Moving to Miami Beach and starting the Vegan Beef Team

After almost eight years of living back in my hometown of Austin Texas, my girlfriend Brenda and I decided to move the magazine we produce to a new town. After some discussion, we decided that Miami would be a great place to land. We know some very successful vegan athletes and restaurants in that area that we wanted to cover for the magazine.

Vegan Health & Fitness magazine is Brenda’s baby which was born three years ago. I have been taking many of the photographs (including 6 covers) over the last year and a half of working for this beautiful creation and now have a column Vegan, Faster, Stronger. I would have never thought that my love for Brenda, photography, athletics and veganism would come together so precisely.



The last two years I have been competing with the PlantBuilt team of all vegan athletes. This third year, I would have to pass because of the timing of this Miami trip. It was very hard to resist flying back to Austin for a third reunion with these amazing, wonderful athletes, but It just wasn’t going to happening this time around.

Brenda and I had discussed the idea of forming a new vegan team to further spread the message that muscle can be built easily on a vegan diet. Discussing names for a new team, I blurted out “Vegan Beef” and Brenda replied, “I’m Lovin’ it” and so the domain name with slogan were decided. Things happen fast in the VH&F office. I built a team of 18 athletes that week and had 10 confirmed for a show in Miami a few weeks later. The show was called The Night of Champions , and was the promoter, Dave Bogan’s first time getting a competition together. This was going to be interesting as this was my first time to assemble a bodybuilding team.

My team had just eight weeks to prepare, and I had the opportunity to do some on-line coaching for two of our members who were going to be competing for their first time on stage. One of my other online clients is a competitive stair climber. His sport inspired me to use our 33 floor building as an alternate form of cardio to the boring machines at the gym. I worked my way up to 600 flights of stairs for a great workout lasting a shade over 2 hours. I would take the elevator to the ground, hustled up the stairs to the 31st floor (there is no 13th floor, so I got 30 floors covered) and take the elevator down to start the process over again. This was almost a transcendental experience, listening to the song of my breath as a leg reached for the next step without thought. This was a very similar experience to the latter hours of an ultra-marathon, when thought is superseded by instinct. I think I will need to enter a stair race sometime this year.IMG_6806

When the show date approached, the contest tanning and venue changed, leaving the team in a bit of a panic. Many of the Vegan Beef Team members had flown from distances as far away as Canada, and paid dearly for tickets,hotel stay and entry fees, but somehow managed to keep a terrific attitude. At the golden hour, everything fell into place, and a couple of days later, we were meeting at the contest hotel, hugging and sharing stories as we loaded our bodies with carbohydrates and waited in the lobby for our polygraph (most drug tested shows require you to pass a lie detector) and spray tanning appointments.

That night, I laid a dark sheet on the bed to keep the tanning products from staining the underlying sheets. If you have ever been spray tanned for a contest, you know just how sticky and uncomfortable your skin feels just moving across the room, let alone attempting to sleep. I awoke, had a small sip of coffee, put on very lose clothes and drove over to the contest venue where the team gathered, eventually turning my nervous energy into excitement.


After a long day of cheering each other on as we competed in our respective categories, the judges were ready to announce the winners. Our small team of ten ended up doing very well!  Two of us won Pro-cards. Greg Moormann won his first competition and also the over-all in  the other classes to win his card. I got 2nd place to good friend and fellow vegan Will Tucker. One of our other members,Erika Reesa also won 2nd place in her first pro show and we took home the team trophy! This was an amazing evening. The feeling of competing with our team and proving to the entire audience that a winning physique can be build without hurting an animal was amazing. The Vegan Beef Team’s mission was complete ( that is until we do our next show 🙂 )

Vegan pizza and cake did not last long after at our post- show celebration in the hotel lobby.   IMG_6805IMG_6804

I just had to kiss our team trophy! I can’t wait to get another event set up in the next several months!!

Journal: Trip to Portland and one month vegan!

Happy World Vegetarian Day!! 

I was in Portland for a long weekend and found that the food choices for this new diet were much more abundant than in Austin, TX. Not to say that Austin does not have great restaurants, like Counter Culture and Bouldin Creek, and delicious options at non-veg restaurants (like Titaya’s and Elizabeth Street Cafe), but Portland is packed to the brim with vegan and gluten-free options. It is really great to have so many choices, and I am seriously not missing meat or dairy products in the least.

Portland bridge

The Northwest VegFest at the Portland auditorium was fantastic. Vegans sure are a nice bunch! Christy Morgan (AKA The Blissful Chef) gave a great presentation on higher-protein foods for the active person or athlete. I cruised around the festival and made so many new friends and tried many delicious new food products. Most notably Robert Cheeke, Ed Baur, and many other vegan athletes, plus cookbook authors Robin Asbell and Jill Nussinow. We ate our faces off in Portland, and I didn’t gain a pound. We walked and took the bus everywhere, and the weather was perfect.

Austin devouring his meal at Blossoming Lotus

My workouts continue to be strong and my recovery is great. I feel less tweaky in my shoulders after difficult chest and shoulder workouts. I noticed that this milky or chalk-like coating I used to see on my tongue when I brushed my teeth is clearing up to reveal a healthy pink color. I suspect that dairy was the culprit. My weight is stable at about 185 pounds at about 6% body fat despite my increase in food intake. I guess vegetable-sourced protein does process more efficiently than meat. My skin feels a little thinner (in a good way), which I think might be a result of cutting my dairy and gluten as well. Dairy and gluten restriction is a common practice in bodybuilding a week or two before competition. Even omnivore bodybuilders know a mild allergy to dairy and wheat could show a slight puffiness under the skin, hiding hard-earned muscle definition.

Lastly, the soreness I have after long runs is decreasing. That is probably the best part of this dietary change! I have read that many vegan athletes experience this same benefit. I definitely welcome the advantage, because I have a lot of training to do this year with a natural bodybuilding show, a 12-hour foot race, and a 100-mile foot race ahead.

Ode to Tempeh

Oh, tempeh. I love tempeh! I have been looking for a good vegetarian meat-like protein since my decision to switch off of animal products. Since I’ve discovered tempeh, I know that my transition is going to be easier. Tempeh has, gram for gram, the same amount of protein as beef, without all the nasty cholesterol and cruelty. It’s kind of a win for me and the world. I love its hearty, almost nutty texture. It also marinates well, so I can load it with flavor! Earlier this week, my awesome girlfriend made some crazy good tacos with gluten-free tortillas, and a couple of days later, this amazing burger. Tell me that this doesn’t look good.

Baked Tempeh Sandwich

Marinated Tempeh Sandwiches
Makes 2 sandwiches

Recipe by The Blissful Chef

4 slices bread (we used Food For Life gluten-free Millet)
Lettuce, tomato, avocado
Mayo, mustard, or whatever condiments you like


1 (8 ounce) package tempeh
1/4 cup tamari
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apricot jam (preferably fruit-sweetened)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Couple dashes liquid smoke

Slice tempeh in such a way that would fit on your sandwich bread. You want to be sure to cut it through the thinnest part of the block so it’s half as thick. Whisk marinade together and place in an 8×8 casserole dish. Coat each piece of tempeh and place them in the dish in one layer not covering each other. Marinate for at least 2 hours flipping a few times. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Drain out most the marinade from the tempeh, leaving a little at the bottom of the pan. Save marinade. Bake for 15 minutes, thin flip each piece and add a little marinade to the pan if it’s dry. Bake another 10 minutes.

Split the tempeh between 2 sandwiches and pile bread with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!

How much protein do I need? Does plant protein compare to animal-based?

Ever since I started working out and lifting weights, I’ve been totally paranoid about how much protein I need to eat. I worried that my muscle would cease to grow or waste away if I did not eat a lot of quality animal protein to mend my muscles. This is the type of propaganda my fellow personal trainers support and that I would pass on to my clients. At every gym across the nation, the trainers push animal-based protein on people and recommend whey protein for building muscle.

Needless to say, the idea of going vegetarian or vegan was completely out of the question. Until this year. One of my goals in life has been to be honest with myself and others. I feel confident that for the most part I have been, but the realization that the steak on my plate was once a living animal was causing me distress. I love animals, and I don’t want to kill one for food unless I absolutely have too. So I finally made the internal switch, and with the help of some vegan friends, I made the commitment to give up all animal foods. I’ve been meeting vegan athletes with awesome, lean muscularity and am now very excited that I might be able to lift weights and run with the same freaky intensity without disintegrating into a skeleton.

plant-based protein

So what is protein and why do we need it in our diets? Protein, in my opinion, is the platinum of nature. It is made up of the amino acids that compose every living being and is responsible for almost all of our connective structure (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin) and all organs of the body as well as hormone building blocks for proper brain function and neuromuscular function. So protein is REALLY important!

How much protein do I need as a vegan bodybuilder? Will I need the same amount as before? Will my body hold on to the muscle I already have with the same amount of effort? These are questions that go through my mind, and I will figure out along the way and share with you.

So, what about the average athletic person? How much protein do they need? This is a question that comes up frequently with new personal training clients. According to the ADA, DOC, NASM, RDA and the food and nutrition board of medicine, you need between .5 -.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. This is, however, for sedentary individuals. For athletes, the requirements go up. From my experience and further research 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram is necessary to either combat protein breakdown (ultra-running) or produce more lean muscle mass (bodybuilding). Some body builders have tried 2.2 grams per kilogram (1 gr per lbs.), but studies have shown that there is no regenerative or performance gain over the 1.8 gram-per-kilogram diet.

Austin at the gym

(I personally take in about 150-180 grams of protein a day. I am currently 185 lbs., so 185 divided by 2.2 then multiplied by 1.8 makes a grand total of 151. Ok, so maybe I need to back off the protein powder a bit :0).

These figures are for adults only. Children do not need as much, probably because they produce far higher amounts of growth hormone, which uses protein more efficiently. I believe we should consider where the source of the protein comes from as well. Bioavailability is the body’s ability to get the necessary ratios of amino acids into the body for repair. Animal protein has been considered a more balanced source over plant protein. When comparing the protein that uses a combination of hemp, rice and pea, we find it has a very similar amino acid profile to whey (a standard source used by bodybuilders).

Plant-based protein powders

Many believed that vegans or vegetarians could not get complete protein in their diets without a combination of plant foods in the same meal, like having a bean with a grain. Evidence now shows that you do not need to eat those foods in a single meal, but rather eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day will give you the complete protein you need. This is evident in the many cultures that have thrived on vegetarian diets and the many powerful vegan athletes/ultra-marathoners. Here are some examples:

* Scott Jurek is an ultra-marathoner. He has won the Western States 100 mile race 7 years in a row. This race is the “Boston Marathon” of ultras and brings the best competition the world has to offer. Scott only started winning this race when he switched to a plant-based diet.

* Carl Lewis won 9 Olympic gold and 10 world championship metals on a vegan diet.

* Brendan Brazier is a very competitive professional triathlete.

* Daniel Negreanu, Mike Zigomanis and Georges Laraque are all  professional hockey players for Canada.

* Mac Danzig is an internationally recognized MMA fighter winning the “King of the cage” in 2005 and defended it 4 times.

* Patrik Boumian is a strong man and former bodybuilder.

* Champion powerlifter Willie Austin is plant based too.

* Billy Simmons is the 2009 Mr. Universe Natural bodybuilding champion.

So, as far as I’m concerned, the facts speak for themselves.

Thanks for reading. Up next, I’ll talk about weight loss and how the scale may not be giving you an accurate view of your fat loss.