My Trip to Beijing, China


As I return home, following the opportunity of a lifetime, I figured now, in the air above the mighty oceans below, would be an appropriate time to reflect upon perhaps the most unique experience of my life. I am flying over what feels like half the globe today, as I return home from Beijing, China, where I spent the past five days in front of more cameras than I could count, as a keynote speaker at China’s premiere fitness expo, ChinaFit. I’ll be going back in time today, literally, nearly a full day, en route to my home in Phoenix, Arizona, and I have many more hours seated in a chair in the sky between now and when I will see my family. This is a great time to think, reminisce, ponder, reflect, and to write. Thank you for joining me, as we take a look back at China through my lenses.

On one hand, it is hard to describe the feelings I experienced over the past few days, and on the other hand, simple words such as “amazing” and “unforgettable” are on the tip of my tongue. Though I have an insatiable thirst for travel, I never really imagined that one day I would be visiting China, or that I would be there to promote and represent the vegan fitness lifestyle at an event that attracted 35,000 people. So how did I, once a skinny farm kid from western Oregon, turned champion vegan bodybuilder, end up being one of the faces of the largest fitness conventions and expositions in mainland China? I don’t know if that is an easy answer either, one I am tempted to say was decades in the making, honoring the body of work that has encapsulated my career, but the easy answer is that I was invited and it fit in my schedule. It was with great honor and pride that I accepted the invitation, but with just as much anxiety, uncertainty, and unpredictability. The mental wrestling match I have endured internally, questioning whether I am the right person, or the best person, or even an adequate person to assume the role of a vegan fitness representative from the West was something I quarreled with for months. Having been retired from the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle for years, and admittedly feeling less relevant, perhaps less effective as a public representative of the vegan bodybuilding or even vegan fitness lifestyle, I wondered if my acceptance of this invitation was a step backwards for the movement. I shared some of my concerns with my fiancée, Karen, and with my best friend, training partner, and co-author, Vanessa Espinoza. They both assured me that I am worthy, that I am qualified as much as anyone in the movement, and that I have been doing this for a long time, and that I would be fine. I also gave myself some pep talks, those face-to-face in the mirror, incredibly honest and exposed internal dialogues of critiques and reassurance all at the same time. It was with some palpable remaining trepidation that I pulled my bootstraps up and assumed the role of a global vegan bodybuilding ambassador, ready for a massive opportunity.

While I continued to rehabilitate torn discs in my lower back from sports injuries, yet carefully trained in the gym to make forward progress, I wondered if I would be enough by the time the plane touched down in China. All the while, I had been on tour for seven consecutive weekends, now eight, and have been putting the finishing touches on my latest book, Plant-Based Muscle, due out in a matter of weeks. It was a little too much to take in at times, but I persisted and enjoyed the trip of a lifetime.

I just looked up at the top of my computer screen, and though I have been traveling for the past eight hours since I left my hotel room, and have far more than eight hours still to go, it is currently 4:21AM back at home, as my laptop just informed me. Perhaps I should take a nap and ease into a new schedule, as others seem to be doing around me – now as the lights are off on the plane and movies are being played by nearly every individual I can see from my vantage point. I’m a little more than cramped, as the woman in front of me has her seat fully reclined, and I am typing in such a manner that would make a mother T-Rex proud of her typewriter-literate child if she had one. I’m also already in my third shirt of the day due to profuse sweating from the humidity of the Chinese summer. Alas, my mind is going astray, and I have more experiences to share.

Grateful is the word I have used most often when discussing my experiences in China with my new friends while using China’s most famous app, WeChat. Honored is the next most frequently used word, and an overall feeling of appreciation sums up how I feel emotionally.

Arriving in China

When I arrived in China, I was enthusiastically greeted by my hosts, and we immediately went out to one of Beijing’s many all vegan restaurants – in this case, Veg Tiger, which is a chain of seven locations around the city. I was exhausted from my 25-hour trip, which started in Phoenix with a stop in Seattle before landing in Beijing, and I struggled to be my usual enthusiastic self. After a massive meal of all sorts of traditional Chinese dishes, and some foods I had never seen or heard of before, we headed to my hotel so I could get settled in for the night. The plan was to visit the Great Wall the next day, but that would mean I needed to be ready by 6AM, and that clearly wasn’t happening. Since I was there to work, and made that my absolute priority, I sadly canceled the plans to go to the Great Wall when we finished dinner at 9PM local time, in order to be as well rested and prepared for my presentations as I could be. As it turned out, the next morning I accidentally woke up shortly after 6AM, and perhaps could have still had a day at The Wall, but I opted to slowly wake myself up, hit the gym at 8AM with my hosts, and take a tour of the city. The tour included a stop at the Summer Palace, which was stunning, a stop by another vegan restaurant, and a trip to Tiananmen Square before heading to a group dinner at a vegan restaurant called Vegan Hut, owned by Dr. Yu, a man I had met multiple times in the US over the years. I gave a mini presentation and enjoyed a whole-food, plant-based dinner with about 20 others. After another long day and late night, still adjusting from the jet lag, it was time to head back to the hotel and prepare for a full day of presentations.

The ChinaFit Expo:

True to form, I hit the gym in the morning with my new friends and hosts of my China trip, Robin and Peter, and then headed over to the ChinaFit Expo.

When I arrived at the National Convention Center in Olympic Park, home of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, I was taken aback when I saw banners of myself throughout the building and when I realized my image took up the entire page on the cover of the official event program. My stomach reacted with even higher levels of anxiety and expectation. In a weird way it was like fulfilling a bodybuilding dream while in the land of humility and honor, and I wasn’t even sure how to feel, but I took lots of photos to soak it all in nonetheless. Though I planned to be a keynote speaker, I didn’t necessarily anticipate the scale and magnitude of the event. I was invited on stage during the Opening Ceremony and then immediately taken to another main stage to join industry leaders in front of TV cameras and take part in a panel for an hour with help from my translator, Robin, who was also the person who had invited me to ChinaFit from the onset. Then I was back to another stage to give my first keynote presentation. I think lunch followed, but I don’t really recall. Even lunch was a blur. Then I thought I was doing a fitness demonstration on stage, guiding people through a sample workout, but it turns out I was guest posing during a bodybuilding competition. Gulp. I didn’t even have time to warm-up or pump up, and I was wearing a tank top and shorts, prepared to teach a short course. I kept the tank top on as I hit a number of poses after introducing myself to the large audience of hundreds of people viewing and photographing the bodybuilding competition. That was awkward since I was perhaps the least ripped person on the stage, but I carried more muscle mass and size than most, due to my height and weight in relation to the competitors, and I flexed as hard as I could. Hopefully, people seeing the display after hearing that I have not consumed any animal products for more than 20 years will think of vegans a bit differently, but I’m not sure. I smiled a lot and was gracious and genuine while being thrust into a performance that was more than slightly different from what I was expecting. I gave it what I had, and I hope it was enough. So now I had a little down time before the charity dinner, so I made the short 10-minute walk back to the hotel, sat down for an hour, showered and got dressed for what was another long, but enjoyable evening. The ChinaFit organization hosted a dinner for about 500 attendees, with 100% vegan catering, and even hosted a live auction of fitness equipment, art, and other items to raise money for compassionate causes, from supporting animals to helping children in need and elderly citizens, spreading out the $500,000.00 raised among a number of noble charities. That was empowering to see, and a stark contrast from many of the mainstream fitness organizations I am used to from the West. China’s largest fitness exposition organization was directly raising money for vegan outreach, and it was amazing.

Day two of the ChinaFit Expo brought just as much excitement and energy as the first day. Following another morning workout at the hotel gym, I had an interview with a mainstream Chinese fitness magazine, one probably equivalent to Muscle & Fitness in the US. Once the interview was completed, the camera crew kept following me around. I then realized I was going back on stage for another guest posing routine on an even bigger stage with a larger audience; something I had anticipated, but thought it was in the afternoon, not early in the morning. So I pumped up with an elastic band handed to me by Robin, while we took escalators up to the fourth floor of the five-floor fitness expo. It still felt awkward and I still felt a bit inadequate, based on my current shape and what message I was hoping to convey about the vegan fitness lifestyle, but at least I knew what to expect. I knew I would say a few words about my vegan athlete background, talk about my 20-year vegan athlete career as a former champion bodybuilder and current author and speaker, share how honored I am to be at ChinaFit, and to flex as hard as I could while smiling as wide as I could. I hope it made a difference with such a large and attentive audience. The camera crew continued to follow me around to exercise equipment to take photographs of me lifting weights, so I realized the photo shoot for the interview was still going on. I was kind of ushered from one location to the next, so I didn’t always know quite what was going on, but I worked hard and flexed hard at every turn. Then it was lunchtime, and I did another interview, this time for a vegan magazine based out of Hong Kong, during the lunch hour. After that is was time for another keynote presentation. It went well and I thought I was finished for the day, but I had another interview, this one on camera, perhaps for web TV, but I’m not sure, and then I continued to pose for photos, as I had done all weekend with my trademark smiling thumbs up. After that last interview, the expo was winding down and I hung out in what was sort of a meeting room near the stage in the vegan area of the expo, and I chatted with some others before it was time to say farewell to the expo. After some tea from a local Taiwanese wellness center, I left the expo with Robin, Peter, and new friends Joyce and Kimberly, and then it was time for dinner. Amazingly, to my complete surprise, after eating rice and vegetables with chopsticks all week, we went to an all vegan pizza place in Beijing. I didn’t know such a thing existed, and it was everything I hoped it would be, and more. It was beautiful, delicious, outstanding, and bashedeban as they would say in the western Chinese province where Peter is from (a different dialect than used in the political, cultural, and economic hub of Beijing). The inherent mental and emotional stress from being a keynote presenter at ChinaFit could finally subside for the first time since I had arrived on the other side of the world, and I could reflect on how the weekend went. I looked through photos, gave updates to Karen back at home, and had a good night’s rest.

The Final Day

The next morning I met one of the ChinaFit organizers at 8AM at my hotel, and he joined me in a taxi to get to a meeting place, where we hopped on a tour bus to join nearly 50 others for a vegan restaurant tour of Beijing that would last from 9AM to 7PM. Like the rest of my China experience up that point, it was amazing, and I had a unique opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with people on the bus and at restaurants. Very few people from my encounters spoke English, and I had a translator for the entirety of my trip in China, but the broken English conversations were perhaps the most meaningful and taught me a lot about other forms of nonverbal communication. During our city tour, we stopped at half a dozen vegan restaurants, some just for a visit and tour of the establishment, others for snacks, and one for a fully catered meal. All had some sort of presentation prepared for us, including our final stop at a Taiwanese multi-purpose wellness center where we stayed for two hours, sang songs, watched video presentations, held hands in a circle, sat on meditation pillows, and listened to waterfalls from fountains dripping the length of the wall in a sanctuary-like setting.

The tour ended, even later than planned, and again, I was exhausted from the constant go-go-go of the week, busy from morning until night, and always in front of cameras, constantly being requested to pose in photos, and I was genuinely interested in getting a good night’s rest before my flight the next day. Then the founder of ChinaFit, an organization in its 10th year, operating in 8 cities around China with 8 Fit Expos per year, invited me out for a one-on-one dinner. What an honor. I summoned the energy from within and brought as much enthusiasm as I could for my final event in China. We had a lovely dinner, talked about the growth of the vegan fitness movement around the globe and discussed ways to collaborate, making China a world leader in the vegan fitness movement. I got recognized by some vegans in the restaurant, and they came over to our table to take photos during my private dinner with the ChinaFit founder. And that was my final ego boost in the land of humility, while in the company of the incredibly humble founder of a vast and successful organization, the gracious Mr. Yan.

I was met the next morning by another ChinaFit organizer, a lovely spirited man who goes by Charley, and he escorted me to the airport where I made my final farewell to the incredible nation I never knew I would meet firsthand. It was truly an honor and the experience of a lifetime to be an invited guest in China. I met some of the most lovely, kind, warm, and gracious people I have met in all my years of travels, and I enthusiastically look forward to my next involvement with ChinaFit.

The Future

While in Beijing, I made contacts with people in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, and even places like the UK. I learned of other vegan events in and around China, and in places like Nepal. I had scheduled meetings about having my book translated into Mandarin Chinese and possibly other languages, and I can only feel hopeful and optimistic about the future. As I now look at my laptop’s clock, it reads 5:22AM, telling me I have been writing for a full hour, and reminding me that I have many, many more hours to go, as I won’t be arriving back in Phoenix until the evening, perhaps another 12-14 hours remaining. With airport layovers and customs, it is a full 24-hour trip, one I truly hope to make a couple of times a year. I may lose a full day with travel, and possibly lose an entire night’s sleep, but I gain so, so much from my experiences abroad.


Thank you for reading about my trip to China. In general, I believe my trip was very worthwhile, very effective, and I believe I did have a positive influence on the vegan and non-vegan communities in China, and among those attending from other countries. China had a great impact on me as well. I already feel compelled to be more gracious, more appreciative, more kind and nurturing, and live with more gratitude on a daily basis. Though I have a magnet on my refrigerator at home that reminds me to never take anything for granted, I still do. And following the experience of a lifetime, I am compelled more than ever to make my actions reflect my new ambitions for making the most of what life offers. It is a stark reminder that if I want to live my life’s passion, while aiming to make others’ lives better through my actions, I need to keep creating meaningful opportunities for myself and those whom I encounter. I aim to finish my new book as soon as possible, after taking 18 months to refine it. I aim to spend more quality time with friends and family. I aim to make the most of my time in the gym with renewed focus to build the inner and outer strength to help lift others up. My visit to China helped me realign some priorities, and that is the best gift China could have given me, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.

Thank You

I have no idea if they’ll read this, or if any of you have even made it this far, in my longer-than-usual blog post, but I want to thank Robin, Charley, and Mr. Yan, for the incredibly generous invitation to be a keynote presenter at ChinaFit, and I want to thank Peter, Joyce, Kimberly, Elliot, Shirley, and others who helped out in such fantastic ways from translating for me, to getting me from point A to point B, to taking photos to document my experience, to being there with beautiful smiles to welcome me to the wonderful place they call home.

With gratitude,

Robert Cheeke

I’m heading to China!


Hi everyone,

You read that title correctly. I’m heading to China this weekend to give a series of lectures in Beijing at ChinaFit, the premiere fitness expo in mainland China. And we’re having a Huge Book Sale to boost book sales before I leave on Saturday. The book sale is so huge it doesn’t even seem to make sense. Shred It! print and eBook copies are just $9.95 this week. No coupon needed, just order for less than half the price it is listed at Amazon, directly from our website here. We’ll also toss is $30 worth of free extras, for a total value of $50 for just $9.95, as explained below.

I am giving a keynote presentation at a mainstream (not vegan) fitness festival in Beijing, and the people who invited me have already enthusiastically requested to translate Shred It! into Chinese and have the book available for the growing Chinese vegan community, as well as to have this tool to share with non-vegan fitness trainers, coaches, and athletes throughout China. This is a very exciting time, and a huge opportunity to enthusiastically promote a compassionate vegan fitness lifestyle to audiences throughout China.

Will you help me boost book sales before I go? It not only helps make the trip a bit more affordable, as I already have meetings set up with doctors and trainers to discuss translating and distributing Shred It! across China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but it helps present a growing level of excitement around Shred It!, ensuring wide distribution in foreign languages, increasing the book’s overall reach.

I realize that thousands of you already have Shred It!, so what I’m offering you today, is to order a copy for a friend for just $9.95, and for print copies ordered in the USA, I’ll send a free copy of Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine and about $20 worth of coupons for savings on vegan products from brands such as Beyond Meat, Daiya, Follow Your Heart, Mary’s Gone Crackers, and So Delicious to name a few. We’re also going to throw in a couple of Vega Snack Bars valued at $2.50 each. All bonuses are for USA customers only, due to actual shipping costs.

Can you tell I really want to boost book sales before I go to China? $50 value with the book + extras for just $9.95 + shipping for printed copies.

To the best of my knowledge, I will have very limited communication from China. Facebook is not allowed, nor is Instagram, and even Gmail is largely off limits. So I’ll be using my Chinese apps to send updates to my fiancee, Karen, to post on some of our pages for me, and my lone social media platform will be Twitter, as I understand it.

Thank YOU SO MUCH for your support. Again, I realize many of you have Shred It! already, but if you have a friend or family member who you think could benefit from my book, please pick up another copy and enjoy all the extras.

Each individual order this week comes with bonuses, so if you order a copy today, and another one on Thursday, and even another on Friday, you’ll get all the free Vega bars, coupons, and magazines with each order.


Thank you, as always, for your outstanding support!

Have an amazing week, and I’ll catch up on social media before I leave and once I return from China.

All the best,
Robert Cheeke
Founder, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness

Vegan Athletes Bring Home Medals & Set Records in Texas

No Meat, No Problem! 

Hi everyone,

They say everything is bigger in Texas, and that was most certainly the case last weekend at the Naturally Fit Games in Austin, when vegan athletes took the stage to represent compassion in action. The vegan muscle was bigger and better than ever with a team of nearly 40 vegan athletes who competed in a variety of different sports disciplines as part of the PlantBuilt Vegan Athlete Team, co-founded by two of my best friends, Giacomo Marchese and Dani Taylor. The PlantBuilt team not only competed, they brought home lots of medals, awards, and even set a world record. The team was formed in 2013 with just over a dozen competitors, and now it has tripled in size with aims of growing even bigger for their return to competition in 2019.

The PlantBuilt team comes together once every two years (after being annual from 2013-2015) to represent the compassionate vegan lifestyle in athletics at the large-scale Naturally Fit Games in Austin, which attracts athletes from around the world to compete in sports events including bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, arm wrestling, martial arts, Olympic lifting, kettlebell, and more. Thousands are on hand to witness the action, including the World’s Strongest Man, Mark Henry, whom I was excited to meet last Saturday.

(left) Giacomo Marchese, co-founder of the PlantBuilt Vegan Athlete Team, and Powerlifting competitor (winner of two 1st place medals)

So, how did the PlantBuilt team do this year? Like a broom and a dustpan, they cleaned up. The team of 39 competitors won 32 medals, including 22 first place medals! PlantBuilt co-founder Giacomo Marchese walked away with two 1st place awards in powerlifting, Korin Sutton won the overall men’s bodybuilding title, Natalie Matthews won the overall bikini title, and Sara Lee set a new world record in kettlebell lifting. Crystal Moulton, Sara Russert, and Ndem Nkem all brought home 1st place medals in powerlifting (which is where I spent most of my time at the Naturally Fit Games as a volunteer photographer and an avid cheerleader for the team). Forest Crosbie won the overall novice physique competition in his very first contest, and his training partner, Derek Tresize, came in 2nd in the Pro division. I trained with Forest on the Vegan Caribbean Cruise just a few months ago, and it was a pleasure to see him shine in his contest debut. My good friend, Simone Collins, who traveled all the way from Australia, won the open figure title for yet another 1st place award for team PlantBuilt. Paola Deocampo won a first place award for PlantBuilt in bikini, and the awards continued to pile up for the Vegan Athlete Team all morning, afternoon, and evening at the Austin Convention Center.

Dani, a figure champion at this event in the past, sat out this competition to coach other competitors on the team, as did Jason Morris, Chad Byers, and numerous other PlantBuilt Alumni. I even came out of retirement to compete for Plantbuilt once upon a time during a previous trip to Austin. Luke Tan came all the way from Singapore to compete in CrossFit. Ed Bauer, a staple member of the PlantBuilt Team, competed in his 3rd different sport for the team, in Olympic Lifting (after having been a runner-up in physique and a CrossFit competitor in previous years). Mindy Collette, the cover model for my book Shred It!, was also in action in the fitness model category. My friend, Geoff Palmer, creator and CEO of Clean Machine, finished runner-up in bodybuilding (though I really think he should have won 1st place), and overall, the team shined across the board.

sara lee

Sara Lee’s world record in kettlebell (photo above) will likely headline social media posts for a while, as well as the PlantBuilt team’s overall success. Giacomo and Dani have built something truly special with the PlantBuilt Vegan Athlete Team, but they will be the first to say that it isn’t about them. And they’re sincere, and they’re right. For Giacomo and Dani, building a vegan athlete team to compete in mainstream athletic competitions alongside those on a standard omnivorous diet, has always been about standing up for animals. The better the PlantBuilt team does, the stronger and louder the statement it makes for a compassionate vegan lifestyle combined with athletics. PlantBuilt has become accustomed to winning and cementing themselves as game-changers in the sports industry. The 2017 Naturally Fit Games were no different, except the PlantBuilt team won even more awards this time around with their largest team to date.

I’m back home from Austin, filled with enthusiasm and rejuvenated optimism about the impact that vegan athletes have on mainstream culture as a result of their success in athletics. I’ve been posting photos on social media, but for the best collections of images, follow PlantBuilt on social media. Simply search for “PlantBuilt” on every social media platform you use, and you should find a great collection of images, stories, recaps, and articles from last weekend’s successful performances.

I’m heading out to North Carolina this weekend for the Asheville VeganFest. I hope to see many of you there. I’ll follow up soon with some details about some No Meat No Problem clothing sales we will be offering soon. We appreciate your ongoing support of our brand. Every product ordered means a lot and helps us spread awareness, grow our brand, and expand our outreach.

For more information about the PlantBuilt Vegan Athlete Team, check out a couple of other news stories already published by VegNews and PlantBasedNews, and visit to view the entire team roster and competition results.

Have an awesome rest of your week!



PlantBuilt team members Natalie Matthews (left) and Paola Deocampo (right) battle it out for the women’s Overall Bikini champion, after both having won first place in their respective Bikini categories. 

A November Project Transformation – I discovered something

I discovered something I’d like to share with you: For the entire month of November, I documented every meal I ate and every workout I did, along with other details, and I posted weekly updates publicly here, and along the way, I discovered something pretty cool. I didn’t have any specific goals of muscle building or fat burning, I simply wanted to share an inside look into the life of a vegan athlete, meal by meal, and workout by workout, with full transparency.

Though I didn’t have specific goals, I wanted to maintain my roughly 200-pound size, while also getting a bit leaner, coming off a few months of inactivity in late spring and most of the summer due to an injury. I decided to document all of my health and fitness actions for an entire month to help readers understand what I do on a daily basis to maintain muscle size and strength as a 21-year vegan athlete, currently aged 36 years, but I also did it to help keep myself accountable. You see, I know the power of documenting actions honestly and transparently, because I have done this many times during my bodybuilding career – and while I was a competitive distance runner. I also know full well what can happen if I conveniently avoid acknowledging what I am eating, and carelessly remain clueless of my actual activity level. When I eat poorly for a period of time, and avoid exercise, naturally, I want to forget about these actions, as if they never happened. The problem is our bodies don’t forget about our careless actions, and those actions have health and fitness consequences – whether we want to acknowledge or admit that or not. Like undesirable actions, positive actions produce results and outcomes too. Discovering more of those helpful actions is one key to health and fitness success.

While I was spending part of spring, all of summer and part of fall recovering from a torn disc in my lower back and a case of sciatica on the left side of my entire lower body, I reached an all-time high in body fat and body weight. I peaked at 207 pounds with 23% body fat, exactly three times the body fat percentage I had when I was a competitive bodybuilder at 7.8% body fat. I could still flex and display a level of muscle size, especially from favorable angles, but I found myself in a position I had never been in before: out of shape. Taking nearly half of 2016 off from exercise (and healthy eating) took a toll on me mentally, emotionally, and physically – likely in that order.

Though I am the author of a bestselling book about burning fat and building muscle on a whole-food, plant based diet (Shred It!), I stopped following my own advice because I was feeling down. I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t able to exercise. I got frustrated and didn’t want to lose a bunch of weight after working so hard to build from 165 to 205 pounds over the course of 18 months, following a year of distance running, so I kept eating a lot, even though I wasn’t exercising. And I wasn’t exclusively sticking to whole foods. I was in the process of moving to a new state, buying a house for the first time, and was recently engaged, and I allowed myself to feel pretty stressed out. Consequently, I ate a lot of frozen vegan meals. I loaded up on Amy’s frozen foods like vegan burritos, mac ‘n cheese, Thai noodles and curry, and more. I prided myself on the fact that I maintained my 200+ pound frame, but then I experienced some new territories as a result of my enthusiasm to maintain weight. Clothes stopped fitting – everything from boxers that had their elastic band stretched and ruined, to size large and even a few XL shirts that just wouldn’t fit anymore, including some that used to be baggy on me. I literally went from being a 165-pound distance runner to a 205-pound weight lifter in less than two years, and then a few months later I became a 207-pound inactive person. My clothes changed as fast as my mood, and it was a challenge unlike anything I have gone through. I was still on tour and still trying to spread the vegan fitness message, but I didn’t feel comfortable with myself, knowing I had abandoned my own advice and I was suffering internally and externally. It was time for a change. Enter the November Project.

I thought of the November Project one day in late October while I was sitting in the sauna at the gym. I had been pain-free for most of September and for all of October, and since I was training 4-5 days a week again, I figured it would be interesting to share my training and nutrition programs with others. I was basically starting over, only doing cable and machine exercises, but I was being consistent again, and my diet was starting to get back on track too. I was motivated, happy, and feeling positive again for the first time in a while. When I was required through my own discipline to document all of my actions, it was really eye-opening to see what I was really eating on a daily and weekly basis, and how often I was actually exercising. By documenting these actions, I was able to alter my meals to focus more on whole foods, while avoiding certain processed foods, and I could gauge my activity level and boost it at any time if I felt the need to burn more calories or build more muscle. I also discovered some secret weapons, like using the Stairmaster for an hour at a time, performing fasted cardio, burning 500 calories during a single session, creating puddles of sweat on the machine, while simultaneously melting off fat and toning muscles. By documenting all of these things, I was able to change my health, fitness, and my mood in a very short amount of time.

My journey is still a work in progress, and I continue to do rehabilitation exercises for my back, and I am still working on including more whole foods into my diet (especially salad greens), while eliminating as many processed foods as I can, fighting addictions along the way.

Since I was documenting all of my meals and workouts for all of November, and beyond, I took various food and fitness photos weekly, if not daily, especially with the food photos. I was looking through my phone today to select some photos to promote our new No Meat No Problem clothing, and I scrolled past many of my fitness photos from the past 6 weeks. Here are some of them to show my work in progress:


In an upcoming newsletter (click here to sign up for our mailing list), I will be sharing the most important lessons I have learned during this ongoing transformation, as well as my absolute best suggestions from what I’ve observed during my own journey (such as using the Stairmaster as often as possible for fasted cardio, starting every day with water before consuming any calories, and going out of my way to eat nutrient-dense foods such as leafy green vegetables and a variety of fruits – while keeping processed foods out of the house so they are not temptations that can limit progress).

Thank you for reading.

I’ll be in touch again soon with a full recap of the November Project, sharing statistics, highlights, struggles, and lessons learned. It’s amazing how much can change in a short amount of time when you’re being honest with yourself, even if it’s hard to face reality. I encourage all of you to document your meals and workouts for a single week to see how much you can learn about yourself. How about January 1-7? I’ll do it with you, and we can share notes.

Happy Vegan Holidays!


November Project Weekly Recap: Week 4

Hello, everyone.

Thank you for following along with my month-long November Project, where I have been documenting all of my meals and workouts for anyone to read. For the entire month of November I recorded all of my meals and all of my workouts to reveal how a long-time vegan athlete eats and trains to maintain muscle mass and strength. This reflects my personal approach and will not be considered as a representation of all vegan athletes. I follow a supplement-free diet (aside from Vitamin B12), for example, whereas many vegan athletes choose to consume and rely on various sports supplements.

With this month-long documentation, I have been sending a weekly recap once per week, and this is my 4th weekly summary of my meals, workouts, thoughts, and reactions. I am not suggesting, recommending, or advising anything. I am simply transparently sharing my daily meals and workouts that I really follow, and I think it can be fairly eye-opening to any reader, encouraging you to look inward and evaluate your own consistency, accountability, and transparency. I have been using Cronometer to track my caloric and nutrition intake as well as my caloric expenditure through tracking my basal metabolic rate combined with my activity level. The numbers will be estimations based on calculations and may not be 100% accurate, but will be as close to reality as possible, given the technology I am using, factoring lots of homemade meals which are tough to count exact calories.

My stats are the following:

Age: 36

Height: 5’11 ¾”

Weight: 202 pounds

Current exercise routine: Weight training 4-5 days per week for 60-90 minutes, occasional cardio for 30-45 minutes at a time

Vegan for 21 years (anniversary on December 8th)

Week 4 Summary – November 22-28, 2016

Here are my numbers that summarize Week 4, which I am referring to as my most disappointing week as far as my food intake that included more processed foods than usual, and my level of exercise which was at its lowest point for the month. I’m not beating myself up for it, nor complaining, I just acknowledge that I am disappointed with the following figures, and I know I can change behaviors and habits in order to reflect the outcomes I desire.

Week 4 Totals: (Note: Some totals might be off by a tiny bit due to some estimations using my Cronometer system, and due to some slight rounding throughout the 7 days, but this is as accurate as I can make it):

Total calories consumed = 21,287

Average calories per day = 3,041

Total from carbohydrates = 3,708 grams

Average grams of carbohydrates per day = 530g

Average percentage of calories from carbohydrates = 69%

Total from protein = 620 grams

Average grams of protein per day = 89g

Average percentage of calories from protein = 10%

Total from fat = 548 grams

Average grams of fat per day = 78g

Average percentage of calories from fat = 21%

Total water intake = 187 ounces

Average water per day = 27 ounces

Total calories expended = 18,138

Average calories expended per day = 2,591

Net caloric intake/expenditure = 3,149-calorie surplus

Average net calorie intake/expenditure = 450-calorie surplus per day

Total time spent weight training (5 out of 7 days) = 6 hours, 34 minutes

Total time spent on cardio (4 out of 7 days) = 2 hours, 44 minutes

Total time spent exercising = 9 hours, 18 minutes

Average time spent weight training per day over 7 days = 56 minutes

Average time spent on cardio per day over 7 days = 23 minutes

Average time spent exercising per day over 7 days = 1 hour, 19 minutes

Total amount of sleep = 49 hours, 30 minutes

Average sleep per night = 7 hours, 4 minutes

One of the things I am pleased with is that I managed to get to the gym for weight training workouts 5 out of 7 days during the Thanksgiving week while we were hosting family, including my 15-month old nephew. Holidays often throw a wrench in our schedules and we typically just brush it off and accept that our nutrition and training programs go out the window – not just for a couple of days, but often for the whole week due to travel or hosting family and friends (for many of us in the USA where this is a popular family holiday). This week of less-than-desired behavior could carry over into the next month with more major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and it makes for a tough time for more than a month-long stretch for tens of millions of people regarding the areas of health and fitness. Our calorie intake often increases dramatically while our activity levels tend to decrease due to holiday gym closures, family or travel obligations, from colder weather keeping us indoors or inhibiting our commute, and from focusing our priorities elsewhere. There is certainly nothing wrong with reprioritizing, especially being present, enjoying the company of loved ones. But for those who have specific health and fitness goals, making it a point to remain active, even if just going for a walk, doing a home workout, performing some exercises like push-ups and squats in the comfort of a living room or bedroom can do the trick.

Like many people, I did partake in eating more processed foods such as a tofu turkey roast, mashed potatoes with gravy, and breaded stuffing – typical vegan Thanksgiving fare. My calorie intake went up and my activity level went down, but I still made it to the gym 5 times for weight training and tacked on 4 different cardio sessions too, so that was one positive aspect of an otherwise rather disappointing week of nutrition and fitness.

The reason I say it is a bit disappointing is because I have actual data from previous weeks. If I didn’t have that data from prior documentation, I could assume I’m doing a pretty good job without accurate information to support my assumption. But in relation to the first two weeks of the November Project especially, I was a little off my mark this past week. So what’s going on here? Well, for starters, my average sleep per night dropped by more than an hour from what is usual. That was partly due to hosting a 15-month old who wakes up hours before me, combined with my desire to get up earlier to spend more time with him – and from his wake-up calls of banging things around and crying. Operating on less sleep gave me more time in the day to do other things, but also left me feeling more tired and less likely to exercise, even on my own using dumbbells in the garage or going for a hike. Speaking of hiking, that is another thing that has almost vanished from my exercise schedule – due to the dropping temperatures, the amount of work related to producing this November Project, and from time spent hosting friends and being more involved with other activities. I will most certainly find myself on the hiking trails again soon – very likely within 48 hours of typing this recap. But if nobody is holding me accountable, I guess we’ll never know if I truly make it back out there anytime soon or continue to stay indoors, working on the computer until the wee hours of the morning.

My week of health and fitness wasn’t all bad, of course – I averaged about 70% of my calories coming from carbohydrates, 10% from protein, and 20% from fat, which tends to be typical. My caloric intake was just about 3,000 calories per day exactly, and that is a good number for me to maintain my body mass of anywhere between 198-204 pounds depending on the time of day. One area of concern is that my water intake was almost non-existent due to an increase in drinking yerba mate tea and other beverages. My overall fluid intake, including water consumed from a high intake of fruits, is still at an acceptable level. But evaluating my water intake exclusively, one will notice a significant decline and much more reliance on the caffeinated and sugar-laden tea – my main addiction I have a hard time kicking. One of the primary reasons for the low water consumption is due to the lower overall activity level. When I am hiking, using the Stairmaster, or sitting in the sauna, I drink a lot more water. And when I’m not drinking tea or juice or coconut water, I naturally drink more water too. Sparkling water tends to help increase my water intake, so you’ll likely see quite a bit of that this week.

Though there are always ups and downs, some much more obvious than the others, let’s go ahead and look at my actual daily breakdown of meals and exercises. I’m sure you’ll notice many patterns from my personal behavior, including specific foods that I focus on for days at a time, often based on what’s in season, what’s on sale, and what’s on my radar at the time.

Tuesday November 22, 2016

Slept from 1:00AM – 8:15AM = 7 hours, 15 minutes


6 ounces of water



Basket of raspberries


2 bananas

Mixed fruit salad


2 apples


2 bananas


3 boiled potatoes with mustard

8 ounces of yerba mate tea


Half a cookie (my grand-aunt offered me a vegan cookie, how sweet)

3 ounces of water


Bowl of salad with tofu and dressing

Bowl of brown rice with mixed vegetables and curry sauce

1/6 of a vegan burger (took a bite of my fiancee’s burger)


6 ounces of yerba mate


Exercise: Weight training workout from 7:03-8:36PM = 1 hour, 33 minutes


Hip raises: 25, 30, 30

Arm and leg lifts (bird dog): 15, 15, 15

Push-ups: 20, 20, 20, 20, 20

Biceps and triceps workout:

Machine biceps curls: 70×16, 70×15, 80×12, 90×10, 100×10

Seated machine press downs: 120×17, 140×15, 160×9, 160×12, 180×8

Single arm high position machine curls: 40×12, 50×10, 60×6, 60×6, 60×6

Rope extensions: 75×25, 85×20, 95×20, 105×16, 115×12

Standing cable concentration curls: 35×15, 45×12, 55×6, 55×6, 55×6

Cable preacher curls: 50×8, 50×7, 50×7, 50×4, 40×10

Single arm high position triceps extensions: 50×8, 50×10, 50×8, 40×12, 40×15

Seated cable concentration curls: 40×12, 45×12, 50×8, 60×4, 45×10

Dips: 10, 12, 11, 12, 15


Exercise: 34 minutes on the Stairmaster


Small bowl of green salad

Small bowl of vegetable fried rice

3 boiled potatoes with mustard

Handful of raspberries

15 ounces of water




Calories consumed: 2,889

Carbohydrates: 538g (70%)

Protein: 69g (8%)

Fat: 71g (22%)

Water: 24 ounces

Calories burned: 2,980

Net: 91-calorie deficit

Weight training: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Cardio: 34 minutes

Total combined exercise = 2 hours, 7 minutes


For the first time in 8 days I burned more calories than I consumed today. That felt pretty good. I don’t add these numbers up until days after the fact, so I don’t try to manipulate my daily activities by attempting to reach some arbitrary daily goal. For example, I don’t monitor the numbers and avoid eating a final meal to ensure I burned more than consumed, nor do I try to cram in more food before bed to hit any targets. I have no idea what my daily numbers are until the end of the week – which is when I’m writing this recap, a week after this day took place.

I am really enjoying my arm workouts these days. I still primarily use machines and cables as I’m rehabilitating my lower back injury (torn disc in the L5-S1 area of my lumbar spine), and I aim to avoid putting stress on my spine by bending over to pick up dumbbells or other free weights. Of course, part of the fun from using cables and machines is developing the pump that is a byproduct of many of these typically high-repetition, squeezing movements on a balanced plane (smooth cable or machine designed to move up and down in a very manageable way – avoiding some of the awkwardness of picking up, balancing, and setting down dumbbells and barbells).

Raspberries are on sale right now. Bring it on.

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Wednesday November 23, 2016

Slept from 12:30AM – 7:15AM = 6 hours, 45 minutes

Continue reading “November Project Weekly Recap: Week 4”

November Project Weekly Recap: Week 3

Hello, everyone.

Thank you for following along with my month-long November project, documenting all of my meals and workouts for anyone to read. As a reminder, this is what the November Project is all about: For the entire month of November I will be documenting all of my meals and all of my workouts to reveal how a long-time vegan athlete eats and trains to maintain muscle mass and strength. This will reflect my personal approach and will not be considered as a representation of all vegan athletes. With this month-long documentation, I plan to send a weekly recap once per week for 4 weeks revealing all of my meals and workouts for the week. I will be not be suggesting, recommending, or advising anything. I will simply transparently share my daily meals and workouts that I really follow. I will be using Cronometer to track my caloric and nutrition intake as well as my caloric expenditure through tracking my basal metabolic rate combined with my activity level. The numbers will be estimations based on calculations and may not be 100% accurate, but will be as close to reality as possible, given the technology I am using, factoring lots of homemade meals which are tough to count exact calories.

My stats are the following:

Age: 36

Height: 5’11 ¾”

Weight: 202 pounds

Current exercise routine: Weight training 4-5 days per week for 60-90 minutes, occasional cardio for 30-45 minutes at a time

Vegan for 21 years

One thing that I was concerned about when I first got the idea for the November Project, and had thousands of people subscribe to follow along, was that perhaps I was biting off more than I could chew (pun intended). As someone who already works a lot, tours and travels, trains a lot, is active in the community, keeps late nights, and is fairly heavily addicted to the Internet, I wondered if I’d be able to keep up with regular, planned weekly updates. Sure enough, this week I fell behind. The third week of the November Project finished on November 21st, and I’m just now getting my weekly recap finalized on the 26th. I apologize for the delay. We just have one more weekly recap following this one, which will accumulate a total of about 100 pages of summary.

We’re on to our Week 3 Summary. Here’s my recap:

This week was an interesting one, perhaps the most different, or out of the ordinary, since I started the November Project. We hosted numerous friends for meet-ups, meals, hikes, etc. Not that we don’t usually have visitors, but since we moved to Arizona about 6 weeks ago we hadn’t had any visitors, but this week, we had multiple visitors spend significant amount of time with us at our house and in the community. All the while we also geared up to host our first overnight guests – family coming to town for the Thanksgiving holiday. In general, most days throughout the entire year, I work from home and spend the majority of the day at home, aside from trips to the gym, post office, and grocery store – errands I share with my fiancée, taking turns to shop or ship products – aside from the gym sessions which obviously I need to complete for myself. When I’m not traveling or on tour in any capacity, I tend to be at home where I have access to meals anytime I want, and I can plan out a schedule or routine as far as eating, training, working, sleeping, etc. I noticed that this week while entertaining guests I went slightly longer periods between eating meals, ate more processed foods, and missed a planned workout. None of this is that big of a deal, and all part of life, it’s just an observation I made when recalling the past 7 days of the November Project.


Tuesday November 15, 2016

Slept from 12:30AM – 9:30AM = 9 hours


6 ounces of water



Exercise: 31 minutes on the Stairmaster

14 ounces of water



5 mandarin oranges



Exercise: 32 minutes on the Stairmaster

20 ounces of water

20 minutes in the sauna



20 ounces of water






Bowl of green salad with dolmas

16 ounces of yerba mate tea



10 pieces of vegetable sushi



Bowl of mixed fruit: pineapple, blueberries, strawberries, red grapes

Handful of raspberries

8 ounces of water



Exercise: Weight Training from 7:44-9:20PM = 1 hour, 36 minutes



Hip raises: 20, 20, 25

Arm and leg raises (bird dog): 15, 15, 15

Push-ups: 20, 20, 20, 20


Back workout

Wide-grip machine rows: 70×20, 80×20, 90×15, 100×12

Narrow-grip machine rows: 70×20, 90×18, 110×14, 110×15

High-pulley cable rows: 70×20, 80×20, 90×15, 100×12

High Rows: 140×12, 160×12, 180×10, 180×8

Front Pull-downs: 90×15, 140×12, 160×8, 140×10

Reverse-grip lat pull-downs: 85×20, 105×12, 105×15, 105×12




17.5 ounces of coconut water

15 ounces of water

Mandarin orange



Bowl of homemade vegan mac n’ cheese

Bowl of potato and kale vegetable soup over brown rice



Homemade vegan burrito

3 small pickles

8 ounces of sparkling water



2 handfuls of almonds

2 small pickles

Handful of raspberries






Calories consumed: 3,405

Carbohydrates: 646g (74%)

Protein: 76g (8%)

Fat: 71g (18%)

Water: 91 ounces

Calories burned: 3,348

Net: 57-calorie surplus

Weight training: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Cardio: 1 hour, 3 minutes

Total combined exercise = 2 hours, 39 minutes



It felt great to start the day with about an hour on the Stairmaster. It was actually broken into two 30+ minute sections because I had to head home for a furniture delivery (those are finally done for now, and we’re fully moved into our house, minus a few small items like lamps). Ideally, I would start each morning with some fasted cardio, be it a 20-minute walk with the dog, or a morning hike, a session on the Stairmaster, or riding the stationary bike at home while I check my email shortly after waking. I guess the reason why we say “ideal” would be this way or that way, because it often isn’t. As someone who is heavily focused on work, entrepreneurial activities, and marketing and advertising, sometimes I have projects and deadlines I prioritize over morning cardio. Doing this November Project helps me identify what I am truly doing with my time, which puts me in a position to have more control over my outcomes, simply by being aware of what captivates my time and interests.

Overall, today was a pretty evenly matched day as far as my calorie consumption and expenditure. It was almost even, with a slight surplus. This helps me maintain my roughly 202 pounds I have maintained the full 3 weeks into this project thus far. Taking in 3,400 calories is higher than my daily average of 2,900 and 2,800 over the past couple of weeks, so it will be interesting to see what the numbers look like at the end of this week.

I’m also happy to report that after another back workout, my back is still feeling good, despite the ongoing recovery from a torn disc in my lower back. I have been feeling injury-free for something like 6-7 weeks at this point, which is a welcome breath of fresh air and makes all forms of exercise and rehab that much more enjoyable.

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Wednesday November 16, 2016

Continue reading “November Project Weekly Recap: Week 3”

November Project Weekly Recap: Week 2

Hello, everyone.

Thank you for following along with my month-long November project, documenting all of my meals and workouts for anyone to read. As a reminder, this is what the November Project is all about: For the entire month of November I will be documenting all of my meals and all of my workouts to reveal how a long-time vegan athlete eats and trains to maintain muscle mass and strength. This will reflect my personal approach and will not be considered as a representation of all vegan athletes. With this month-long documentation, I plan to send a weekly recap once per week for 4 weeks, revealing all of my meals and workouts for the week. I will not be suggesting, recommending, or advising anything. I will simply be transparently sharing my daily meals and workouts that I really follow. I will be using Cronometer to track my caloric and nutrition intake as well as my caloric expenditure through tracking my basal metabolic rate combined with my activity level. The numbers will be estimations based on calculations and may not be 100% accurate, but will be as close to reality as possible, given the technology I am using, factoring lots of homemade meals which are tough to count exact calories.

My stats are the following:

Age: 36

Height: 5’11 ¾”

Weight: 202 pounds

Current exercise routine: Weight training 4-5 days per week for 60-90 minutes, occasional cardio for 30-45 minutes at a time

Vegan for 21 years

This week started off a little rough. You’ll notice from the date that day 1 in week 2 started on US Presidential election night. I stayed up until 2:30AM that night and didn’t get to bed until 3AM the following night. I know the election was rough on a lot of people for various reasons, and it started my week off with some even later nights than usual. Ultimately, that can have an impact on my energy levels, my workouts, my fasted cardio, and other aspects of training and lifestyle, and it is up to me to overcome those obstacles and challenges.

Here are a few things that I have noticed over the past two weeks:

  1. I deliberately start every day with water before consuming anything else, and I have been able to keep this up every single day thus far and plan to keep it going. This is actually something “new” for me, but something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, and the November Project inspired me to finally become accountable in this way.
  2. I continue to follow my “no processed foods before noon” approach, starting my day with fruit, tea, oats, potatoes, etc. Again, I have been able to keep this up for two consecutive weeks, and it’s part of a morning fast and part of starting my day eating lightly, while focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods.
  3. There are days when I have intentions of getting to the gym, or going out for fasted cardio in the morning and it doesn’t happen. I imagine a lot of people can relate to this. Other obligations pop up, surprise visits from friends, dinners that last longer than usual, and a gym that closes earlier than preferred, are all factors that occasionally see me missing something I had good intentions of doing.
  4. Though I got off to a late start many days due to keeping lots of late nights, I actually averaged more sleep per night during week two. Sleep and rest are important components in muscle recovery and growth, so though I spend a substantial amount of time sleeping/resting (as it is revealed even more than I thought – and perhaps more than most people get), I am okay with it, knowing the health benefits that adequate sleep and rest provide. I also get a lot of brainstorming done when I drift off to sleep, something that helps me write books and grow my business.
  5. During week 2 my water intake, as well as my total exercise, both slightly declined. No big deal, just an observation and something that stands out to me as I review my week 1 and week 2 results.



This is what week 2 looked like:


Tuesday November 8, 2016

Slept from 1:05AM-10:05AM = 9 hours



3 ounces of water

4 ounces of yerba mate tea



Exercise: 25-minute dog walk

16 ounces of water




2 oranges

4 mandarin oranges




Handful of almonds

Bowl of potato and kale vegetable soup



16 ounces of yerba mate tea

Handful of almonds



2 carrots






17.5 ounces of coconut water



Exercise: Shoulder workout from 5:16-6:40PM = 1 hour, 24 minutes


Hip raises: 15, 20, 25

Arm and leg raises (bird dog): 15, 15, 15

Shoulder workout

Cable overhead presses: 40×30, 50×25, 60×15, 70×12, 80×8

Push-ups: 20, 20, 20, 20, 20

Machine overhead press: 70×12, 90×10, 100×8, 105×6, 110×4

Neutral grip machine press: 70×10, 80×8, 80×10, 90×10, 100×10

Dumbbell overhead press: 30sx25, 40sx15, 45sx15, 50sx10, 50sx12

Dumbbell lateral raises: 15sx15, 15sx15, 20sx12, 20sx12, 20sx12

Dumbbell front raises: 15sx15, 15sx15, 20sx12, 20sx12, 20sx12





Handful of almonds



Plate of polenta loaf (polenta, brown rice, beans, olives, avocado, tomato sauce)



Plate of polenta loaf (polenta, brown rice, beans, olives, avocado, tomato sauce)







Calories consumed: 2,892

Carbohydrates: 515g (67%)

Protein: 80g (10%)

Fat: 81g (23%)

Water: 19 ounces (+ 20 ounces of tea and 17.5 ounces of coconut water)

Calories burned: 2,599

Net: 293-calorie surplus

Weight training: 1 hour, 24 minutes

Cardio: 25 minutes

Total combined exercise = 1 hour, 49 minutes

Notes: I started my workout at the gym on election night, just as results were starting to trickle in. I was honestly surprised by how busy the gym was given the popularity of this year’s Presidential election. I hammered through a few gym exercises and then headed home to follow along with the election results, and I used my own free weights at home to complete the workout. Whether the gym is closed, or for some other reason I prefer to be home during a certain time period, it is nice to have some (limited) gym equipment at home to train with in the living room, the backyard, or in the garage.

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Continue reading “November Project Weekly Recap: Week 2”