Name: Jacob Park
Weight: 173 pounds
Birthplace: Green Rock, IL
Current Residence: DeKalb, IL
Sports: Weight training, cycling and Martial Arts
Why did you become vegan?
All of the positive aspects of veganism compounded and convinced me to become vegan. I was a recently turned vegetarian with a lifelong interest in weight training and martial arts, but I was afraid to become vegan for the fear of an inability to make gains without any “complete” proteins in my diet. I came to veganbodybuilding.com and took a look at some of the featured athletes, namely Robert Cheeke and Alexander Dargatz. Looking at them, it is doubtless that muscle can be built on a vegan diet. I sat with this rolling through my head for a few weeks, still making a few excuses, when I found some information from the United Nations on the terrible inefficiency of animal agriculture. After reading several articles on it, I made the decision that I was going vegan immediately.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I was always obese, eating a sad version of the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). I would touch nary a vegetable, save for carrots. My days were filled with honey buns, ramen, macaroni, grilled cheese, triple decker PB sandwiches (J resembled something too healthy), whole pizzas, fries and lots of burgers. I topped out at 270 pounds thanks to this way of eating. I have always been into weight lifting, though, with martial arts as an interest, but rarely an active one. I stopped martial arts and other sports as a kid because running isn't a fat kid's best friend, Mario and Luigi are. From there I moved ever closer to my apex of weight. In high school I discovered how much I really love lifting. I took a class on lifting the last two years, becoming one of the strongest kids in my school, and simultaneously one of the fattest. In college my lifting became sidelined the first year. One summer I became sick of being so fat, so I started to eat better, cutting out the worst of the junk foods. I found a decidedly late increase of interest in women that summer, meeting a very beautiful one. I decided I really wanted to slim down if I was ever to stand a chance with an attractive woman. So, I set off to exercise. I got back into lifting and picked up cycling, finding a new love in it. I began to eat healthier, shucking my old insipid diet off, slowly, for a new on that featured flavors I had never experienced. I lost loads of weight quickly, possibly too quickly (as my extra skin can attest to) and fell in love with fitness.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
Whole foods vegan. I eat the vast majority of my calories, roughly ninety-five percent, from whole plant foods. The other five or so percent comes from plant-based supplements. I keep my calories fairly low for a weight lifter. I am reluctant to become fat again, so I have yet to go into a bulking phase. I am working my mind into going into one, as it would do me a plethora of good; I have been on a cutting phase for far too long and I need to fill out all this skin. I eat lots of legumes, vegetables and fruit. As far as grains, I eat them only as hot cereal or other ways in which they aren't made into flour. TVP is one of my favorite items to cook with because it is such a quickly prepared legume. I live for Thai and Indian food.
How would you describe your training program?
I am a fair weather cyclist and when the weather agrees, I am out for hours every week flying down the bike trails. I attend martial arts classes for several hours a week when I am at school. Martial arts allow me to take the fitness I have gained in other pursuits and apply it to something. They are also great for flexibility, one of my weak points, and to build extra coordination. I take Chung Do Moo Sool Won, which is a traditional form of Korean martial arts, a precursor to Hapkido. In my strength training, I focus almost entirely on compound movements, using isolation movements only to fill in a couple of gaps. I work out four times per week, hitting every part once per week. I believe in a simple program that doesn't involve ridiculous numbers of sets or exercises, more like the classic builders used. I look up to them and the all-encompassing fitness they had. These days people focus too much on trying to up their volume, they are told by magazines that they need to do more, more, more. This permeates all of Western culture, more is better. I believe that at least as far as lifting is concerned, less is more. Growth occurs outside of the gym, not in it.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I use pea protein isolate after my workouts because I want a high quality alternative to soy. I also use maca powder in my morning green smoothie for the extra energy. Acidophilus is also thrown in that smoothie for digestive health, as I believe digestive health is extremely important.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
Of course that vegans are skinny, anemic zealots. Most people who become vegan do it out of compassion and will not talk condescendingly to omnivores. People in this country of exploding waistlines think that if you are lean or a vegan, you are weak. I can squat more weight than almost anyone except a few power lifters at my college's gym. If someone sees me working in the gym and later finds out I am vegan, he or she is usually in disbelief. I want to help end this disbelief, but contribute to it while it is still around.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
The most important aspect is what it does for your psyche. The way it can boost your confidence and relieve stress is invaluable. Whatever aspect of fitness you enjoy, they are all useful. Cardiovascular fitness keeps you alive into old age, muscular fitness keeps you mobile into old age. Both of them build a better you.
What do you like best about being vegan?
Knowing that I am doing the right thing, despite what the rest of the world may be doing. I feel immeasurably better about myself, knowing that I am doing all I can to reduce the needless suffering of other beings and the amount of harm on the environment. That and being the part of such a great community of people.
What do you like best about being fit?
Moving through everyday tasks with ease. Being able to do things that other people may find difficult while hardly breaking a sweat. The sheer animalism of brute strength, speed and agility.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
I have no problem with working extremely hard for a goal. Pain doesn't mean much to me, but I still know when to stop. Usually. My lower body is very powerful for my weight. I naturally have a fairly high level of cardiovascular fitness, so when I stop cycling in the winter months, I still have plenty of endurance when the warmth finds its way back here.
What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Don't obsess over protein. Focus on eating whole plant foods and try to reduce your intake of faux meats as soon as possible, you will feel better without them. Don't listen to what other people say about vegan athletes, those people have been proven wrong innumerable times.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
I transitioned into is slowly, mostly by accident, so when I made my sudden decision to go vegan, it wasn't very hard. Just try to do it and if you fail at first, don't get discouraged. Don't let other people's opinions keep you from going for it. There are some you will never get approval from, so you merely have to ignore them. Someday, when our planet's total decay is more imminent, the world will turn around and follow a vegan diet, or the human race will cease to be. Go for it, it is the single best decision I have made in my life.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
People's perceptions of vegans and my desire to assist in smashing them. Also how great my vegan diet makes me feel. I have boundless energy and know that if I was ever to go back to eating animal products, I would lose that energy.
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
The community on the forums has been a great help in leading me to become vegan and to shape a good diet and exercise plan. The members are such a help and terribly encouraging to anyone who is trying to accomplish something. The physiques and other accomplishments of the members gives me a great source of inspiration in the pursuit of my goals.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?
I love living a healthy vegan lifestyle. It is a great passion of mine. Using my willpower to resist junk foods and to exercise on a regular basis feels so great. It has helped me to raise my self-esteem and to begin to come to terms with and even like myself. Veganism has given me more purpose in life, a passion to keep me going, a wonderful value to fight for. My level of contentment before cannot begin to compare to how I feel now.
Leg press: 770 lbs for three sets of six
Deadlift: 400 lbs on a trap bar
Squat: 295 lbs with reps of 8/8/9