Co founder of plantbuilt.com and veganproteins.com
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I grew up in Brooklyn, NYC and spent the first 27 years of my life there. As a teenager I was teased for being overweight and dorky. In high school, I had a music teacher who was a bodybuilder and he got me into the sport and into resistance training in general at the young age of 14. Although my initial motivation for working out in a gym was so that I could look better and protect myself from bullies, my passion for exercise has evolved into so much more.
Aside from bodybuilding and physique competitions, I absolutely love racquet sports. I played NCAA Division I tennis and it’s not the norm but believe it or not, we had some serious lifters on out team! I also love racquetball, handball, and squash. Other activities that i’m passionate about and partake in are cycling, running, and snowboarding.
Outside of competing on stage at a bodybuilding show my greatest escape and rush these days is being out there with nature and cruising down a big mountain on my board. There is no better feeling and the world disappears when I am out there. Being in the zone is one of the best feelings ever. Find what moves you and do it!
Why do you follow a plant-based approach?
In September of 2002, I competed at my first bodybuilding show. During this process, I learned the benefits of eating clean, unprocessed foods and made frequent trips to my local COOP to properly fuel the body.
A friend of mine had a heart attack around this time and I wanted to help her. That’s when I started to pick up books at the COOP and started doing lots of research. Our family ate a standard Italian-American diet. Vegetarianism and Veganism were completely foreign concepts and up until this point; I had never been exposed to them.
The initial switch to a plant based approach was for myself was for health and performance based reasons. As I learned more though, I came to realize that veganism is a compassionate and ethical lifestyle as well!
What benefits have you experienced from making the change?
I have been able to recover quicker after workouts and to perform better as a strength based athlete. All of the hard work that I put in training is only enhanced by fueling myself with plant based, minimally processed foods.
Also, by living a cruelty free lifestyle, I am not contributing to the inhumane practices that run rampant in the meat and dairy industry. I have no interest in hurting another living being.
What are your top 3 tips for individuals wanting make a switch/ depend less on animal products?
Do your research. Know what kind of meal substitutes and products are out there before you completely change the way you live and eat. One of two things can happen when you change the way you eat. You’ll end up eating too much or the wrong things or not eating enough. Allow yourself time to make the switch and you’ll set yourself up for success.
Connect with your local veg community. Look at bulletin boards in veg friendly places and find out where there will be meet ups. Find a local potluck and meet other vegans. They’ll be happy to share their experience and knowledge. It makes a huge difference to have the support of others.
Start small. Gradually begin to substitute one food item or product at a time.
What is your current training regime?
I follow a classic bodybuilding routine for the most part. Why try to reinvent the wheel. I generally switch up exercises, rep range and sets performed every 8 weeks. Currently, my regimen involves 6 days of lifting and 1 day off. I am training legs, back, and chest 2x a week and every other body part once a week.
Could you give us a sample meal plan for your average day?
I try to eat more of my carbohydrates before and after my workout as that’s when my body will be needing them the most. I usually have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, as a pre workout meal sweet potato, seitan, and veggies for lunch as a post workout meal.
Dinner is usually tofu and veggies.
1-2 servings of mixed nuts, rice cakes, and protein shakes throughout the day.
Before bedtime, I will have a larger serving of nuts and a protein shake.
Quantities vary depending on whether or not I am bulking or cutting and where my metabolism is based on my activity level and other variables. I work with a vegan personal trainer, which I find to be very helpful. I recommend finding one.
What was a major physical/ emotional challenge you faced and how did you triumph over it?
In 2008 I was making a comeback into bodybuilding after being out of the game for several years to pursue other interests. I injured my shoulder that summer and developed a rotator cuff impingement.
It took awhile to heal and there was a lot of rehab work to be done. After feeling sorry for myself, I decided to take a stand and overcome it. I spent months building it back up and rehabbing. Although I do still have top be aware of that shoulder, because I didn’t give up, I am now able to train a full intensity.
More often than not, the only thing that is standing in the way of achieving something, is you. Once you can tap into your inner will, you can accomplish pretty much anything. Never stop fighting for what you want!
What do you value in your life?
Family, love, and the effect that my actions have on the world around me. I try my best to be as aware as possible. You never know how you might be able to help someone else out.
What are 3 empowering beliefs that propel you?
A little bit of humility goes a long way.
Do not judge a book by it’s cover.
Life is a blessing. Be thankful for everyday and make the most of it.
What is your next goal?
To be a professional bodybuilder. I will keep at it for as long as it takes and once I get there, I will work on placing first amongst the competition.
How would you like to inspire others?
Leading by example. By showing what can be accomplished as a vegan athlete, I hope that it will inspire other to do the same.
If there was one thing that you would like to change in the world, what would that be and why is this important to you?
We need to do a better job of preserving our ecosystem. You can only take away so much from it without giving back. Our earth’s resources are being drained at a rapid pace and in the grand scheme of things, we are simply not doing our part. It may take several more generations before we are truly in trouble as a civilization. It’s important to me because i’d like our environment better off for future generations, not worse.
What is the one idea that you can give to others to contribute to a positive change (on a personal level or the world at large)?
As individuals, our passion for change can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility. What can one person really do? Believe me, you can create change, in everything you do. Think about your actions on the daily and remember that every dollar is a vote you cast for the world you want.
How are you Evol’ved (along the lines of our manifesto: awaken, connect and inspire)?
I strive to try stay awake to forces beyond my control or comprehension. I aim to be connected to the world around me and to make a a difference. I hope that I can inspire others as they have and will continue to inspire me!
What is one of your favorite recipes? (Include a pic of the finished product)
I am really not crafty when it comes to food prep and being creative in the kitchen. I usually rely on recipes from others. Here is one of my favorites seitan recipes and a staple in my meal program from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ Post Punk Kitchen (http://www.theppk.com/2009/11/homemade-seitan/)
- 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater
For the simmering broth:
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
Fill a stock pot with the water, broth and soy sauce, cover and bring to a boil.
In the meantime, in a large bowl mix together gluten and yeast. In a smaller bowl mix together broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and combine with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has absorbed and partially clumped up with the dry ingredients. Use your hands and knead for about 3 minutes, until it’s an elastic dough. Divide into 3 equal pieces with a knife and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit. Let rest until the broth has come to a full boil.
Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the gluten pieces and partially cover pot so that steam can escape. Let simmer for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Turn the heat off and take the lid off, let sit for 15 minutes.
Remove from broth and place in a strainer until it is cool enough to handle. Slice and use as desired.
How can you be connected?