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    Older articles from the original Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness website.
    Why I Became Vegan
    by Robert Cheeke Growing up in Oregon, I lived on a farm and had many farm animals as pets. I always had a love and appreciation for animals and from an early age, I was concerned about their well-being. However, it wasn't until Dec. 8, 1995 that I decided to give up consuming meat. My older sister, Tanya, was organizing Animal Rights Week at my high school. I decided out of respect for her (a vegan since the age of 15) that I would become a vegetarian for the week. I attended lectures, listened to speakers, read literature about animal cruelty and watched videos about factory farms and animal testing, and that week of becoming vegetarian has lasted for the past seven years.

    Ten months after becoming vegetarian, I became vegan. Ironically, two years after giving up animal products, it was me who organized Animal Rights Week at my high school in Corvallis, OR. I also became active in an environmental awareness group at school called "Students for Peace through Global Responsibilities (SPGR). I was active in promoting veganism for a long time, and I still am through my fitness company. I have been able to promote vegan bodybuilding on a worldwide stage through articles in FLEX Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness Magazine, and my through my website.

    I love being vegan and knowing that I am having a positive impact on the environment and society. I have more energy than most people I know and I very rarely ever suffer from any illnesses or fatigue. I eat a vast array of natural and organic foods that keep my body fat percentage low, protein intake high, energy levels high, keeping my bones strong, and allow me to put on quality muscle. I believe that an animal-free diet is one of the best things you can do for your health, and the well-being of our environment.
    Robert Cheeke

    When I started the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Course, on day one studentswere asked to write about why we decided to take the course. We posted our reasons in the publicforum. This is what I wrote:
    After 17 years of encouraging a plant-based diet in one-on-one or group discussions/arguments aboutdiet and lifestyle, I have found one powerful strategy to be exceptionally effective. When recentlyapproached by an individual at a vegetarian festival who said, "So, I heard that you're going to try totell me that whey protein is bad for me," I replied, "No, science is going to tell you that." As his eyeswidened, I went on to reference Dr. Campbell's work, especially his China project research, and somespecific examples of how animal-based foods help diseases within the body to grow and lead to seriousillness. I find that we have the tools at our disposal, we just don't always use them.

    Sometimes we point fingers, avoid the root cause of the problem, let our emotions get the best of us,and forget the fundamental fact that we have science on our side. When you look at the statistics ofillness within America and other industrialized nations growing and consuming large quantities of animalproducts, the connection between food choices and ensuing illness becomes irrefutable. This was alloutlined in Dr. Campbell's lecture, complete with compelling data of great significance.
    Therefore, my encouragement for others is to learn more about the subject matter you're trying toconvince others to take seriously, and thoroughly understand it. After all, Einstein said, "If you can'texplain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
    When talking with the more passionate defenders of a standard American diet who don't want to takea plant-based diet seriously and don't believe its benefits, I share with them a quote from Mark Twainwhich says, "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do,than by the ones you did do," and then again state sincere concern for their long term health. One wayto do this is to find what is particularly meaningful to the person you're talking with (having a long lifeto spend with grandchildren, having energy to pursue a sports interest, living without pain, avoidingexpensive and painful surgery, etc.).
    That's my two cents on the subject.
    -Robert Cheeke
    For more information about the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Course, please visit www.ecornell.com/robertcheeke
    Robert Cheeke

    Why I Love Bodybuilding
    by Derek Tresize
    So you're considering becoming a bodybuilder, or maybe you are one already. There are many fantastic aspects about living a bodybuilding lifestyle, just as there are many downsides to it. Bodybuilding is in a category all its own in terms of athletic/physical hobbies to take up, and it is certainly not for everyone. I want to take a moment to describe why I personally love the sport of bodybuilding and why I think it has so much to offer those who are truly willing to put in the monumental effort it requires.

    Bodybuilding is a sport about total control. We live in a world where everything happening around us is often completely, stressfully out of our control. You can't control your company suffering from an economic downturn and laying you off. You can't control the sudden and (usually) irrational maneuvers drivers around you make at high speeds while you commute on the highway. You especially can't control the behaviors and emotions of the people around you, even those very close to you. Not so with bodybuilding.

    As a bodybuilder, you have total control over you. What you eat, how long you sleep, how often you train, how strong you are, and most importantly what you look like. It is the only sport where you can literally look at a specific part of your body and say "I want this to look different". Then you make it happen. This is an amazingly rewarding experience. How many people have you ever heard complain about not liking the way they look as if they were powerless to change it? Even other athletes do not have this power: runners look like runners, swimmers look like swimmers, and wrestlers look like wrestlers. As a bodybuilder, you have the power to look exactly the way you want to look.

    Bodybuilding also provides real, measureable progress as you improve in the gym and in the sport. Whereas a basketball player may have a hard time seeing if his or her game has incrementally improved over time, a bodybuilder has only to look at how much more weight he or she can lift, how many inches were gained on the arms or lost on the waist, or how many pounds the number on the scale went up by. Achieving small, measureable goals as a result of your own hard work and discipline is an extremely empowering sensation. You gain confidence in your own ability to stick things out no matter how painful the training or how insufferable the diet, until you've achieved what you set out to achieve. And that confidence in and knowledge of yourself is something you carry with you in every aspect of your life, and for the rest of your life.

    Another very unique aspect of bodybuilding is the effect your physique can have on those around you. The most obvious example is attracting a partner, but that really is only the tip of the iceberg. If over half of communication is said to be non-verbal, imagine the volumes your fit, muscular body is saying about you to those around you. Having a powerful and aesthetic physique makes you look more impressive and gives you confidence, and this directly effects the way those around you perceive you. Instead of your body just being your body, it now represents your discipline, hard work, and dedication, and without saying a word others will take note of these traits in you. This massive but subtle psychological effect makes looking more attractive seem like small potatoes.

    These are the main reasons bodybuilding stands out among all the other sports to me, and why I am so passionate about it. Bodybuilding can be a sport all about sacrifices, be them to your social life, your favorite junk food, or any number of other factors. It really is the only 24 hour per day sport, and you must love it to live it. When you look past the pain of training and the sacrifices of living the lifestyle, the rewards you reap from striving in this sport truly do stand alone. If you train now, keep on striving, and if not, I urge you to test the waters and see if bodybuilding can be a passion for you the way it is for me.
    Derek Tresize

    Why Vegan?
    by Derek Tresize
    There are many reasons why someone might decide to 'go vegan', or radically change the way they eat based on something they've learned or something they believe, and these tend to vary from individual to individual. Why vegan as a bodybuilder? Now that raises a whole new set of questions. Aside from the infamous 'Where do you get your protein?' being a vegan bodybuilder may cause someone to simply ask you why you do what you do. Why do you strive to build a big, muscular and powerful body on a plant-based diet when the central dogma of the sport involves eating several pounds of meat, fish, and poultry every day? While no two athletes will have the same exact answer, some critical reasons why I do this and why you reading this may as well are to prove that it can be done, to pursue the sport you love while following the healthiest possible diet, and to be a role model in supporting the rights of animals.

    Every athlete loves a challenge. I have never met a successful athlete in any of the sports I've competed in who didn't thrive under pressure and love stepping up to the plate to prove what he or she was capable of. Sure there is fear involved in testing your abilities, but that is part of the thrill! Bodybuilding on a plant-based diet offers that same challenge that can be so addictive. Anyone telling you it can't be done just fuels the desire to excel in the sport. By taking your diet in an entirely new and unorthodox direction you set yourself apart from the pack, showing that you are an independent thinker capable of achieving success without following the well-beaten path of every other athlete before you.

    In addition to proving you can succeed in the sport you love while eating the diet you want, plant-based bodybuilding also allows you to compete in the sport without jeopardizing your health. Although main-stream media is only beginning to make the connection between health and a whole foods plant-based diet, many top researchers and clinicians in the field of nutrition have been striving to spread the word to the public for decades. One such pioneer is Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and creator of the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. Another such individual is Dr. Caldewell Esselstyn, famous cardiologist of the Cleveland Clinic. The list goes on. These giants in their fields have demonstrated without a doubt that consuming a western diet rich in meat, dairy and processed foods is a recipe for early death at the hands of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. They have also conclusively shown that a whole foods plant based diet allows the body to spontaneously heal itself from these and countless other conditions, while optimizing health. With this kind of information in your grasp, considering eating a typical bodybuilder's extremely high-meat diet is enough to make you quit the sport for good. But you don't have to! You can get all the nutrients you need to build a competitive physique from a plant-based diet, and optimize your health all the while! This is being proven every day by the leaders of the sport and of our community, and it can be proven yet again by you!

    Lastly, vegan bodybuilding can help you become a better role model if you are fighting for the rights of animals. By competing and accomplishing feats within the sport, you will garner respect and attention outside of it. Success in anything (including bodybuilding) will build your credibility, and no matter what avenues in life you pursue, having a powerful and healthy physique will influence the way people perceive you in a positive fashion. Over half of all communication is said to be non-verbal, so by having a strong physique you will send a message to those around you without ever opening your mouth. Add to this that vegan bodybuilders turn the 'skinny vegetarian' stereotype on its head, and you will do more for your message than anyone without your credentials in this sport could.

    With all these reasons to follow a pant-based diet as a bodybuilder, there seems almost no reason not to! While the points I've made here are only a few of the possible answers to why someone might combine the sport of bodybuilding and a plant-based diet, they are the ones that stand out to me as very important and to at least some degree universal in the vegan athletes I've met. You may have your own reasons for combining this unlikely pair, but regardless you will clearly be achieving what I've listed here in addition to your own personal goals, making it all the more valuable.
    Derek Tresize
    ACE Certified Personal Trainer
    Cornell University Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition
    Derek Tresize

    Why Vegans Were Right All Along
    January 13th, 2005

    Published on Tuesday, December 24, 2002 by the Guardian/UK
    Why Vegans Were Right All Along
    Famine can only be avoided if the rich give up meat, fish and dairy

    by George Monbiot

    The Christians stole the winter solstice from the pagans, and capitalism stole it from the Christians. But one feature of the celebrations has remained unchanged: the consumption of vast quantities of meat. The practice used to make sense. Livestock slaughtered in the autumn, before the grass ran out, would be about to decay, and fat-starved people would have to survive a further three months. Today we face the opposite problem: we spend the next three months trying to work it off.

    Our seasonal excesses would be perfectly sustainable, if we weren't doing the same thing every other week of the year. But, because of the rich world's disproportionate purchasing power, many of us can feast every day. And this would also be fine, if we did not live in a finite world.

    By comparison to most of the animals we eat, turkeys are relatively efficient converters: they produce about three times as much meat per pound of grain as feedlot cattle. But there are still plenty of reasons to feel uncomfortable about eating them. Most are reared in darkness, so tightly packed that they can scarcely move. Their beaks are removed with a hot knife to prevent them from hurting each other. As Christmas approaches, they become so heavy that their hips buckle. When you see the inside of a turkey broilerhouse, you begin to entertain grave doubts about European civilization.

    This is one of the reasons why many people have returned to eating red meat at Christmas. Beef cattle appear to be happier animals. But the improvement in animal welfare is offset by the loss in human welfare. The world produces enough food for its people and its livestock, though (largely because they are so poor) some 800 million are malnourished. But as the population rises, structural global famine will be avoided only if the rich start to eat less meat. The number of farm animals on earth has risen fivefold since 1950: humans are now outnumbered three to one. Livestock already consume half the world's grain, and their numbers are still growing almost exponentially.

    This is why biotechnology - whose promoters claim that it will feed the world - has been deployed to produce not food but feed: it allows farmers to switch from grains which keep people alive to the production of more lucrative crops for livestock. Within as little as 10 years, the world will be faced with a choice: arable farming either continues to feed the world's animals or it continues to feed the world's people. It cannot do both.

    The impending crisis will be accelerated by the depletion of both phosphate fertilizer and the water used to grow crops. Every kilogram of beef we consume, according to research by the agronomists David Pimental and Robert Goodland, requires around 100,000 liters of water. Aquifers are beginning the run dry all over the world, largely because of abstraction by farmers.

    Many of those who have begun to understand the finity of global grain production have responded by becoming vegetarians. But vegetarians who continue to consume milk and eggs scarcely reduce their impact on the ecosystem. The conversion efficiency of dairy and egg production is generally better than meat rearing, but even if everyone who now eats beef were to eat cheese instead, this would merely delay the global famine. As both dairy cattle and poultry are often fed with fishmeal (which means that no one can claim to eat cheese but not fish), it might, in one respect, even accelerate it. The shift would be accompanied too by a massive deterioration in animal welfare: with the possible exception of intensively reared broilers and pigs, battery chickens and dairy cows are the farm animals which appear to suffer most.

    We could eat pheasants, many of which are dumped in landfill after they've been shot, and whose price, at this time of the year, falls to around £2 a bird, but most people would feel uncomfortable about subsidizing the bloodlust of brandy-soaked hoorays. Eating pheasants, which are also fed on grain, is sustainable only up to the point at which demand meets supply. We can eat fish, but only if we are prepared to contribute to the collapse of marine ecosystems and - as the European fleet plunders the seas off West Africa - the starvation of some of the hungriest people on earth. It's impossible to avoid the conclusion that the only sustainable and socially just option is for the inhabitants of the rich world to become, like most of the earth's people, broadly vegan, eating meat only on special occasions like Christmas.

    As a meat-eater, I've long found it convenient to categorize veganism as a response to animal suffering or a health fad. But, faced with these figures, it now seems plain that it's the only ethical response to what is arguably the world's most urgent social justice issue. We stuff ourselves, and the poor get stuffed.


    © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002 George Monbiot

    Your Personal Best in 2010
    By Julia Abbott and Robert Cheeke, America's Vegan Fitness Duo

    Happy New Year! I know New Year's Day was few weeks ago, which is precisely why I'm writing now. We usually start the year full of enthusiasm to achieve our new goals and New Year's Resolutions, but it's about this time, only weeks after the New Year, that we start to falter a bit and sometimes even give up on our goals completely. That's why I'm here. I recently wrote a few books all about Your Personal Best; in fact, that is the title of one of them. I'm a firm believer that we can be extraordinary any time of year if we find meaning in what we're doing and have reasons to give the extra effort that it takes to excel. I don't just write about motivation. I'm a health and fitness guy too. In fact, my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness book comes out in just a few weeks in late February. I've learned over the years that Your Personal Best can be achieved in anything as long as you care enough to make it happen. To borrow a quote from my book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness:
    “It is my experience that if you truly love something, you will be willing to spend a lot of time doing it, will be willing to work harder than others to achieve it, and will have so much fun throughout the process that you will excel naturally. The joy and fulfillment you get from being regularly engaged in the activity you love will propel you to stand out in your field adapting and improving at rapid rates. You will look forward to practice, rehearsal, application, and action in whatever it is that moves you. Through your discipline and dedication, you will thrive in an environment you created that is perfect for you to succeed in. Because you're doing what you love, you'll be in a positive mood on a regular basis, will find the good in every situation, will get back up when you're knocked down, and will time and time again overcome adversity when others with less passion will give in and give up.” - Robert Cheeke
    What should be understood is that we all have the power to change something in our lives at anytime, no matter what time of year. As always, now is the best time to start something new. What do you really want to get out of life? What does it really mean to you and how hard are you willing to work to achieve it? What steps need to be taken and when are you ready to say, “Today is the day I'm going to make it happen?”

    To create “New Year's Resolutions” that you'll actually stick to, answer the following questions:
    What are the activities I am most passionate about and that bring me the most joy? What makes me wake up every day excited to do what I get to do for my job? What can I do every day to bring about the most fulfillment in my life? What makes me smile more than anything else? What would I do if money and time weren't limiting obstacles in my life? What does my dream life look like? What steps do I need to take in order to achieve what I really want to in life? Answer those questions honestly and sincerely.
    Your Personal Best isn't just about motivation and doing what you love to do. It's about being healthy, happy, and well too. My inspirational partner and personal wellness coach Julia Abbott has some helpful and healthful tips for you to be at your best this year:
    Health & Fitness for the New Year — by Julia Abbott
    I know winter is far from over, but it's not too early to start getting your beach body back. I know, it's tough to fight the hibernation impulse. A little hibernation is therapeutic, but make it your goal right now to take action, alter stagnating behaviors, and implement a few new tools toward shaping up for the new year. Here are 5 simple steps to get healthier, more fit, and increased energy. What better way to start the new decade?
    Step 1: Eat fruit for breakfast. Fruit contains all the components it needs to digest itself and requires little assistance from the body. Fruit for breakfast will awaken the body and stimulate elimination channels. Proper elimination is the most important factor for improved health and weight loss. Breakfast is easy--just grab a piece of delicious, juicy fruit and bite in!
    Step 2: Eat at least one green salad every day. Greens are so important because they contain an array of nutrients in perfect proportion to nourish the body's tissues and cells. They even contain plenty of amino acids to help you build muscle! It can be difficult to eat that green salad every day. I love greens, but I get tired of them too! The solution to getting your greens every day and loving it is the green smoothie. By making my green smoothie every morning, I knock out steps 1 and 2 at the same time: fruit first and greens every day! This is what my green smoothie was this morning:
    1/4 cup of purified water Half organic cucumber 1 peeled lime 1 ripe banana Big handful of spinach Handful of baby lettuces and herbs 1 Tbsp freshly ground flax seed or a carefully cold-pressed flax oil 1 cup of frozen pineapple
    I just toss it all into my Vitamix and blend. Making breakfast and eating my greens takes 10 minutes tops. Fantastic! Note that it is important to rotate your greens and get creative with your smoothie ingredients.

    Step 3: Find an enjoyable form of physical activity and schedule it into your day. Exercise doesn't have to take a long time. I do enjoy going to the gym for an hour-long workout, but very often, I just don't have that kind of time. I solve this problem by waking up 15 minutes earlier to perform a quick, high-intensity workout that will get my blood and lymph moving. If you haven't discovered CrossFit yet, check it out because that is exactly what you need if you are short on time. By 9AM, you can have 3 steps knocked out.
    Try this quick and simple workout tomorrow morning:
    5 push-ups 10 sit-ups 15 squats Perform this set as many times as you can for 10 intense minutes. No money or equipment necessary.

    Step 4: Quit drinking sodas and bottled beverages. These drinks are full of highly refined sugar or toxic sugar substitutes that do nothing but subtract from your overall health.
    If you are attached to the fizz factor, try drinking sparkling water with fresh lime. If you are attached to the sugar factor, replace the soda with kombucha, a fermented beverage containing beneficial organisms that aid in digestion and detoxification. When I get post-lunch sugar cravings, drinking kombucha knocks the craving out.
    Feel a caffeine headache coming on? Sip Yerba Maté tea, an infusion similar to green tea. When I drink Yerba Maté for an energy boost, I do not experience the negative side effects that come from drinking coffee such as jitteriness, headaches, or nausea.

    Step 5: Eliminate fried foods. Fried foods are detrimental for two reasons: they contain trans fat, and they are usually fried in polyunsaturated vegetable oil.
    Trans fat is an artery-clogging fat that is formed when vegetable oil is made to be solid at room temperature. Read the labels on any packaged food and look for "Hydrogenated", "Partially Hydrogenated", and "Shortening". Strictly avoid these foods to avoid gradual health decline.
    Polyunsaturated oils (canola and soybean, for example) are highly susceptible to heat damage. Heat causes oxidative damage creating free radicals. Translation: these oils after heat exposure become cancer causing.
    The bottom line is, there is absolutely no reason your body would want you to eat french fries or doughnuts. There is plenty of healthful, natural food to eat instead. For a mid-morning snack, try a slice of toasted sprouted-grain bread topped with nut butter.
    If you start the new year by following these 5 steps, you will be feeling better and looking better in no time. Cheers to your beach body 2010!

    Julia Abbott is a competitive runner, avid weight lifter and Author of The Lemon Letter — A wellness blog dedicated to a holistic approach to ultimate health http://www.lemonletter.blogspot.com/
    Robert Cheeke a competitive bodybuilder, Founder of VeganBodybuilding.com, motivational speaker, and Author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness — The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet
    Robert Cheeke

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