Instagram has been a wonderful way to spread the message of veganism and vegetarianism but especially learn from others. You have people coming together and being passionate about helping animals, saving the earth or to be healtheir through this lifestyle. It can help inspire others to do better or improve their lives. But one person stood out above the rest to me in this great message we want to share.
The wonderful Alex Ciccone. I was just randomly going through Instagram one night and stumbled upon his account. He was able to be funny, helpful, compassionate and most of all very understanding of the issue. He wanted to share what he has learned and helped others maybe change their mind and take a look at themselves. Its a wealth of information you might not have even thought about and can open your mind. And best of all, he’s a great character.
One aspect of veganism and vegetarianism in particular is always of interest to me. And that is the physical and tough nature that comes along with “eating meat”. That by changing your lifestyle into one where meat is no longer involved, a picture is painted that someone is weak or “sissy”. I want to break that mold and Alex has surely been a model in terms of breaking the barrier and myths surrounding it. He was so kindly enough to take the time out of his busy schedule and answer some questions that often plagues weightlifting and veganism.
1) How was becoming vegan benefited your weightlifting?
The biggest benefit in becoming vegan as it pertains to my weightlifting was the influx of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) through means of eating only plant-based foods. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and even processed foods provided me much more bang for my buck micronutrient wise per calorie compared to my old omnivourous eating habits. This allowed for quicker recovery and more energy to perform well during my training sessions. What challenges did you have? If I’m going to be completely honest, there were minimal challenges in the transition. Since I followed a calorie counting approach and I was well aware of my carbohydrate, protein and fat (as well as micronutrient and fibre) intake requirements, it was a simple switch to plant-based foods to meet those calorie counting targets to continue to realize my goals. Once I found my favourite plant-based foods in order to allow me to reach those targets, it was smooth sailing.
2) What feedback have you received good or bad being a vegan weightlifter? (Are people interested/intrigued? Look down at you, think its ridiculous or not healthy? Etc)
Since I have been training for a number of years now and my performance in the gym is at an advanced level, I would have to say that the reaction to me being vegan is more of one of intrigue and interest. I still get the typical questions of “What do you even eat?!” and “How do you get your protein?” but this is expected with anything in life that may be considered foreign. I take this as an opportunity to have some fantastic dialogue on how anyone can incorporate more plant-based sources in their diet to realize performance related or non-performance related goals, vegan or non-vegan.
3) Can you please comment on your experiences on the misconception of people thinking can only get enough protein only from meat?
Protein has been synonymous with animal-based foods for a long time… marketing and word of mouth has allowed this to be true. So it’s not a surprise by any means, but that is why it is up to individuals who have the nutrition knowledge, vegan or non-vegan to let the masses know that this is not the only place you can get your protein. All plants have protein, yes to varying degress, but animal based sources also operate the same way. What tis your favorite protein sources? Going to sound cliche but ALL plants… they all have protein and I enjoy eating all sources from vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds and processed foods. But if I had to choose higher protein count sources I would have to go with… Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan, Faux-Meats and Protein powder (Pea is my fave of the choices available).
4) Do you see more weightlifters becoming vegan/vegetarian in the future? Do you think this trend is gaining?
No doubt in my mind. There are so much value in becoming vegan that no matter who you speak to, I am sure that individually someone can see themselves being able to live the lifestyle for one or more reasons. Once individuals get past the potential challenges or barriers that may be in their way about the lifestyle, it is smooth sailing. That is where spreading awareness and educating individuals on how you can achieve your performance and/or body composition related goals as a vegan is incredibly important. There are many in the fitness space doing this on a daily basis and the community has been growing at an accelerated rate. Upwards and onwards! What is your message to all non-vegan weightlifters in general on becoming vegan. If you have any fears about becoming vegan and not being able to realize your performance or body composition related goals I would encourage you to set them aside and take a look at the numerous amount of very successful vegan athletes in the space today. At this point in time there are so many excelling that it’s hard to even count. It is 100% possible if you want it. Any change in life can seem a bit daunting at first but just remember that everything great in life takes time and hard work. Treat it as an ever evolving journey of learning and understanding, no need to be perfect.
5) You mentioned in your blog, your biggest reason to being vegan is your love for animals. Can you share how that began and what connection you feel to animals?
I do feel the very first glimpse was as a very young child when my parents asked me to eat a traditional meal of rabbit. It made no sense whatsoever to me. Why would we kill and eat a cute and fluffy bunny? Each time the dish would be served it was an emphatic, “No! A bunny is not food!”
My bond with animals has been very strong for as long as I can remember. I grew up with dogs, fish, birds and even lizards. Although today I disagree with the domestication of certain species of animals, these experiences throughout my childhood were invaluable. Each and every moment with these animal friends taught me about their extreme loyalty, intelligence and unconditional love. Life lessons that were imprinted upon me, humanizing these amazing creatures. Not to mention that I had an affinity for animated movies starring animals, such as 101 Dalmatians, Lion King, Rescuers, All Dogs Go To Heaven and Land Before Time. These significant influential experiences primed me for my transition to veganism later in life.
There came a point in time in my 20’s when I was ready to open myself up to the realities of animal agriculture and once seeing and hearing about what was happening behind closed doors it solidified my transition. I could no longer consume anything from beings that were my friends, whom I love and respected.
6) What are your thoughts on the current disconnect between animals and people? (We love dogs and cats but eat chickens, cows, pigs, odd isn’t it…
I don’t think it’s odd at all. It makes perfect sense… cognitive dissonance is a very real thing and I feel that even the kindest of individuals can go about their day without truly realizing the ramifications of some of their decisions. Eating animals and/or animal byproducts has become so entrenched or routine that it is a societal norm accepted as typical day-to-day.
On the brightside these societal norms can indeed change, they are not permanent. I am optimistic that with this tech era that we are in… the ability for information to proliferate at accelarated rates will indeed allow the vegan message of animal rights to be seen and heard. It will take time but I have faith that a vegan world is closer than many think it is. The standpoints are airtight, not only for the ethical treatment of animals, but also for our personal health and the health of our environment.
7) “Where can people find you?”
I encourage anyone reading this that if you need any kind of support or inspiration about a vegan lifestyle to please feel free to reach out. I am always open and willing to help no matter who it is. We are all in this together and no question is ever too big or small. In saying that please feel free to follow and find me at the following…
**** Photo credit to @worldofvegan ****