Name - Joel Kirkilis
Age - 27
Height - 174cm
Contest weight - Contest - 81kg
Offseason weight - 90kg approx.
Birthplace - Melbourne, Australia
Current residence - Melbourne, Australia
Sports - Bodybuilding
Why did you become vegan?
I became vegan because I wanted to reduce as much as possible my involvement in the exploitation of animals, for me it is that I don't feel my needs are more important than the suffering of an animal.
I have seen a lot of suffering, both towards humans and non human animals and the decision to become vegan was a step towards helping heal some of it.
Also in my studies I have discovered that a vegan diet can provide enough to live and thrive on and I continue to reap the benefits of it every day.
When did you become interested in fitness?
I have always been into sports and keeping fit, probably as I was encouraged from childhood to be active and eat healthily. I played soccer from a young age and being the type of person who doesn't do things in halves, I made sure every aspect of my game was fine tuned, so fitness was a priority, as well as making everything else in life seem easier.
It is the same with my bodybuilding now, there's no point being big and muscular if you don't feel good inside.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
Pre contest I tend to drop my carbohydrates and increase my fats, keeping protein pretty consistent all year round. I generally take in about 2g of protein per kg of lean bodyweight, fats about 1.5g per kg pre contest, lower when I'm not dieting and carbohydrates and minimal, just coming from the green vegetables, nuts and some of my protein sources, such as tempeh. Once a week I drop my fats down and increase my carbohydrates, the change keeps me sane and seems to help keep my metabolism ticking along.
I must stress this is not the healthiest diet, although I do think it is healthier than the "conventional" bodybuilding diet of chicken breasts, white rice and whey protein shakes. I only follow this diet for the 10 weeks precontest before reverting back to something more sustainable.
My main protein source pre contest is tempeh, mostly just the plain flavoured version, some tofu, nut meat and also seitan on occasions.
For my fats, I usually rely on a variety of oils, bearing in mind I try to keep my carbohydrates low.
Off season I like to eat a variety of foods such as breads, pastas, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nutritional yeast, marinated tempeh, more fatty wholefoods, like olives, avocado etc, veggie burgers and also some dark chocolate on occasions. I like to eat and a vegan diet can be so tasty and nutritious.
How would you descibe your training program?
I always try and train for strength, not necessarily for muscle shape. I have two different routines I do, which I alternate, spending about 6 weeks on each. The first one is a hybrid of a 5x5 and some of the Westside training principles.
I train 3-4 days per week and split m bodyparts over three days, so the split sometimes starts again in the same week.
An example of my chest workout would be:
Incline dumbell press 5x5, going as heavy as I can for 5 sets with the same weight
Bench press 6x3, moderate weight but with an explosive concentric movement
Dumbell flyes 3x8, mostly just for a stretch after the heavier stuff.
The rest of my bodyparts are trained the same way and occasionally I might try for a maximum single or double lift, as I feel strong training like this.
My other program is a HIT program, with single sets and some rest/pauses and static holds.
The volume is drastically lower but the intensity is very high, so I find it a lot more physically taxing.
I do on occasions do higher repetition rest/pause sets, going up to 60 reps on some exercises.
A typical chest workout would be:
Incline bench press 1-2 warm up sets and one set of 3-5 reps with a 10-15 second pause and then go to failure again.
Dumbell bench press or dips 1 set of 6-8 to failure.
My form is most strict with this style of training, the reps are slower and more concentrated.
I still use the same split on the program, which is chest/back/abs, shoulders/arms, legs but I space them out a bit more, taking rests as I need them, sometimes only training a couple of times per week.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I use NitroFusion protein powder, which I have for breakfast with some berries, greens and flaxseeds, essential amino acids for when I'm dieting and cut out my protein powder, B12, just for insurance, some extra zinc to keep my immune system up when I'm dieting hard and reduce my intake of seeds and so forth pre contest, creatine, which I cycle throughout the year, usually 6 weeks on and 4 weeks off and also a variety of greens and other plant based wholefood supplements, spirulina, wheatgrass, chlorella, phytoplankton omega 3 supplement, berry extracts. These are to add to my smoothies and just give me some extra nutrients, even though I do get plenty when my fruits and vegetables are high in the off season.
What are some of the common misconceptions about veganism?
That vegans are all skinny and weak and that we have no variety in our diets. That vegans are all "tree hugging hippys" who can't fit in with "normal" people.
Those comments just make me laugh.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
I think the most important aspect is being able to motivate others to improve their fitness. Being fit can give others the belief that they can too.
What do you like the best about being vegan?
I like the fact that I feel healthy and plenty of self respect. I also think that I'm doing my little bit to end some of the suffering which occurs to not only animals, but humans too.
What do you like the best about being fit?
I like that my head is clear, sleep is better, I feel healthy and strong.
Everything in life seems easier.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
I think as a bodybuilding competitor, I have a few good bodyparts which stand out on stage. My legs have always been big and my arms and shoulders have always been very strong.
I have managed to get in good shape ad place in my state shows against some good competition.
In the gym I am able to lift some relatively heavy weights, and have the capacity to lift heavy for high repetitions.
What advice do you have for vegan athletes just starting out?
I think finding out what combinations of foods work the best, trying different protein, fat and carbohydrate sources, learning to be consistent with training and healthy eating, speaking to others who have more experience will help make it easier too, along with internet boards, like veganbodybuilding.com.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
I think someone who is looking to become vegan should look at what their reasons are first. If someone is doing it to lose weight or just to be healthier, may lose their convictions a lot easier than someone who really has a passion for animals. It's not a bad reason to start, it's just their heart may not be in it for the long term and it is a lifestyle change, not just a diet. Researching foods and recipes and talking to people who are vegan can be a great start, being armed with some knowledge and plenty of recipes will make the experience a lot more enjoyable in the long run.
Again, going on internet boards can also bring a wealth of information and the friendships that can develop give great support.
One other thing is to try and ignore mainstream marketing of animal products, for someone who is new or contemplating veganism, meat, dairy and egg marketing can cause unneeded confusion.
What motivates you to be a successful vegan athlete?
For a start I feel very healthy and strong and I wouldn't want to risk that. I also want to prove that veganism and building muscle go hand in hand and also everytime I go past a herd of cows in a paddock or see factory farm footage, I feel more motivated to try and do the right thing by them.
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
There are some seriously strong athletes on the website and a ton of information that has helped me greatly. Everyone here has a common goal of bettering themselves but without that causing harm to another being and I like those morals. I also like willingness of people here to help others, there are no egos getting in the way.
Is there anything you would like to add about your vegan lifestyle
It nevers ceases to amaze me when people in the gym or at bodybuilding shows are shocked that I am a vegan and ask me for dietary advice then turn around and say "I love meat too much".
Apart from that I intend to continue improving my physique and getting some first place trophies!