Plantbuilt…behind the trophies
In the summer of 2013, I transitioned to the vegan lifestyle despite the fact I was concerned with losing all of my muscle and being left with a shriveled excuse for a physique. I vividly remember sitting on my back deck feeling my gains disappear by the second as I frantically researched vegan bodybuilding. One of the first things I saw was Robert Cheeke’s book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. I immediately purchased the iBook and couldn’t put it down. In the first few pages of the book, there is a section titled “The Evolution of a Vegan Bodybuilder” where there are five pictures that display Robert Cheeke’s amazing transformation. A few chapters later I came across a photo of Giacomo Marchese and I was in awe of his incredible physique. Seeing those images seemed insignificant at the time, but they would drastically alter the course of my life. Those pictures of Robert and Giacomo made me realize for the first time that it is possible to build muscle and thrive on a plant-based diet.
Soon after seeing those photos, I learned about the Plantbuilt team founded by Dani Taylor and Giacomo and started following all of the Plantbuilt athletes. I was so inspired by their physiques and the way they dispelled the weak vegan myth. I admired them, but I never thought I would compete.
Fast forward a few years to June of 2017. Would you believe it if I told you my wife was a bikini competitor representing team Plantbuilt who would go on to become the overall winner of the Naturally Fit Supershow? Would you believe that I also competed (as Plantbuilt’s biggest fan) and although I didn’t place, I was rewarded with something much better than any trophy? I walked off the stage ecstatic that I was competing alongside a team I admired for so many years. As I walked down the stairs, the first person I saw who shook my hand and gave me a big hug was Robert Cheeke.
To a casual observer, Plantbuilt might look like a team of athletes who enjoy competing together and adding trophies to their collections, but saying Plantbuilt is just a bunch of superior athletes would be like saying the great pyramids are just piles of rock in the desert. It is extremely difficult to explain how powerful of an experience I had just being around the team. The people I met on team Plantbuilt are the most compassionate, caring, and sincere people I have ever met. Sure they are all athletes, and incredible athletes at that, but I believe they are people determined to change the world for the better and use their respective sports as a vehicle to facilitate that change. They have a profound sense of purpose that motivates them and propels them to the highest level. They can dig deeper and push harder because they are not competing for themselves. They are fighting for what they believe in, for what Plantbuilt represents, and for the animals.
Plantbuilt’s mission statement is:
Accomplishing elite levels of strength, health, and wellness, is an extension of our compassion for life. Our lifestyle requires physical effort beyond our normal capacity, furthermore is the use of proper nutrition, rest, and mental well being. None of these require the destruction of animals . As a collective (PlantBuilt) we live, train, compete, and educate in our communities, showing the success of compassionate Veganism.
The team of 38 competitors achieved elite levels of strength, health, and wellness this year at the Naturally Fit Games in Austin, Texas.
Every team accomplished amazing things and together Plantbuilt received 33 medals. All that success is impressive, but it pales in comparison to the real success of Plantbuilt and the impact the team has on society.
Plantbuilt’s real success
Let’s go back for a second to my story and why I shared it in the first place. When Robert hugged me as I got off stage, I got very emotional because I realized something amazing. I admired Robert and was influenced by him and Giacomo to pursue vegan bodybuilding. I thought that just maybe someone might see me on stage and be inspired to give veganism a try, the way I was inspired when I first picked up Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness. That idea brought me so much joy.
Now I am not sure if anyone saw me and decided to change their life, but what I can guarantee is this:
There are a bunch of little girls out there who saw Sara Lee set a Kettlebell world record and are going to start asking their parents about veganism. Sara swung kettlebells for almost 40 minutes straight fueled only by plants.
Several people expected to see “weak vegans” at the Naturally Fit Games. I can’t imagine their surprise when they saw the powerlifters walk away with nine first place medals, and the Olympic weightlifters take home two third place medals.
There are also quite a few women who saw Paola Deocampo Jackson and my wife Natalie Matthews battling it out as the top two bikini competitors. These women spectators are now wondering if veganism will help them achieve higher levels of fitness.
Some people watched Geoff Palmer with his unbelievable physique at over 50 years old and thought
I want to look that good when I’m his age. Maybe I should eat less meat
I bet several people had uplifting and inspiring conversations with Monk Coleman about how veganism changed his life. They are now going to transition to a more compassionate lifestyle.
I know some people watched the CrossFit competitors and were amazed at their level of fitness and how far they were able to push themselves to raise awareness for veganism.
There are also a ton people who saw Korin Sutton on stage. They were impressed with his huge vegan muscles, but they were mostly thinking
What is this guy doing up there in a pharaoh outfit swinging around glowsticks?
Every single team dominated the competition and many people were left wondering if veganism could improve their lives in some way.
(click to see more photos)
The unsung hero
I have talked about the athletes, but there is one unsung hero that I want to recognize. This person wasn’t on any stage or platform and didn’t take home any trophies this year, but without her Plantbuilt 2017 would have never been possible. Dani Taylor founded Plantbuilt with Giacomo in 2013, and she has poured her heart and soul into ensuring the team’s success. Dani was behind making all of these inspiring moments possible through her hard work and dedication. During the Naturally Fit Games, I was amazed at how she was able to manage her physique clients that were competing, encourage Giacomo on the powerlifting platform, and make it to every single area that an athlete was competing to show her support. Thanks Dani for all that you do, you have changed so many lives!
It is easy to quantify how well the athletes did by their placings, trophies, and records, but I want to try and quantify some other far more impressive statistics.
Disclaimer: I am not a mathematician. I did elicit the help of Samuel Hartman, Plantbuilt Olympic Weightlifter, Crossfit coach, photographer, and math wizard to help me with the calculations.
I contacted the organizers of the Naturally Fit Games and they told me there were over 10,000 people in attendance. Hypothetically let’s imagine that 1% of the spectators were so inspired by the success of the Plantbuilt team that they end up transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. Ten people doesn’t sound like a lot. Let’s also imagine that these ten people end up thriving and have such tremendous results that they inspire two other people to go vegan over the next year, and those two people inspire two more the year after that, and so on and so fourth.
According to Cowspiracy:
Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life.
There’s a complex equation that Sam helped me figure out but I’ll show you what success looks like with charts and graphs.
These graphs say it all. With just 1% of the Naturally Fit Games spectators inspired, there could be 10,000 new vegans and 7,000,000 animals saved in ten years. Additionally, imagine the impact that would have on the environment and the health of the people. It is remarkable.
Some skeptics might say there’s no way those numbers would be that high. Maybe not, but what these numbers don’t account for is social media. The number of people who have seen the results from team Plantbuilt on social media is unfathomable, and it would be hard to comprehend how much of an impact team plantbuilt has around the world through the use of the internet.
Plantbuilt first competed in 2013 and has continued to grow over the past four years. There is no doubt in my mind that they have already changed the world for the better and will continue to make an even bigger impact on society.
Why were the plantbuilt athletes so successful? It’s because they are driven by a much deeper sense of purpose. They understand that no matter how hard their workout is, how long they have to diet, how many days they have to walk around sore and tired that it’s worth it if they can help make a difference to the 6 million animals that are killed for food every hour.
As Plantbuilt’s biggest fan, my dreams came true, my heroes became my friends, and countless defenseless animals were saved.