The last person you’d ever expect to go vegan would be the stereotypical “meathead” of the gym: slamming down whey protein, packing in meat, and putting down vegetarians. Yet vegan bodybuilder Derek Tresize was just that guy.
As a vegan, it’s easy to look at that beefy beef dude in the gym who pounds down the whey protein, crams in as much meat as physically possible and makes fun of vegans and think: “what a d—che!”
Wait, that wasn’t my point.
It’s easy to look at such a person and think: “there’s no hope he’ll ever go vegan.” but today my vegan guest was that guy! [not that I’m calling him a douche, mind you…he himself says he did these things…so it’s not like I’m…well…let’s just get to the interview…] [tweet this]
This video is the third in the vegan athlete series and I’m honored to introduce the first male of the bunch, the almost inhumanely built and aptly named Derek Tresize [pronounce “tree-size”]. [tweet this] most fitting last name ever:
Derek and his equally built and stunning wife Marcella Torres are the team behind veganmuscleandfitness.com, where they have shared their training and nutrition tips, recipes and more since 2009. They also own Virginia’s only plant-based personal training studio, Root Force Personal Training. Get it…root force? [I was amused]
Derek is a three-time natural bodybuilding champion and pro bodybuilder with the world natural bodybuilding federation. He is also an A.C.E. Certified personal trainer, is certified in plant-based nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell foundation and Cornell University, and holds a bachelor of science in biology.
So how exactly did this meathead become a jacked vegan advocate? Let’s hear it from Derek himself! To hear his entire story, be sure to check out the video, but here are some choice nuggets:
“I went vegan in 2007. And it’s kind of funny because I was actually a big whey protein, red meat enthusiast. The kind of person who would knock vegetarians for all the stereotypes that they have. You know, being malnourished, weak, whatever; I was that guy. So when I met my girlfriend, who’s now my wife, so that worked out, she was vegan and she presented it from an entirely different angle. Rather than talking about animal treatment or anything like that, she said it’s healthier, and that at the time blew my mind, I had never heard that. I didn’t even have a clear idea as to why red meat was bad. And she gave me books. She gave me a number of books, one of which was The China Study. And that one really resonated with me because I was pursuing my degree in biology, and that’s a lot of biological research in there. And I considered myself a health nut so right then and there I was like ‘okay, I’m going to try this this. I’ll give it 30 days’.”
“I felt much better. I had better energy, my workouts were going great, everything felt great. And then I was thinking ‘okay, if this [animal products] is bad for me I’ll have it as a treat once in a while’…so I went out and had a big steak dinner right after my 30 days, and I felt terrible. It made me sick, it’s like I swallowed a bowling ball, for like 2 days. So that really drove it home for me that this stuff is bad for you. You know, the second you get it out of your system your body can’t even process it anymore. So after, probably a couple of more times of trying that I was like ‘okay, I’ll try and go out and have a treat again’. Each time it tasted worse and made me feel worse. So, I was like, forget it, what’s the point, forget it. And since then I learned so much more about the environmental impacts, about the treatment of animals because I had no idea, and just the real all encompassing health benefits of a plant based diet. And so, I am very very much an advocate now, and I do everything I can to promote it. So, it’s been a journey.”
On how accepted being vegan is in the bodybuilding community:
“Being vegan…is gaining traction I’ll say. Even for almost 5 years since I’ve been doing it, I remember in the gym people would just aghast when I told them I didn’t eat animal products. And backstage people had no idea, they…could not believe it. And now at my recent contests telling people I’m vegan, they’re like ‘oh that’s cool! I have a friend who’s vegan’. So, you can really see people getting more familiar with it and are being more in touch with vegans in normal life. So, now I’m getting almost everyday someone is like ‘I’m working with a trainer, I’m vegan, I’m trying to lose weight or get in shape. My trainer says there’s no way I’ll be able to do it without chicken breasts and whey protein’. We get inquires like that all the time, so it’s still very much a misconception that you cannot be fit without animal products, that’s still very prevalent. I’m working everyday to change that, and it is changing, it’s noticeably changing very quickly. But it’s still…I think the doctrine and the…just the belief, the large number required is still held by the majority.” [tweet this]
On the impact being vegan has had on his athleticism:
“When I went vegan I was being the meathead, literally, that I had been. I was pretty frightened. I was like ‘oh no, I’m gonna get skinny, I’m gonna be weak’. You know, all these ideas that I had. But I had looked up Robert Cheeke’s website, I looked up veganbodybuilding.com [and thought], “okay, there’s people doing this so it can be done.”
So, I just tried eating a lot of food. Not all of it was great, a lot of it was fake meats and stuff like that, but I was just eating a ton of food, and I felt great. I was amazed at how I felt. My energy was noticeable better immediately. You know, I have done like diets before where you try an eat clean and shed body fat. And when you cut a lot of junk food out you feel kind of cleaner and lighter. It was like that feeling but more so even though I was eating some processed foods. I was like ‘wow, this feels great’. My recovery was better. I actually noticed that my performance, if anything, improved.
So, I didn’t lose any strength at all. I might have gained some. But the really remarkable thing for me, I’ve always had a pretty good metabolism, I’ve always been pretty lean. During those 30 days, even though I was not eating carefully at all, I lost probably 5lbs of body fat. [It] just fell off of me. I was running 10-15 miles a week, I was weightlifting almost everyday. I was very careful about what I was eating in terms of, lots of protein, lots of beef, lots of protein powders. And then I started this vegan thing where I don’t know what I’m eating, I’m just trying to get enough food, and then my body fat just falls off—and I was amazed. I was like ‘this is awesome!’
I feel better. I’m leaner without trying. So, it was a really positive experience and I was willing to wait because I thought the opposite would happen. But I’ve seen that, working with clients, I’ve seen that over and over again now where people are…they have a lot of trepidation and then they try it, and their body just loves it, their body just responds really well. And they’re like ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’” [tweet this]
-Derek Tresize, vegan bodybuilder
I hope you enjoyed hearing Derek’s conversion story from meathead to meat-free. Stay tuned to the series for more with him including his epic bean smoothie recipe and advice on how to simplify training with all the conflicting advice out there.
And be sure to check out his links below to connect!
Now i’d love to hear what you thought of his unexpected turn. His story, I think, is a great example of why it’s important to share the vegan message with everyone- even those you may believe unreachable. And thanks so much to Marcella Torres for lighting the vegan fire in Derek!
If you enjoyed this unlikely conversion story, do share it around to show that everyone and anyone can be awakened to living compassionately.
— Emily Moran Barwick