Unlike most people that decide to switch to a plant based diet, I didn’t do it for ethical reasons. The main motivation for me was experimentation and to see how my body would react. For years I had been eating 5-7 meals a day with animal proteins at the heart of every meal, it was all I had really known.
I started training when I was around 20, first by body weight exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups and progressively I moved into lifting weights and started taking it more seriously around the age of 23. In that time I had started to learn about nutrition by reading fitness and bodybuilding magazines. They said to me that I needed to eat meat and without eating meat I wouldn’t gain any muscle or worse – lose any hard earned muscle that I had gained.
This was the mentality that was ingrained into me and it was all I knew. I competed in a couple of natural bodybuilding competitions which only fueled my consumption of animal products as well as lead me to binging on many processed junk foods. However, I’d never given any thought to what my eating was actually doing to myself as well as my environment. I always considered myself to be a pretty healthy individual – eating lean meats, eggs, green vegetables, low sodium and healthy fats. I also tried to avoid gluten and dairy in my daily diet.
My older sister was the first one in our family to turn vegan. Living in Fitzroy in Melbourne in that kind of trendy, hispter area I never really understood why she did it or what it was. I just thought it was a trendy, hipster, anti-everything, ‘look at me I’m so different in a non-conformists kind of way’ thing to do. I couldn’t fathom how someone could live off just eating vegetables and not having any meat in a meal (to me it wasn’t even considered a meal!).
But as time went on, my mother and my younger sister also made the transition. First, they went vegetarian and then eventually went vegan. I couldn’t understand why they wanted to stop eating meat, but at the same time realised that not everyone is a gym goer and wants to build massive amounts of muscle so I just accepted it’s their choice and they can do what they like without judgement from me.
As time went on I started seeing this vegan movement gathering more and more followers. People I knew were turning to veganism and shunning the use of animal products, but still I knew this was something I would never do – I mean every vegan I saw was skinny or out of shape. A vegan couldn’t possibly have any muscle on their frame! It just wasn’t possible – I mean where do they get their protein from!
But the more popular this whole veganism thing became the more articles and vegan related posts started coming up on my Facebook feed. Then I stumbled across vegan bodybuilders and was amazed, some guys and girls that were bigger than the average vegan with nice slabs of lean muscle mass. I thought well yeah they might be vegan now but I bet they built all that muscle when they were eating meat!
My view on vegan’s and veganism was beginning to shift but I still wasn’t convinced. My older sister came up to the Gold Coast for Christmas in 2016 so that meant Christmas lunch with my vegetarian partner (Mira) and vegan mum and sister – it was going to be my first vegan Christmas. I was pleasantly surprised at the foods we were having – chickpea patties, roasted vegetables, pita bread, hommus and spring rolls. It wasn’t traditional Christmas food, but it was food that I’ve always liked. My sister engaged with me in some vegan facts and I forcibly argued back with comments like “not enough protein”, “not a complete amino acid profile”, “too many carbs”…
At the Christmas lunch we were having a discussion and I said I would be curious to try vegetarianism purely as an experiment to see how my body reacts and too see if I could sustain my muscle and strength. I’d developed this thought a few months prior – inspired by my partner Mira as she had been a vego for many years. My mother made a comment that has stuck with me, “I think you’ll become vegan one day Andres” she said. I laughed and thought “Hell no!”.
Little did I know that day was only round the corner….