The FitExpo is an immersive experience involving all things health and fitness. Anybody can attend the massive event to learn about new health trends & products, fitness gear, recovery methods, workout equipment, and so much more. People can take part in group fitness classes, sample new products, play dodgeball (yes, you read that correctly because they have a dodgeball court there!), watch cooking demonstrations, and converse with fitness professionals. Whether you are an avid bodybuilding fan, health food blogger, exercise enthusiast, or someone who has an interest in becoming healthier, there is something at the FitExpo for everyone.
Before we attend The FitExpo, we were extremely fortunate to meet and interview Robert Cheeke, author of the bestselling book, Shred It!. Robert is the founder of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, he’s a two-time natural bodybuilding champion, and he tours the world promoting the power of plant-based foods! Here’s what he had to say in our interview.
Dherbs: What made you decide to go vegan and how long have you been a vegan?
Robert Cheeke: “Growing up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, I became a vegan in 1995, at age 15, when I no longer wanted to contribute to animal cruelty and animal suffering. I barely weighed over 100 pounds and had no aspirations of getting bigger and stronger. Over time, I grew from 120 pounds to 210 pounds and became a two-time natural bodybuilding champion, and I am now in my 24th year as a vegan athlete.”
Dherbs: Do you know other athletes who became vegan and have they described a difference in recovery time or how they feel when they lift?
Robert Cheeke: “I know dozens of bodybuilders who were already competitive in their sports prior to adopting a plant-based diet. The top two reactions they all seemed to share were an increase in energy and reduced recovery time. Those byproducts typically come from eating a high-energy diet, one of carbohydrate-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, while avoiding the foods that require lots of energy for digestion, such as meat, dairy products, and heavy animal-based foods.”
Dherbs: Can you explain how plant-based foods reduce recovery time?
Robert Cheeke: “The improved recovery time often comes from eating anti-inflammatory foods, while avoiding pro-inflammatory foods. If you can reduce your inflammation, you increase your recovery, and you can expedite your forward progress in athletic performance. Fruits and green leafy vegetables, along with herbs and spices, and roots like ginger and turmeric are some of the best foods for reducing inflammation and speeding up recovery.”
Photo Credit: Robert Cheeke
Dherbs: What do you enjoy eating before and after a workout?
Robert Cheeke: “The best foods to eat before a workout are carbohydrate-rich (energy) fruits, especially right before a workout. If you are eating an hour or two before training, perhaps sweet potatoes, brown rice, or oats would be a good fuel source. Following a training session, I enjoy a mixture of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, all of which come naturally in something like a burrito bowl containing brown rice, pinto beans, black beans, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and salsa. Alternatively, plant-based sushi rolls and rice and vegetable meals from Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, and Ethiopian cuisines are outstanding post-workout foods.”
Dherbs: How much protein do you consume a day and what are your primary protein sources?
Robert Cheeke: “I document every single calorie consumed for up to six weeks at a time, so I have an accurate account of what my nutrition intake looks like, and my macronutrient breakdown looks like this:
- 3,100 calories consumed daily
- 70% of calories from carbohydrates
- 10% of calories from protein
- 20% of calories from fat
“I also expend about 3,000 calories per day, for a very slight surplus that keeps me at a consistent weight that is currently about 204 pounds. I consume about 77.5 grams of protein per day, and while my overall protein consumption is significantly smaller than other bodybuilders, I choose not to have a special emphasis on protein consumption, but rather overall nutrition. The most vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and water come from carbohydrate-rich whole plant foods, which is where my focus is.”
Dherbs: Given that a lot of supplements are derived from animals, what advice would you give an athlete who was trying to go vegan?
Robert Cheeke: “Although many sports supplements are derived from animals, some plant-based brands are the top selling products at major supplement stores across America. The plant-based nutrition industry is booming! As for me, I haven’t used any supplements, aside from vitamin B12, in more than six years. Since removing sports supplements from my diet in 2012, I have become the biggest and strongest I have ever been. I generally suggest to consume a wide variety of healthy plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, in adequate calories based on your caloric needs; along with proper hydration, exercise, and rest.
“My recommendation for anyone wanting to adopt a vegan lifestyle and plant-based diet is to discover your favorite plant-based foods and ensure you have them in adequate supply, so you’re not tempted to eat other foods. Also, find your own personal meaning for becoming vegan, and the more purpose you have behind your pursuit, the more likely you are to stick with it.”
We cannot thank Robert Cheeke enough for this interview! You don’t need animals-based foods to build muscles and obtain essential nutrients, and Robert is living proof! He will be at the Los Angeles FitExpo and is eager to talk to anyone about his plant-based lifestyle. He encourages everyone to “follow his or her passion and to make it happen!” Follow us on Instagram (@dherbs) for live updates this Sunday, January 27th, 2019, of the event. See you there!