Have you ever had someone tell you that in order to be physically active and gain muscle, you need to eat things like meat, fish and eggs? How about drinking whey protein shakes? Is there even such a thing as vegan bodybuilding?
Well, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, most of the western population is still under the misconception that our bodies need to consume animal products to thrive and that meat equals strength.
But there are a few amazing people who prove this wrong. It takes a strong belief and focus in order to train amongst other bodybuilders who gulp down their eggs with glasses of milk and still not question your own plant-based lifestyle choice.
Someone who did just that and successfully won several bodybuilding competitions on a strict vegan diet is Torre Washington. And he’s no exception, he has no special genes that make him somehow gain muscle while eating exclusively plants.
Growing Up Vegetarian
The Alabama-born didn’t eat meat during his childhood since his mother was a Seventh-day Adventist and raised her children according to her religious beliefs. When Torre joined the Rastafari movement in 1998, he decided to get serious about being “ital”: this comes from the word “vital” and means increasing one’s life energy as well as avoiding the “dead food” – including animal products. All of the food is meant to come strictly from the earth.
Because he didn’t want to be a hypocrite and stop consuming a few animal products while continuing to eat other ones, he became a full-blown vegan. And he hasn’t looked back ever since.
Being inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, comics and superheroes in his teens, he started to work out at the age of 15 by using simple utensils he found around the house. Back then, Torre spent some time living with his grandparents who had a lot of steel and construction material lying around.
Soon, he started to educate himself about bodybuilding and having the right form while working out. But it wasn’t after he had finished high school and college (where he got his degree in engineering) that he got serious about bodybuilding. Asking one of his friends, who already won a bodybuilding competition, for some advice regarding training, he still never planned on including animal products into his diet.
His Plant-Based Diet Explained
After some time, people started to recognize that he was always pretty lean, even though he wasn’t following the “clean eating” principles at all. His diet, until this day, consists of mostly unrefined, whole plant-based foods.
Overall, he likes simplicity and just eats a variety of healthy, nutrient-dense vegan foods. Since he’s not a picky eater, he can live off of beans or greens all day!
Though he was more rigid with his diet in the beginning and ate an exact amount of food at exact times, he’s become more intuitive and gained knowledge on how his body works. He doesn’t track his food, calories or even protein at all and likes to mix up his food to get all the different nutrients his body needs.
Just like everyone else, he has his favorite meals and recipes, which he just eats over and over again. His food choices range from fruits, oatmeal, peanut butter and raisins to Ezekiel toast, asparagus, sandwiches, pancakes, salad, seitan, tofu, beans, potatoes and greens or lettuce. Also, he makes sure to drink enough water and sometimes treats himself with some vegan doughnuts, cupcakes or cookies.
When a competition is coming up, he cuts out the sweets and refined sugars for a while since they are empty calories and don’t make him feel his best. Also, he increases his water and vegetable intake – but not the high-protein foods.
Torre also believes that there are no drastic changes or protein shakes necessary in order to prepare for a show. Some increase in the intensity of his workouts is basically all it needs.
And What About Vegan Bodybuilding?
In his first competition 2009, he made the 3rd place. A few months later, he won the next competition and ended up getting a pro card to be able to compete against professional bodybuilders.
Initially, he was just after the physical looks – but as he started competing, he upped his game and his lifting got a lot better. Nevertheless, his diet stayed the same while he was just putting on more muscle. His pre-workout food is usually a little lighter, like berries or some other kind of fruit. After his workout, he likes to rebuild glycogen by eating a good amount of potatoes or sweet potatoes.
The clear benefits of his vegan diet, compared to his bodybuilder colleagues, include a very quick recovery and quick muscle growth while sleeping well at night because no animal was hurt in the process.
What’s most important is to get enough calories in, which will automatically give you enough protein – also, never restrict your carbs and eat a good amount of every single nutrient.
Torre’s training or diet doesn’t really change whether it’s “on” or “off” season and he steps away from drastic measures like bulking or cutting.
He’s also not big on cardio and usually just does a 10-minute warm-up before his workouts plus he likes to do some sprints for 1 day of the week. Back in school, he liked running a lot and was very good at it too.
What He Wants You to Know
Torre is passionate about showing that eating healthy while being physically active is possible. He likes doing what most people don’t think can be done.
Even though it can be pretty hard in the beginning when you start out with your training, never quit or surrender. Consistency is most important when it comes to fitness.
To show you that it’s fun to do something outside of the norm, to be different and what’s possible in terms of fitness, he started training people online as well. You can check out his website to contact him and follow him around on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Instagram.
But now we’d like to let him speak for himself! Torre generously offered to be interviewed exclusively for nutriciously and answered all of our burning questions:
1. Did You Recognize Any Differences in Your Body, Health or Strength When You Switched to a Vegan Diet?
This is a very interesting question and the reason that I say this is because, my transition or switch to being vegan was very similar to turning off a light switch, it was instant. Therefore when I look back at pictures of myself as a vegetarian, what I noticed is a more swollen look to the muscle without definition and now I have a more defined look.
I’ve also experienced a very big change in the strength of my immune system, it is very resilient. I have gotten stronger as a result of more intense training due to being able to recover faster as a result of my vegan regimen (diet).
2. What Does a Typical Day Look Like for You Regarding Rest, Movement and Nutrition?
A typical day for me is as follows: I prepare my meal and it is based on how I am feeling at that moment or how I need to look for an event or photo/video shoot. After the first meal of the day, I either work out or do sprints for cardio (2x a week).
My goal for nutrition is to get in the amount of calories I need to look the way that I want to. For competition, I focus on calories and get that from various sources simple and complex.
My workout routine varies when I train with a partner to push me harder than I would push myself, or when I do sessions on my own. My goal is to achieve about 6 to 8hrs of sleep each day.
3. Can You Give Hands-On Advice Regarding Diet and Training for Vegans Trying to Build Muscle and Get Fitter?
Well in a nutshell (no pun intended) eating enough calories and training hard are vital to getting fit and strong, but since it’s a bigger subject, it’s a book that will be available New Years 2016 on my new website. Stay tuned!
4. Do You Have Any Words of Encouragement to Go or Stay Vegan in a Non-Vegan Environment?
My word of encouragement would be: In order for things in this world to change, we must change. Longevity comes from sustainability and efficient use of resources and as vegans, we have the opportunity to create both and sustain a greener more efficient world.
5. What Are the Biggest Differences Between Vegans and Meat Eaters Who Work out and Want to Build Muscle?
Some of the differences are more energy and recovery as a vegan, in my experience. Supplementation is very subjective due to the funding behind them; I am not a doctor and wouldn’t want to suggest that anyone not take something that a Doctor prescribed due to a deficiency. Most people (meat-eaters and vegans alike) need B-12 supplementation as most people don’t get it in their daily eating regimen, all other nutrients can be received by eating a varied whole foods meal plan.
Have you been trying to build muscle on a vegan diet? Or do you believe in supplements and loading up on protein? Let us know in the comments below.