Name: Kurt Sollanek
Weight: 145 off season; 125 contest
Birthplace: Hartford CT.
Current Residence: Cheshire CT
Why did you become vegan?
I originally became vegetarian a couple of years ago because of health reasons - I’m kind of a health nut! Then one new years eve I decided to cut out red meat. I got tired of hearing, “Meat is bad for you because it has lots of hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol, saturated fat . . .” The next new years eve I decided to take the next step and cut out poultry. I was then lacto-ovo veg for awhile. I was also working at a natural food store where I met two great people - Lourdes and Anthony. They showed me that I didn't need to keep eating dairy and eggs. The meals that I ate with them helped illustrate how delicious the vegan diet can be. I also heard/met Howard Lyman, which had quite a big impact on me along with reading his book No More Bull. I have been vegan ever since (May 20th 2006).
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I really got interested in fitness in high-school. I wrestled, ran cross country, and played ultimate frisbee (Yes, my high-school had an ultimate frisbee team) Anyway, the wrestling was my favorite sport. I ran cross country to get in shape for wrestling. For people who don’t know, wrestling is by weight class. I noticed from eighth grade to my freshman year of high-school I gained a lot of weight (puberty, weight lifting, and lots of teenage eating). During that wrestling season I was at a much higher weight class and got killed. I realized that these guys (the wrestlers who destroyed me) knew about something that I did not . . . DIET They all dieted. As a result, I started to research nutrition and exercise. I looked at all the bodybuilding magazines for advice and just kept reading. This is when I really started to love the science behind nutrition and exercise and this is when I started to like bodybuilding. As a result of these experiences, I am currently going into my senior year of college looking to get my B.S. in exercise science in the spring of 08'.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
It looks just like a “regular bodybuilding diet” but with different sources of protein. I eat high protein, moderate fat and moderate carbohydrate in the off season and follow high protein, high to moderate fat, and low carb while preparing for a show. I follow the same outlines as other bodybuilders. The difference being that eggs, whey, beef, poultry, and fish are not the main staples of my meals. My meals are based around tofu, tempeh, rice protein, pea protein, and hemp protein. The other difference would probably be the higher intake of fruits and vegetables that I consume as compared to most typical bodybuilders.
How would you describe your training program?
Everyone says it but it’s the truth, my program is always changing. High reps for some weeks, then low reps for some weeks. Throw in some advanced stuff like rest pause, drop sets, and partials and you have a recipe to keep the body guessing. The body adapts to any and practically everything. You need to keep doing different stuff. As a result, my training is always changing.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
A good multi is a must. I also have been using BCAA recently and lots of protein powders. I like to keep busy so I don’t always have time to cook. These are great for meal replacements. I rotate between pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein, soy protein, vega, and vega smoothie infusion.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
There are so many that it’s not even funny. The two that really get under my skin are:
1. You can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet.
Not even going to comment on this first one.
2. There is so little that you can eat on a vegan diet.
The next time a person says this, just ask them to do a “quick” research project. Ask them to make a list of every fruit, vegetable, grain, nut, seed, and legume. Then tell them we can talk after that. Odds are good they will give up before the task is done. There is so much we can eat, it’s just that most people don’t know of the foods. There are more vegetables in the world other than green beans, broccoli, iceberg lettuce and ketchup I still can’t believe people think ketchup is a vegetable
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
I will quote one of my favorite professors that I had for a nutrition class. He made a huge impact on me. He said, “Nutrition is queen but exercise is King ” That says it all. Being fit = Being healthy. It’s a two headed dragon. There is the nutritional component and the exercise component. You need both in order to maintain and build the kingdom to its maximum potential and you can’t have one without the other.
What do you like best about being vegan?
I like the way I feel physically. I don’t feel weighed down. I know my arteries are raging like a river and my colon is as clean as a whistle.
What do you like best about being fit?
EVERYTHING I like the look, the feel, the confidence, the capabilities . . .
What are your strengths as an athlete?
DISCIPLINE. I love making a plan and sticking though with it. If I say that I’m going to do these exercises, I do it. If I say I’m going to eat this, this, and not this, I do it. Lots of people can’t do that.
What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Keep pushing! Never be completely satisfied with your physical capabilities. You can always do more. The human body is an AMAZING thing.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
“To each his/her own.”
Some people can just do it cold turkey (no pun intended). Other people - like myself - take it more gradually such as eliminating one or two animal products at a time. However you end up doing it, just do it. You won’t regret it. Going vegan will open up a whole new world for you regrading food. You’ll never look at it the same way again.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
I want to beat my previous accomplishments. The accomplishment could be a personal lift, a certain body weight, a certain body fat percentage, a certain milage, or a certain number of calories burned. I always want to beat what I have done before. I’m my own biggest motivator or put another way, “I’m my own worst enemy ”
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
I went to this website when I first was going vegan. It really helped to show me how many other vegan athletes were out there. I also initially used this website for diet advice. That was the biggest question I had when I went vegan. What do I eat? What do my meals look like? What does a day of eating look like? Robert had tons of great articles posted that outlined his typical diet, which was a great initial template for me to work off of. I’ve never been super active posting on the forum, but I do read a lot on there. It’s a great place to learn about everything.