Two years ago, bodybuilder Robert Webster took the decision to eradicate meat and diary from his diet. He describes what he’s learnt since
1. You can get all the protein you need
When you go vegan, it seems like everybody suddenly becomes Dr Nutrition. This is usually a good thing – they care about you, and want to make sure you’re making the right choices for your body.
The number one question I got as a transitioning vegan bodybuilder was something along the lines of “But bro, where will you get your protein?” This was mixed in with a few others, like “Won’t you die of protein deficiency?”
Of course, the short answer is “no”. I’m still alive and kicking. I’m not going to lie to you and say I wasn’t apprehensive when doing my research beforehand. I thought I was going to need dairy with my whey protein shakes, to minimise any loss to my workout gains (and, you know, not die).
I was wrong. After turning vegan, I grew: evidently, I could get all the protein I needed and more. And this didn’t mean supplementing with vegan protein powders, either. There’s an abundance of healthy plant-based protein sources out there, you just have to know where to find them.
2. Your body will thank you
Since becoming vegan, my body has found its true mojo – my recovery has been better, my strength is greater, I’m leaner, my digestion has improved, my skin is better, my hair is strong and shiny … OK, now I sound like an advert for horse shampoo. That aside, I can feel my body thanking me every day: my energy levels are high and I am able to pursue everything I want from life, knowing that my body is performing at its peak.
3. You can still treat yourself
I love a good treat. Who doesn’t? A lot of what puts people off pursuing veganism as a lifestyle is the idea of restriction. But this is misleading: whilst there are some food items that vegans choose not to eat, the restriction idea seems to skip on all the items that vegans do eat. And trust me, there’s plenty of those. Start listing fruit and veggies and you’ll realise you’re making all kinds of headway.
But that’s not all, my friends. There is an abundance of treat foods for vegans available, whether they be ‘accidentally vegan’ foods or specific vegan food products.
“Oh, but I just COULDN’T LIVE without x,” you’re thinking. “Don’t you miss y,” you ask. (Insert any number of non-vegan food items here.)
To a lot of people, the idea of a vegan diet is daunting, and it’s hard to imagine life without certain foods. The thing is, the vegan market is growing – nowadays, you can get all the treat foods you desire without all the issues that come with non-vegan products. Mozzarella cheese on your pizza? Sorted. Sausage sandwich? Cook those vegan sausages up extra crispy, and don’t skip on the vegan spread on your bread.
Should you still not believe me, here’s a video with some suggestions for widely available vegan ‘junk food’ products:
4. You don’t have to eat tortoise food
Kale is often dismissed as tortoise food – but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The green stuff is delicious served up with some chia seeds, black pepper and soy sauce. Seriously.
But if you really can’t get on with it, you have two options:
- Disguise it in a delicious green smoothie
- Don’t eat it
Trade secret: contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to like or eat kale to be a vegan. You’re welcome.
5. Your bank manager will be pleased
Another objection I came across when I first made the transition two years ago was “Oh, that’ll be expensive, won’t it? Aren’t vegan foods expensive?”
Once again, the answer is no. Personally, I don’t spend more than £20 a week on a food shop. How? Fruits and veggies are cheap.
As a vegan student bodybuilder, I needed cheap, convenient foods that I could prepare in advance, and I was able to source all I needed and more. To this day, my meals can be as cheap as 60p each. I have all the staples in my cupboard – lentils, beans, rice, pasta, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices – then buy my fresh fruit and veg.
6. You’ll make friends
There’s a running joke that vegans have no friends (closely followed by the meme ‘When you haven’t told someone you’re a vegan for ten minutes’). In all seriousness, pursuing vegan bodybuilding has given me opportunities to work with new people, to attend events like VegFest and meet so many people that I get along with so well. It’s been amazing for my social life.
The other myth is that you’ll lose all your existing friends when you go vegan. Wrong! I have found that my friends have been very receptive to my lifestyle, and many of my friends have credited their going vegan to my influence, sharing their thoughts and asking advice. I am honoured to help: it’s so nice to support people in doing something that they really believe in!
Tip: people will be more accepting than you think. Even if they’re a bit hesitant at first, if you arm yourself with all the information you need and prepare for the questions and jokes, eventually people will see that you’re really prospering with the lifestyle and think ‘How can I do that too?’
7. You’ll save lives
Now, it’s pretty obvious that not eating animals saves lives. (198 per year per vegan, to be exact). Less demand = less production and less slaughter.
But what about the other lives you save in the process?
I’m talking about you. You’re saving yourself. With documentaries popping up all the time on the health benefits of veganism, it really is easier than ever to educate yourself on the adverse effects of eating meat and other animal products. When you really think about it, are you willing to exchange your life for these products when there are so many other healthy things you could be eating? Food for thought.
See what I did there?