Interview with Derek Tresize: Competitive Vegan Bodybuilder
Written by Leigh-Chantelle
Created Thursday, 31 July 2014
Derek Tresize is a competitive vegan bodybuilder residing in Richmond, Virginia, USA. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology, is a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise, has a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through Cornell University, and is co-author of Vegan Muscle & Fitness. Derek has followed a plant-based diet since 2007 and promotes it to his clients and in the fitness and bodybuilding community as the best means to long-term health. Find Derek on Facebook, or follow @veganmuscle on Twitter.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
In 2007, I was presented for the first time with the substantial evidence about the detrimental effects animal products have on our long term health, especially with regards to heart disease and cancer, when my wife Marcella gave me The China Study book as a gift. Cancer and heart disease both run in my family (as they do with all Americans), and that combined with my passion for healthy living compelled me to eliminate animal products from my diet.
How long have you been vegan?
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
Everything. I feel better, I perform better, I recover faster, I get leaner faster - you name it. And it has given me a tremendous appreciation for how we impact the world around us through our dietary choices there's really nothing you do that affects the world as much as what you choose to eat.
What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism means living a healthy and compassionate life. Choosing foods, occupations, and activities that nourish your body, helping others and doing as little harm to the world around you as possible is all part veganism to me.
What sort of training do you do?
I am a bodybuilder, so I do a lot of weightlifting, as well as various forms of cardiovascular exercise such as running and swimming.
How often do you (need to) train?
I lift weights 5 days per week and do some sort of cardio activity at least 2 days per week.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Yes! My wife and I created the website www.veganmuscleandfitness.com
where we have an online subscription portal featuring videos of cooking, mini lectures and exercise demonstrations, and we offer group and individual personal training both online through our website and at our Richmond, VA training studio Root Force Personal Training. You can get in touch with us though our website, Facebook
if you'd like to learn more.
What sports do you play?
I don't play any sports recreationally, but I love the time I spend training in the gym - and I have fun competing in bodybuilding contests once or twice a year.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
There is still a misconception out there that vegans are skinny, weak, and undernourished. This is changing rapidly as more and more mainstream celebrities and athletes go vegan, but it's still an idea that needs to be challenged regularly. I address this by being the most muscular, strongest and healthiest person I can possibly be, and by making myself visible through contests and online media so the world can see that vegans have no problem being fit, strong and healthy. I think in time it will even become apparent that vegans have the advantage over a more traditional omnivorous diet, rather than the other way around.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My performance and recovery are better than they ever were on an omnivorous diet, so I am able to train hard and bounce back better than a non-vegan athlete could. I also have a much easier time shedding body fat that most non-vegans, which is essential as a bodybuilder.
What is your biggest challenge?
If I had to pick one, I'd say gaining muscle mass is potentially more challenging as a vegan athlete. This is for the simple reason that since these foods are so clean and metabolically stimulating you have to eat much more volume than you would as a meat eater, and all that eating can get tough.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
I've come across both supportive and antagonistic non-vegans in my industry, but I'd have to say the larger part is supportive. Once they see my physique and what I've been able to accomplish, they are more likely to ask my questions about my methods than to tell me it can't be done.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes, for the most part. In a perfect world, they would all be vegan too, but they understand how passionate I am about it and have never tried to talk me out of it.
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?
Definitely: "Where do you get your protein?"
Who or what motivates you?
Everyone and everything motivates me. My wife, my son, my friends, my clients - I want them all to be fit and healthy and free of chronic disease. Likewise, the animals and the environment motivate me to protect them. The vegan fitness community and my sponsor Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness motivate me to lead by example and be a role model. That's the beautiful thing about a plant based-diet: it impacts everything. That's also why I could never go back to my old way of eating.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - oatmeal with blueberries, and a protein shake with strawberries, banana, spinach, soymilk, and Plantfusion protein powder.
Lunch - A big green salad, and red lentil dhal soup with a blackened tofu salad and a sweet potato.
Dinner - A variety of dishes that center around beans, whole grains and vegetables. And always a big green salad.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - My patented bean shakes! Basically the same as my breakfast protein shake, but with added oats and white beans. There’s a recipe on my website.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Food ie beans, tofu, whole grains and green vegetables.
Calcium - I've never worried about it and never will. I get tons from all my whole plant foods.
Iron - Same as calcium.
What foods give you the most energy?
Probably fruit. I love fruit and feel great after eating it. A hearty helping of beans and greens is a close second.
Do you take any supplements?
I get the vast majority of my nutrition through whole foods like beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruit and green vegetables, but I also like to supplement my diet with quality plant protein, especially after weight training to aid in recovery and promote growth. My favorite is Plantfusion, or Sunwarrior’s raw brown rice protein; both taste great and are minimally processed so there are still intact nutrients. I also take creatine on and off, which I've found to help me make strength gains.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - Stick to compound barbell exercises, and train as hard and heavy as you can without deviating from perfect form. Eat a lot, then eat some more and gains will come.
Losing weight - Stick to whole, low fat, unprocessed foods and reduce calories as slowly as you can. Train your whole body with weight lifting circuits to work your muscles and cardiovascular system at the same time, and get in regular intense cardio like timed 5ks, hill sprints, and fast biking or swimming to really stimulate your metabolism.
Maintaining weight - Just eat healthy whole plant-foods and perform both strength and cardiovascular exercise of your choice more days than not during the week - it's that simple.
Improving metabolism - Eat lots and lots of whole, unprocessed plant foods, perform intense compound barbell exercises, and get in regular intense cardio like sprinting and your metabolism will be flying.
Toning up - The same a losing weight really, except you will want to eat more. Get in lots of healthy food and work up a hard sweat several days a week.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I challenge my clients’ dietary habits on a daily basis, I post information about plant-based nutrition on our blog and our Facebook and Twitter pages, and I wear vegan apparel wherever I go.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
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