Ryan Rakes

Ryan Rakes

KL: How long have you been vegan?

I've been vegan for 4.5 years now and I was vegetarian for 4 years before I switched to vegan.

KL: Why did you Decide to become Vegan and did you find the transition difficult or easy? 

I originally decided that I wanted to cut out meat my first year of college from a nutrition class that I had. The teacher showed us the documentaries "Forks Over Knives" and "Food, Inc." in class and that made me very interested in the health benefits, particularly. I was living with my parents at the time and eating their groceries/cooking and since I had no money being a broke college kid, I didn't feel comfortable going fully plant based yet. So I went ovo-lacto vegetarian basically overnight which was very esay to do for me since my mom already cooked a lot of vegetarian-friendly dishes at the time.

After 4 years of being vegetarian and nearing the end of my college career, I finally got interested in going fully vegan again. I had money from working through college, I was cooking all my meals, I had a good understanding of nutrition from years of lifting at that point, and I started following some vegan bodybuilders/strength athletes on social media and watching documentaries like "Cowspiracy" and such. Although the main reason I decided to switch over to a fully plant based diet at the time was for heart health purposes, it quickly became for the animals and the environment first and foremost. I cut out eggs and dairy overnight once I decided to make the switch and I found the transition very easily, personally. I kept all my macros exactly the same and I counted calories throughout the transition to make sure I wasn't under or over-eating. I have never looked back since!

KL: How long have you been training for & have you been vegan that whole time?

 I've been vegan for 4.5 years now and training for a bit more than 10 now. I lifted seriously for about 2-3 years as an omnivore, 4 years as a lacto-ovo vegetarian and 4.5 years while vegan now.

KL: What are some of the physical differences you felt in your training since turning vegan?

 When I was lifting for my first 2-3 years while eating an omnivorous diet, I made my initial 10-15 lbs of muscle gain in the first year and then stagnated hard. There were a lot of issues at the time that caused this. I was following a 5 day per week body part split AKA a typical bodybuilding pro split. It was basically a leg day, back day, arm day, chest day and shoulder day. I didn't understanding proper programming and I made absolutely no progress after my first year in the gym. I also understood very little about proper nutrition. After I went vegetarian, I started to learn more about proper programming and training for strength in particular. I got more into powerlifting and following popular powerlifting programs and quickly put on another 10-15 lbs of muscle again. I also got much, much stronger. I wasn't particularly lean though. After 4 years of training much better and getting stronger as a vegetarian, I went fully vegan and honestly, was a bit worried about strength/muscle loss at first. I didn't know of many vegan bodybuilders or strength athletes back then and although the science seemed to be on my side, there was still a shadow of a doubt lingering. I proceeded to smash all my previous strength PR's in a leaner condition, now I have made more of a switch back to aesthetics over strength and am in the best condition of my life. 

KL: Did you notice any mental differences since your transition?

 I think the most important aspects of health is including a lot of whole plant foods including fruits and vegetables in particular, getting enough calories and getting a healthy distribution of macronutrients no matter what diet you follow. I always ate a lot fruits and vegetables and have always felt good both physically and mentally so no, I did not notice a particular difference from omnivore to vegetarian to vegan. I still feel very energetic and healthy. That being said, my blood work has improved even more on a plant based diet which I am very stoked to see, although it's no surprise!

KL: What would a typical day’s diet look like for you?

 I've been cutting down a bit more lately so my calories are extremely low for me right now but this is what I'm currently eating, on average:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with a scoop of pea/rice protein powder, blueberries, bananas and granola.

Lunch: Breakfast-style vegan huevos rancheros scramble with black beans, potatoes, avocado, extra firm tofu, homemade tempeh "bacon" and various vegetables

Dinner: Chickpea pasta with TVP, tomato sauce, spinach, mushrooms and broccoli

Snacks: Hummus with veggies, vegan protein bar and/or apples and peanut butter

KL: Do you use supplements, if so which ones?

 For general health: 2,500-5,000 IU's of Vitamin D, a couple spray's of liquid vitamin B12 in the form of cyanocobalimin, 25 mg of zinc, 200 mg of magnesium all 2-3 times a week each, occasionally a vegan DHA/EPA Omega 3 supplement from sea algae

For performance: 5g of creatine, Pea/Rice TrueNutrition protein powder

KL: What is your favourite vegan meal?

 Oh man... So many favorite meals! Living in Brooklyn, I'm around some really awesome vegan restaurants. If we're talking comfort food favorite meal, I would say a buffet platter from Veggie Castle II in Queens, NYC, with vegan curry and jerk chick'n, stewed peas, roasted potatoes and quinoa OR the BBQ Seitan with Yakisoba Noodles from Loving Hut here in Brooklyn. So good! But if we're talking homecooked favorite meal, I would say homemade spinach tofu ricotta ravioli's. I've been cooking a lot during the COVID19 lockdown and this has been one of my favorite meals to make! Tofu ricotta is amazing, super easy to make and high in protein if you never tried it!

KL: What bit of advice would you give someone looking to turn vegan?

 I would tell them that transitioning over to a fully vegan lifestyle can be done many different ways and different people will take different approaches. If they're like me, they'll want to just do it overnight. To a person like that, I would say go for it! BUT a little education goes a long way, and I would recommend they familiarize themselves a bit with nutrition and even consider counting calories for a few days to make sure they're not under or overeating, although it's not necessary for all people. I think this is especially important for athletes. Replacing meat with mock meats is a very easy way to start transitioning to a plant based diet; same goes for dairy milk with plant-based milks, eggs for tofu scramble or chickpea omelettes, cheese for vegan cheese, etc. 

For someone who doesn't feel comfortable going vegan overnight, I would tell them to take things one meal and one day at a time. Simply make one meal plant based a day or even a week. Then increase the frequency as they continue to learn more about a plant based diet. 

KL: What does the future hold for you?

 I want to try to help more aspiring vegan athletes out there and inspire others to consider going vegan for the animals and the world! I also plan to continue trying to grow my new vegan fitness website and brand Aethix Fitness to help with that and be another voice to showcase just what vegan athletes can do - both myself and the other incredible vegans out there!

KL: What is your favourite quote?

 Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food - Hippocrates

KL: How can people get in touch or follow you on your journey? 

 My vegan fitness website with articles, free training programs that I write, videos, merch and other content is www.aethixfitness.com , I'm also working on a high protein vegan cookbook there so stay-tuned for that! I also have a new YouTube page for videos at Aethix Fitness YouTube and my instagram is @TofuStrong . Happy to chat or help anyone out via email at ryan@aethixfitness.com or IG message. Thank you very much! :)

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