Robert Cheeke, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness

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Robert Cheeke uses the platform of bodybuilding to communicate the message of meat-free, steroid-free health, fun and fitness. One of the nicest people you will ever meet, Robert is the epitome of a lean, clean, meat-free machine. His new book, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, and his website, www.veganbodybuilding.com provide information and inspiration on achieving your goals this year.

TRANSCRIPTION PART I:

Caryn Hartglass: Hello, I’m Caryn Hartglass and this is It’s All About Food. It is February 23rd, 2011, and we’re going to talk about a really interesting subject today. I think you’re going to be very inspired and motivated to make some improvements in your life with the special guest that we have today. When people talk about vegetarians and vegans, I think it’s changing, but the image that many people have is that vegetarians and vegans are weak, and skinny, and not really athletic or muscular. My guest today is going to prove completely otherwise. We’ve got Robert Cheeke, who is going to be talking with us today about vegan bodybuilding and fitness. Robert Cheeke uses the platform of bodybuilding to communicate the message of “meat free, steroid free, health, fun, and fitness.” One of the nicest people you will ever meet, Robert is the epitome of a lean, clean, meat-free machine. His new book Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness and his website veganbodybuilding.com provide information and inspiration on achieving your goals this year. Robert, welcome to It’s All About Food.

Robert Cheeke: Thanks Caryn, I really appreciate you having me.

Caryn Hartglass: I read your book, and it’s just one page after the other of inspiration, of go-go, yay-yay cheerleading. You can do it, you’re the best. It’s really, really inspiring.

Robert Cheeke: Well thanks; I appreciate that. I wrote it that way deliberately because I think there is a foundational reason why a lot of us don’t lose weight, or don’t gain muscle, or don’t have more energy, or don’t feel fit. It’s not because we don’t care or we don’t try, but sometimes we just don’t really believe that we can do it. We’ve been told so many times that we can’t, so I like to come in and say, “Well, yes you can,” because it’s a mathematical formula. If you have the passion, the consistency, and the adaptation, that leads to improvement, that leads to success, that leads to results. You do feel better, you do feel happier, and that inspires others to a positive chain reaction of events. I’m glad that came through in the book.

Caryn Hartglass: We talk about food and how food affects our personal health, the health of the planet, and certainly the animals that are affected if we choose to eat them. There are so many things that are linked to our food choices and food consumption, and our behaviors are certainly connected. We’ve got these little voices in our heads all the time telling us, more often than not, negative things about who we are and what we’ve done and what we should be doing and what can’t do et cetera, et cetera, et cetera… When I read your book, it’s almost like a guided meditation of affirmations to help re-script the voices in our heads, and letting people know that little-by-little, with consistency, we can be our dream.

Robert Cheeke: Absolutely. Because how do you learn a language? How do you learn a new skill? How do you become better at something that you’re interested in, or even something that you’re not interested in? Let’s say academically. Well, you do it through immersion. You do it through repetition. You do it through consistency, which I mention in the book I think is the arguably the most important word in the world because that’s how we do anything. That’s how we get smarter. That’s how we get faster. That’s how we get stronger. That’s how we improve relationships. That’s how we find fulfillment and enjoyment. That’s how we get better in the workplace. It changes everything. I just had to recognize some of my own behavioral patterns and realize that, actually, there is a fairly consistent theme throughout everybody. We all fall into this category of we’re not really doing what we think we’re doing. As soon as we can become honest with ourselves and admit that, then we can make some changes. I like to say a lot of general examples. People will say, “I call my mom all the time.” Well, once every three or six months isn’t really all of the time. Or, “I take my dog for a walk every day.” Well, not when late for work, or when you’re feeling sick, or you don’t feel like it, or you’re mad at the dog, or you stay at someone else’s house, or you’re on vacation. We remember the things that we want to remember, and we conveniently forget about the things like the times we didn’t go the gym, or the times we ate unhealthy food, or the times we didn’t take our dog out. We kind of erase those. Then what happens is—the reason this is important is we didn’t do a pattern where we’ve convinced ourselves in our head, and sometimes even convinced our friends an family, that we exercise all of the time, five days a week. It’s really more like maybe two or three at most. We remember the times we did go, and we may be enthusiastically telling you about our workout we did today, but when asked, “What did you do yesterday,” we would rather not talk about it because maybe it wasn’t a priority that day.

Caryn Hartglass: People do that too with the food they eat, because when I start talking about healthy food, so many people you’ve probably heard it, they say, “Oh, I eat a healthy diet.” Then you start to ask them what they’re eating and you’re rolling your eyes to yourself because most of it isn’t very healthy.

Robert Cheeke: Right, that’s another perfect example. I’m vegan myself, have been for sixteen years, and I’ll go around to vegetarian/vegan’s festivals and have a pretty vegan friendly audience. Maybe most people, the majority of people in the audience, are vegan, and I can even ask a question. “Who’s had some green foods today?” Maybe not that many hands go up. Well, that’s okay, but don’t go around telling people you’re vegan and you eat salads all day because you don’t. We have to be really honest and transparent with ourselves. If we want to find improved health, then we need to do the things that are inline with creating those changes, which is eating better foods, exercising more, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, all of those things. More often than not, no matter who we are in what part of the world, most of us just aren’t doing the things that we think we’re doing.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, Which is what makes life so much fun, because there’s so much room for improvement and things never get boring.

Robert Cheeke: Right! Who doesn’t want to either lose weight or gain weight/muscle, or have more energy, or whatever? We all want some sort of change. We all want to maximize the 1,440 minutes in a day that we have. We are looking for some sort of improvement or change or adaptation. I believe, and that’s what I write about, that you can do it, regardless of what you’re interest is, through a sequence of events starting with how bad you want it. What are you willing to work for? And having that passion which then fuels your enthusiasm and then the consistency and adaptation are easy because you’d rather do it than not do it.

Caryn Hartglass: Well part of the problem, and you mention it in your book, is the mentality of many people today is not to work to hard. We’re really attracted to things that are easy, things that are convenient, and things that we can learn quickly. That soundbyte has so much weight, so things have to be quick. We want to see results right away. We don’t want to put too much energy into anything, and the results are telling.

Robert Cheeke: Exactly! I think we have gone into a behavior pattern that is a little bit, I don’t know if I want to use the word lazier, but I think it’s a lot different than what it used to be. Things are easier and they require less work ethic. We like things handed to us or given to us. Sometimes we don’t like to earn certain achievements, we’d rather just take an easy route. I do point out that, in my book in a few places, if we look at cultures or generations of people who absolutely had to or have to rely on their work ethic just to make it. People who would give anything to wake up to the opportunities that we have in front of us every single day that we take for granted. If we could really just, for a moment, put ourselves in those people’s shoes, we’d realize that, “Wow, I’m spending hours and hours a day on the internet, on social networks, and playing around, and doing all of these things, yet I’m still saying that I have shortcomngs in these certain areas from work or relationships or fitness or health.” Well we can really change our patterns to get a little bit closer to where we want to be simply by working a little bit harder. The way to do that is to simply know what we want to do. Who cares about health in the first place? You have to answer that. Who cares about being fit and having energy in the first place? Why would you want that as a benefit or as a byproduct? If you can answer that, “So I can spend more time doing this or with my family or feel younger or live longer.” If you can find meaning in those answers, then you’re probably going to do the things that it takes to achieve that. It does require a little more work, but guess what? Work feels a lot like play and it’s a lot of fun. The achievement and the whole journey along the way is always worth it.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, we’re going to be talking about vegan bodybuilding and fitness and your whole journey and all the things that you found worked and the challenges that you hag, But basically, your approach is an approach for anything that anyone would wan to do in life.

Robert Cheeke: Yeah, exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: Because, some of us don’t want to be bodybuilders, but we do want to succeed in one area or another, and we all want to look good.

Robert Cheeke: I had a hard time naming the book actually. I had a hard time picking a title for it because it does cover so many things. It’s not just about people who want to compete in bodybuilding, that’s a very small demographic, but it’s more the subtitle: The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant Based Diet. Everybody wants to build their body in someway, either reducing fat or gaining muscle or being more tone or being more fit or being able to run a marathon or whatever it is. But, the thing is, like you mentioned, it doesn’t matter what your goal is, it’s following those specific actions of caring deeply about it. If there isn’t a reason behind it, then why bother? That’s true in the workplace, it’s true in relationships, and it’s obviously true in health and fitness. If we can find that deep meaning, you bet we’re going to work at it. Then understanding the type of work that it takes, that allows that change to occur, the adaptation. Then making it. An example that I give, I think it’s in the book it’s certainly in my talks, is that what if you’re dream is to run a marathon because you have a deep meaning behind it? Maybe it’s the last time you get a chance to run with one of your parents before they’re too old to complete that distance, but today you can only run across the room. You care so deeply about that tomorrow you run across the room and back, and the next day out the door and down the street, and the next day down the street, around the corner, over to the store, the next day you run in circles around the block. You do this because you really want to, you care about what this means to you. Whether it’s running with your parents or with your best friends, or if it’s raising money for a charity, you work at it every single day. You bet you adapt, and also you’re running miles at a time when you never thought you could. You adapt, you improve, and then pretty soon six/nine/twelve months down the road, you finish 26.2 miles, you finish a marathon. That’s the achievement, that’s the success, and the shared success is simply the enthusiasm people see in you and get inspired to do the same. They say, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon,” or “I’ve always wanted to do this, lose this weight, try to get into this school,” or whatever. It has a way of inspiring people, because most often we don’t see people who are that driven, and when we do those people change the world. Those are the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, the Ghandi’s, the Michael Jordan’s, the Mother Theresa’s, those kinds of people. But it can be in all of us, not just people who are famous.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s really the consistency of the practice that’s important. For some people, it doesn’t even have to be something that takes a lot of time, it just has to be consistent. As you said, you just keep adding a little bit of a challenge every time, and then you find that you’ve come so far. I know I have a personal experience, and this isn’t exactly the same scenario, but I really love yoga. I can do a lot of interesting poses, and I’m pretty flexible and strong. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, and I had three major abdominal surgeries. I have no idea what went on inside, but certainly my muscles were affected in a not very good way. When I finally healed and had the strength to get back to exercise, I had lost a lot of muscle. When you’re used to being able to do something and you can’t, it is really frustrating. I’m sure lots of people have gone through that. Or even just through aging they find that they can’t do the same things they used to do as a child or a teenager or a young adult. Through consistency, doing whatever I could and then adding to it over time, I’m finally at the place I was before, if not better. There were some moments where I could do a simple pose that used to be really simple before my illness, but when I got to do it afterwards, it brought tears to my eyes because I had gotten to this point. I can’t say enough about just believing and knowing just step by step. You’ve probably heard these clichés, but you have to crawl before you walk, you have to walk before you run. There are steps involved.

Robert Cheeke: Absolutely. First of all, congratulations on getting back into it. You did something that is significant, and the reason why is because the easiest thing in the world is to give up in anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s work, if it’s relationships, if it’s athletics, and so often it’s in health. “I just can’t lose the weight. I’m just never going to be healthy. I’m just never going to feel well. I just give up.” That’s such an easy thing to do. Coming from a surgery or an injury or a life changing thing and taking those baby steps to get back is really admirable. It does take a lot of work, so congratulations for doing that.

Caryn Hartglass: Now, you have a story too.

Robert Cheeke: Yeah, the one that came to mind is… and this is really exciting and completely relevant for my life at this very present moment where I’m talking to you. In my very first year of bodybuilding, with all the enthusiasm in the world, I just went after it. I was a distance runner. I was a skinny kid, a skinny farm kid. I had this dream of being he-man, Captain Planet. I wanted to be strong and muscular and share positive messages with people and inspire others. I just always wanted that from when I was little. In my first year of bodybuilding I hurt my back. I was doing some squats with pretty heavy weight, hundreds of pounds, and it collapsed on me. My spine was just smashed and for the last seven years I haven’t been able to do a lot of those heavy exercises, squats and dead lifts, which are arguably the most beneficial and the most important in muscle building and bodybuilding. From the very get-go my bodybuilding career changed forever. I had all these dreams of achieving great things in bodybuilding, and I wasn’t sure that I could now. Those were my early twenties and mid-twenties. I went through it. This summer, after I took a little bit of a break, I still had all of the lower back injuries and pain. Even sitting and standing; it’s been bothering me for almost a decade now. I decided to take those baby steps, and I was doing body weight squats, just my own body weight, no weights. I did those for months, and I just let my back get used to the movement. All summer long I would do those on my book tour at friend’s houses, at rest stops, while I was out in the sun. I did that for months and months and I ended up with a little bit of weight. I used to squat hundreds of pounds and I had to go back to just the bar. Forty-five pounds and just sit there by myself and get back to it. I’ve been doing that, and I put the weights back on. In the last couple of months, I’m back to squatting two hundred and twenty five pounds. It falls short from what I used to do, at three hundred and forty five, but I’m adding muscle again. Some people are saying that I’m bigger and I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. My back actually, I had all of this pain and fear that could never get better, but through some massage therapy and chiropractic work and physical therapy and just being patient and believing that I could make a return, I’m back and I’m injury free.

Caryn Hartglass: And a healthy diet, hello! You’re also eating healthy food, not foods that inflame.

Robert Cheeke: Sure, I have been [eating actually, specifically, a bunch of anti-inflammatory foods. Ginger root, turmeric, things like that because those things do help. I believe that has helped in the recovery process, in the prevention of injury, and I’ve been doing a much better job at stretching. It hasn’t been yoga, but some of it’s been an hour a day to make sure that I stay safe. So, I had to essentially start over. Tens years later, but I’m back.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, well congratulations to you. I want to encourage people, I know you’re listening on the internet so you have access to websites, so veganbodybuilding.com and robertcheeke.com and you have to go there. Click on the photo gallery and look at this guys and how incredible he looks. You’ve got a lot of great pictures in the book and on your website. People should really see the results of all of this consistent work. You’re beautiful.

Robert Cheeke: Well, thank you. I appreciate that. One things I like to tell people, just to make it clear, is that I was never big and strong. I was eighty-nine pounds when I was fourteen.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I want to talk about your beginnings.

Robert Cheeke: Okay, sure.

Caryn Hartglass: Not just—and you’ve got some really cute pictures in here from when you were a little blonde kid working with the 4H—but continue.

Robert Cheeke: Yeah, I’m still a blonde kid. I’m going to turn thirty one next week, exactly a week from today.

Caryn Hartglass: Happy Birthday!

Robert Cheeke: Thanks! We’ll talk about that. What I was just saying was that I don’t want people to think, “Oh, this guy was always really thin and really strong, it’s easy for him to do regardless of what his diet is.” I started out, I grew up on a farm in Corvallis, OR, and I was in the 4H program raising animals. We had cows, rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens. Gosh, you name it. I was in 4H. I would raise animals for food. I didn’t make that connection until my younger sister, who became vegan at a young age in her early teens, became aware of what was really going on with the animals once we sent them off at the auction. Because we had all of these animals with first names, just like dogs and cats, we made a strong connection there and decided to be vegans as teenagers and got very, very active in school doing demonstrations and information weeks and baking vegan food and passing out literature and protesting circuits. There’s all that kind of stuff; we’re very involved. I had that question. Because I was so small, like I said eighty-nine pounds in high school, and this is growing up on a farm and eating whatever animal products I wanted and drinking as much milk as I could and everything. At barely a hundred pounds on the basketball team my freshman year, I still look at photos of this wristwatch back then. It was the size of my head it seems like, I was so small when I look back on it. But I always believe that I could and I asked the question to my sister. I was really worried. I said, “Are you sure I can get bigger and stronger on a vegan diet? Or should I just continue to eat as many animal products as I can until I get big and then become vegan for animals?” And she said, “You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other, you can do both, and here’s a few tips on how to do that.” So, I did. Sure, it took a little bit of learning because I didn’t know what to eat. I was eating candy and breads and natural sodas and bagels and everything like all of the other kids. But I was just avoiding the meat, dairy, and eggs etc. That left me with chips and salsa and bagels and a few pieces of fruit. I had to learn over the years, but then I figured it out and then I just following that passion of lifting weights. Doing it day-in, day-out. You bet there were times in the gym as a skinny little kid thinking, “Man is this ever going to work?” But, also there was a voice in the back of my head that could somehow see a couple years ahead that would just say, “Rob you just have to believe that in a couple years this will change and you’ll be able to be bigger, be stronger, and fulfill these personal goals that I had, which then turned into much bigger goals of representing the entire movement, representing animals, and everything else in a way that was very cognitive and productive.” I did, when the easiest thing in the world was for the skinny kid to give up, I just kept on going. I think that’s a big part of my story. It still inspires me today. Even this week, if I think of taking a day off aside from my scheduled rest day, if I think maybe I’ll skip today, I think about what that means and how that impacts my decisions in other areas of my life. Okay, so maybe I skip on this work project then, or I skip this, and I don’t want to do that. So I keep consistent in fitness. It keeps me consistent in work and everything else.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m inspired! So, you did a bunch of work with the 4H. Can you talk about some of that? I always found that a very odd process where you got to know an animal and grow it and be friends with it and nurture it and then sell it so it’s slaughtered.

Robert Cheeke: Right. It’s a really interesting topic and a really interesting conversation. There has to be a bunch of different points mentioned, though. My sister and I were actually just talking about this the other day because we’re both public speakers. She’s a PhD student. She’s going to be a professor. She teaches biology and gives talks and lectures in front of audiences. I do the same as I travel around the country, give talks to audiences, all over the place. And that was part of 4H too. 4H was not just the animals, but we took public speaking classes and leadership classes. Really, it honestly shaped so many aspects of my character in positive ways that I’m incredibly grateful for. I owe so much appreciation and gratitude to my time in 4H from the leadership building and the skills that I’ve carried throughout the rest of my life. But there is also that other side of it, which is this, especially where I grew up it’s very popular out in Oregon, it’s more of an agricultural state, grass feed capital of the world, for example eating lots of animals in 4H. There is that other side of 4H that is raising animals and knowing everything about them, knowing everything about their breed, their feather types, their hair types, their DNA. We study them inside and out, and we have our own animals that we show at the fair that we have essentially as domestic pets. As equivalent a dog or cat, they have names, they spend time with us, we spend a lot of time with them because we have to show them at the fair, which means handling them physically and being very close with them. Getting a rabbit or guinea pig to be as absolutely as tamed as a cat that sits in your lap. We go through this process of getting incredibly close to an animal, which is an amazingly rewarding experience, and then, you’re pretty young in 4H you start out in 3rd or 4th grade and then get up to high school, you don’t really know what’s going on. You just simply don’t. You have this friend that you spend your time with and you take it to an auction and your sole motivation, at least mine, that I remember, was to make money. Your sole motivation was to get people to bid the highest amounts. You can get some money and that’s like your summer job. You get a paycheck. And obviously the bigger, the heavier the animal, like a cow, you get a lot more money than you get for a cage full of rabbits or chickens, but that’s what you do. You feel happy about it because you’re like, “Oh, Yeah. I’m getting a bunch of money here!” You know, “Goodbye Tim” or “Goodbye” whatever their names were. Then it kind of hits you. That was my friend, that was who I spent all of this time with. What have I done and what am I doing. Then you make a decision to make something different and make others aware that. And like any industry or organization or group, there’s going to be positive sides and negative sides. I found wonderful sides of 4H that I’m so happy to be a part of. But the animal part is one that I’m not so happy to be a part of.

Caryn Hartglass: So it could be a pretty perfect organization if they teach the same skills and they just don’t have the selling of the animal.

Robert Cheeke: Right, and for people who are on family farms, for example the farm I grew up on, animals run freely. There’s lots of acres so chickens just run around. There aren’t cages that they’re in or anything like that. They just run around and live out their lives. They don’t get sold, they may be there for ten or twenty years depending on which type of animal. I come and go visiting my mom’s house and some animals have been there for a very long time. There are some aspects of 4H, I think, that could still involve animals. Teaching how to take care of them, how to help them if they get sick, how to prevent illnesses, what’s the best form of nutrition, things like that. But not selling them to become food. They could end up in your very own freezer, or your neighbor’s.

Caryn Hartglass: And we’ll call it 5H with the other H for Humanity or something like that.

Robert Cheeke: Sure.

Caryn Hartglass: Robert, we’re going to take a quick break for a couple of minutes and then I want to get back, and I want to talk about the details of the food that you eat and the exercises that you do and just how you do all of the amazing things that you do. So, stay with us.

Transcribed by Alex Belser, 1/23/2014

TRANSCRIPTION PART II:

Caryn Hartglass
Hello I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food because it is all about food and I’m here with Robert Cheeke. He is the author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness and we are talking exactly about vegan bodybuilding and fitness. Now Robert the thing that was amusing to me to some extent is people are always looking to lose weight and in this book you’re talking about building muscle and putting on weight.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah.

Caryn Hartglass
And you’ve got a number of different programs here where the number of calories you’re consuming…..

Robert Cheeke
Are pretty high

Caryn Hartglass
Outrageous – eight thousand calories in a day. You want to talk about some of that?

Robert Cheeke
I had so many questions in my own head about how to make those programs and whether the calories would be too high for a lot of people and things like that and I tried to put a few disclaimers in there about these are some of the things that I followed, these worked incredibly well for me and my body type and the guidelines of eating every two to three hours six meals a day those things are pretty sound for a lot of reasons, constantly keeping our bodies nourished and getting protein, carbohydrates, and fats in every meal and adequate calories throughout the day. Not over eating or under eating but just being energized and full and those kinds of things. But I wanted to not only reach a vegan audience but I wanted the book to be taken seriously by some of the biggest and best bodybuilders in the entire in the entire world, who eat five to ten thousand calories a day. I wanted to see if I could get some of those people interested because really at the end of the day it’s bodybuilders, aside from maybe football players, but I would say bodybuilders more so over eating more animal products than anybody per person. He’s talking about the biggest and strongest people in the world, they’re consuming meat and animal products ten times a day so I wanted to make sure that the meal programs were big enough for categories like mass building that that audience would appreciate too and not just brush off that oh you know this is only for skinny vegan people. It’s only two thousand calories or something. I couldn’t do that especially if they’re training for hours a day and so I put a variety of meal programs in there. I wanted to put in there the mass building because there are a lot of people vegan community or not who are looking to gain muscle and I found out that even actually especially within the vegan and vegetarian community that from the emails that I get far more often than the opposite is that people are looking to gain weight and I think there’s a reason for that. I think we’re eating a lot of well calories plant food and that’s good for health and we can continue to eat those foods but sometimes we just need to eat more of those foods to get a certain core number or intake per day because if we are spending thousands per day, which we could through our jobs, through our activities, through our soccer practice and everything else and then we’re consuming less, well then we are in a position where we can’t gain weight, we can’t get stronger, we can’t achieve this aspect and so I wanted the mass building program to be in there right up front because that’s part of bodybuilding and of course there’s toning and fat loss and maintenance programs and raw food programs and common allergens free for those that cant consume soy or gluten or wheat or decide not to and so I put a variety in there and your right at first glance and even at second glance maybe at third glance some do look a little outrageous and as I was adding them for eight months I was thinking ‘oh man some of these are so high’ but I also wanted to keep some of those in there with the really high calories for those who are burning five thousand calories a day, training three hours a day and have goals of being really big and strong and I wanted to create some programs that would work for those types of athletes too.

Caryn Hartglass
Well I guess it’s pretty simple logic. If you’re consuming a lot of calories you are going to be putting on weight and you have a choice. Do you want that weight to be flabby fat or do you want that weight to be very toned muscle. And so a lot of people consume a lot of calories and they’re overweight and they’re not muscular but if you’re exercising intensely and burning a lot of calories then you can consume a lot of calories and if you want to grow muscle you have to consume more calories but still do that intensive work.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah exactly. You said it better than me and much more concisely too.

Caryn Hartglass
That’s what I’m here for.

Robert Cheeke
That’s exactly right. Most of the country is, well this is just factual, you just look around or take a poll, hundreds of millions of people two hundred million plus in this country are considered overweight or obese or at risk for stroke or heart disease or heart attack or have diabetes currently and so yeah most people are consuming way more but they’re consuming tons of animal foods, tons of heavily processed foods or refined foods, sugary foods, sodas things like that and not exercising and that combination is deadly. I mean literarily it’s a deadly combination. So yes there is a certain level of accountability and responsibility that if you’re going to eat these higher calorie meal programs that I mentioned in there, that those are for the people that are training like machines, training like crazy, and that’s where it’s just a mathematical formula, that’s where you decide okay how much am I really exercising? And what do I need to consume and then figure it out.

Caryn Hartglass
You have a lot of different programs in here and it’s really great that you do that for people that might want to approach it differently, either on a raw food diet or just a combination of cooked foods and raw foods, and meal replacement powders and bars etc. All really good. I know some vegan athletes and they live on like twelve bananas and some other things but I don’t think you are quite on that path, I think that you have a lot of balance in here and you realize the importance of dark green vegetables, there’s a good amount of balance in here and you talk about balance, how important it is to have a variety of foods.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah. Yeah I think that it’s important if we have lots of color on our plate, lots of green foods on our plates. Nothing wrong with twelve bananas if we eat other stuff too. Those are I don’t know seventy calories per banana that’s not going to get us very far. Get us a short bike ride down the street and then we’re tired and need to refuel again. That kind of thing. I mean I eat more fruit than anybody, in fact sometimes I think I eat more fruit than people who follow raw food diet because I love fruit so much and the volume and quantity that I eat is very high but I also enjoy burritos, sandwiches, wraps, bowls with grains and beans and kale, and tempeh, those types of things. I think those all are pretty good nutritional balance and I think it’s okay to have that kind of variety in there and I think variety keeps a program going. It’s just like training, if it’s the same everyday it gets a little bit stagnant and it gets a little bit boring and maybe we decide to give up or do something different. But I think if we keep that variety going nutritionally then we have a little more fun with it, a little more enjoyment. We discover new foods that we never had before or that we never thought that we’d like but now we do and it creates for a pretty fun atmosphere.

Caryn Hartglass
Okay I know people, especially men, that are bodybuilders and they say you have to eat meat to build muscle. You heard that.

Robert Cheeke
The problem there is that we’re getting words confused. We’re getting the word meat and protein switched up. We’re thinking that it’s the same. Meat is a source of protein but so is any other type of food. Each food has higher or lower amounts of protein but they all have it and so what we’ve just been conditioned to or learned or taught or experienced is that they’re synonymous you know meat, milk, whatever, is synonymous with protein but they’re also synonymous with a lot of other things, a lot of obesity and illness and antibiotics or toxicity or recalls or all these different types of things. So what we’re looking for, and I say this in my talks, you know we don’t just crave meat, I mean if that was a word if we just crave meat well then it’d be true that you crave giraffe or zebra or something like that. What we’re craving is food that we’ve had before, experiences that we’ve had before. We wouldn’t crave something like watermelon if we’ve never had it, or a certain type of meat if we’ve never had it, and so most of us do grow up eating animal products and so sometimes it’s natural to associate those foods with protein or those foods with cravings, but we have to realize where they come from and what’s involved in the process and understand that it is not meat that we need it’s protein that we’re looking for. It’s amino acids that we’re looking for and if we want to get the best sources why don’t we go to the original sources right? Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, glucose, originally come from plant based whole foods, from fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes, beans etc. That’s where nutrition comes from in its original form so why don’t we just go there for it cut out the middle person.

Caryn Hartglass
Right. So speaking about these building blocks, these amino acids and things, there are different supplements that are sold in vitamin stores and a lot of people that are in bodybuilding that are taking a number of these things and they say that there are certain things that you have to get and you can’t get them from plant foods and I hear words like creatine, glutamine, carnitine, a lot of these different ones pop out.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah. Well first of all supplements should be used as their name suggests. Either they should be used to supplement in already sound nutrition program. There shouldn’t be any reason to feel that we have to buy supplements, put money into them, invest in them, live on them or anything like that and some can be quite dangerous. I mean we have supplements on the shelves at every popular nutrition store that has casein in there, which we know is linked to illness and perpetuating illness and it’s been displayed in a China Study, in T. Colin Campbell’s book to cause cancer growth. It’s something that shouldn’t be allowed to be sold as far as I’m concerned because it’s directly leading to incredible problems among people and animals. So that being said there are some healthy supplements. You know the body does make creatine on its own, glutamine can be found naturally, the essential amino acid is found naturally in plant based whole foods. Yes sometimes we like to add additional amounts to some of these foods or some of these supplements, amino acids, because of the impact they’re known to have, like maybe increasing strength or helping recovery for our joints or giving us an energy boost, something like that. But many of them if not all of them, that you mentioned and that are out there can be made from plants or extracted from plants and lab made and don’t have to require animal testing or to be used from animal products. But the ones that are blatantly, you know casein, and weight protein and milk protein, not only are we throwing money away, we’re contributing for our own health demise, we’re making ourselves unhealthy and we’re literary paying for it.

Caryn Hartglass
Okay. So what’s a typical day for you in terms of eating? When and what?

Robert Cheeke
Yeah sure. Well whenever I wake up, whenever that is, like sometimes i work late, sometimes I get up early because of a workout, or a flight, or travel, but when I wake up I eat fruit first and for most, my absolute favorite thing to eat no question about it. I’m eating all kinds of fruit, bananas even at twelve like your friend but I’m eating a number of bananas, oranges, apples, I try to find seasonal fruit, something that is in season. When I live in Oregon for part of the year nothing better than the summer here in Oregon with the berries that are just everywhere, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries that just grow at friend’s houses, neighbor’s houses, parents house, It’s wonderful. So I eat fruit in the morning and then maybe a couple hours later, and first of all I do eat a bunch of different fruit not just one serving, not just one apple. I’ll eat maybe two or three, and then a banana, a couple of oranges. I get sufficient calories from that first meal that’s primarily fruit based and then I’ll have some snacks throughout the day before lunch, so that could be more fruit it could be vegetables, it could be an energy bar, it could be a protein drink, it could be something heavier, vegetables, rice, hummus, whatever, and then for lunch I typically have kind of standard foods that I like, I like burritos, I like heavy weighted food, heavy burritos, sandwiches, wraps or some sort of grain, like I have this combination of Quinoa, beans, kale, tempeh, or brown rice, beans, kale or another green, and tofu, those four components. I like those types of things for lunch and then for post lunch snacks again, more fruit, more light foods, vegetables, nuts, whatever and then I usually go to the gym in the early afternoon or evening time and I’ll do an energy drink from Vega the company I work for. Pre-workout energy drink before I go to the gym and then I drink that throughout the gym, sometimes a piece of fruit right before workout too for some extra energy and then immediately post workout I love to do a protein drink all natural, from hemp protein, tea protein, rice protein, Chlorella flax, things like that, Spirulina usually from Vega but other companies too and I like that because it’s a liquid form of amino acids and protein and I can drink it while I’m still at the gym before I shower and then head out to then grab dinner. I’m a big fan of ethnic food, Thai food, Chinese food, Japanese food, I think sushi, plant based obviously, avocado rolls are one of my favorite things in the world, Indian food, Ethiopian food, I eat a lot of ethnic foods if I’m out traveling or sometimes even home and if I’m not eating that type of food post-workout again I go back to more of the heavier foods by weight. I eat potatoes, yams, brown rice, other vegetables and some sort of big bowl, big mixture have all that stuff, I’ve been doing a lot of tofu, tempeh, kale, and things like that lately.

Caryn Hartglass
How many hours do you work out?

Robert Cheeke
Well it varies. I typically workout for about an hour a day sometimes an hour and a half but if I’m getting ready for competition then I have to step it up a notch because I have to do not only the muscle building, I have to do the fat burning, I have to do the cardiovascular training, as well as the weight training, and sometimes practice posing which is just contracting muscle very hard which is essentially workout in itself, I mean by definition it is because it’s muscle contraction so then sometimes about three hours a day getting ready for competition which I’ll do more like three hours a day for maybe the final eight weeks leading up to a competition for two months and I train about five or six days a week. I haven’t missed a workout in the past six months so I’ve kept either five, six or seven days a week for six months usually a full day or two of complete rest, of no touching weights to let us recover and grow so that’s kind of what it looks like. I trained yesterday for about an hour and twenty minutes and that’s just typically standard right now.

Caryn Hartglass
What’s the culture like when you’re at a competition in terms of being a vegan.

Robert Cheeke
It’s really unique. It’s unique situation to be a vegan in bodybuilding.

Caryn Hartglass
Yeah. As you mentioned in the book it’s not an oxymoron although some would think it is.

Robert Cheeke
Right. It’s just not very popular at the moment. Doesn’t mean it’s not right or doesn’t mean it can’t be accepted or doesn’t mean It’s not an efficient way to do something it’s just not very ‘popular and we see that throughout history and in our culture and society of all kinds of things that were never popular or accepted but then all of a sudden became very, very popular you know, we don’t think the world is flat anymore. It’s fun to be there to represent veganism among mainstream bodybuilders and it’s fun to have success too. So when I win a competition which I’ve done a number of times or do very well it’s specially fun to be able to share that with everyone backstage or even on the microphone if I get a chance to win and share a little bit about my life sale to the audience and people are really surprised to learn that the person who got first place didn’t eat any animal to do that and hasn’t for a decade and a half and they find it fairly interesting and inspiring and some people keep in touch with me after that, some people change their diets after that ,it’s really fun to see that but even more fun I think is to see more and more vegan athletes, vegan bodybuilders, getting on stage and competing or more people who are current bodybuilders adopting the vegan diet to then go up on stage and compete as a vegan so I don’t have to carry the torch by myself as much anymore so it’s a wonderful community growing event that we are doing.

Caryn Hartglass
Did you ever get to meet Jack LaLanne?

Robert Cheeke
I never did.

Caryn Hartglass
Does he hold any image for you as a healthy bodybuilder…. Little guy who got strong.

Robert Cheeke
Jack LaLanne was absolutely…. the pioneer for fitness in America and inspired people all over the world and here in Portland too we have one of the, I’m in Portland, Oregon at the moment, we have one of the oldest gyms in the country who Loprinzi and the Loprinzi brothers who I believe have both passed on as well were inspired by Jack LaLanne decades and decades ago when they brought fitness a weight room, a gym here to Portland in the 50′s or 60′s and had people come and work out and do what Jack LaLanne was doing out in California so I mean you can’t say enough about Jack LaLanne and what he did for the fitness movement, what he did for people, what he did for hope of feeling healthier, and loving life. You talk about living for seven out if seven days a week and just loving every minute of it and not just living for the weekends but purely enjoying life for what it should be for every day, Jack LaLanne did it you know did it best.

Caryn Hartglass
Yeah well it sounds a lot that maybe the torch is being passed to Robert Cheeke.

Robert Cheeke

I never thought anything like that or have considered that but there may be some parallels in the way that we approach life that it should be fun and we can do it and if we just do it day in and out and love what we’re doing, it can do amazing things for other people, the inspiration and the motivation that others get from it and just this personal drive to make a difference and it’s not self-serving sure we benefit from it because we feel healthier and stronger and we get to smile a lot and have fun but it’s really about teaching other people that there’s a lot of potential out there and whatever you want to do you really can do if you’re willing to care enough about it .

Caryn Hartglass
Yes I can!

Robert Cheeke
That’s one of my favorite slogans is ‘yes I can!’

Caryn Hartglass
And you have some other projects going on you’ve got a Vegan Brothers DVD coming out. Can you talk about that?

Robert Cheeke
Yeah that’s inspired by Pumping Iron which it’s a movies from the 70s with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu and others who star in that 70s documentary about bodybuilding. You know obviously after Jack LaLanne Arnold came along and was a huge name in fitness he and Lou Ferrigno who was also in the movie they did amazing things for mainstream culture of bodybuilding and fitness and you can’t say enough about those guys either and I’ve had the chance to meet both. Arnold, actually I did the story of me and Arnold in the book and Lou and we were inspired by that and so I contacted a couple of my friends and a film maker and said “hey I’d like to do like a vegan Pumping Iron,” you know a few decades later called Vegan Brothers in Iron and follow around vegan body builders as they prepare four to three months getting ready for competition and what that’s like inside their heads day in and day out, what it’s like to train to roll out of bed when you’re tired and exhausted but still get there anyway because you’re doing it for a greater cause and so we filmed that documentary a couple years ago, I honestly thought it be out by now but it’s not and that’s …..

Caryn Hartglass
Editing takes a long time.

Robert Cheeke
It does. I mean I also thought my book was going to be out in 2009 then I realized it took additional…..

Caryn Hartglass
Writing takes a long time.

Robert Cheeke
…….Months of editing after I thought I was done with the editing.

Caryn Hartglass
But you know it’s the consistency of the practice whatever it is gets you to where you want to be. Writing a book or making a film just little by little until it’s the right time.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah. It’s taken a little longer but I think it’ll be fun when we get that out there. Jimi Sitko, Giacomo Marchese, Dani Taylor, myself, Brian Van Peski working with it filmed it. I think it’s going to be a neat project.

Caryn Hartglass
Do you have any idea when it’s coming out or not yet?

Robert Cheeke
I don’t. I which I could people do ask me about it but I can’t put a time table on it because there’s so many issues involved in it from the actual time that needs to be stacked in the editing room and the funding that needs to be there for that.

Caryn Hartglass
Yeah I can imagine the funding is a big issue.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah it always is so I can’t put a time on it right now but I keep telling people if I keep moving enough books I can speed up a lot of these projects so you know I work really hard with the book I think it has an amazing inspirational message in it and also the more popular I can get the book the more people I can bring to this movement and the faster I network with others and collaborations begin the quicker other projects can be completed.

Caryn Hartglass
One of the things I like, you included in your book are picture of pieces of your notebook where you’ve hand written logs of what you’ve eaten and the grams of proteins and the calories. There are other logs of the number of reps. and weights you’ve lifted. It’s just in this high tech world with everything in print. It’s kind of fun to see some real handwriting and to see that it’s real.

Robert Cheeke
Yeah and I am so glad I hung on to those because, and they are dated to which is really nice, to see that in 1998 or in 2000 I had these goals and aspirations to do things in this movement that ten years later I’m doing. And It took a long time but that’s where the talk about the patience and the persistence and everything like that and so I have all those documents there are many more that I could have put in but I just chose a couple.

Of them to put it in to show that 839 consecutive days of doing push-ups and sit ups, x amount per day and the types of foods that I would eat and the message that I would tell myself you know likes it’s my time now it’s my time to make a difference that kind of self-talk that I would put on paper as a kid.

Caryn Hartglass
But it’s really important to track your progress. It doesn’t take a lot of time buts it’s important because you need to have that sign that you are doing better.

Robert Cheeke
What you also need to know factually what you have done in the past and what you are doing currently because if you were to tell me right know Caryn I want to change I want to create this kind of change regardless of what it is let’s just say you want to gain strength or something. Okay, well what if you lifted in the past and what are you lifting right now because we have to have some sort of data. This is especially important, people say this term and as far as I am concerned it’s absolutely meaningless, it means nothing when someone says I want to lose weight. And that means nothing to me because what are we talking about, are we talking a specific figure, are we talking a percentage of body fat, are we talking in numbers of pounds , and what’s the reason behind it, and is there a time frame that this should be accomplished, and is there an action plan that had been created to support this because it’s a blanket statement that everyone is going to says and nobody is going to achieve unless they know what they have done in the past what they are currently doing and they have to make the appropriate changes to get the response they’re trying to get and then lose the weight, it can be done and most of us just don’t have all the tools in place to get it done.

Caryn Hartglass
Right, Now I like to keep things in an excel spreadsheet myself and that’s where I log a lot of things but there are actually software and some websites that make it really easy to keep track of your progress one of my favorite is fitday.com don’t know if you’ve ever checked that one out?

Robert Cheeke
I have I think people on my website there is training section and people post that.

Caryn Hartglass
Yeah and it makes it easy and it gets pretty sophisticated with someone else’s software that you can easily use and its free and you can see your progress in lots of fun ways I think it really help move you along. It’s a little tool but it’s so important to keep track of what you are doing. So do you have any closing remarks because we are
coming up to the end of the hour?

Robert Cheeke
Well it’s been a fun conversation Caryn thank you for having me on the show, I really appreciate you taking the time to have me and for all the great questions and the conversation and talking about unique things that I haven’t really talked about much in a lot of radio shows like my forage experience that rarely comes up.

Caryn Hartglass
Gosh I think it’s important and I’m glad you brought up the good parts about it because it is an important program I want to recommend again your website Veganbodybuilding.com or you can go to robertcheeke.com and see those great photos fabulous smile looks like you’re smiling all the time it’s a great thing.

Robert Cheeke
Thank you I wish everyone a great day.

Caryn Hartglass
Okay you have a great day too. Thank you so much for your inspiration. Bye bye.

Robert Cheeke Bye bye.

Caryn HartglassI’m Caryn Hartglass and this has been It’s All About Food thanks for joining us.

Transcribed by Alma Zazueta, December 5, 2013

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