Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vegan Body Builder Shows off his Meatless Muscles

Vegan body builder shows off his meatless muscles
By: Kelly Halpin
Posted: 10/27/08
Instead of being a master of the universe, Robert Cheeke has become the master of vegan bodybuilding.

Source: http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticlePrinterFriendly&uStory_id=632d889f-c6f2-48b8-bdb7-5d346c50612c

"We want to be something that we never had a chance to be," Cheeke said. "I always wanted to be a bigger, stronger He-Man character."

With his long blond hair and muscular physique, he very well could be.

Cheeke spoke to UCF students Thursday about his Web site, www.veganbodybuilding.com, and his transition from skinny teenager to vegan muscle man.

Growing up on a farm in Portland, Ore., Cheeke was surrounded by animals raised for food. His father is a professor of animal agriculture at Portland State University and his mother came from a farming background.

Cheeke said that as a teenager he raised and slaughtered animals for food himself.

"That's where everything about me began, but it all changed for me on Dec. 8, 1995," Cheeke said.

It was then he decided to do something different about his diet. His sister organized an animal rights awareness week at the high school they attended and Cheeke was able to watch videos and read literature advocating a vegetarian diet. He educated himself about animal testing and what he describes as "real world factory farming."

Cheeke decided not to support such institutions and switched to vegetarianism.

"When I first became vegetarian, it didn't work so well," he said.

His high school vegetarian diet consisted of bread rolls, grapes and candy and he was 120 pounds. He wanted to become vegan and exclude all animal products from his diet but wanted to gain weight and strength as well.

"I thought, 'why don't I get big and strong now and be vegan when I'm 20,'" Cheeke said. His animal-activist sister encouraged him to attain both goals - become vegan and gain muscle mass.

"I took supplements for a year and only gained one pound," Cheeke said. He was working out three times a week and eating relatively healthy but still wasn't getting the results he wanted.

One day, while flipping through a magazine, he saw an advertisement for Bill Phillips Body for Life program, a fitness regime based around the concept of tracking everything you do.

"I did the Body for Life program and gained 16 pounds in two weeks," Cheeke said.

The idea of consistency and accountability appealed to Cheeke.

"Consistency leads to adaptation," he said.

So far Cheeke's consistency with exercise and healthy eating has led to his growth from 120 pounds to almost 200 pounds. He no longer eats bread rolls and candy; instead, he eats plant-based and organic products and has transformed himself from scrawny high school athlete to champion bodybuilder and motivational speaker.

He has been on a national speaking tour for the past 18 months and stopped by UCF to talk to students before he spoke at Central Florida VegFest Saturday. He launched a successful bodybuilding Web site, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, and produced a vegan bodybuilding DVD in 2005.

"Vegan Bodybuilding created a worldwide commitment that allows me to be an activist on the global scale in ways I thought I never could do," Cheeke said. "If you're passionate about animal rights, then it behooves you in some way to be an example."

And that is exactly what Cheeke is doing. His nutritional, exercise and lifestyle plan consists of seeking wellness, setting goals, eating a healthy plant-based diet and regular exercise.

The plan has inspired many to follow in his footsteps, as evident on his Web site.

Those in the audience didn't need to be bodybuilders to appreciate Cheeke's advice.

Kayla Bloomer, outreach activities coordinator for Body of Animal Rights Campaigners, can relate to Cheeke's previous eating habits from her own voyages into transitioning from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian diet.

"In the beginning you're living on pasta and things you don't want to eat, so it's good to hear from someone about different protein sources, the importance of whole foods and eating organically," Bloomer said.

Justin Sirizzotti, a senior and vegan, said he has also struggled with good eating habits in college.

"Just because you're vegan doesn't mean you're eating healthy, but now I have a clear idea of what I need to be eating to sustain a healthy lifestyle," Sirizzotti said.

"Vegan bodybuilder - the words don't go together," Cheeke said.

For him, though, they make the perfect fit.

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