Meet our Herbie of the Week, Jeremy! It's Herbie Fitness Week (check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the series — and there's more on the way!), and Herbie fitness is something Jeremy knows a thing or two about. I first heard from Jeremy during the plant-based guys series. He was paleo but switched to plant-based when he was in a rut with his athleticism. It started out as a 60-day challenge, but he saw such great results that it became a way of life — he's now a plant-based trainer!
HH: How long have you followed a plant-based/vegan diet?
I've followed a plant based diet for 3 years.
HH: You went from a paleo diet to plant-based, which is a pretty drastic change. How did that come about?
I switched from Paleo to a plant-based way of eating about 4 years ago. I train in Krav Maga and I was using Paleo to lean out for my endurance training. I hit a wall in my efforts to lean out and I didn't feel very good. I contacted my friends at Monkey Bar Gym and they invited me to participate in a 60-day challenge. I am a very goal driven and very competitive person, so my focus was to win the 60-day challenge and then resume my life. At the time, Monkey Bar Gym was located 35 miles from my house. Monkey Bar Gym promotes a plant-based nutrition program as part of their overall program. I decided to go for it 100%. I challenged myself and others that were with me in the 60-day challenge to different recipes. We had fun in the transition from a Paleo lifestyle to a plant-based lifestyle. The community support of Monkey Bar Gym really helped me to push forward in this transition because we did the 60-day challenge together. I met some great people in the process who are still close friends and I still use them for support and ideas.
HH: How long before you noticed results after the change?
I noticed the changes immediately. It took me about a week to detox from the Paleo program and I was also heavily addicted to diet cola drinks. It was normal for me to drink six to twelve cans of soda a day. I used green tea to ween myself off the cola drinks so that I didn't have an immediate caffeine crash. Within two weeks, my energy levels had skyrocketed. I recovered faster from my workouts. I would do a workout that used to take me 2-3 days to recover from and feel recovered and full of energy the next morning. I was more focused and able to think more clearly. During this time, I was in intensive training for an upcoming Krav Maga belt. I was working a full time job and training 15+ hours per week.
At the end of my 60 days, I had dropped 17 pounds of body fat and gained 9 pounds of muscle. My original plan was to stop training at Monkey Bar Gym after the two months because it was so far away. I've been at Monkey Bar Gym ever since and have since become an instructor so I can pay forward my experience to others. My training continues to get stronger and stronger. I am able to do things I never thought I would be able to do. There have been two instances where I have shown up to support friends at a Krav Maga belt test and I've had to jump in and partner due to an odd number of people. These tests usually last 6-8 hours and are very high intensity. In both cases, my energy levels were higher than the other students who had prepared for the tests.
HH: Were you worried people (esp. other men) would think differently of you if you ate plant-based/became vegan?
People in the fitness world are looking for any type of advantage. It's becoming more and more acceptable with many role model athletes adopting a plant based lifestyle. I was never worried of what people thought of me. I've had the opportunity to meet many amazing people in this journey and I am willing to share ideas with people who are interested in my point of view.
HH: Do you feel you are judged for not eating "manly foods"?
People are going to have their own opinions. I perform at a high level and people respect my level of fitness and they want to know how I can perform at a high level. The overriding truth is that the standard American diet is providing such a poor quality of living that I would be a lousy human being if I didn't say something.
HH: Many fitness-minded people are concerned about getting enough protein on plant-based died to build muscle. (We love to dispel these myths!) How do you explain the reality to people you train?
One of the game changers for me with the protein was realizing where the protein requirements come from. When I realized that the beef and supplementation industries are the ones pushing a high protein lifestyle so they can sell more products, it made me begin to experiment to learn how much protein I really need. What I found is: I can get all the protein I need through plants and still build strong, usable muscles. This approach requires a really strong training program. Most of the muscle development occurs as a result of the hard work done in the gym. If you combine that with a whole food, plant-based nutrition approach, you will get lean and strong very quickly. You will need to eat more often because your body becomes more efficient at processing food, extracting nutrients and eliminating the waste.
When you eat enough strong, whole food plants, you will get enough protein. Your body will let you know when you need more because you'll be hungry. We've moved away from measuring individual components of food, especially after reading Whole by Dr. Campbell. A really important takeaway for me was that if you eat for your optimal health, you will get enough of all the nutrients (including protein) your body needs. Don't get hung up on calories, protein, carbs, etc. Strong training and strong nutrition will enable you to become a strong person.
HH: Any observations you regularly see/deal with while working out or training that people should know about?
One of the most important things we are constantly watching is proper form throughout the workout. Safety is our number one priority because getting results requires consistent effort. Overdoing something and getting hurt or pushing to the point you can't walk for 3 days after will sabotage your training program. It's important that the person who is watching your form knows what to look for. We see people all the time drop their neck or sag their lower back to compensate for lack of strength and stability in their core and upper body. Focus on getting the form right first because that will protect and strengthen you as you move up to heavier and harder exercises.
Set some realistic goals and keep a journal of your workouts and nutrition every day. People who do this are way more likely to have long term success. We see this all the time in our 30 and 60 day challenges. The ones who have amazing results can hand you a journal any day and show you exactly where they are in their progress. I also have people come into the gym who are shocked that we have no machines and no free weights except kettlebells. A large part of my workout routine is strong bodyweight training and I get great results on this program.
HH: Any advice for other athletes new to or looking to fall into a plant-based/vegan diet?
A plant based diet is a lifestyle. Some people will be able to make the transition immediately and wholeheartedly. Others will need to make a series of small changes over time to reach a level of a plant based diet they are comfortable with. Be willing to explore new foods. Buy a couple of staple cookbooks. The Happy Herbivore cookbooks are great to help you with the transition.
HH: What basic tips can you give someone plant-based who is really wanting to ramp up their workout schedule, whether it's training for a race or just getting in shape?
I answered a couple of these in the previous question but they are worth repeating. Start with a goal, set realistic milestone for yourself and execute against the goal. Did you achieve the goal? Great, set another goal and continue on. If you didn't achieve the goal, why not? Take a look at your journal. You will likely find the answer as you review how you did. Be honest with your journal. If you had a day where you went completely off the rails, write that down. If you do have a bad day or a meal that you don't feel great after, get right back up and don't let a bad day turn into a bad week or allow yourself to give up. Find someone who can help coach you to your goal.
If you want to do an endurance race, consider training with an organization like Team in Training where the money raised goes to a good cause. They will help you with your training program and teach you how to prepare. If you are doing a mud run, you are going to need to have functional strength and endurance so find workouts that complement this goal. Most importantly, pick a workout you can have fun in and stick with. I don't enjoy a typical gym scenario. I get better results with a high intensity circuit than I ever would on the treadmill or elliptical machine. Find people that you trust to hold you accountable to your goal and your plan to achieve the goal. If you live near a Monkey Bar Gym, I highly recommend giving it a try. You will love the community aspect and the workouts are appropriate for any skill level. It's not uncommon for us to have Ironman triathletes training with college level athletes and mothers and grandmothers. We recently had a girl train until 36 weeks pregnant by focusing on what she could do instead of what she couldn't do. If you aren't able to make it out, you can follow the workouts online at monkeybargym.com.
Compete only against yourself in your training. Your goal should be to do your best work every time you train and you should be able to measure that based on your previous workouts. Competing against others in training is potentially dangerous. You should allow others to push you safely in your training, but your mindset should be to be better than you were yesterday. If you are competing against others, you may not need to give your best effort to beat someone else who you are stronger than or more talented than. If you need to scratch a competitive itch against someone else, play a sport that you enjoy.
Remember, you are making an investment into your health that will pay off now and years from now. Don't look for a quick fix shortcut and be very conscious that your nutrition should consist of strong whole foods. Treat supplements as medicine and only use when medically necessary. Many top supplements will get you results in one area, but it's always at a cost. Be aware of the side effects and make a conscious choice for your health.
As Jon Hinds likes to say, "eat plant strong, not plant wrong." The strongest foods will be in your produce section and your whole grains. Eat as minimally processed as possible, limiting the intake of salt, sugar and oil. Train and eat with a holistic mentality. Everything you do is interconnected. A strong recovery program combined with a strong training program and strong nutrition will provide amazing results. And if you do it whole food, plant-based, you can limit your risk for some of the top long term killers in our society. Eat strong, train strong, be strong!
So inspiring! Thanks so much for sharing, Jeremy! Herbie Fitness week continues tomorrow. Be plant-proud!