been an athlete and a heath/fitness enthusiast, and with role models like Arnold I also have always strove to be big, powerful and macho by doing things like weightlifting and martial arts. I thought eating lots of animal products, and especially red meat, were essential to my success as an athlete so I ate them all the time.In 2007 I was presented for the first time with the substantial evidence about the detrimental effects animal products have on our long term health, especially with regards to heart disease and cancer, when my wife Marcella gave me The China Study as a gift. Cancer and heart disease both run in my family (as they do with all Americans), and that combined with my passion for healthy living compelled me to eliminate animal products from my diet.
2. What were your biggest fears about becoming plant-strong?
My biggest fears in changing my diet were
1.) the reaction of my friends and family,
2.) losing muscle mass and athletic performance, and
3.) doubt that a plant based diet would fulfill all my nutritional needs.
The social aspect of changing your diet is probably the most difficult at first, and I struggled with feeling like I had to explain to those around me how much healthier my new diet was and why. I have since learned the best way to convey that message to others is to lead by positive example. Those who are most open minded and interested in learning more will be drawn to you that way.Losing muscle is a major concern for any athlete giving up animal products, but it is completely unfounded.I found websites like veganbodybuilding.com and knew it was possible to be muscular and plant-based. In fact what I ended up losing wasn’t muscle but fat! Even with all my athletics and fast metabolism my body fat percent had been stuck at 12% for years, and when I changed my diet it immediately dropped to 7% in about a month!
3. How quickly did your fears go away?
It only took a little time for me to see how much better I looked and felt to know that this way of eating was nutritionally superior to the standard American diet. My fears about nutrition and my athletic performance disappeared rapidly as I got leaner, had more energy, and got stronger and more muscular than I was before. Getting used to interacting with others and being confident in my decision took a little longer, but now it’s part of who I am.
4. What is the most rewarding thing about being plant-strong?
My favorite aspect of eating this way is that it enables me to be a positive role model. There are few things that can impact a person’s life and the world around us as much as plant-based nutrition, and I feel that I am in an excellent position to lead by example and help others create positive changes in their lives.
5. Do you use protein supplements/ where do you get your protein?
I get the majority of my protein through whole foods like beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and green vegetables, but I also like to supplement my diet with quality plant protein, especially after weight training to aid in recovery and promote growth. My favorite is Sunwarrior’s raw brown rice protein; it tastes great and is raw so it’s minimally processed and still has intact nutrients.
6. What do you eat in a day?
I usually eat 5 to 6 times per day as a means to get enough calories (I usually eat between 4 and 6 thousand calories per day) and to make sure my body has a steady stream of nutrition, energy, and protein coming in at all times. My meals early in the day consist of oatmeal, fruit, a protein shake, and usually some kind of nut butter sandwich on sprouted bread. My later meals are full of things like brown rice, quinoa, beans, vegetables in all shapes and sizes, and nuts and seeds. My wife and I have meal plans and recipes listed on our blog so check them out!
7. Weekly workout schedule?
Like most bodybuilders, I weight train 5 days per week, working each muscle group once or twice per week on its own day. On the remaining two days I do cardio (usually running or swimming) and recover. When I am preparing for a contest I will add one or two cardio sessions every day to burn extra body fat and get really lean. I will also reduce both total calories and my percent calories from fat.
My current schedule looks like this:
Tuesday: Legs AM/ Arms PM
Saturday: Legs AM/ Arms PM
8. Where can people reach you, or read more about you?
On my wife’s and my blog, veganmuscleandfitness.com, on the forums and in the articles of veganbodybuilding.com, as well as on facebook and twitter @veganmuscle. I encourage everyone to get in touch!
We want to thank Derek for taking the time to talk to us about his amazing plant-strong life! He is a great inspiration for everyone wanting to live a healthy life! Be sure say hi to Derek in the comments!