Meat and muscles have long been considered a dynamic duo. The puns alone speak volumes: meatheads and beefcakes anyone?
But the world is changing, and no longer is meat considered the wondrous protein source of yesteryear. Thanks to flicks like Forks Over Knives, people of all kinds are getting on board with plant-based protein -- musclebound dudes included.
A poster child for the meatless revolution is pro wrestler and vegan advocate Austin Aries. A star of Spike TV's Thursday night TNA Impact Wrestling, Aries also hits the road to speak about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Austin is making his way to Miami this weekend for a "Meet and Eat" at Choices Vegan Café, so we spoke to the strapping lad on ditching meat, his daily diet and herbivore-haters. Check out the QA after the jump.
Short Order: What made you first adopt a plant-based diet?
Austin Aries: It started with just the basic idea that red meat may be bad for me. Then discovering the truth behind our corporate farming system and all the scientific evidence that almost all animal products can be quite detrimental to our health and the environment. It made my life choice very easy.
Do you ever find it tough eating a plant-based diet living in Florida, as well as when you're traveling the world? Miami can be difficult. Is the Tampa area friendlier to vegans?
Well, it's been a process of figuring out what and where to buy the foods I eat. Compared to places like LA or NY there definitely aren't as many options, but if you seek them out there are some. I mostly cook at home and am lucky to have Nature's Food Patch down the street from me. It's like a small Whole Foods, which are also in the area. I do almost all my food shopping there. As for the road, I always come prepared with protein powder and pre-cooked packets of lentils. I also use HappyCow.net as a resource to find veggie/vegan/natural food places wherever I am traveling.
Courtesy of Austin Aries
Have any fellow wrestlers ever hated on you for being vegan?
Nah, at least not to my face! Outside of the usual poking fun we all do to each other, most are really respectful knowing it's something I've been committed to for a long time. More often than not, they are more curious than anything knowing my food usually looks and tastes great!
What would you say to dudes who think they need to eat meat to gain major muscle?
Do some research, don't be afraid to challenge "conventional wisdom." Understand where all the messages we believe to be true come from, and then realize there's always another side to that coin. Protein comes from all types of sources, and eating enough and a variety of plant based food, including nuts, seeds, legumes, and veggie protein powders made of rice, pea, and hemp can provide more than enough quality protein.
To maintain the muscles, what's a daily menu look like for you?
Usually start with a Vita-mix smoothie. Banana, spinach, kale, blueberries, carrots, and sweet potatoes can all find their way into it depending on my mood. I also add pumpkin or hemp seed or almond or peanut butter and a scoop of veggie protein powder. Then over the course of my day I'll eat things like quinoa, beans and rice, lentils, and a serving or two of tempeh, which is fermented soy bean, and very high in complete protein. Occasionally I'll add a faux meat product like Tofurky sausages, or pepperoni and make a vegan pizza!
What do you think it'll take to turn the tide for most Americans to start moving away from meat-eating?
More scientific evidence to keep coming to light until the corporate food industry is forced to come out and admit the products they've been peddling to us are indeed unhealthy, much like the big tobacco industry finally had to. I believe they know the poison they push. It feeds our sickness and ailments, which in turn feeds the "health care" and pharmaceutical system. People need to realize we have turned the responsibility of sustenance and the foods we're told to eat over to big corporations who are only concerned with one thing: profit. This isn't my grandma's and grandpa's farm anymore. This is a whole different system in place and the sooner people pull their head out of the sand, learn about the food products around them and the choices we have as consumers, the sooner we can take the power back and force these corporations to have social responsibility to put the consumers, the animals, and the environments well being before their own greed.
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Austin is appearing this Saturday, March 8th, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Choices Vegan Café, 646 NE 79th St. in Miami. The event will take place immediately after TNA Fan Interaction. You can also score a free organic iced tea with any purchase by mentioning you're there for the Austin Aries Meet and Eat. For more from the meatless athlete, you can also join his 144K+ followers on Twitter.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.