Why are we taught that we "need" animal protein to build muscle? Particularly since the strongest animals on Earth are herbivores?
A growing group of vocal athletes is using blogs, speeches at conferences, and—most dramatically—the example of their success in training and competition to prove otherwise. Famous vegan athletes like Brendan Brazier have inspired a new generation in regional championships and at our local gyms, and vegan athlete Nikki Sabella recently spoke with one of them—"Meat Free Athlete" Anne-Marie Campbell.
New Vegan Age: Does a vegan diet give you more edge as an athlete? And, if so, why?
Anne-Marie Campbell: There's been a definite improvement to my athletic performance since becoming vegan. I have more energy to train longer & harder, and I recover faster.
NVA: Can you compare your pre-vegan self to your vegan self?
AMC: I've always been an animal lover, but didn't make the true connections until I learned the truth about where my food came from. It was then I realized that I was supporting something that was abusing and exploiting innocent animals, and I didn't want any part of it. Now that I'm vegan, I am always looking to learn more and I enjoy living a compassionate lifestyle. It's a very rewarding journey.
NVA: What do other athletes think when they find out you're vegan?
AMC: A lot of people are surprised when they first find out that I'm vegan. Some are curious, and I'm more than happy to share what I know about vegan plant based nutrition and how it will benefit them in an active lifestyle.
NVA: What's your vegan-versary?
AMC: May 2011.
NVA: Tell us about your website and why you decided to start it.
AMC: Meat Free Athlete is a resource and community for vegan food, fitness, and motivation. It is the result of my passion for living an active healthy lifestyle, and veganism. I wanted to create a place where I can bust the myths about vegan plant based nutrition, be a voice and advocate for animals, and help people by leading by example. Becoming vegan is a personal journey for each person, and it rarely happens over night, so the website is a community and resource that welcomes everyone! I post recipes, health and fitness tips, and write a blog. People can join the free community, create a profile, network, and even write their own blog or fitness journal!
NVA: Explain your philosophy on training and fueling your body.
AMC: Listen to your body, above all. I've been a competitive athlete since I was 9 years old, so I've been through the injury/recovery cycle many (many) times, as well as mastering the mental game of sports. I've learned to have patience with your body when it's recovering from an injury, or even just a solid training session. Rest is an important key to longevity in any sport. Also, I am very competitive, but with myself most of all. I'm not out to prove anything to anyone else by me. I strive to be better than I was the day before. Being completely focused on my body and my progress is what motivates me. As for fueling my body, it's all about hydration and eating simple power foods, at the right time. My pre-training meals are usually simple beans and greens combinations, ie. five bean mix, raw kale or spinach, and raw mushrooms with balsamic drizzled on top. I also rarely consume caffeine because I don't want to be become dependent on it.
NVA: How do you find your "featured athletes"?
AMC: There's a form on MeatFreeAthlete.com that anyone can fill out to be featured! I will also approach people who I think will be an inspiration to others.
NVA: Who's your favorite vegan athlete/celebrity and why?
AMC: So many inspiring people are in the vegan community! I have met lots great people online and in person that I would have never met otherwise. So many compassionate people supporting each other, and sharing ideas and advice.
NVA: What do you make sure you eat every day, and why?
AMC: I eat what my body asks for, so I don't have a set meal plan. Some of my favorite foods are brown rice with beans, black beans, chick peas, lentils, quinoa, kale, spinach, mushrooms, organic unsweetened soy milk, tofu or tempeh, decaf green tea, and avocado.
NVA: Was it hard to get your six-pack?
AMC: I've had a 6 pack since I was young from my years as a competitive gymnast. In more recent years, I moved on to hockey and martial arts, and it's mostly about maintenance, which is just as important. For exact details on how, I have shared my Meat Free Athlete Guide to 6 Pack Abs - No Gym Required on my website, and it was also featured in Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine.
NVA: What's a random fact about you that people might not know?
AMC: I love sci-fi and documentaries about the universe.
NVA: Any last thoughts on the impact you're making?
AMC: My focus is on continuing to spread awareness about the benefits of vegan nutrition, and to be the voice for those without one. My goal is to lead by example and show the positive impact every single person can make on the world around them. People can join me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
NVA: Thank you, Anne-Marie! All the best to you in all of your educational, meat-free, and athletic endeavors.
Interviewer Nikki Sabella hasn’t always been the fitness and health freak she is now. Most of her life was filled with sedentary TV watching and junk food eating until she discovered the vegan lifestyle in 2007. She now enjoys more energy, a healthier weight, a greater level of well-being, and a clearer conscience. When she’s not writing, she’s exercising hard, cooking, baking, or reading up on plant-based or eco-friendly subjects. She and her husband celebrated their vegan wedding last year.