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Interview with Luke Tan: Vegan Strength & Conditioning Coach

Luke Tan is the founder of Evol’ved Generation and he works as a Strength and conditioning/ NLP trained life coach for Australian Strength Performance. He competed in the 2013 Australasian Natural Bodybuilding (ANB) Victorian Championships and placed 2nd for his division (Fitness Model Over 30s). Luke and his wife Emilie also competed in the International Federation for Bodybuilding (IFBB) Victorian Championships this year. In 2010 he placed 2nd Runner up and also won ‘Best routine/ poser’ for the International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA) Victorian Championships. Through his journey, he has inspired many through his features on Natural Naughties , Living Kind and the FaceBook group ‘Vegan’. He truly believes that anything and everything is possible if you want it bad enough.

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Why Vegan?
I think of the two words compassion and connection. Connection resonates with me on so many levels. Connection with the food that you eat, connection with the environment, connection with each other, connection with the essence of who you are and the beliefs that empower you and of course, connection with the universal force that binds us all together, compassion and love. Compassion and love is non-judgemental and unconditional, I believe that the world would be much better place if everyone focused on these three all encompassing words.

How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
My wife, Emilie was initially a vegan and she introduced me to the book ‘The Food Revolution’ by John Robbins. The book is filled with many facts and a great insight into the various facets of food consumption and production. It covered a diverse range of topics that included, GMO foods, the effects and dangers of the factory farming system, health benefits of a plant-based diet and how it is better for the environment.
Shortly after, a friend introduced me to Earthlings - which I believe every meat eater should watch. This film exposed me to the atrocities and barbaric trade practices of animal exploitation. The switch happened the moment I finished watching the video.
 
How long have you been vegan?
Almost two years.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Physical: I used to eat a high animal protein, low carbohydrate diet. I used to view carbohydrates (eg fruits, rice, root vegetables) as the limiting factor for getting leaner. I was always watching and controlling my portions to a tee. Always binging on nuts and craving refined carbohydrates like lollies, cakes, chocolate and having it as my ‘cheat’ meal. Since turning vegan, I have changed my mindset towards carbohydrates, always keeping it whole, natural and minimally processed. I’ve found that my recovery is a lot quicker and I am always full of energy. I also find that I am getting leaner doing half the work I used to do following a vegan diet. I do not crave the processed and refined carbohydrates that I used to for two reasons: 1. I am always ‘carbed’ up 2. Most of these refined carbohydrate sources contain animal based products. In addition, I have sustained two major tears in both my chests. As a result, I have been plagued with shoulder issues following the injuries. I have found that since following a vegan diet, my shoulder issues have not been an issue. My range of motion, flexibility has actually improved and I attribute it to the diet - a vegan diet is a lot more alkaline.
Emotional: I am a lot more spiritual, fully trusting my instincts and being in flow to live my life’s purpose, which is: to make a difference.
 
What does veganism mean to you?
Being conscious of the choices I take and the impact I have on the world through each decision that I make.

Training
What sort of training do you do?
I mainly weight train incorporating a few cardio and sprint sessions in the week. I write my own programs and periodise my training in 2-3 weeks phases. Phases such as strongman training, strength, hypertrophy (growth), cross fit, circuits, just to name a few. I also love going for sprints or long runs outdoors.

How often do you (need to) train?
I train in the gym between 4-5 times per week and incorporate my cardio routines up to 2 times a week.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Yes I do. I am the resident vegan strength and conditioning/innerstrength coach for Australian Strength Performance. We specialise in 12-week transformations and athlete advancement programs.

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
That vegans are unhealthy, skinny, unfit and of course ‘lacking protein’. I simply live the way I do, spreading my positive and healthy lifestyle through my profile on FaceBook. Through my journey so far, and achieving my goal competing as a vegan, colleagues and clients are more open to the idea of veganism. They also inform me of their efforts in trying to consume fewer animals based products - being open to the idea of a meat-free day, investing in plant-based proteins, incorporating more fruits and vegetables into their diet. Little steps over a course of time make big ones!

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My biggest strength is my belief that anything and everything is possible if you want it bad enough. Through my past setbacks and injuries, I have come back stronger than I’ve ever been before. Always trying to look at the lessons and the bright side of everything. I’ve realised that through each perceived negative experience that one encounters, there are many opportunities and hidden lessons that you can choose to take from it. Also, my recovery and energy levels are much higher than they were before.

What is your biggest challenge?
Letting external influences affect me. Looking at what professionals do and what they don’t, the gains they have, looking at physiques with perfect symmetry and knowing that because of my two injuries, I will never be symmetrical. This sometimes makes me have moments of self-doubt in my own body image and my abilities.
 
In the past 3 years, I have sustained 2 major injuries (major tears to both my chests) while training. As a result of the tear, I now do not have perfect symmetry, which is important in competing on stage. I have a weakness in pressing exercises but I do what I can and am slowly trying to get my strength back up again. The injury gave me an opportunity to work a lot more on other parts of my body eg lower body, back and arms. I am enjoying the process of balancing my body out and working towards new goals like crossfit and powerlifting.
 
In my profession as a strength & life coach, having doubt in the perceived ‘lack of’ knowledge that I have as compared to some of my peers.
Though I have realised that the answer really is to limit the exposure that I have to these external influences and focus on what I can do rather than can’t. To always remember to focus on possibility rather than lack of possibility and most importantly, to learn to master my state and always be as objective as I can with each situation. A quote that I reflect upon in times of self-doubt or judgement: ‘Everything that irritates us about others, can lead us to an understanding of ourselves’ by Carl Jung.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Yes they are. Just by doing what I do, fellow peers, colleagues and clients are more receptive to veganism. I have clients asking me for advice on different plant-based protein powders. Fellow colleagues are also now open to the idea of consuming less meat and animal by-products.

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes they are. Some of them are really conscious on suggesting places that have a vegan alternative if we go for a meal. A few friends have even suggested going to a vegan restaurant for a meal instead. My Mum though is worried that I am not getting enough nutrients from my diet while my Dad acknowledges and appreciates my stance on choosing to go vegan.

What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond? 
Two questions:
1. Where do you get your protein? (but, of course) A: From everything!
2. How do you keep your size? B: The same way you do it. Eating enough calories, and working hard at the gym!

Who or what motivates you?
What motivates me is the ideal that one day, the world will be a better place for all of us, no more wars, just peace, compassion and acceptance for one another. Also that I am a part of something, to continually be in flow and be in service to something larger than myself.
My external influences would be the athletes at www.veganbodybuilding.com, guys like Derek Tresize, Robert Cheeke and Frank Medrano are a constant inspiration to me. I also draw energy from my highest purpose in life, which is to make a difference and spread some positivity to make this world a better place for all.
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Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast – Steel cut oats, with a sliced banana, 2 dates, sprinkled with shredded coconut and ground flax seeds, sweetened with my favourite protein powder.
Lunch – A large salad with different greens, capsicum, cucumber (or any raw vegetables I can get my hands on), with a low fat dressing and a large sprinkle of savoury yeast flakes (my favourite!) - I have 3 lunch boxes fully packed for the day
Dinner - Depends on what my wife cooks! An example could be a ‘Meatless’ meatloaf (made from oats, quinoa, lentils) with a raw salad or rice and beans
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Healthy: All sorts of fruits with a protein shake on the side or a raw protein bar from the health shop. Not so healthy: On the weekends, I either go to Grill’d or Lord of the Fries to get a vegan burger with a side of chips

What is your favourite source of:
Protein – Black beans, chickpeas and my protein shakes with bananas/ dates
Calcium – Leafy green vegetables
Iron – Various legumes
 
What foods give you the most energy?
Bananas and dates. I have 2 bananas and 3-4 dates pre workout

Do you take any supplements?
Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin form), Branched Chain Amino Acids , Omega 3 EPA DHA (Derived from plant sources and algae), Pea/Rice/Plant blend protein powders

Advice
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - 1. Periodised weight training – Changing your routine every 2-3 weeks so that you are constantly tricking your body, and exposing your body to different ways of training to elicit strength gains/ muscle growth. 2. Hitting your caloric and protein goals
Losing weight - I do not like to focus too much on weight as a point of reference. As muscle weighs more than fat, a person could look leaner or more toned while being heavier on the scales. Since muscles are the only fat burning cells in the body, I highly recommend weight training. The more muscle you have, the higher you raise your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), which results in more fat burn.
Try to keep your diet whole, natural, minimally processed and never under-eat. When a person under-eats, even once or twice a day, the body goes into energy conservation (and fat storage) mode. This ultimately slows down your thyroid (hormone that regulates metabolism) and results in a lower fat burning capacity.
Maintaining weight - As above, eating whole, natural, minimally processed and grazing throughout the day
Improving metabolism - Grazing and eating often and always being active.
Toning up - Hitting the weights, playing a sport and being active.
 
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
Through living my life the way I do and spreading my message to the world through my FaceBook persona, my FaceBook group and website. I also wear T shirts that I have made like (a), (b), (c) while I workout in the gym (during peak hour) or when I go for runs around the city.
 
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
By contacting me through my FaceBook profile ‘Luke T Evolvedstrength’ or Facebook group: ‘Evol’ved Generation.’ Instagram: @luketevolvedstrength or @evolvedgeneration and my website www.evolvedgeneration.com

 

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