Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My Experience with Team Plantbuilt 2014!

PictureBack on the platform! Photo by Stic of Dead Prez
I know I’ve been missing from the blog-o-sphere for a little while now and I apologize. I promise it was for good reason.

Remember 7 years ago when I said I am quitting powerlifting? Well……..

As many of you know I am a big proponent of a plant-based lifestyle and am a huge supporter of animal welfare. In fact, the book that I published last year, Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health and Fitness, was written specifically so that 100% of sales revenue would go to benefit Mercy For Animals, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

If you would like to get a copy for yourself and read chapters from myself and 18 other plant-based athletes and health & fitness professionals like former UFC fighter Mac Danzig, former WWE superstar and Hall of Famer Amy “Lita” Dumas, from the hip hop duo Dead Prez, endurance athlete extraordinaire featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives and the book Born to Run Dr. Ruth Heidrich, and many others; click here!

That book is where this whole thing started.

Team Plantbuilt 2014!
Powerlifters Kelly and Sara bringing home the hardware! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Some of the ladies of Team Plantbuilt!
Scott, Bonebreaker, & kickin' it at the after party!
Vegan bodybuilders proving you don't need animal protein to build muscle!
Jason Morris went 8 for 9 and hit personal records in the squat and deadlift in his first powerlifting meet! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
At the 2013 Atlanta Veg Fest, I met Giacomo Marchese, who along with his fiance’ Dani Taylor, own the an online sports supplement store that specializes in vegan nutrition products. Together they had formed Team Plantbuilt, a group of vegan physique athletes (bodybuilders, figure and physique competitors) who competed together at the 2013 Naturally Fit Super Show in Austin, TX to show the world what could be accomplished by following a cruelty-free diet. Did they succeed? They only represented 10% of the competition, but came away with 40% of the awards, I’d say that was a massive success! In addition to winning numerous 1st place and overall awards a few of their athletes even won their pro-cards!

Giacomo had inquired about purchasing the Plant-Based Performance book to sell through his web-store and support our similar goals. As time passed and he and I talked more, he asked if I would join Team Plantbuilt for 2014 and that they were going to have athletes competing in the 2014 Naturally Fit Games in Austin, TX in physique (that was a fast NO for me!), CrossFit (again, sorry but that’s not my cup of tea), and powerlifting (well heck, I used to do that) and that’s all it took, I was in for the powerlifting squad. But wait, I hadn’t trained seriously for powerlifting in over 7 years and was currently in the middle of my training cycle for the 2014 Florida State Kettlebell Sport Championship. As it turns out, following the FL State kettlebell meet, I would have exactly 12 weeks to prep for the Naturally Fit Games.

After the kettlebell meet, I got back in the gym and tested my three powerlifts. For not training them in over 7 years they weren’t horrible, but as to be expected they were way below what they used to be. I made a 335 squat, a 225 bench and a 365 deadlift and my previous bests were 450 / 315 / 463 respectively, albeit weighing 220 and not the 183 I was currently at.

After pushing the big-3 for 4 weeks I took some heavy singles again and was sitting at a 365 squat, a 230 bench (with a massively aching shoulder), and a 425 deadlift. These were pretty good gains, but the pain in my shoulder was constant and lasted days after that bench. I decided to play it smart and not do the full meet, opting for the deadlift-only division instead. (Side note - in powerlifting most full meets offer bench only and deadlift only divisions for specialists.)

This put me about 8 weeks out from the competition and this was right about the time our fundraising campaign was starting. Granted one of the reasons we compete together as Team Plantbuilt is to show people that you can accomplish health, fitness, and athletic goals while following a compassionate lifestyle, but above and beyond that we do what we do to support animal welfare. Our fundraiser was put together through Indiegogo and the plans were to donate the money we made to vegan non-profits, vegan-outreach, and most importantly animal sanctuaries specifically Pigs Peace, Edgar’s Mission, For the Animals, and Our Hen House.

Our fundraiser was a huge success and when it was all said and done, with all the effort from the 31 members of Team Plantbuilt, we had raised over $40,000.00! We could not have accomplished that in such a short time without the entire team’s dedicated effort and the support of our family and friends. Thank you all for supporting us in our efforts!

After the fundraiser was over we had a few weeks left before our meet up for the Naturally Fit Games in Austin, TX. We continued to do PR work for our team and all began peaking our individual training cycles for the competition.
Some of Plantbuilt's bodybuilding and figure competitors! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Carolyn Napier in the CrossFit competition! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Plantbuilt's CrossFit team!
Picture from Dead Prez treated us to a private performance!
Team Plantbuilt's after party!
Plantbuilt's powerlifting team!
Scott, Matt, & Jason after the "Giacomo Pizza Incident"!
Sara Russert - squatting her way to a state record! Photo by Donovan Jenkins
After getting to Austin, the team met up in the middle of the week before the actual competition that was scheduled for Saturday, July 26. This allowed those of us who’d never met to spend some time getting to know each other, as well as gave my fellow powerlifting teammate, Jason Morris and I the opportunity to shuttle various team members all over Austin, including but not limited to, numerous trips to local fitness centers and about a billion trips to Whole Foods. Well, really it was more like 7 trips, but I’m writing this blog so I can exaggerate as I see fit. All it took was one super high calorie plant-based powerlifting meal consisting of crazy awesome BBQ tofu, sweet potato fries and an insane vegan Belgian chocolate cake and Jason was pretty much my new bestie.

In addition we spent the week prior to the competition having team meetings, doing photo shoots with two amazing photographers Melissa Schwartz and Donovan Jenkins, and interviews with the coolest vegan dietitian on the planet, Matt Ruscigno and his partner Sasha Perry who are doing a great series of documentaries on vegan athletes for their project called Strongest Hearts which you can check out here: a side note - Sasha and Matt made this week way more enjoyable for the powerlifting team, thanks you two! 

The location of the official events was at our teammate Chad Byers' training center, Beyond Fit. Over the two days of team meetings we received all the amazing donations from our sponsors, including: Vega, Health Force / Warrior Force, Plantfusion, Vegan Proteins, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Upton’s Naturals, Clean Machine, and more. One of the highlights of our team meetings for me was to hear my powerlifting teammate, Mike Wolf, talk about the work he and his wife have done for animal welfare. It really drove home why we do what we do and it is great to know there are people out there like those two who devote their lives to helping animals.

Saturday, July 26 was the day of the Naturally Fit Games. This was a huge fitness expo and competition with events ranging from bodybuilding and various physique competitions, to CrossFit, powerlifting, MMA, jiu jitsu, weightlifting, roller derby and more.

Plantbuilt had athletes competing in the physique events, powerlifting, and CrossFit. For many it was their first time competing. To say that Plantbuilt did well would be a complete understatement. The CrossFit event was huge and extremely competitive. The powerlifting event had 125 lifters competing in different events. The bodybuilding and physique competitions had a huge turnout as well, but it seemed like Plantbuilt just kept winning!

By the end of the day the results looked like this:

CrossFit - Wodapalooza

Amber Sperling - 2nd place women’s Rx

Carolyn Napier - 5th place women’s Rx

Ed Bauer - 12th place men’s Rx

Billy Prusinowski - 13th place men’s Rx

Powerlifting - USPA Simply Fit Championships

Sara Russert - 2nd place women’s open, and set Washington State records for squat, bench press, and deadlift

Kelly Colobella - 1st place women’s sub-masters, and set Utah State records for squat, bench press, and deadlift

Crystal Moulton - 1st place women’s open, and set Utah State records for squat, bench press, and deadlift

Mike Wolf - 1st place men’s open 242lb. class, bench press only

Jason Morris - 3rd place men’s open 198lb. class

Scott Shetler - 1st place men’s sub-masters 198lb. class, deadlift only

Bodybuilding / Physique / Figure / Model / Bikini / Transformation

Austin Barbisch - 2nd place men’s masters physique, 1st place men’s masters bodybuilding

Chad Byers - 2nd place men’s open physique

Christian Garcia - 3rd place men’s novice bodybuilding lightweight division

Giacomo Marchese - 4th place men’s open bodybuilding middleweight division

Dani Taylor - 1st place open figure tall division

Athena Iglesias - 2nd place novice bikini short division

Jehina Malik, IFBB PRO - did not compete due to current pro status in the IFBB

Korin Sutton, PRO - 1st place men’s open bodybuilding light-heavyweight division

Torre Washington, PRO - did not compete but came to support the team!

Will Tucker, PRO - 2nd place men’s masters bodybuilding, 4th place men’s open bodybuilding lightweight division

Robert Cheeke - 6th place men’s open physique

Derek Tresize - 1st place men’s open physique *qualified for pro card!

Erin Fergus - 1st place open fit body, 1st place open women’s bodybuilding

Elana Priesman - 4th place in the transformation competition

Mindy Collette - 2nd place fit model search

Samantha Shorkey - 1st place open bikini tall division, and overall open bikini champion *qualified for pro card!

Ashlee Harrison - 1st place novice figure short, overall novice figure champion

Melissa Hauser - 2nd place open figure short division

Pam Kalstad, PRO - 4th place figure

Sally Andersen - 1st place novice figure tall division

Tiffany Burich - 3rd place open figure tall division, 3rd place open fit body

We wrapped up a long day of grueling competition at the Austin Convention Center by hitting Arlo’s Vegan Food Truck on the way back to the hotel to pick up a massive pile of plant-based burgers and fries to take back along with all of our trophies for our post-competition celebration. These were easily the best vegan burgers I’ve ever had! If you’re in Austin you need to make it a point to stop at Arlo’s Food Truck, you won’t be disappointed!

On Sunday we all headed back over to Chad’s gym for our team after-party which started out with a vegan barbeque catered by BBQ Revolution. The food was amazing! After the lunch we were treated to a private performance by from Dead Prez! Stic came out to Austin with his wife Afya, and son Itwella to hang out with the Plantbuilt crew at the expo on Saturday and donated a private performance and meet and greet for Team Plantbuilt and our family and friends who attended the after-party on Sunday.

After the amazing food and performance, the team headed over to Austin’s kick ass vegan ice cream shop, Sweet Ritual for dessert. All I can say is wow. Sweet Ritual was killer and a great way to unwind and wrap up a long and busy week.
PictureWe do it for the animals who don't have a voice of their own... Photo by Donovan Jenkins
Finally Monday morning rolled around, and just like all good things the 2014 Team Plantbuilt event sadly came to an end. Way too much other cool and fun stuff happened this week, as would be expected when you put 31 like-minded vegan athletes all working toward the same goal together for five days.

Bonds were formed, friendships were made, and team camaraderie was built. There was the infamous Giacomo pizza incident, the powerlifters having fun with forbidden foods at the bodybuilder’s expense, the Jason / Mike / Austin ammonia cap experiment, the knuckle bumps, the conversations, the pep-talks, the support, the chalky hand slaps on the back after the announcer calls out “the bar is loaded”, the selecting of the attempts, the personal records, the missed lifts, the weigh-ins, the spray tans, the asparagus-TONS of asparagus, the posing practice, Robert’s George W. impression, the Sara vs. Stic push-up challenge, the Scott vs. Austin posedown in the middle of Sweet Ritual, the numerous trips to Whole Foods, the powerlifters finding out what Sasha really thought of them, the powerlifting team's post-weigh-in donuts, Matt sleeping in the laundry room, the smiles, the tears, the hugs, the plans to get together at future events, and something about a junk sock.

Above and beyond all of this our teammate Austin Barbisch, after winning his bodybuilding division summed it up best, and I am paraphrasing, “We don’t do this for ourselves, we do this for the animals who have no voice of their own.”

After everything was said and done one thing is certain, Plantbuilt will be back in Austin for the 2015 Naturally Fit Games; bigger, leaner, stronger, more conditioned, and ready to show the world that the only thing we kill is the stage.

Stay Strong and Healthy!


Team Plantbuilt 2014 - The only thing we kill is the stage!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

5 Easy Steps for Switching to a Plant-Based Diet.

PictureWith one of my vegan inspirations Robert Cheeke!
Since switching to a plant-based diet I’d have to say that aside from the obvious “where do you get your protein from” question, what I hear the most are objections to why other people just can’t do it. Usually it's too expensive, too hard, too restrictive; when in actuality it is none of these!

Keep in mind, I never to people what they should or shouldn’t do. I am not one of the “on my soapbox” preachy vegans. Unfortunately there tends to be some negativity around the “v-word” which is one of the reasons I try to avoid it at all cost when talking with people who don’t follow a similar lifestyle. As soon as you say vegan, many people immediately become defensive even though I never push my opinion on anyone.

Now, on the flipside of that, when people start arguments with me about why we need animal protein, how you can’t get strong or build muscle without it, and other caveman or apex predator bullshit, or try to convince me that there is such a thing as “humane slaughter” I will not hesitate in calling them on their bullshit and voicing my opinion. Particularly when the people that tell me they love animals are plowing through burgers in the same breath.

It took me some time to come around to the idea of eating this way and actually make the change. In hindsight it really isn’t that hard. Not at all.

That being said, here are 5 simple steps to successfully adopting a plant-based diet. If you apply one step per day, you will be 100% plant-based in less than a week. If you apply one step per week, you will be 100% plant-based in just over a month. If you require the requisite 21 days to form a habit, then simply apply one step per month and you will be 100% plant-based in just under half a year.

The take-home point here is to focus on progress and not perfection. If you follow this approach you will be looking back and agreeing with me that the whole process is really very easy.

One important point to remember is calorie intake. You will have a very hard time trying to substitute a spinach salad for a 16 oz. steak or a plate of bacon and eggs. Be sure to swap animal-based dishes with plant-based dishes of similar caloric density.

Step 1 - Cut out all red meat.

Step 2 - Cut out all white meat.

Step 3 - Cut out fish.

Step 4 - Cut out eggs and dairy.

Step 5 - Start being aware of the hidden ingredients in foods, particularly baked goods that use butter, milk, and eggs.

Bonus! Step 6 - Volunteer your time with an animal rescue, shelter, or rehabilitation facility and give back to those living beings who are treated as commodities. Remember, they don’t have their own voice, if you truly love animals be the voice for them and support people and organizations who dedicate their lives to animal welfare.

If you want to support a great animal welfare organization, order a print or ebook copy of “Plant-Based Performance: A Compassionate Approach to Health & Fitness”.

This book is made up of contributions from 19 vegan athletes and health and fitness pros including myself, from Dead Prez, former UFC figher Mac Danzig, WWE superstar and Hall of Famer Amy “Lita” Dumas, Julieanna “the Plant-Based Dietitian” Hever, Dr. Ruth Heidrich who was featured in the documentary Forks Over Knives and in the book Born to Run, and many others. 100% of book sales go to support Mercy For Animals, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals as well as promoting compassionate food choices and policies.

Click here to learn more about Plant-Based Performance and how you can help us support Mercy For Animals!

Now that we’ve talked about what not to eat, check out what you can eat.
  • Fruits. Spare me the “fruits are sugar and will make you fat” bullshit. It’s like my friend John “The Badass Vegan” Lewis says, “Fruit doesn’t make you fat. It’s that gluten-free brownie that makes you fat.”
  • Vegetables.
  • Greens.
  • Oats, rice, and other healthy sprouted or whole grains.
  • Nuts & seeds.
  • Beans & legumes.
In spite of what many people would try to have you believe, it is 100% possible to not only survive, but to totally thrive and be healthy while following a 100% plant-based diet. You can excel as an athlete as well. There are far too many real world examples of this to believe anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

You want strength and power? Look at strongman Patrik Baboumian and NFL defensive tackle David Carter.

You want physique? Look at professional bodybuilding champion Torre "Tha Vegan Dread" Washington and IFBB professional bodybuilder Jehina Malik. A side note - Torre has been vegetarian since birth and vegan for the last 16 years and Jehina has been vegan since birth.

You want endurance? Look at ultra runner Scott Jurek and ultraman triathlete Rich Roll.

You want a multi-sport athlete? How about ultra runner, bodybuilder, and long distance rower Austin Barbisch.

You want verification from plant-based Registered Dietitians? Look at Matt Ruscigno and Julieanna Hever.

If you want even more examples, look at my 30+ teammates on the Plantbuilt Vegan Muscle Team at and browse the numerous profiles at - the website started by the original vegan bodybuilder, Robert Cheeke!

Going plant-based is easy. Much easier than you would think or that it’s made out to be. Make sure you are getting a lot of fresh, raw, plant-based foods in your diet, focusing on variety. This will ensure that you are getting the entire spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that are abundant in plant foods. Throw in other steamed and cooked vegetables, healthy unprocessed grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds and you’ll be good to go! You will have all the macro- and micro-nutrients you need to be healthy and strong.

If you are interested in how I transitioned to a plant-based diet, as well as my approach to true health, check out my book,“Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit”. Click here!

Good luck and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m more than happy to help in any way I can!

-Scott - My Atlanta-based private training center. - My online consulting and coaching site. - My personal site. - My site with information and projects to benefit animal welfare.