Observing a vegetarian or vegan diet is pretty much in direct opposition to the meat consuming frenzy that is encouraged on most contemporary training programs. I make this massive, biased, un-scientific generalisation based on my own shallow experience thus far in my training life. A vegetarian athlete? what even is that? Well, there is a growing community strength athletes who choose to not eat animal products. I'm talking about bodybuilders and powerlifters!
I will admit that I have an opinion on what vegan and vegetarian are generally like. I was a vegetarian for 18 years and all of those 18 years I was at least 20kgs heavier than I am now and as a result, I have prejudices about that way of eating which are entirely unfair. I existed on a diet of endless pasta, a fair amount of pasta, a solid stream of cheese washed down with beer and a bit of pasta on the side. I had zero interest in fitness or training and I was very uncreative in the kitchen and entirely non-health conscious… I guess the other misconception I have though is that I imagine that vegetarians are emaciated, withered and probably very hungry.
Noah Hannibal of Melbourne Vegan Strength points out in his article Vegan Muscle Building: Getting Big and Strong that " Carl Lewis—ranked by many as the greatest athlete of all time—trained as a vegan while winning multiple Olympic gold medals." and "mountain gorillas—some of the strongest animals in the world—are predominantly, often completely, vegan."
So yeah - shut up and lift.
Actually, shut up and talk about Sarah! Sarah describes herself as loosely vegetarian (I just like to go off on tangents...) although definitively as a strength athlete.
Sarah is fairly new to lifting although not to vegetarianism. Her strength gains as a novice lifter have been most impressive (her best lifts are Squat 155, Bench 72.5, Dead 155) and The Barbelle Club are excited to welcome her on board as she shares her journey to competition, thoughts on training and diet.
I describe myself as a powerlifter primarily although I'm keen to train and compete in other strength sports in the future.
I fell into strength training nearly by accident. I joined a local commercial gym to “get into shape”. Knowing absolutely nothing I decided to hit the weights room (I disliked cardio then and I still dislike it now). One of my girlfriends had been through an amazing weight loss so I asked her what she had been doing. She invited me to come try some lifting with her so I did and I fell in love straight away. After lifting with her a few times I met Fuzzy at his gym and told him I’m interested in powerlifting and started training with him straight away. This was December 2013.
When I started lifting I was a strict vegan. I did eat chicken and fish for a short period but due to my personal opinions stopped eating meat quite quickly again. I don’t like to label myself as a vegetarian or vegan etc because I don’t want to have to conform to a certain style of eating. If a friend bought me eggs from their pet chickens I would eat them etc. I don’t believe this style of eating is ideal for weight training but I do think it’s an ethical choice.
I hit my first comp pretty much straight away at the Perth Cup, January 2014. I went 8/9 and totalled 282.5kgs. After this Fuzzy put me through my first training cycle for S.A’s first GPC state titles where I totalled 350kg and then my last comp of the year was Adelaide cup where I went 380kgs. All comps were done in the SHW class.
My best lifts are Squat 155, Bench 72.5, Dead 155. Some other strength based PRs are a 130kg Yoke carry, a 60kg stone, 60kg (per hand) farmer's carry, a 50kg snatch and a 60kg clean and press.
I like having measurable achievements. I like pushing my body harder than I ever have before, I like finding all my weaknesses and correcting them to improve my lifting and although lifting is an individual sport, I love the team environment that has been created at Fuzzy's Power Gym.
This week is my first week back in the gym after being off since late last year with sickness. I plan to hit my main lifts once a week at light weight/high reps for a while to get back into the swing of things before I start a proper training cycle for GPC nationals May this year in Queensland.
I follow the IIFYM diet and I've been through a bit of trial and error with it. Everybody responds differently to different food and that’s something every individual needs to discover for themselves. My weight has dropped 14kgs since I started weight training. Gus at Muscle Nerd did my nutrition for most of this weight loss and I couldn’t recommend him highly enough. I felt great on his meal plans and didn’t lose any strength.
High protein, high carbs, moderate fat personally works for me.
My macro split at the moment is carbs 35%, protein 35% fat 30% but I will adjust it accordingly, eg with weight loss/gain goals, training load etc, I don’t always need that many carbs. I like quite a bit of fat in my diet personally but that’s not for everyone. At the moment I’m on about 2400 calories, I’ll sit at that and monitor my weight and performance, I‘m trying to loose weight on that calorie count and at the moment am training high reps. Strength is always my main priority though I'd like to compete in the U82kg category eventually.
At this point in time my main focus is rebuilding strength and being healthy.
What drives me?
My main drive is that feeling of pride when you out lift yourself, the result you’ve spent the last 10 weeks chasing. My main lifting inspiration are the others I lift with at the gym. Kristos and Fuzzy were the first guys I ever saw lift big and really introduced me to powerlifting. They have both done and continue to do amazing things in the sport so they will inspire me always. I really look up to other strong women too like Anna Khudayarov, Alanna Casey and Chleo Van Wyk
My training goals for the immediate and short and long term?
At the moment my training goals are very simple. I just want to compete again and be healthy. I had bigger goals but that didn’t factor in missing a training cycle while being sick. If I can total 380kgs again at Nationals I’d be really happy but at this point in time I’m unsure if that's realistic or not...