Mr. Universe Goes Vegan

Mr. Universe 2014, Barny Du Plessis has announced in a recent interview that he’s now “all about the vegan gains”. Du Plessis won Mr. Universe 2014, and soon transitioned to being a “one-hundred percent, wholehearted, staunch warrior vegan”.


He was born and raised as a vegetarian until he was 18 years old, but when he first started training, he, like many other athletes, believed that animal protein was something magical that was required to build muscle mass. “When I became a bodybuilder I decided I needed more protein [and] it took quite a bit of work to start eating meat, I didn’t like the idea of it… I became much more dissociated with our environment.” He also says, “I didn’t really care about animals… I didn’t want to address any suffering… I couldn’t empathize”.

People say you can’t be a top athlete as a vegan. Absolute bullocks


Since going vegan, he has actually gained even more mass, now at 107 Kilos, and

he claims that there’s been no negatives. He wakes up with more energy and recovers faster. This is quite an endorsement for a vegan lifestyle from someone who takes his physique very seriously.

Barney is not the first bodybuilder to make waves with veganism – just check out, but he is the reigning Mr. Universe which puts him in a unique position to help combat common myths about veganism. “If you have a good variety of different food…like beans, nuts, pulses, grains, rice…they all have protein in them.”

As for the haters, he exclaims, “People say you can’t be a top athlete as a vegan. Absolute bullocks!”

Follow Barny on Twitter.


Pick a Phobia, any Phobia!

By Sid Garza-Hillman


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting The Discerning Brute/Joshua Katcher in person. He had been a guest (via Skype) on my podcast only weeks prior, and just by chance was able to come up to the Stanford Inn during a trip to Northern California. I head up the Stanford Inn’s Wellness Center and am the Nutritionist/Health Coach there.

Joshua, his partner James, and I sat down for dinner, and while we talked about many things (fashion included, though why anyone would wear anything other than rolled up 501’s and white t-shirts is beyond me. Maybe I should be more discerning.), the subject of protein came up. Not because any of us—all plant-based—were concerned with protein in the least, but because working at a vegan resort whose clientele are overwhelmingly NOT vegan, I am constantly asked the big protein question—where do vegans get their protein?


A couple times a week I hang out and walk through the inn’s restaurant and talk to guests. Almost nightly I get the protein question and am there to hopefully dissipate some of the fear around it. I was relating this to Joshua and James and we all decided it should probably be a phobia. And that’s when, through obviously divine inspiration, it hit: PROTEDEFIPHOBIA—the fear of protein deficiency. I think we nailed it, and now just have to figure out the hoops we have to jump through to make it official. Is there a phobia department of the patent office? Should we ‘tm’ it for now (i.e. protedefiphobia™)? Oh, the possibilities. I’m so excited about it that it must be something that deep down I’ve always wanted and finally got: I’m a co-owner of a beautiful baby phobia!


And yet, a reality check. Fear of protein deficiency is very real. As a species we are designed to protect ourselves and to survive the best we can. Often times corporations/companies/industries feed on this instinct in order to drive sales. The animal food industry is no exception. They succeed every time they convince someone that he or she will suffer greatly without intense amounts of animal protein. However, there are a few pesky facts that hurt their bottom line: 1) whole plants are full of protein 2) the human body performs best on a higher carbohydrate diet (not refined/processed carbohydrates, but whole plant ones) and finally, 3) more and more professional athletes are actually performing and recovering better after switching to whole plants. In my practice I devote a substantial amount of time and effort minimizing the fear around protein. But that’s one of the best parts of my job—helping people be LESS afraid. Less fear, more happiness and health. Pretty simple equation.

So, to those with protedefiphobia™, rest assured, help is on the way. It’s located in the produce section of groceries stores around the world.

Paleo Pitfalls

I’ve been doing crossfit for just over two years now. It’s a fantastic workout, but the crossfit industry consistently pushes a Paleo (also known as caveman) diet. As a vegan of over 15 years who performs very well in both strength and endurance, I’ve been suspicious of the hype around the idea that I need to eat muscle to become muscular. After all, I’ve gained about 20 lbs in muscle since starting crossfit without eating any animal protein.

A new 2014 study from the International Journal of Exercise Science should cause some alarm for the heart health of those following a Paleo diet:

“Our results demonstrate that an ad libitum unrestricted Paleo diet intervention is associated with deleterious changes to blood lipids in healthy subjects, despite concurrent improvements in body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness.” 

Similar to Atkins (but with better marketing) the Paleo diet definitely appeals to a machismo that we associate with the caricature of a caveman, but even the American Dietetic Association considers it a fad diet, and as more studies documenting the long-term health consequences of diets like these are published in scientific journals, we have the option of rationalizing the aesthetic appeal of a diet like this, or the option of making changes in response to concrete findings.

This is what the Plantbuilt team of 100% vegan athletes looks like, photographed in Austin, Texas this year. Derek Tresize (right of center, back row) just went pro after taking 1st place in Men’s Physique at the Naturally Fit Super Show this past July 2014. Ed Bauer (front right) is a crossfit athlete and coach as well.

Chad Byers
, Austin Barbisch, Korin Sutton, Christian Garcia, Ifpa Pro William Tucker, Billy Prusinowski, Derek Tresize Wnbf Pro, Allison Dunham, Robert Cheeke, Giacomo Marchese and Tha Vegan Dread “.


Debate: Don’t Eat Anything with a Face

By D.R. Hildebrand

Photo: Joshua Katcher

Earlier this month, The Discerning Brute covered promotions for the debate event “Don’t Eat Anything with a Face.” It got a lot of press traction. Hosted by the U.S. affiliate of Intelligence Squared, the debate featured two two-member teams arguing each side of the motion. For the motion were Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and George Washington University and his debate partner Gene Baur, founder and co-president of Farm Sanctuary. Against the motion were Chris Masterjohn, author of the blog The Daily Lipid (sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation), and his debate partner Joel Salatin, public speaker and director of Polyface Farms.

The debate was composed of three rounds, including a question-and-answer with the audience, and to my delight it maintained an intelligent, robust, and precise examination of the motion, Don’t Eat Anything with a Face. The facts and concerns the debaters addressed, on both sides, were detailed and numerous, and, at the same time, far from complete. Nevertheless, at the end of the ninety minutes the audience was asked to select a winner. The results are illuminating. editor, Joshua Katcher was in the audience and had this to say:

“The debate was sold-out, jam packed, and the popularity of this debate was such that it crashed the Intelligence Squared website! The energy both in the crowd and on the stage was intense, thought-provoking, and above all, it was nice to her that the place where 99% of meat and dairy products (CAFO’s, more popularly known as factory farms) was not even on the table for debate, being considered indefensible by both sides. At the after party, even moderator John Donvan, author and correspondent for ABC News, admitted he’d be changing his eating habits.”

For anyone passionate about food, the definition of food, the future of food, the state of farming, or our relationship to non-human animals, this is a serious investigation of all of these topics. The only related topic not considered here is that of factory farming. Both sides of the motion agree from the outset that factory farming, and all its outcomes and implications, is egregious. The panelists debate only the motion: Don’t Eat Anything with a Face. It is worth watching:

One of the main points raised by the two who argued against the position was that many animals are killed in growing vegetation. But according to research, more animals are still killed in farming them directly:

What I Learned from the ‘No Meat Athlete’ Book Tour

by Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD

Hey Discerning Brute readers! It has been a long time and boy have I been busy. Last month the No Meat Athlete book, by Matt Frazier from came out and I’m very happy to be the co-author.  Matt created his site to write about his journey to qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon as a new vegetarian. He had no idea his ethical dietary choice would improve his running, and not only get him to Boston, but turn him vegan and into a 100-mile race finisher. That’s 100 miles. Running.

The book is not about him though. It is more of a guidebook for anyone who wants to eat healthy, learn the facts about plant-based nutrition and be motivated to run or exercise more. It’s fun and informative with practical, science-based nutrition that I was fortunate to contribute. With so much inaccurate info out there about vegan diets and exercise, it feels great to hand people this book! Because when it comes down to it everyone could eat better and exercise more (Except for Ed Bauer. I think that dude has maxed out his exercise and fitness.)

Matt did an epic 6 week 40+ event book tour and I hoped on in for the Southern California, Arizona and Austin events. Each one was different- sometimes at a running store and sometimes at a restaurant- even a non-vegetarian one (“we just love what you are doing!”). The response though, stayed the same- “I am so excited to eat more plant-based foods.” We heard this multiple times at every stop. Sure, seasoned runners and seasoned vegans showed up but the majority was people who are new-ish to either plant-based eating or running and fitness- or both.

One question stands out that represents where we are going. A young woman asked during the Q&A, “We now have your book, and Scott Jurek’s and others, but what did you do before that?”

Now I’ve been vegan since the mid-90’s and athletic for the better part of that time so at first this question caught me off guard. Then later that night I realized what her question means. We’re reaching entirely new people. Duh. My NYC Discerning Brute vegan athlete talk in the Spring packed the Jivamukti Yoga School, but it was mostly vegans, athletic folks or vegan athletic folks. Great people, whom I love, but on this recent tour we did something even bigger: reached entirely new audiences.

It’s going beyond vegans and, finally, showing everyday fitness folks the benefits of eating more plant foods. And running is on the forefront of plant-based athletes. We have Scott Jurek, of course. And my friend Catra Corbett has been vegan almost two decades and is about to run her 100th 100-mile run. All I know is that 100 squared equals hella miles. Not to mention Mike Arnstein and Donovan Jenkins, two ultra-runners I featured on my Day in the Life of Vegan Athletes video series. And of course there’s the legendary British marathoner Fiona Oakes who just this week set a new women’s record for the Antarctic Ice Marathon and now holds the world record for total aggregate time of marathons on each continent plus the North Pole. I didn’t even know that was a thing and lo and behold a vegan has the record. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that your everyday runner is now interested in plant-based eating!

Originally vegan fitness was about doing athletic events to say, look we can do it too!  Now it’s: I want to be vegan for the performance advantages. And for many people the ethical and environmental reasons soon follow suit. What a beautiful thing that is happening and I am incredibly stoked to be a part of it. If you are already eating this way and being physically active you are ahead of the curve. If you’re not yet doing these things, the resources and momentum are there for you to begin right now.


Matt Ruscigno, Rip Esselstyn, and Matt Frazier at Whole Foods HQ after giving a presentation about the No Meat Athlete book and vegan sports nutrition.

Matt Ruscigno, Rip Esselstyn, and Matt Frazier at Whole Foods HQ after giving a presentation about the No Meat Athlete book and vegan sports nutrition.