Vegan athletes compete at Mr America contest

Robert Cheeke – vegan bodybuilder

A team of 28 vegan athletes just participated in this year’s Mr America competition in Atlantic City, NJ, to show the world that vegans can be just as strong, muscular and fit at meat-eaters, if not better.

The Mr America contest includes 4 different challenges for both men and for women:

  • Bodybuilding, where the judges score each athlete based on muscular development, proportion, conditioning, posing and general appearance,
  • Olympic weightlifting, where the athlete lifts a 400-600 pound barbell from the floor to an overhead position,
  • Kettlebell sport, where athletes have to repeat a certain movement with a designated weight in a certain amount of time.
  • Crossfit, which is designed to test the athlete’s level of physical fitness, measuring strength, speed, agility and overall fitness.

Traditionally, the winners have always been meat-eaters, although Bill Pearl was notably a vegetarian when he won the Mr America contest back in 1953, but the new vegan team from PlantBuilt is hoping to change that.  PlantBuilt was established in 2015.  Giacomo Marchese, the co-founder of PlantBuilt, says:

“There’s more than enough evidence and social proof that top vegan athletes are not outliers or special cases.  People assume you cannot get enough protein and that a vegan diet will be lacking in something.  There is also a stigma around the persona of a vegan as if they are weak.  Plants have all the protein you need, and our athletes here at Vegan Strong PlantBuilt are living proof.”

According to a study by the University of Berkeley, a vegan diet can help athletes improve their performance by decreasing weight, creating leaner bodies, and improving stamina. While top athletes do need more protein than the average person, people in general get far more protein than they need, and there are plenty of good sources of protein in a plant-based diet. 

According to the athletes, the real power behind a plant-based diet is in its anti-inflammatory properties.  Acute inflammation after exercise is normal, but it makes you sore and less likely to want to train at the same level for the next 2 days.  By consuming anti-inflammatory foods, especially dark leafy greens and berries, they can fight this inflammation and reduce their recover time, getting back to training faster.

Katya Gorbacheva, who is one of the PlantBuilt athletes competing in this year’s contest, decided to go vegan for health reasons a year after she started powerlifting.  She soon noticed her performance was getting better. She fuels her recovery after training with oatmeal, with vegan protein powder and strawberries mixed in, topped with a dollop of peanut butter.  She calls oatmeal the breakfast of champions!