By Lora O’Brien
Once upon a time, the bodybuilding industry was rife with the beefy physiques of those who meal prepped like champions, drank raw eggs a la ‘Rocky’ and feasted on endless dishes of grilled chicken and rice. For example, Olympian Michael Phelps hit the headlines during the Rio Olympics when his 12,000 calorie diet was revealed. And it was shocking: five-egg omelettes, three fried egg sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches and pounds of pasta were just a few of the dishes he consumed daily. Are you kidding me?
Times are changing, though. Many people like Richard Burgess of Vegan Gains are starting to realise that you can enjoy bodybuilding without all the meat and dairy – and get still get fantastic results. In fact, Instagram is full of inspirational vegan role models who are using plant based proteins alongside pulses, fruits and vegetables to get ripped in the gym.
One of my favourite Instagrammers is Stefanie Moir of Naturally Stefanie, who has been vegan for a few years now and uses her Insta feed to showcase her vegan diet, crediting it for her buff bod. And with her bodybuilding boyfriend Marco recently turning vegan, I contacted them both to see if they’d be willing to share their gym routines, diets and lifestyles with us to prove just how worthwhile it is for even bodybuilders to swap to a vegan lifestyle.
Hi Stefanie and Marco! So, when did you go vegan, and what were the reasons behind doing so?
S: Three and a half years ago for the health benefits associated with a vegan diet. But after some further research, I realised the ethical and environmental benefits veganism had.
M: Ten weeks ago for the ethical reasons associated with the meat and dairy industry.
Did you meet with any skepticism/lack of support from friends or family?
S: Personally, I had no skepticism from my friends or family at all, they were all pretty supportive of my choices.
M: Most of my family and friends were very skeptical of the idea due to my bodybuilding lifestyle. This carried a lot of cynicism with it; however, recently people have realised this is a positive life change.
What’s a typical day of eating like for you?
S: Breakfast usually consists of oats, almond milk and fresh fruit. Lunch is normally a giant banana, cacao protein smoothie and dinner a tofu stir-fry with an abundance of veg and rice.
M: Breakfast is oats with nut butter and cacao, and a protein shake. This is typically followed by a banana protein smoothie. Lunch is usually lentils and vegetables. My second snack of the day is some form of vegan protein snack, such as a builder bar. My favourite dinner at the moment is rice and beans as it is quick and easy to make at work!
Do you have any tips to share for anyone new to veganism who may struggle in social situations, like eating out?
S: Our best advice it to make sure you ask the server for help on what to order. Too many people are scared to ask what they can and cannot order and end up with a bowl of lettuce. If you ask for the allergen menu you can see what can be omitted from vegetarian dishes to make them vegan friendly.
Are there any changes you’ve seen in both your physique and health since going vegan?
M: The best benefits we have felt is more energy, more strength in the gym, better digestion and sleep!
If someone is looking to start building muscle on a vegan diet, what tips would you give?
S: The best tips we can give is to make sure you are eating enough food, especially a wide variety of plant based proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu and vegan protein powder. And, of course, lift heavy weights!
What do you eat pre- and post- workout to fuel and replenish your body?
S: We tend to train between breakfast and lunch most days, so we have a breakfast of complex carbohydrates and protein such as oats or a protein shake. Post work-out, we go for simple carbohydrates such as bananas along with a protein source.
How do you react to people who still claim you need to eat meat to build muscle?
M: There are plenty of plant based sources of protein that are perfect for building muscle.
Do you think the fitness industry is becoming more supportive of vegan bodybuilders?
M: Yes, I definitely do. You see it more and more over social media, and it is great to see veganism becoming more mainstream, especially in the fitness industry.
Do you stick to any form of food ratios?
M: We both tend to eat a high carbohydrate and high protein diet, with moderate to low fat intake.
If someone is trying to get fit on a budget, what tips would you suggest for food and exercise?
S: Most of the vegan food sources we buy are extremely budget friendly: bananas, rice, beans, potatoes, lentils and oats are among some of the cheapest foods you can buy. In terms of exercise, I suggest at home workouts which you can find for free on YouTube.
What exercise do you do on either a daily or weekly session?
S: We both do weight training five to six days per week so we can focus on lifting heavy to build muscle and burn fat.
How important is it to switch up your routine at the gym vs keeping routines consistent?
S: Not greatly. We change it up every few months, but we tend to focus on progressive overloading with our weights/reps so we are always pushing our bodies to improve.
Name three foods you could never live without
S: Bananas (banana ice cream is my addition), cacao powder (it is full of antioxidants and makes everything chocolatey) and Swedish Glace vegan ice-cream is amazing!
M: Protein powder as it is a quick and convenient snack, vegan donuts (the Co-Op do the best!) and also vegan cookies. Cookies are my favourite!
Is there anyone in the vegan community who truly inspires you?
S: First and foremost we inspire each other, but we follow a lot of inspirational people online, especially vegan celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth (powder couple much??). As for other instagram accounts, we follow the likes of Jon Venus, Brian Turner and Jilicious Journey!
Who is the better cook out of the two of you?
M: Stef is definitely the better cook!
Finally, let’s talk sweet treats. Any guilty foods you like to enjoy?
S: We are major dessert fans. Vegan friendly donuts, cookies, cakes and ice cream are our top choices!
For more of Stefanie’s recipes and fitness information click here.
Our Fave Breakfast: Strawberry Smoothie Bowl
This is a great go-to recipe for breakfast. It’s super creamy from the almond milk and gives a fruity boost from the strawberries and acai powder. Make this into a protein bowl with the option of adding in some protein powder. And the best part of a smoothie bowl? You can top it with literally anything you fancy.
You will need:
Handful frozen strawberries
1 cup of almond or non-dairy milk
1 tbsp acai powder
Vanilla or strawberry protein powder (optional)
What to do:
Blend together the first set of ingredients until smooth. Add to a bowl and serve up with toppings of your choice. Quick, easy and a healthy breakfast of snack recipe.