PictureGiacomo & Dani w/ some of the Plant-Built athletes!
I'm really excited to feature this interview on Plant-Based Performance! Meet Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese, the co-founders of Vegan Proteins and the Plant-Built Vegan Muscle Team!

I had the pleasure of meeting Giacomo at the 2013 Atlanta Veg Fest and could tell immediately that he had a true passion not only for health and fitness, but animal welfare as well. Naturally we hit it off right away!

Giacomo immediately showed interest in supporting the Plant-Based Performance book and placed an order to resell on the Vegan Proteins website to help us further support Mercy For Animals!

Enjoy the interview and be sure to visit Vegan Proteins for all your plant-based supplement needs!

Picture
Giacomo Marchese
Picture
Dani Taylor
Tell us a little about yourself; who you are; what you do; competition background, etc.?

Dani: 
I'm a vegan personal trainer and nutritionist, co-owner of VeganProteins.com and co-founder of the vegan competitive athlete team PlantBuilt.  I am training for my first figure competition in April, but have coached many vegan competitors in the past. 

Giacomo:
I am an active bodybuilding and physique competitor, nutritionist and vegan personal trainer.  I co-founded VeganProteins.com (our online vegan supplement shop) and PlantBuilt.com (a non-profit team of vegan athletes who compete together once a year).  We spend most of our time and energy dispelling the myths that vegans cannot build muscle.  Leading by example, we hope to continue and inspire others in the same way that so many vegan athletes have and continue to inspire us.  Our hopes are that we can do the same by joining forces and facilitating community.

Tell us about Vegan Proteins, how you started the company, where you are now, and what the future holds?

Giacomo: 
It all started back in July 2008 on “vegan vacation” which was an annual meet up of Veganbodybuilding.com members.  Through that gathering, several of us collaborated, and wound up competing together at a physique show.  We asked the community for donations to help us afford to compete and promote our event worldwide.  VeganProteins.com was created as a donation portal and was a domain name gifted to us by Melissa Brey, a fellow VeganBodybuilding.com member, athlete and vegan personal trainer.  Eventually, we turned it into a business so that we could live our passion and create more opportunities to contribute to the vegan fitness community.  So far, it has been very successful!  Last year we funded and co founded a non profit vegan team of physique competitors, PlantBuilt.com and dominated the competition at our annual meet up.  This year, we have tripled in size and expect to do more damage.

Dani: 
Vegan Proteins has come such a long way from the beginning and is so much more than we ever thought it could be.  We hope to keep growing and carrying more products and inspiring more people to achieve their goals with a healthy vegan lifestyle.

How has the bodybuilding community in general accepted plant-based athletes?

Giacomo:  
So far so good.  No one is dismissing our results, they simply cannot believe that it can be done.  When you have one winning physique out there after another doing it the vegan way, the results speak for themselves.  From what i've personally seen out there, you get respect when you bring your A+ game in the sport of bodybuilding and as long as you bring your best to the table, no one gives you a hard time about it.  It's quite the opposite actually.  They wind up becoming inspired.  More and more athletes are coming to us for help because they know they can look good on stage but they want to do in the the most healthful way possible.  That's where we step in!

Dani: 
When I first became interested in the bodybuilding lifestyle, there was almost no information out there about it.  It was unheard of.  VeganBodybuilding.com has a very active forum with a few thousand members though which was awesome.  That has grown into a huge community over the years of athletes from all different backgrounds.  The bodybuilding community as a whole still has a long way to go to really embrace the idea of vegan bodybuilding, but they are always quite interested and surprised when vegans are doing well in competitions along-side them.  We're getting there. 

Why did you choose to follow a plant-based approach to nutrition?

Dani: 
I chose to become a vegetarian at the age of 12 after seeing a lobster that I had been playing with all day get boiled alive.  But even as a vegetarian, I never understood the idea of vegans, because cows and chickens “weren't hurt” to get milk and eggs, or so I thought.  One day when I was 17 years old, I stumbled across a website that explained the way that the dairy and egg industry was connected to the meat industry and other cruelties I had never heard about before, and I went vegan over night.  That was a little over ten years ago and I never looked back.

Giacomo:
Initially, I felt that it would be the way to take my game to the next level.  I was putting in all the work, so why not fuel my body with the most nutrient dense food out there?  After doing some research, there was no doubt in my mind that a plant based vegan diet was the way to go.  I continued to work hard and the results came fast.  Also, the more I learned through meeting others and by doing my homework, the more I came to realize that veganism is a lifestyle and one that needs to be embraced.  There is absolutely no reason to harm other living beings or destroy our ecosystem by consuming or using animal products.  The single greatest thing that you can do for the environment and benefit of humankind is to go vegan!
If you have experience in physique competitions prior to going vegan, do you find it easier to maintain competition shape, stay lean, and build muscle on a plant-based diet? 

Giacomo:  
It's hard to say honestly because I only did my first show as an omnivore and I was young and very new to the game.  I have learned so much more about meal planing and training now that I cannot compare my past experience competing in the same sport.  What I can say is that being a vegan athlete has not hurt and has only helped to fuel my body for the hard work that is put in every day. 

How long have you been vegan?

Dani: 
Ten and a half years.

Giacomo:  
Since December 2003, so roughly 10 years.

How has going plant-based affected your health and your training?

Dani: 
I grew up overweight and always believed that it was genetic, and basically, that it was just who I was.  I had accepted this, and was just used to being that way.  When I became vegan, I lost 30 pounds very quickly, without even trying—this was just from giving up dairy and eggs, as meat had been out of the picture for 5 years by then.  For the first time in my life, I realized that what I put in my mouth really did have an effect on my health.  I decided to start being more conscious about what I ate, and I had the confidence to begin working out as well.  I continued to lose another 50 pounds and completely reshape my body.  In addition, things like ear infections and strep throat (things I had almost constantly growing up) never happened again. Ever. 

Giacomo: 
My recovery time has improved and I continue to feel healthy and vibrant.  No matter how much I beat up my body with training, it comes back asking for more.  I couldn't be more pleased with the results of a plant based diet and lifestyle.  People have told me that I look younger as I age, which is awesome.  I've looked back at pictures of myself and you can see the difference.  It's not far off from the truth because 98% off your cells are regenerated every year and 100% of your body on a cellular level is regenerated every 7 years.  That means that you can start to reap the benefits of a plant based diet quickly and in just one year, you can actually reverse aging by choosing to consume a plant based diet.  What are you waiting for?  Give it a shot and see for yourself!

What does a normal day of eating look like for you?

Dani: 
Currently, I am cutting for a figure competition, so my eating is a bit unusual for most people (even vegans!).  But I eat 5 smallish meals a day and drink a minimum of  gallon of water. 

Meal 1: Oatmeal with strawberries and a protein shake

Meal 2: Baked tofu, sweet potato and broccoli

Meal 3: Tempeh and green beans

Meal 4: Protein shake, blueberries and peanut butter

Meal 5: Beyond Meat and a pile kale or collards

Giacomo: 
My meal program varies throughout the year.  Currently, I am working on putting on some more muscle.  In 3 more weeks, I will begin to start getting more conditioned and stage ready, and my plan will be adjusted as needed.  

-Most of my carbohydrates are consumed immediately before and after workouts, as that's when you will need them the most.

-I drink 1.5-2 gallons of water a day.

Pre Workout: I usually have oatmeal and fruit for breakfast.

Post Workout: Sweet Potato, broccoli, and mock meat for lunch (seitan, tofu, or tempeh).

I'll have 2-5 more meals throughout the day, consisting of nuts, veggies, sweet potato, and protein shakes.

One of my meals is always right before bedtime and that is usually a serving of protein and nuts.

What is your favorite meal?

Dani: 
Nothing beats a post workout meal with sweet potatoes as that is when your body is screaming for nourishment!  I LOVE that meal.

Giacomo: 
Post Workout meal, all the way!  Get me refueled and get it to me fast!!

Debunk this myth for us - “you need meat to be strong and build muscle”.

Dani: 
Haha!  Patrik Baboumian, Torre Washington, Ed Bauer, Chad Byers, Will Tucker, Austin Barbisch, Giacomo Marchese, Derek Tresize, Sara Russert, Stephanie Rice, Tiffany Burich, Pam Kalstad, Amber Sperling, Jehina Malik, Mindy Collette, and of course, Robert Cheeke. 

No, really.  I used to spend a LOT of time talking to people about how untrue this statement is, but most people interested in this topic don't want to hear facts—They want to see it.  These folks, and SO many others, do an amazing job of debunking this myth, just by existing. 

Giacomo:  
As I mentioned earlier, the results speak for themselves.  Published research studies claiming that meat is necessary to build muscle are funded by the meat and dairy industry.  Also, the government subsidizes meat and dairy farmers exponentially more than anyone else, so that is what is being put on your plate at hospitals, schools, and by the USDA.  We know better than that now though and it is simply untrue.  You could try and discredit one person's results and attribute their ability to gain muscle on a plant based diet to good genetics, or perhaps they built their body on an omnivorous diet but we are hundreds of thousands strong.  In addition, there are already so many vegan athletes getting great results that have chosen to put themselves out there, and you simply cannot dispute the fact that vegans can build lots and lots of muscle.  Our PlantBuilt.com team is a perfect example of this.  Check out any one of the 40+ athletes on our group if you need proof. 

What are your goals for training and competition?

Giacomo:  
I aim to win the overall title at a pro qualifying event and become a professional bodybuilder.  Once that happens, I will continue to work at it and win a pro show.  There is no ultimate goal.  I fully intend on going at this for the rest of my life!

Dani: 
I am currently training for my first figure competition in April and my second with team PlantBuilt in July. 

What motivates you to do what you do?

Giacomo:  
To show others that it can be done so that we inspire more individuals to go vegan.  Each person that switches from an omnivorous diet to a plant-based one, saves 100's of animals lives. 

Dani: 
Mostly the animals, but also seeing people take control of their lives and health.

Why should people consider adopting a plant-based lifestyle and what are the benefits in doing so even for people not interested in competitive bodybuilding and athletics?

Giacomo:  
From a health and wellness perspective, there is no denying the fact that the more fruits and veggies and unprocessed foods that you include in your diet, the better off you will be.  Why not go completely plant based and reap all the benefits? 

Dani: 
I don't think people give themselves enough credit.  “I'd love to do what you do, but I just couldn't give up ________”  is something that I hear all of the time.  Of course you can!  Tell me you're stronger than cheese?!  You must know that!  Many people know that this is something that they agree with and would be beneficial to their health, but don't think they're strong enough.  You never know how strong you are until you push yourself to the limit.  And once you're in the swing of it, you feel so good, that it becomes easy.  Challenge yourself to try something you didn't think you could do and when the benefits start to come to you, you'll realize how much your efforts were worth it. 
Why is it important for people to wake up and realize that we do not need to cause other sentient beings to suffer to satisfy our hunger, appetites, and to be healthy?

Dani: 
We're in a health crisis here in the US, people are starving to death around the world, and the environment is reaching it's tipping point.  And for what?  Because we like the taste of burgers?  To feed the grain of starving people to livestock?  To clear more land for slaughterhouses?  I am not naive enough to think that everything is completely black and white, but to me, this is a no-brainer when you actually stop and think about it.  If we don't have to eat animals to be healthy and thrive, and doing so seems to cause harm everywhere you turn, then why do it?

Giacomo: 
On the whole, human beings are easily the most selfish creatures around.  We need to live a more balanced way of life and realize that we are not the most important creatures on this planet.  Take us out of the equation and the Earth will not only be ok, it will thrive.  Take away the bees, bugs, or other living beings and our ecosystem will be in serious trouble.  The sad thing is that we have complete control over our impact and we choose to do more harm than good.  If we can make an elective choice to stop causing suffrage towards other sentient beings, the world will be a better place for generations to come. 

Thank you both sincerely for taking the time for this interview and for supporting Plant-Based Performance!

Dani:  
Thank you so much for the opportunity!  It's been a pleasure!

Giacomo:  
Thank you for everything you do and continue to Scott.  I'm glad that we had a chance to share our thoughts and I hope to meet up again sometime soon!
 
 
Picture
I sat down with Stic after our workout the other day for an interview to support our Plant-Based Performance project to benefit Mercy For Animals. We talked about topics from his chapter of the book "It's Bigger than Hip Hop - How Healthy Living Changed My Life", training, nutrition, lifestyle, music, Stic's concept of "Fit Hop", and OF COURSE a shout out to our friends Bonebreaker Barbell and the Ice Chamber Athletic Performance Training Kettlebell Team!

If you haven't gotten a copy of Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness yet, do so now! In addition to Stic's great story you can read contributions from people like Dr. Ruth Heidrich, Julieanna "The Plant-Based Dietitian" Hever, Mac Danzig, Amy Dumas, Matt Frazier and more! 100% of all book sales go to benefit Mercy For Animals! Click here to get your copy now!

Click here to check out Stic's bio on our contributor page.

You can also follow Stic at his website and social media pages here:
RBG Fit Club
http://www.rbgfitclub.com/
Social Media
http://facebook.com/sticrbg
Twitter & Instagram: @sticrbg

We can't end a blog with a musician without music, so check out Stic's video for "Back on my Regimen" of his album The Workout! You'll be ready to hit the gym and get some work done for sure!

-Scott