Does being vegan make you less manly?

With an increasing amount of men now opting for a plant-based diet, the old perception that it makes you ‘less manly’ if you don’t eat meat, is fast being wiped out. David Haye, Mike Tyson, Nate Diaz, Mac Danzig, and even Mr Universe 2014 – Barny du Plessis – are all proving beyond doubt, that you can be vegan AND exceptionally strong.

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The following quote has been attributed to numerous people but felt apt when also considering the question of strength from a psychological perspective:

“You can measure the true character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”

This made me think about the men I know who are vegan. Indeed, they’re all strong in character, comfortable in their own skin, confident in their masculinity, and not afraid to speak out against animal cruelty.

I thought it would be interesting to speak to three of them – none of whom know each other and who all had completely different reasons for choosing a plant-based diet – to find out what their thoughts were on this topic.

It was also, I have to admit, a great excuse to chat to three incredibly fit young men… (why didn’t I think of doing this sooner?!)…

Paul, Norwich

 How long have you been vegan?

4 years

Why did you make the choice to go vegan?

I saw the health benefits. My partner, Gemma, was researching the link between disease and nutrition because I’ve got a thyroid disorder. I discovered a lot of evidence that showed the more animal products you eat, the more likely you are to get heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimers – and I was the biggest meat eater I knew!

I also read The China Study, which at the time was the largest study ever on the link between nutrition and disease. There was a graph in there that really hit me. The green line indicated the level of plant-based food each country ate, and in the poorer countries this was a high percentage, but towards the more affluent countries like America, it was the opposite. The red lines were the percentages of deaths from heart disease and cancer, and it was a total inverse relationship. I thought to myself, I’m the worst one here, what the hell am I doing?

Tell us about your interests in fitness and sport?

I do bodybuilding, a bit of cardio, martial arts. I’ve trained in karate, boxing, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, and Jujitsu. I’m also a personal trainer. I was training with Barny Du Plessis (Mr Universe 2014) last year, he’s vegan and is bigger than ever. Interestingly, we were on the film set for the Game Changers movie, which shows how the vegan diet is optimal for sports performance. There was just this one guy, a bodybuilder, who wasn’t vegan, and he was inspired. He said “Well if you guys can all do it, I don’t want to keep hurting animals.” – and he went vegan. 20 weeks from then, which was yesterday, he won gold at the WABBA International Amateur Grand Prix.

Lots of people worry about not getting enough protein if they switch to a planet-based diet. What would you say to that?

Meat is made out of plants. So whether you get your protein from meat or plants, those amino acids, ultimately came from plants. So to eat meat for protein is like eating mud because you need water. You don’t need all the crap that comes with it.

My main sources of protein are legumes, beans, chickpeas, lentils, grains – I’m particularly fond of quinoa which is 16 grams of protein per 100 grams. And all the greens as well. It’s very difficult not to get protein!

What do you think about the idea that being vegan makes you less manly?

Haha! It makes you more manly! You’re standing up for the oppressed. I think the strong have a duty to protect the weak. And I think times are changing.

Has being vegan had any adverse effect on your health, fitness and fitness training?

Far from it! I have more energy, less pain, quicker recovery. I no longer have hay fever, I’ve cured the debilitating tendinitis that I got from training. As you know I’m a personal trainer, and all my clients are doing well in the gym, but one group are also reversing all sorts of disease: type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, a liver disease of 30 years, and they’re all vegan.

In UFC, the top fighting league in the world, there’s a big percentage of vegans now. They have to do multiple training sessions a day, they’ll do Thai boxing, wrestling, Jujitsu, strength and conditioning, they might do up to three or four training sessions in a day and a lot of them say they can’t do that on a meat-based diet. The recovery is so much quicker for them being plant-based.

If you had the opportunity to go back five years and deliver a message to your non-vegan self, something you know now that you didn’t know then … what would it be?

I’ve always eaten what I thought was best for health and sports performance. So my message would be, although we’ve acted as facultative omnivores for the last 10% of human history, during the previous 90%, before our discovery of fire and tool-making, we were predominantly frugivores (as proven by modern bone analysis of early human remains). The mistaken belief that we are obligate omnivores is the number one cause of death in the developed world. For example, true omnivores cannot form the atherosclerosis which leads to heart disease, our biggest killer.

What are the main benefits you’ve gained since being vegan?

I feel like a stronger person for sure. Not just physically. I once had a phobia of public speaking, talking on camera etc. But this message is so important, we’re killing ourselves, and animal agriculture is destroying the planet. Animals don’t want to be killed, they’re terrified of the slaughter house. So this message is more important than my ego. I decided to man-up, and get over it, and recently I gave a talk to over 200 people, and I smashed it! That’s down to my passion.

What’s your favourite meal?

Smokey mixed-bean chilli fajitas

What would you say to other men (and women) who are considering the vegan lifestyle, but are perhaps worried about what other people will think?

Man the fuck up!

Anything else you want to add?

It’s the best for sports performance, it’s the best for your health, you’ll never regret it. Humans by nature are compassionate. ‘Pick Your Own Strawberries’ exists, but there isn’t a ‘Slaughter Your Own Animal’ – for a reason. We don’t need to do it anymore. Make that change.

Find out more about Paul, his personal training and his vegan t-shirts at http://www.hench-herbivore.co.uk

George, Bournemouth

How long have you been vegan?

Exactly 2 years now.

Why did you make the choice to go vegan?

Initially it was due to environmental concerns. I saw a video on YouTube by Dr Oppenlander, which opened my eyes to the global catastrophes caused by fishing and animal agriculture. A lot of the information in that talk is what ended up in the film Cowspiracy, which came onto my radar about a year later. By then I was really paying attention to the issues and the vegan movement and decided it was time.

Tell us about your interests in fitness and sport?

I’ve never really been sporty as such. Growing up I always preferred individual pursuits like skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding and wakeboarding; anything on a board! But from a very early age I was fascinated with muscular physiques as I was always into action heroes and superheroes. I wanted to look like that. After years of dicking around half-heartedly with some dumbbells at home, I finally got my shit together and got into bodybuilding in 2007.

Lots of people worry about not getting enough protein if they switch to a planet-based diet. What would you say to that, and what are your main sources of protein?

That concern is a myth borne of the bodybuilding and supplement industry. People spend a fortune on something that used to get tossed away. Whey was just a by-product of cheese making and was thought to have no value until some crafty sod declared that it was a good source of protein so why not sell it? Look into the unbiased science on it. People are NEVER diagnosed as being protein deficient. It just isn’t a concern. Yeah, you need more of it if you’re lifting weights and expecting to grow but it’s not as straightforward as that. You need a caloric surplus to grow, that’s for sure, but you need to pay attention to all the nutrients and not just protein. People are obsessed with it, without really knowing why. It’s easy to confuse consumers with science because they assume that the research has been done and is conclusive, and they won’t question it.

As for plant protein sources, there are plenty. It’s in pretty much everything. Lentils, quinoa, nuts and seeds are brilliant sources of protein. Spirulina (a type of seaweed) is more than 60% protein! It’s also a bit of a superfood and people use it in smoothies.

What did you have to eat yesterday for:-

Breakfast: Most days, breakfast is a quinoa based bowl, with almond butter, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, blueberries and sliced banana. Inspired by UFC trainer and nutrition coach Mike Dolce. (look up the Dolce Breakfast Bowl)

Lunch: A leftover portion of homemade Chana Masala (an Indian chickpea dish) with brown rice.

Dinner: 4 Linda McCartney sausages, a huge portion of boiled potatoes and steamed broccoli.

What do you think about the idea that being vegan makes you less manly?

I’ve actually never felt more manly! How manly is it to push a trolley round a supermarket, taking pre-packed things off the shelf that you have no connection to whatsoever, and probably wouldn’t know how or dare to obtain in the wild? Men have such an over-inflated view on their manliness, it’s just down to ignorance really. Compassion is manly. Standing up for others is manly. Protecting the weaker among us is manly. The vegan community is now rich with people who are redefining masculinity and I’m honoured to be in their company.

Has being vegan had any adverse effect on your health, fitness and fitness training?

Absolutely not. My recovery is better, I sleep better, I have more energy, I’m gaining muscle and strength and my sex drive is off the fucking chart.

If you had the opportunity to go back five years and deliver a message to your non-vegan self, something you know now that you didn’t know then … what would it be?

I would just send myself the YouTube link to that Oppenlander talk. And then maybe Forks Over Knives. And Earthlings.

What would you say to other men (and women) who are considering the vegan lifestyle, but are perhaps worried about what other people will think?                                                         

Well there’s never been a better time to go vegan! It’s never been easier or more accepted and it’s one of the fastest growing movements in the world. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself though; it doesn’t have to happen overnight. Do it for a couple of weeks and see what happens, or just cut out one thing at a time. Once you’ve made the connection, it’ll eclipse your trivial instant gratifications. There are so many amazing vegan alternatives now.

Anything else you want to say / add?

If you want to eat meat, go hunt or go fish. Want eggs? Keep chickens. I’m not mad at any of that. What’s important is boycotting the industries that are destroying the planet and inflicting the holocaust on trillions of sentient beings that would rather not be there. Just understand that no matter what gets said in the nutritional debates, this is so much more than a way of eating. It’s a world view, and the world is in trouble. Be part of the change that’s going to fix it. Be on the right side of history. Do it for the animals. Do it for planet Earth. As for yourself, you’ll never feel better and you’ll never look back.

Check out George’s band, Forever Never, at https://forevernever.com

Ringo, Liverpool

Jokes. How good would that have been following Paul and George?! Anyway… swiftly moving on…

Mark, Arundel

How long have you been vegan?

A grand total of 5 months!

Why did you make the choice to go vegan?

I met this pretty funky vegan on a course I did, and we got talking – she helped me to identify some videos to watch and some vegan reading material. That’s where my journey began.

Watching Earthlings was tough, but it made me realise how powerful and deceitful the meat industry has become. They don’t want us to see the slaughter process and how the animals are treated. Humans can be cruel and barbaric, and I wanted NO part of that. What we’re doing to animals in the meat, dairy and egg industry is wrong.

Tell us about your interests in fitness and sport?

Where to start – I love cycling, both road and mountain biking. I’m also a kitesurfer, and I do Crossfit. Endurance sport is my passion. I recently completed the South Downs Way on a mountain bike in one day. That’s Winchester to Eastbourne – 100 miles of off-road cycling, and 11, 500 feet of climbing. This was all fuelled by vegan bars, energy gels and determination! I never once felt under-fuelled or lacking in energy!

What did you have to eat yesterday for:-

Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter and marmite (yeah, weird, but try it, you’ll love it.)

Lunch: Big-ass salad – stoked with leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, roasted veg, nuts, seeds, hemp, and hummus.

Dinner: Chickpea curry – Deliciously Ella is my new best friend.

What do you think about the idea that being vegan makes you less manly?

I’m 90 kilos with a black belt in kickboxing, so this doesn’t phase me in the slightest! I know I can look after myself! I feel more compassionate now, more true to myself, and I take great pride in having meals for which nothing suffered or had to die, just to feed me.

Has being vegan had any adverse effect on your health, fitness and fitness training?

The transition across was tough initially – Gas was my number one enemy! But this has now passed! Now I feel full of energy and life. Crossfit is a very demanding high intensity exercise and now I feel more fuelled and energetic.

If you had the opportunity to go back five years and deliver a message to your non-vegan self, something you know now that you didn’t know then … what would it be?

It would be “Why are you eating this shit that you don’t need? Do you know what happens to animals in slaughter houses – it’s brutal no matter which way you badge it. The whole industry is evil – go read some books buddy, and watch Earthlings.”

What are the main benefits you’ve gained since being vegan?

I feel great – healthy, energetic, with good weight loss whilst retaining muscle mass and strength. I feel GREAT pride with the fact that I don’t eat meat and I have become more educated about how animals are treated.

What’s your favourite meal?

Deliciously Ella’s Creamy Carbonara – it’s a winner!

What would you say to other men (and women) who are considering the vegan lifestyle, but are perhaps worried about what other people will think?

I would say make sure that you know why you have made that choice, be prepared to tackle lots of questions, and read plenty of material on the subject. You need to be prepared to be the centre of attention when people initially see what you’re doing – it’s only for the first meet though – after that, it’s cool. You’ll be surprised at how many people agree with and in fact are considering it. A few of my friends have made the transition based upon what I have shared and spoken about. It’s an amazing journey! And you won’t look back!

So there we have it…

Forget celebrities, famous sports stars and top athletes. These are just everyday normal people, a random selection of my friends, from completely different parts of the country, all doing something extraordinary.

Three strong, confident men, with a real passion for health and fitness. These are the kind of men I’d want on my side, the ones who not only care – but do something about it. The ones who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak out. Men with fierce hearts and compassionate souls.

They’re proud to be vegan; for their health, for the planet, for the animals.

And I’m proud to have them as my friends.

Anna x

Twitter @Vegan_Supernova

Read my previous blog piece ‘Why the fuck am I vegan? – The downside they don’t tell you about.

7 thoughts on “Does being vegan make you less manly?

  1. Thanks for this. It’s exactly the kind of article that is needed to help smash the stereotypes.

    It does concern me that 2 of the 3 men talk about having seen Earthlings but still only focus on the use of animals as food, completely ignoring the other aspects featured in the documentary, namely animal exploitation in fashion, the pet industry, vivisection and entertainment. There is so much more to the actual vegan lifestyle than just diet, and I feel that this should be mentioned.

    Thanks again ☺

    Like

    1. Hi Dylan, thank you for taking the time to read and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. The guys I interviewed only had a limited amount of time and I had to edit their words so the article didn’t go on too long, so they focused on the areas that really struck them most, which is different for everyone. If you’d like to feature in a future article about some of the other issues – let me know! 🙂

      Like

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