Stephen Hughes-Landers is an international pro-street workout athlete with Barstarrz, a tattoo model, and a vegan. Find out what he does, where he goes, and what he eats.
I think anyone who's been working out long enough has come across the term 'broscience' and their fair share of broscientists. These are people who make wild claims about the effectiveness of certain workouts or nutrition programmes without any evidence whatsoever other than their own anecdotes.
Unfortunately, anyone who has been involved in the vegan health and fitness scene will also have to contend with broscience's raw fruitarian sidekick. For lack of a better term, let's call this 'hippiescience'.
What is hippiescience?
Hippiescience is a form of pseudoscience that is particularly prevalent within health and fitness, and is mostly commonly encountered in vegan communities, but is also espoused in other niche fitness movements.
Hippiescience is a pervasive force that's, at best, embarrassing for the vegan health and fitness movement, and, at worst, downright damaging to people's abilities to live a healthy lifestyle.
Like broscience, there’s little to no real science to back most hippiescience up. Instead, it consists of extremist health claims about the body’s nutritional needs (such as claims that protein is pretty much unimportant, or that any supplement other than spirulina is evil) and what constitutes healthy eating.
Wander the forums of vegan fitness communities, and whilst the vast majority of people are trying to have intelligent discussions about nutritional needs and exercise, there'll be at least a handful of people spouting unfounded statements about yoga, detoxing, fruit, superfoods, RDAs of protein being 20 grams, or even worse (read: crystals and antivaccine).
How does pseudoscience begin?
Fitness communities and ‘expertise’
Fitness communities aren't made up of nutritionists, trainers, athletes, doctors and experts. In an ideal world there would be an abundance of them in any community, ready to educate and advise. But actually, fitness communities only have a sprinkling of those folk in them, and the vast majority of people tend to be your everyday person who doesn't work in the industry of health, fitness, and wellbeing. These are people who range from being extremely unhealthy and are looking for advice on how to get on track to a healthier lifestyle, to those for whom fitness is like a second job to them and meticulously track their workout and nutrition routines. Most people are somewhere in the middle. And there's a wildly varying degree of knowledge from person to person.
Thus, besides the minority of qualified professionals, the newbies will look for people they can aspire to: the unhealthy, overweight, and struggling, will look to the fit, healthy, and seemingly knowledgeable. The former are people who may be at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives, and are lost when it comes to their health, and will take others' word as gospel when it comes to advice.
To add to this problem is the issue of research going into many fitness topics being limited or even non-existent, and that which does exist may be mired with bias and problems, as highlighted in our recent article on HMB. All too often though this research, problematic as it may be, will be snapped up, stripped of 99% of its content, and stuck on someone’s blog with the claim that this is the ultimate exercise to lose weight, and that that is all you need to eat to grow chunky biceps.
Whilst peer-reviewed research papers allude to the myriad of errors that might plague the research, or point to what could be done better, Joe Bloggs’… well, blog, doesn’t point to any of that and just dives straight in with ‘this research shows that adding this weird chemical supplement to your diet is the BEST way to gain muscle’ without any consideration for the errors at hand for the unwitting fitness public to read up on.
How does pseudoscience, and particularly hippiescience prevail?
There are a series of social and psychological problems that lead to the spread of pseudoscience, some unique to veganism, some not. We'll look at five key reasons here. Most aren't malevolent or greedy but are still harmful. Some are motivated by greed, however, so let's look at that first...
1. You can get away with it on the internet
The internet is a haven for liars. It protects anonymity, and thus allows anyone to say anything without being at any real risk. At most they’ll get challenged on their claims, and they’ll disappear to a new comment thread or forum article to spread their smatterings elsewhere. Anyone can claim anything, and everyone has an equal voice. It’s both the great opportunity and the great danger of the internet. Disingenuous comments will be shared, and sooner or later the truth is entirely concealed. This is furthered by the use of Photoshop to edit together images.
This can happen for a multitude of reasons, including downright maliciousness. Most commonly though there’s commercial gain to be had. Whaddya know, the person making these wild claims is also peddling some overpriced product, and furthering bogus claims to support it is just part of their marketing activities.
A recent case in point (although actually targeted at the paleo crowd rather than vegans) is Bulletproof Coffee – a company which made wild and unsubstantiated claims about harmful mycotoxins in coffee. Good marketing to the paleo community, and the coffee was getting snapped up for about four times the price of a normal bag of high quality coffee. Only a few years later have the claims about mycotoxins been debunked, but I have little doubt that people are still buying this stuff by the kilo.
2. Community confusion and groupthink
Linked to this is the problem of group dynamics. Much of our society is built on the idea that the majority are correct. Democracy, you may wanna cover your ears for a mo…
Unfortunately, due to the psychological phenomenon of ‘groupthink’ we are far more likely to allow erroneous claims to go unchallenged, especially when such a claim is being spouted by numerous members of a community. It’s natural for most of us to actually avoid conflict, and allow those claims to go on.
Thus, in our natural desire to move towards cohesiveness, more and more people will get swallowed up into the erroneous points of view, and before long, factually incorrect information is being spread as the truth and going totally unchallenged.
As the group dynamic grows, so too does the difficulty of nipping it in the bud. With regards to hippiescience, perhaps this is most prevalent with the antivaccine movement: a vast but entirely irrational body, which completely ignores the decades of research disproving its beliefs. Because the group is so large it has become difficult to break it, despite scientific refutation of pretty much every single claim.
3. Protection of views
Despite our inherent desire to avoid conflict, we are also incredibly defensive of our views. Even when we are disproved by rational science, we cling to our original remarks, occasionally altering them to fit the elements that were disproven. When’s the last time you enjoyed being wrong? Exactly. This is a result of cognitive dissonance – we find it difficult to reconcile the fact that we’d hold irrational beliefs, but rather than altering ourselves, we try to alter others.
I recently walked smackbang into some hippiescience in action on the Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness Facebook page. A girl on there asked if it was ok to use frozen fruit and veg for her smoothies, as she couldn’t afford fresh. One respondent claimed fresh ‘is always best,’ but I pointed to some studies showing that frozen is actually more nutritious, based on nutrients being ‘locked in’ (rather than being leeched from the produce over the days it gets shipped to the supermarket), and due to it being allowed to properly ripen (most ‘fresh’ produce, is actually picked before its ripe to allow for shipping time).
To this one comment, I received a wall text with several different wild claims including one about frozen fruits inhibiting the absorption of vitamins and minerals, one saying that we require water in the fruit to enhance absorption, and told that I could ‘believe’ what I wanted to ‘believe.’
Others jumped in to back up my point and link to further rational, scientific evidence. To which came the response that we cannot trust scientists, as they all have an agenda.
The common backup argument of the hippiescientist is that scientists are all funded by big corporations, and when this argument is dug out of its box it’s time to walk away. It's the hippiescientist equivalent of Godwin's Law. There’s very little reasoning to be done here. The hippiescientist here went on to claim that all food should be eaten raw, and despite people stating that they could not digest some raw food, she told them to just keep going until the ‘digestive system heals itself from the lifetime of eating meat, dairy, and grains’. Again, this could actively hurt people, and thus it’s fair to judge this behaviour as morally reprehensible.
4. Desperate to promote veganism
This commonly occurs in vegan fitness communities when people deny all nutritional facts that have come before and approach healthy eating with a clean slate. Shrugging off protein and B12 as either not necessary or simple to attain by just eating fruits and veggies seems tempting at first – after all, if we can easily get our nutritional needs from those sources alone then veganism is a no brainer, right?
Well, sadly that’s not the way the body works. Yes, you can survive on a fairly low level of protein. But studies on protein for athletes have been done to death, and consistently show that, at an absolute bare minimum, we need 1g per kg per day. As for B12, there are two decent sources: animal products, and a pill. To deny all this isn’t going to turn more people towards veganism; it’s actually going to hurt the movement. It makes vegans look like idiots who’ve got very little nutritional knowledge.
Instead we should be promoting a varied and nutritious diet with good levels of protein, and supporting vegan protein companies and those working towards providing good alternatives to animal protein, such as Beyond Meat and Muufri. I met Patrik Baboumian a couple of years ago, who is arguably the world’s strongest vegan. He gets approximately 200-300g of protein per day.
Hell, even if a head of broccoli did have your RDA of protein in it, we have to face facts – people don’t eat meat for health reasons, but because it tastes good. The hippiescientist can talk until the (free-roaming companion animal) cows come home about how you can get your RDA of everything from cucumber skin, but in all honesty it wouldn’t make a difference even if you could. If you want to further veganism, both from a nutritional standpoint and as an ideological movement, then support the companies making strides into the animal protein alternatives out there.
5. Most people just want to help
Perhaps the biggest reason for the spread of hippiescience is an entirely innocent one – people genuinely just want to help. They may have read some hippiescience elsewhere, or tried something that worked for them, and will then pass it on to others looking for guidance. As mentioned above, most people aren’t experts, and they only know what they’ve read elsewhere in vegan health and fitness communities.
The problem is that giving the wrong advice is only going to exacerbate people’s health issues, and cause them problems later on. Offering some advice is fine, but it’s best if it comes from someone in the know. Wherever possible, recommend people see a vegan-friendly nutritionist for the best advice. Speaking of which, I guess this is an apt time for me to say I am not a nutritional expert myself, so take everything I’ve said with a pinch of (low-sodium, iodine enriched) salt. Yes, even the thing about not being able to get all your vitamins from cucumber skins… you never know.
How to change it?
Stay educated – keep reading up on nutrition if you’re going to advise people. I don’t mean blogs, and I certainly don’t mean exclusively vegan groups where there’s a clear agenda. I mean scientific and evidence-based approaches. Examine is a good place to start.
Educate others – when you know, share the knowledge. Link to sources wherever possible. Invite people to read the studies, or at least the abstracts. And don’t spread hippiescience.
Support vegan nutrition companies – there are a ton of brilliant companies out there producing vegan nutritional supplements, protein powders, animal-protein replacements and more. They need our money if they’re going to thrive though.
Challenge hippiescience – if you see blatent hippiescience, don’t be afraid to challenge it. Especially if it’s being recommended to someone who seems to be new to veganism and is looking for advice.
Yoga, spirulina, and raw foods all have their place - I've equally seen people jump too far the other way and rubbish anything commonly espoused by hippiescientists. Actually, yoga, 'superfoods' and raw eating are all awesome, and there's scientific evidence to prove it, but aren't the be all and end all to balanced healthy lifestyles.
Live by example – at the end of the day, even common nutritional pillars aren’t applicable to everyone. Yes, there may be people out there for whom certain hippiescience mainstays have worked. But the best thing to do is find what works for you, and build on it. Tell people it worked for you, but just remember to include the caveat that you’re not an expert. That said, I’ll never wear a crystal. Sorry.
A new study published this week in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has pointed to HMB as being hugely beneficial in lean muscle growth, with subjects putting on upwards of 5kg of lean muscle over a 12 week period. This was placed alongside a placebo group, whose respective gains were minimal.
HMB, or beta-Hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid (try saying that three times fast), is a component of leucine, an amino acid frequently encountered in another popular supplement, BCAAs. Whilst the human body synthesises a small amount, studies have previously shown a beneficial effect with regards to muscle gain and in maintenance of muscle tissue too if taken in higher doses.
However, none have laid such wild claims as the latest study. All participants were initially tested for their one-rep maxes on various lifts, as well as their peak power output. Body composition was also measured. All participants were men, who had previously trained with weights.
Over the following 12 weeks a resistance training programme was set up, basically involving 3 workouts per week, and one group was supplemented with 3g of HMB per day (taken at 3 intervals), whilst the placebo group went without.
After the 12 week programme, participants were again assessed. Their lifts had shot up by about 18%, whilst the placebo group saw increases of only 6%. They lost body fat and increased muscle mass. In addition, their level of ‘perceived recovery’ (a subjective measure of feeling recovered from the workout) was much better than the placebo group.
So, should we all be rushing out to buy HMB immediately? Probably not. This is an initial study, and these findings should be treated as such. It needs to be applied on a much larger scale. This is most obvious in the number of subjects used – 24 people. This is an incredibly small sample size and thus even minor errors are going to be magnified, making this study difficult to generalise to the wider athletic community.
Perhaps even more worrying is the little sentence under the Conflict of Interest area of the study. It’s funding comes from Metabolic Technologies Inc. – a supplier of HMB supplements. And three of the contributors to the study are on the payroll for MTI.
This has not been the first time the benefits of HMB have been potentially exaggerated. Many of the initial studies on its benefits were performed by Steve Nissen – the very same guy who initially discovered HMB and patented it. Many studies that have been performed from more, shall we say, objective sources have found minor benefits from HMB but nothing to write home about.
Where does this leave us then? A great resource for sifting through the truths and the exaggerated truths of HMB is Examine, who have a clear and concise page on HMB. As always though it often comes down to the simple question: does it work for you? HMB is a relatively cheap supplement and giving it an initial go will cost you a few bucks. Not all manufacturers list theirs as vegan, but there are some out there. Perhaps it's worth giving it a try.
"Bodybuilders are futurists. They dare everything. It's a world that I like." - Jacques Sayagh
Jacques is 50 years old. He's homeless on the streets of Paris. And he competes in bodybuilding competitions.
The amazing video that surfaced a few days ago shows Jacques' day to day life on the streets of Paris. With his pet dog and pan full of loose change, he initially looks just like any other homeless person on the streets of any capital city in the world. It's only when you look closely that you see things are different.
Alongside what few items Jacques owns are a handful of calisthenics apparatus. Resistance bands for arm workouts, push up handles to work on his chest, and belts suspended from a nearby lamppost allowing him to do pull ups and leg raises.
Next to his pan and his dog's kibble are a handful of supplements, including some protein powder and some creatine, along with a protein shaker.
Jacques reveals his physique, which is not dissimilar from many of the pros you'd see on stage at a bodybuilding competition. He packs a lot of muscle and is absolutely shredded. He can barely pinch the stomach fat from his abs.
Onlookers walk by, amazed by Jacques effort and physique. Children run up to squeeze his biceps, and adults stop by to congratulate him. After all, it isn't common to see a homeless person training, let alone reaching the levels of physical prowess that Jacques has.
He speaks of his past. A history riddled with drug abuse, drink, prostitutes, run ins with knife-wielding thieves. The kind of seedy underbelly of Paris visible in films such as La Haine or French crime series Spiral. Yet Jacques speaks of his spirit, and how it's stronger than that.
Yet it's neither himself, nor the streets that drive him to do what he does.
"I have grandchildren. I don't want them to think that their grandfather is an asshole. I want them to be proud of me. That's all that I want." And to that end, we think Jacques succeeds.
David Haye and Love Health Supplements kindly set us a batch of his new vegan protein to trial, so here's the True Icon take on it.
As we've already covered previously, David recently made the shift to a vegan diet on an ethical basis. In his transition he began marketing some vegan, plant-based protein powders. These are available from his Hayemaker Store.
The shakes come in two different flavours - mint chocolate chip and rich chocolate. They are a blend of yellow pea protein, brown rice protein, and quinoa protein. In addition, the blend includes BCAAs, green tea extract, digestive enzymes, and Himalayan rock salt (which helps to combat muscular cramp). The sweetness comes from stevia too, as opposed to the ubiquitous unnatural sweeteners I've seen included in other powders.
From this alone, I think you can see the level of effort that has gone into preparing this product. This is a far cry from the vegan standard of murky, unmixable, and unsavoury pea protein powders which are available elsewhere. Everything that has gone into the Hayemaker's protein powder is designed to maximise your athletic performance.
Perhaps most interesting is the protein blend itself though. Pea and rice? Yep, had it before. But the quinoa protein is a very welcome addition. Quinoa is a complete protein source, but is shamefully underused in plant-based powders. Also, you won't find any soy here either. Whilst the jury's out on soy (and I for one eat a lot of the stuff), this blend avoids it and thus avoids any controversy.
We got the opportunity to try both the mint choc chip and rich chocolate flavours of the shakes, and rest assured they're both awesome.
I tried mint choc chip first. For this, I mixed it straight with almond milk. Mint choc chip is always a less versatile flavour in my opinion, and I tend to prefer it without anything else mixed into the shake. The mint flavour can sometimes clash a bit with any fruit I throw in, but in hindsight a few fruits such as apples may have worked well.
Nevertheless, the mint choc chip flavour was great on its own. It was very rich and relatively creamy for a non-dairy shake. It had some earthy undertones, which were most likely a result of the quinoa. The Himalayan rock salt gave it a slightly salty taste which added to the overall flavour. It was a great shake though, and whilst I don't tend to go in for mint choc chip flavours myself I could see myself making a protein hot chocolate with this powder.
With the rich chocolate flavour I tasted a little on its own and mixed the rest with a few bananas and quinoa flakes in a smoothie. On its own the rich chocolate was very palatable, and I could have been convinced it wasn't even a protein powder but a dessert drink. It was even better in the smoothie though. The sweetness of the bananas and the touch of saltiness from the Himalayan rock salt were an incredible combo. The result was a thick, smooth, caramel-like taste.
Honestly, from just two shakes, it's impossible to tell really. What I can say is that neither shake left me feeling bloated, and both actually felt energising which is a quality that's quite rare in a shake. As such, these would make great pre-workout supplements as well as post-workout. Based on the ingredients I'd trust that this would be a very effective shake to use in the long run in conjunction with a solid workout routine though.
All in all, this is a fantastic product. At £39.99 for an 800g tub it's on the pricey side. But you are paying a premium price for a premium protein powder. This product isn't about fancy flavours (although it is delicious), nor is it about just a protein supplement. It's been formulated from the ground-up by David Haye and the team at Love Health to be the gold standard in plant-based nutritional supplements for vegan athletes, and to this end it succeeds.
You can buy David Haye's vegan protein from the Hayemaker online store.
What is butt wink then? I imagine the images it conjures up in your mind aren't particularly pleasant. Before I learnt about what butt wink actually is, if someone had come up to me in a gym saying I had a 'butt wink' problem I would have assumed they were politely trying to tell me I'd soiled myself.
Luckily, butt wink ain't that. Instead, butt wink is a flaw in your squat movement. It's the point where you squat low enough that your butt then proceeds to roll under your hips. If I was being picky then I'd describe it as more of a butt nod, or perhaps a butt tip-of-the-hat, as there's not really a wink to be seen. But hey, butt wink is what it's been termed so butt wink is what we shall stick with.
This all comes down to flexibility. Yeah, that thing that you never want to do at the gym because, well, weights. Sadly, flexibility and injury prevention exercises go very overlooked, and the result can be quite detrimental. Speak to anyone who's ever torn a rotator cuff from total neglect of strengthening it up for injury prevention purposes, and they will beg you to do some work to correct imbalances and issues in your body.
What causes butt wink?
The chief cause of butt wink is nice and simple to understand, thankfully. It all comes down to hamstrings. Yep, hamstrings again. They crop up time and time again when it comes to flexibility, and can affect any lower body exercise going, from deadlifts and squats, to running and cycling. There's no reason not to be giving your hamstrings some love here and there, as it will benefit you in so many ways.
Most hamstring issues are caused by sitting for prolonged periods of time. We tend to sit back into a chair, with our knees bent, meaning our hamstrings can happily relax and, over time, get shorter.
Should I really worry about butt wink?
Yes and no. It's a minor issue initially, and won't cause you a lot of grief, until you start getting serious about your squats. As you work up and up the weights, there's going to come a point when your back is going to suffer if you don't remedy your winky butt. It's better to start now, and avoid getting into trouble at a later point.
How to prevent butt wink
This is nice and simple, thankfully. It's good ol' stretches. As mentioned, sitting all day causes our hamstrings to shorten, and that in turn causes butt wink. Everyone's done that simple stretch where you stand up, and bend down to touch your toes, right? Well, that's the trick, except make sure you're doing it right.
To do it correctly you need to ensure you're starting by standing up tall. Instead of folding forward and touching your toes, focus on pushing your butt out. As you do so, allow your upper body to shift forward, maintaining a straight back. This ensures you're in an anterior pelvic tilt position. I can almost guarantee that you won't get nearly as far down into the stretch as you normally do before your hamstrings give in. This goes to demonstrate just how short they are. Holding this static stretch for approximately 30 seconds at a time will see you going gradually lower over several weeks into the position. Resist any temptation to cheat, and keep your back straight, but most importantly, keep your butt out - this is what will lengthen the hamstring. Keep practicing, and soon you can say goodbye to the butt wink.
Hamstring stretch video
UK boxing heavyweight legend, David Haye, has announced that he went vegan at the start of 2014.
In an interview with The Independent, The Hayemaker mentioned that he 'watched a TV documentary about how animals are farmed, killed and prepared for us to eat'.
It's great to see him coming to veganism from an ethical approach, but he is also ensuring he maintains a diet that allows him to continue to fight. He states 'I saw all those cows and pigs and realised I couldn't be a part of it any more. It was horrible. I did some research to make sure I could still obtain enough protein to fight and, once satisfied that I could, I stopped. I'll never go back.'
Having been vegan for 6 months now, David has also released a range of vegan proteins - an industry that needs all the support it can get. It's great to see a big player enter the market, and the products look fantastic. Mint Chocolate Chip and Rich Chocolate are the two products available. The nutritional profile is unique and consists of a blend of yellow pea protein, raw brown rice protein, and quinoa protein. This provides a large amino acid profile, and beneficial micronutrients. It has numerous other benefits, including BCAAs, green tea extract, and digestive enzymes to ensure your body gets the most out of the product. Whilst £34.99 is a little on the pricey side for a 800g tub, it is a very high quality product. We'll be trying it out soon.
With an impressive professional boxing career spanning over 10 years, with only 2 losses, David Haye is one of the most successful boxers to ever live. Packing one of the world's strongest punches earned him the nickname 'The Hayemaker', David collected title after title during his career including the WBA heavyweight title.
To add to his already impressive career, David was one of 2010's Sports Personalities of the Year alongside the likes of Jessica Ennis and Mark Cavendish. He also has a Doctor of Science degree from Anglia Ruskin University.
It's great to hear that another big sporting name has gone vegan. What's most exciting though is that David Haye is back in training with one main goal - 'I want to become world heavyweight champion again'. Could we see the first vegan WBA heavyweight champion in the coming years? Only David Haye can give us the answer to that question.
UPDATE: we now have a review for David Haye's vegan protein.
Cycling if often seen as an inherently ecological activity. As a method of transport, it is almost carbon-neutral with next-to-zero impact on the environment. Why is it not completely impact free, as is often touted by cycling enthusiasts and environmentalists alike? Primarily because impact from production methods still exist, which goes hand-in-hand with a negative human cost from the use of sweatshop labour.
Enter Veleco, a company looking to begin bridging the gap between minimal environmental harm to impact-free. Veleco are a cyclewear and clothing company based in Brighton, UK, and founded by cycling enthusiasts Jamie Lloyd and John Lewis. The pair had previously worked together on ethical sports venture, Fair Corp, and Veleco is the next logical step.
Jamie and John started the company on the grounds that they “couldn't find cyclewear anywhere in the world that [they] thought was truly eco and ethical.” Veleco now stocks a large range of t-shirts and hoodies, as well as more specialised cycling attire such as caps, cycling shorts, musette bags, and a cycling jacket. All of these items are made using Fairtrade-certified materials, or, where possible, recycled materials, and are carbon-neutral in their production. Workers are fairly paid, and premiums are paid on specific items which fund health, welfare, and education projects for workers and their families. All products are currently vegan-friendly as well.
Take the example of the Re:Cycle Softshell Cycling Jacket, a product that has all the high-quality design and features of large-scale competitive companies' jackets, yet is produced fairly, positively impacts the environment (it's made from twelve recycled plastic bottles), and looks stylish to boot. At £75, the product is competitively priced too.
The company also offers a range of accessories and extra products besides cyclewear, such as wallets created with recycled materials, and Nikwax, a waterproofer that's eco-friendly and animal-testing free.
With a new collection being developed shortly, the future is looking strong for Veleco. This could mean cycling could finally achieve its status as a truly zero-impact activity. Unless of course your name is Ed Orcutt, in which case I'm sorry for breathing whilst riding my bike...
Plant Built are a team of vegan bodybuilding athletes based across the US who are aiming to take vegan bodybuilding into the mainstream.
The team started about a year ago, and is comprised of many big names in the vegan bodybuilding world, such as Ed Bauer, Torre Washington, and Derek Tresize to name but a few. The team recently got together for their first show of strength (har-har) by taking on the competitors at the Naturally Fit Super Show (as the name suggests, a steroid and drug-free competition) based in Austin, Texas.
This was their first 'Plant Built, assemble' moment as a group – the first time they had all got together to take on a joint challenge. What would have been cool is if they showed up at the event and gave vegan bodybuilding a presence. Instead, they did far better than this, with many of the team dominating their entry classes. In fact, of the seven divisions they entered, they came out on top in five of them. Ed Bauer and Chad Byers also placed 2nd and 3rd out of 24 competitors in the men's fitness model competition. Out of hundreds of competitors, 10 overall winners were chosen for the event – 4 of these were vegans.
This achievement is early days for the Plant Built team, but is definitely an exciting taster of what's to come, and is proof that vegan bodybuilding isn't an oxymoron. Keep an eye out on http://www.plantbuilt.com/ to see what the team's plan is for the future.
Josh Garnett hiked 45 miles a day to break the Pacific Crest Trail record on an entirely vegan diet.
Three days into the trek Garnett collapsed of heatstroke in the Southern California San Felipe Hills. With over 2,500 miles left on his trail he began to have doubts that he could make the trip from Mexico to Canada in less than 60 days.
"I started shivering in the 100 degree heat. I took 24 hours off and really didn't think I could continue. Needless to say, I'm glad that I didn't stop."
Garnett completed the trail after 59 days, 8 hours and 59 minutes - the fastest time in the tail's history.
The vegan fitness community is ever-growing, and everyday I am surprised by some of the amazing athletes and their achievements in the global growing lifestyle and fitness trend that is veganism. However, I'm also consistently astounded with the level of rubbish that many vegans expound and recommend when it comes to developing physical fitness, whether that's endurance athletes, bodybuilders, strength athletes, MMA fighters etc.
The key root of this misinformation is quite easy to analyse. The omnivorous fitness discussion centres around one macronutrient primarily: protein. From high-protein, low-carb diets, to discussions about the best sources of protein which are almost invariably focused on animal products. Milk, meat, chicken breast, egg whites, steak, chicken breast, salmon, cheese, chicken breast, chicken breast, more chicken breast.
Thus, the vegan fitness community can feel a little excluded from these discussions, as we come in feebly suggesting 'tofu' only to be, at best subtly ignored, at worst receive a barrage of misinformation about soy and bitch-tits in men, followed up by a swift 'vegans can't build muscle!!1'.
The truth is vegans can build muscle. We have plenty of proof of this. Just take a look at Robert Cheeke's Vegan Bodybuilding site, or PlantBuilt. But the rules don't change. Building muscle requires heaps of protein, no matter who you are.
Vegans have access to so many protein sources, really they should be offering their chicken breast obsessed friends advice and ideas for alternative meals. We've got soy in all its forms (tempeh, tofu, soy milk, edamame etc), nuts & seeds, quinoa, seitan, hemp, lentils, beans of so many varieties, faux meats and many more. And some delicious vegan protein shakes on the market too. You know the old adage 'for every animal you don't eat, I'll eat three'? Vegans should be telling omnis that for every chicken breast eaten, they'll eat three. Made of seitan. And lovingly accompanied by quinoa. And a portion of broccoli, of course.
But the vegan fitness community has become its own worst enemy. Recommendations often seem to point to everything but protein. Raw diets, juicing, 80/10/10, frugivore: these diets have their place, sure, but they seem to have become the ubiquitous answer given to any vegan fitness related question. Whenever questioned, fall-back responses are always in place. I have nothing against raw diets – indeed, I follow a raw vegan diet on an occasional basis, usually for a week or two at a time. That said, there's an unfortunate tendency to rely on vague unfounded arguments whenever someone questions raw. I'm sorry but if your response to a fallacy in your nutritional reasoning is along the lines of 'those 50 studies that directly prove what you just said are all incorrect because they were funded by corporations' or perhaps some barrel-scraping notion of micro-micronutrients such as antioxidants or enzymes being the be all and end all of health and fitness then I am going to ignore you.
There's enough information out there already (much of it funded by very legitimate sources) as to what pertains to a healthy diet. Protein is part of that equation, and depending on your fitness goals it can be quite a big part of it.
I understand the fears around this. I understand the desire to reinvent the wheel and hope for the best. As mentioned, protein has become almost synonymous with meat. To further this, there are numerous diets out there that rely on high-protein utilising a high-meat intake. Paleo, Atkins, and at the furthest extreme, Keto.
But it doesn't have to be this way. Veganism needs to prove itself and all the tools to do it are there. We have more and more fantastic vegan protein sources and products hitting the market all the time. This isn't an article to recommend what you should be eating – there's whole hosts of info out there about that. Just check out Kai's article on weightloss on a vegan diet as the tip of the iceberg. However, I'll say this much – protein is a necessity. We should take conscious steps to include it in our diets, at higher than average quantities if you're following a fitness regime. Taking conscious steps to avoid protein and healthy fats is a bizarre concept in my eyes.
But there's more to it than simply being healthy. Veganism is, for most, an ethical choice beyond all else. And that's where you can do some good too. Let's support the companies out there selling vegan supplements and products – some of which are exclusively vegan. Ignoring these companies in favour of dubious dietary patterns is only going to damage veganism's reputation and its reach into the fitness community.
Just some of the companies out there creating, marketing and selling vegan products:
Nature's Whey (UK) – range of vegan supplements and protein
Vega (US) – Great range of vegan supplements
Sunwarrior (US but launching in UK) – raw vegan protein powders
Good Hemp Nutrition (UK) – a range of hemp products, including protein powder
Reflex Nutrition (UK) – non-vegan company, but creates a delicious vegan protein powder at a very reasonable price
MyProtein (UK) – non-vegan company, but labels vegan-friendly products and produces a 'vegan blend' protein.
True Nutrition (US) – non-vegan company with a large range of vegan proteins including potato protein powder!
And there's loads more. But these companies need support and money to make vegan proteins a financially viable market.
I think sadly, the synonymity between protein and meat in the fitness world has put vegans off consuming healthy, well evidenced diets which will help them achieve their fitness goals. It's time we looked at this issue realistically, and gave our support to all the vegan protein products and companies that are out there. Veganism is doing no one any favours by trying to reinvent good nutrition, least of all its stand in the fitness community.
Deciding on a logo is hard. In your head you hold your hopes and aspirations for what your business will be. In your hand you hold a poorly sharpened pencil, hovering just over a scrap of paper. Between your right frontal brain, the pencil nib and the paper is the potential to draw the best, most awesome logo the world has ever known. Sadly, what comes out looks more like the ravings of a prisoner of Bastille.
But you draw and you discuss and you drink more coffee than you should. And eventually, caffeine jitters setting in, and you give up. Or at least that’s our experience.
Fortunately, there are people out there who can help. People who make logos and corporate brands for a living. Our man was Kurt Henderson.
Kurt listened patiently as we nattered on about what it is we sell, about our ethics and spluttered out half-formed ideas of our own.
After a little back and forth, we’ve happily arrived on what you see before you. First and foremost True Icon is about fashion - our logo needed to look good. But crucially, we also want to spread the word about ethical consumer choices. We aim to prove that you don’t have throw your morals out the window in search of looking and feeling good. It is from the idea of spreading the word that we arrived upon our speech-bubble inspired logo.
As True Icon grows, we hope the logo will grow with us. No brand ever comes complete with brand identity and values, these are attached as the company progresses. Logos are vessels to be filled. For now, we’re just pleased to have a fine looking vessel.
A big thanks has to go to Kurt. What you see before you is the result of his patience, keen eye and understanding of our needs as clients.
All the best and now that our logo is sorted, expect further news on our first range of products shortly.
Kai and Rob
P.S. We like to interview everyone we work with at True Icon and Kurt was kind enough to oblige.
Kurt Henderson: An Interview
How did you get into graphic design?
Design entered my life from creating custom forum interface graphics for gaming clans. From there on I focused on mastering photoshop thus tailoring my designs towards all the different industries. It's been a fascinating experience.
What past experiences/clients do you have?
The Hugo Boss simplicity design was quite interesting to work with when I was in my teens. Throughout University I carried out some work for M&S, Spotify, Reading & Leeds festival which were all great opportunities to express my creativity.
Which project have you most enjoyed?
I think there where milestones for me where I could easily say I enjoyed a project far more than another. They are all equally important to me and all play a huge part in my life. I mostly enjoyed being a 13 year old boy with many dreams and aspirations, that was the project I enjoyed most, and still do, I'm still that 13 year old boy deep down.
What inspires/influences you?
My inspiration derives from many different sources, I have my favourite designers who inspire me of course, but my belief to think outside the box grasping onto various elements that make that ever so curious side of my brain light up.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into design?
Yes, plenty, but there's a very important lesson for all of us we need to learn. If you want to excel, finding a synergy that binds your love for design with a personal experience or aspiration. Then you'll find you naturally 'need' to design.
Where can we find out more about you and your work?
My work can be found on my website: kurthenderson.com or Deviantart.com with the user name Ckygfx. Hope you enjoy what you see.
Welcome to my long overdue explanation of what True Icon means to me. When Rob and I started the site we agreed we’d each write what the site was about and what it meant to us as our first posts.
Well, Rob stuck to our promise while I wrote my post months ago and subsequently scrapped it. I’m a perfectionist who eventually, grudgingly, settles for less than perfect; this time in the form of a stream of conscious blast of blogging.
So what does True Icon mean to me? When Rob first came up with the name and the tag “Become the Icon” it grew on me over the space of the next 5 minutes to encompass a lot of what I wanted the site to be. I’m not sure if it came endowed with meaning that took me 5 minutes to understand (It’s a strong possibility) or if I subscribed my own meaning to it. At this point it probably doesn’t matter.
So what is it? In short, we want True Icon sell ethical and stylish clothes. Both Rob and I have been vegan for a number of years and we’ve found ethical ‘fashion’ to be at best highly suspect. We’re hoping to provide organic, fair trade and fashionable clothing for both men and women as soon as possible. As you can probably tell from the state of the site at the moment, neither of us our web designers; we’re working on the shop functionality and going over every aspect of our products to make sure they’re as ethical as they can possibly be.
In the meantime, we’re throwing out material on anything and everything that we care about. Loosely broken into categories:
Culture: be that books, games, music, films or what have you. It’s a broad title but if it’s good enough for the Guardian, it’s good enough for me.
Fitness: We’re both fitness obsessed and we think everyone should be. Expect posts on workouts, diets, Martial Arts and how to generally make yourself into a superhero.
Essays: In which we cover topics in depth that we have been thinking about recently. This is a bit of a “File as Misc.” section.
Food: Always vegan. Nearly always healthy, fitness focused, quick and convenient. Apart from the odd indulgence including Oreo Ice Cream and Raw Food Vegan Snickers (both coming soon!). Check out the True Icon Rule of 7 for an explanation of the types of food we cook.
Technology: It has a larger and larger part in all our lives and almost everyone is fascinated by some part of it – we fall under the category of ‘almost everyone’, so here it is.
Fashion: Last but by no means least. We’ll cover brands and products we back as well as debates around just what exactly ethical fashion is anyway.
The link in all this is that we will cover things from an ethical standpoint. So if you’re an ethical dude or dudette, or you’d like to be, you’re in the right place
Finally getting onto the subject of the name, it’s easier to approach from our tagline “Become the Icon”.
I’ve heard a lot of vegan jokes over the years. But my favourite?
How do you know if someone is vegan?
Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.
We’ve all met the preachy vegan types. They’re so stoked with themselves and their attitude to life.
“Would you like a crisp Mark?”
“Umm... no thanks. I take my crisps cruelty free.”
This is a slight exaggeration and in reality things are a little more nuanced. But no matter what way you look at it, no matter what type of vegan you are - it’s so very, very true.
It’s true about any ethical or moral choice. I wouldn’t be vegan if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. And if I think it’s the right thing to do it would follow that I want others to be vegan as well. And what better way to get people to be vegan than telling them about it, right?
But there are different ways to let people know.
1) You can bombard them with facts.
Facts about why meat is bad, why diary is bad, why animal testing is bad. Facts about how these things damage the environment, global society and perhaps even your health.
Facts about how bee’s numbers are critically low, how we’re over fishing to the brink of disaster, how inefficient beef production is. Ad infinitum, ad infinitum, ad infinitum.
The reaction is unlikely to be a favourable one. It’s a bit like telling someone their hair is crap and that you don’t like their music taste and then asking them to buy your latest record. It’s not going to work.
Option two then.
2) You can set an example.
Live your life to its fullest and live it ethically. Be an informed, healthy, attractive individual.
People might comment on your food, your clothes, your energy levels or physique. At this point, if you like, you can mention you’re vegan or vegetarian or that your clothes are fair-trade, ethical and just downright awesome in every way.
They’ve asked, so let them know. Let them know that being vegan is one of the best things you’ve ever done for you.
Over time they’ll see how you live your life and they’ll start to see that maybe they could make some changes. Maybe how you live will work for them too.
I’ve seen this with so many of my friends, family memebers and collegues. They come to making ethical choices in their own time and in their own way. They might not go vegan but they might shop more locally, eat less meat or avoid animal tested products.
Anyone with an ethical conscience wants immediate change. And it can happen. We will fight for it with pen and with fire, with protest and with boycott.
But first we need to set an example of how life can be.
That’s what True Icon means to me. I hope to set an example of just how easy and enjoyable it is to live a compassionate and considerate lifestyle. Most importantly, I hope you’ll join me.
If you’ve read this far – major props. Please get in touch with us and let us know how we can make the site better and what you’d like us to cover. We’d love to hear from you.
Recipes at True Icon follow a bit of a philosophy. Below are the 7 commandments of True Icon Food. 1: Our recipes are always vegan.
2: They won’t be overcomplicated or make use of ingredients you couldn’t find at your local farmers market or supermarket. This keeps things cheap and convenient.
3: Our cooking is fitness based. Which means a high protein content, healthy fats and wholesome unrefined carbs.
4: We won’t use processed sugar in anything. Sweetness comes from fruit.
5: We will try to only use whole foods. In our weaker moments we might use some fake meats– like in our ‘Chicken’ Sate recipe.
6: We will try to give a breakdown of macro-nutrients and or calories (we may get lazy on this one at times).
7: Lastly, meals should take up the minimum amount of time to prepare and most importantly be downright irresistible.
If you have a recipe that you'd like featured that follows these rules, get in touch and we'll hook you up with a guest spot!
Plant-based athlete Kappel Leroy Clarke has brought new meaning to the widely used weightlifting expression 'lift things up and put them down'. On a sunny Sunday in LA, Kappel travelled the distance between Venice Pier and Santa Monica Pier (2.7 miles) with his 48kg kettlebell. Picking the kettlebell up before throwing it out in front of him, and picking it up once again, Kappel covered the distance in 5 hours, 37 minutes and 58 seconds.
This resulted in exactly 1,801 throws of the kettlebell - a cumulative weight of 95.29 tonnes.
Kappel's approach to fitness has always been an interesting one. Much of his personal training and work with clients focuses less on the physical elements of fitness, and the thought processes that one undertakes in situations of extreme stress on the body (entitled Fre Flo Do). This approach was undoubtedly utilised in this extreme feat of endurance and strength.
A short film, entitled A Marathon of Power has been released showing Kappel's journey towards defeating this challenge.
Vegan Blueberry Chocolate Hemp Ice Cream
This no sugar protein-rich ice cream is fantastic if you're looking for a delicious way to get more protein in your diet. Each batch has 48g of protein for a mere 480 calories.
- 350g of silken tofu
- 200g of frozen blueberries
- 30g of Chocolate Flavour Vegan Blend Protein Powder
- 200g of soy yogurt
- One teaspoon of almond essence (optional)
- One teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
- Blend all ingredients together until smooth.
- From here either put in the freezer for 3 hours, stirring halfway through to avoid the edges freezing completely.
- Or place into ice cream machine for 10 minutes until the mixture reaches the consistency of ice cream or stops rotating.
- And you're done!
How do I lose weight on a vegan diet?
Losing weight on a vegan diet is the same as losing weight on any other. You must ensure that your body is using more calories than you are consuming. There are two ways to do this:
1) Eat fewer calories
Ideally, you’ll be using a combination of these.
How much weight should I lose a week?
Try to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week. Any more than this can be unhealthy and unsustainable.
Remember that losing weight isn’t a race.
You’re looking to make life long lifestyle changes. If you lose 20 pounds in three weeks you will find it difficult to return to a healthy eating routine once you reach your target weight.
Slow and steady weight loss also encroaches less on your daily routine and quality of life. It will mean you can afford the odd treat and it abates the temptation to binge.
How many calories do I need to cut?
As a rough guide you need to cut 3,500 calories a week from your calorie intake to lose a pound of body fat.
Remember that this can be done by eating less, exercising or both.
If you were to diet alone, you need to cut 500 calories a day.
If you are exercising as a part of your weight loss plan you can afford to eat a little more on work out days.
On rest days, eat less.
What are some good vegan food options?
Within reason you can eat anything you like.
You could eat 1,500 calories of peanut butter and call it a day – but it’s not recommended.
Instead, look to eat a healthy range of foods including carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein.
Many people believe that carbohydrates will fill you up. But it’s better to fill up on protein sources like lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh and seitan. Your body takes longer to digest these – so you stay fuller for longer.
Carbs: Try to avoid ‘simple carbs’ like white rice and white pasta. Brown rice and quinoa are your best friends.
Proteins: The whole range of vegan protein sources are open to you. Lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, seitan – you name it.
Fats: Fat is an important part of our diet so don’t cut it out completely. If you’re using nuts and seeds for protein you’ll be getting some healthy fats in the mix anyway. Other great sources include avocados, coconut oil and coconut milk.
Is cardio important?
It really depends on your goals.
You’ll hear a lot of body builders slate cardio in the belief that it burns calories that could be used to gain muscle.
Cardio has many benefits including a lower resting heart rate, calorie burning and improved day -to-day fitness.
Cardio will help you cut calories from your diet and improve your ability to run for that bus, climb those stairs or whatever other obstacles get in your way from day to day.
Pick an exercise you like or that fits with your goals. Running, cycling, jump-rope, swimming are all great options.
If you decide to gain muscle, you can continue your cardio routine alongside weights and simply eat more to create a calorie surplus or you can cut the cardio. The choice it yours – it’s your life and your goal you’re aiming for.
If you really, really hate cardio and you’re prepared to make up the calorie burning potential with weights and calorie control then feel free to avoid it.
Steady State or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
Steady state cardio is great for endurance and like any form of exercise will help burn calories. It does however take a while with runs upwards of 1.5 hours not unheard of for those who enjoy it.
As a starting goal, try to aim for half an hour of steady state cardio as a minimum.
Walk, run, swim, it doesn’t matter - just keep your heart rate above resting.
HIIT on the other hand has been linked to increased calorie burning throughout the day. It also takes half the time of steady state cardio.
Try to incorporate one or two HIIT sessions a week into your routine. For a great home HIIT routine, try burpees for 30/60/90 seconds with 30 seconds rest in-between each set.
By using both you’ll be working towards great overall practical fitness.
Should I use a weights routine?
If you have to choose between cardio and weights – pick weights. It’s been proven to help with weight loss more than cardio alone.
Whether you are male or female a weights routine will help you lose weight and unless your diet is geared towards it – won’t make you a beefcake.
Weight lifting increases your overall strength, balance and fitness and raises the heart rate, burning calories in the process.
Muscle is a calorie-burning machine. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn resting or working out.
Weight lifting will also decrease the chance of excess skin after weight loss, the muscle will help pad out where the fat used to be.
What’s the best exercise to help me lose weight?
The one you enjoy the most.
If you’re a runner, run. If you’re a boxer/martial artist, train and jump-rope. If you’re a swimmer, swim. If you’re a cyclist, ride.
Enjoy it, keep doing it, lose weight.
What about low carb/low fat diets?
Try to avoid fad diets.
Low fat or low carb diets are very popular. There are anecdotes across the web telling how they help you lose weight fast.
This might be true but remember you are looking to make a change for life.
Are you prepared to avoid high fat foods and carbs for the rest of your life? Your diet shouldn’t cause you any undue effort or hassle. Low fat and low carb diets can mean skipping meals you like and lead to feelings of guilt on occasions when you cave. Quite often it’s not worth it.
Our body is designed to make use of carbs, fats and proteins in different ways. Each plays an important part in our health and wellbeing so make sure you incorporate them in your diet.
Some studies have shown that low fat versions of food make us feel less full, meaning we eat more of them. Great for companies marketing low fat foods but bad news for you.
Will leangains/keto/paleo help me reach my goals?
These diets have proven results and many avid followers but they aren’t for everyone.
If your diet doesn’t fit around your lifestyle, if it leaves you craving things you can’t have, causes guilt when/if you cave or makes you constantly worry about what you’re eating then it’s not worth it.
The reason these diets work is because they all incorporate calorie deficits to their weight loss programs.
The most important thing in weight loss is using more calories than you consume. All else is tributary. Including whatever diet your friend or that blogger swears by.
Is the Body Mass Index (BMI) useful?
The BMI chart is made redundant the moment you start using a weight routine because muscle weighs more than fat. Some of the healthiest people you know will be considered ‘overweight’ by the BMI chart.
Don’t beat yourself up over chart results, take photos, keep and eye on your reflection and if you want to be fastidious measure your waist, hips, arm and leg circumference regularly.
I’m in a calorie deficit but I’m not losing weight, what's going on?
First and foremost, check you are in a deficit.
Start counting calories. It’s tedious but if you aren’t losing weight by guesswork alone it might be needed. Some people are surprised by just how much they’re eating.
If you are in a calorie deficit – don’t cut it further immediately.
Stick with your deficit for a month or two. It can be frustrating to weigh yourself weekly only to find you’ve stayed the same weight or even gained some but there are good reasons why this could happen.
You may be gaining muscle while losing weight. This is known as ‘recomping’ and it’s quite common when you start a new routine.
You may notice noticeable changes in your appearance but no weight loss – this is why photos and keeping a keen eye on the mirror can be useful.
You may also be experiencing water retention. If you’re regularly feeling bloated, noticing indents on your ankles when you take your socks off or gaining weight rapidly over night you’re probably experiencing this.
Don't worry, water weight will drop off and often comes with a huge drop in weight and measurement.