Name: Amber Sperling
Year of Birth: 1989
Weight: 140 lbs
Birthplace: Saginaw, MI, USA
Current Residence: Bay City, MI, USA
Sports: NPC bikini competitor, Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do, and strength/endurance training
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have
I'm a business professional, bikini competitor, fitness fanatic, and passionate about nutrition. In my free time, I condition my body with strength and endurance training. I also train in Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate-Do, under Renshi Dale Pike and Sensei Richard Middlebrook, who happens to be my boyfriend. Richard has been a large influence in my life; together we foster a healthy lifestyle. In the future, I'd like to become a certified in plant-based nutrition and become a personal trainer.
When I am not constrained by work, the gym, or other routine tasks, I enjoy horseback riding, snowboarding, soccer, traveling and the great outdoors.
Why did you become vegan?
When I was sixteen, I tried a vegetarian diet for a year, after watching a PETA film. I was unable to maintain this diet, and resorted back to my original meat based diet.
A little over a year ago, my boyfriend Richard, began researching the benefits of a plant based diet. Coincidentally, at the same time, I picked up a book by Alicia Silverstone, called The Kind Diet. The book served as an informational guide for our transition into a plant based diet. A week later we stopped buying meat, and slowly weaned ourselves off of dairy products, while finding healthy alternatives. The next obstacle was reducing our amount of processed food. Fortunately, there is a really great vegan restaurant near our house with clean food choices.
Ultimately, I chose a plant based diet for my health and the environment. Since adopting a vegan diet I've felt energized, healthy, and I can't remember the last time I was sick. My skin is clear and radiant, my hair is fuller, and my nails are strong. I feel alive!
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I've always been very athletic, and involved in sports as a child. As my mother would say, “You were always muscle bound. Ever since you were three-years-old you were working out!” I didn't commit to fitness until about two years ago, when I first started routinely running for exercise. At first I hated it! But overtime it grew on me, and it became easier. After about six months, I realized my fitness routine had become a lifestyle.
I gradually started easing into strength training last year with my boyfriend's assistance. In late February, I ran into my old college fitness instructor, Peggy Barber, at the gym, and she encouraged me to compete in a fitness competition. This was a pivotal point in my fitness regime. By putting a date on the calendar I was empowered, and motivated to work harder. Within twelve weeks, I was on stage for my first show. I am now in the process of prepping for my second show.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day, and drink a gallon of water a day. I don't eat processed food, my diet consist of whole foods. I always start my day off with a protein shake, oatmeal, and grapefruit. The rest of my meals consist of grains (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, bulgur, and TVP), beans and legumes (black beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils), vegetables (carrots, broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, sweet potatoes, squash, ect.), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, grapes, oranges, ect.), nuts and seeds (pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds). I also eat tofu; drink unsweetened almond milk, and use oils and spices for cooking. When cutting body fat for a show, I reduce my calorie intake by 300 calories a day, and reduce the amount of fruit in my diet.
How would you describe your training program?
I wake up early in the morning before work to do a fasted cardio session, and return to the gym after work for strength training. When I am three weeks out from a competition, I like to do cardio 2-3 times a day to cut fat. During the week days my training session looks like this: 45 minute fasted cardio early in the morning, in the afternoon I will start my workout with a 30 minute cardio session and follow it up with a strength training session, if time permits I will finish with a 30 minute cardio session. During the weekends, I usually go for long runs and do cross fit workouts.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I take flax seed oil for a source of essential fatty acids, I also noticed a difference in my skin from taking 3000 mg a day. For a protein powder, I prefer Nutra Summa pea protein, it contains 20g of protein per serving and it offers a superior amino acid profile. This protein is low in calories and sodium, it's also soy, dairy, and gluten free, and has a great taste. I take 5 grams of glutamine twice a day for muscle recovery.
How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
Most individuals are intrigued, and curious about my nutrition plan. This gives me the opportunity to communicate the health andenvironmental benefits of a plant based diet.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
A large amount of individuals are uneducated on this subject matter, and their thoughts are based on what they've been taught their whole lives. As a child, I was raised under the perception that I had to eat meat and drink milk to grow up to be big and strong. Thus, I developed a perception that a person lacking these elements in their diet will grow up to be weak. Many people have this same common view. To the untrained eye there is a misconception that vegans are protein deficient individuals.
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
Yes, two colleagues of mine attempted a vegetarian diet. One of the individuals did a vegetarian diet for lent. While another colleague researched the diet, read books, and watched movies on the subject matter, and asked me a lot of questions. He has committed to the diet for a month now. Other individuals I've come in contact with have reduced their meat consumption. I always tell interested individuals to do their homework before starting anything. I provide pointers, references, and support them in their journey.
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
It really comes down to the basics, health and wellness. The presence of health and wellness is based on an individual's lifestyle. Health is the most important aspect of training because it provides you with longevity. Promote a healthy lifestyle by exercising, and eating well. Some of the benefits of regular physical activity include improved mood, weight loss, boost in energy levels, and better sleep.
What do you like best about being vegan?
Transitioning into a vegan diet has opened the kitchen doors for me. I've enhanced my cooking skills, and have discovered spices and foods I've never heard of, that taste incredible, and provide optimum health benefits. Fueling your body properly, allows you to perform at your full potential. I've noticed a difference in my outlook on life, I feel happier, more ambitious and healthy. I never feel guilty after gorging myself with a plate of fruits or vegetables. It's a great feeling! Eating a plant based diet provides more than health benefits, it also benefits the environment. Converting to a vegan lifestyle has been enlightening.
What do you like best about being fit?
Feeling energized, healthy and confident, having endurance, and being an inspiration for others to achieve their fitness and health goals.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
Moderation! Ease into the lifestyle, and challenge yourself. Goals are the keys for success, and develop a purpose for your training. Have a goal in mind, and develop a plan to achieve the goal. Enter a competition with yourself, when you enter the gym set a goal and try to go above and beyond it. I am consistently competing with myself in the gym. For instance, I will set a goal to burn 450 calories in 45 minutes. I will get more out of my workout by doing this because I am challenging myself. It is important to challenge yourself, and mini competitions with yourself might be the drive you need to keep you on track. Strive to be the best you! Remember, results don't occur over night and you get what you put in.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Research the diet, know your body, and be aware of its requirements. There are some great documentaries available on Netflix. Use this site as a resource in developing a nutrition plan; I know veganbodybuilding.com provides sample meal plans. I also highly recommend using a calorie tracker to monitor your daily intake, and to make sure you are nourishing your body and retaining the required nutrients. You can then gauge your nutrition plan off of the summarized results.
What motivates you in life?
I am driven by results, and motivated by challenges. I'm able to achieve my goals by focusing my energy on the desired outcome. I'm also a perfectionist, thus, I am never satisfied with the status quo. In all factors of life, I consistently drive myself to perform above the standard. I take great pleasure in my work, and I am on an endless quest for success.
I've also been blessed with a very a supportive family and group of friends. I wouldn't be the person I am today without their guidance and support. As a vegan body builder, I want to be an example for others on how to build a healthy, lean, and muscular body while sustaining a plant based diet.
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
Veganbodybuilding.com has been a fundamental resource in developing my training and nutrition plan. I'd personally like to thank Robert Cheeke, for his article on, vegan body builder's pre-contest diet. I studied this article and used it to form my pre-contest nutrition plan. Rob also put together a great series of training articles on training specific muscle groups. So, thank you veganbodybuilding.com for your resourceful information, and support.
Do you have any other thoughts you'd like to share?
Everyone has to start somewhere, and it's never too late to start!