Healthy Hero: Dominick Thompson

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photos by JP Bevins

Dominick Thompson is a real New Yorker. He works a demanding day job, started his own business on the side, and still finds the time to stay healthy and vegan while training hard for triathlons. LÄRABAR, famous for their simple, real ingredients that you can actually recognize, asked The Discerning Brute to spend a day with Dominick and get to know the insights, secrets and strengths of this healthy hero. We chased him around on foot, on wheels, under weights and in the kitchen and even caught him sharing his favorite Cashew Cookie bar with a squirrel friend.

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Joshua Katcher: People who live in NYC are notorious for having the busiest schedules. What does your typical day look like and how do you make time to work out and eat well?
Dominick Thompson: I work 10-12 hours a day Monday-Friday. That doesn’t include any special projects I’m managing that may involve late night hours or weekends as well. However, I do create time for training and even competing in races as they are important to me and my health. There is simply no excuses to not be healthy and train efficiently in this day and age. My typical work day includes me rolling out of bed to train from 5am to 7am. That gives me plenty time to shower and head into the office. I spend my lunch hours training as well whether its at the gym or going outside for a run through the busy streets of Manhattan. By the time I leave my office in the evenings, I have one thing on my mind, and that is to go hard in my third training session for the day which usually lasts 2 hours after work.

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JK: You’re in amazing shape. What’s your motivation for staying fit?
DT: The physical and mental feeling one experiences when they are at their peak level of fitness is something that is just as addicting as life itself, and life itself is truly my motivation.

JK: What’s your workout regimen like, and are you currently training for any competitions?
DT: I’m currently training to compete in my next Ironman, with hopes of qualifying for the Ironman Championship held in Hawaii. I currently log over 120 hours of training per month.

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JK: Who are some of your heroes? How have you inspired others to get healthy?
DT: With respect to physical health and athletic achievements, I didn’t have any real life heroes growing up. The only hero in my life in terms of athletic achievements was the person I used to stare at in the mirror everyday before and after football practice. To understand this, you would have to understand my past. To be brief, all I saw growing up were individuals just trying to survive the day to day struggles of life and poverty. The last thing on their minds was being healthy. Not having any male role models drove me to teach myself how to play football and to get involved in other team sports on my own. It also taught me how to think very critically and grow up fast. Without going too deep, let’s just say that I used the negative things and experiences I saw growing up as inspiration to do my best and to be the opposite of what I was used to, both on and off the field. Now in my adult life, I have inspired others by showing them they can thrive and still perform in athletics at a high level all on a vegan diet.

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Cashew Cookie

JK: Do you make time for fun?
DT: I do make time for fun, but I also consider competing in endurance sports such as triathlons and marathons as fun. I love them!

JK: Let’s talk food. What’s a great pre-workout meal, post workout meal, and snacks for in-between?
DT: I like things simple and healthy. I juice and consume a variety of berries for pre-workout fuel. If I’m out on a long bike ride, I re-hydrate with juiced watermelon and eat bars like LÄRABAR throughout my ride. The Cashew Cookie bar is one of my favorites. The best thing about LÄRABAR is that it’s only a few, simple ingredients like cashews and dates. Post meal is always bananas and juiced fruits.

JK: What are some common myths you dispel simply by being you?
DT: That you can’t be strong on a vegan diet. I’m actually stronger now that I am on a vegan diet than I was when I consumed animal products. In fact, my strength training has only improved.

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JK: What music gets you pumped? What ideas inspire you?
DT: It varies. Depending on the day or the mood. Sometimes I rock out to Tiesto and other times I crank up some Young Jeezy. I love all types of music. Kings of Leon is one of my favorite bands. As for what inspires me, people that work 9-5 jobs while competing as weekend warriors in marathons and other athletics inspire me! It is the very reason I formed IRON BRUKAL, which represents The Working Athlete.

JK: What’s something every guy should know?
DT: That compassion defines one’s intelligence with respect to all life itself.

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JK: What is something every guy can do right now to start getting healthier?
DT: Honestly, cutting out all meat from your diet is the first step in my opinion. Your children and grandchildren will thank you in the future when you are still living and able to play catch with them.

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Colts’ Plant-Powered Griff Whalen

photo: NFL.com
photo: NFL.com

Griff Whalen has to be exceptionally fast, strong, and calculating. That’s the job of the wide receiver, one of the most demanding positions on the football field. It’s also said he has one of the most enviable physiques in the NFL, so it’s no surprise that Whalen’s choice to be a self-described “plant powered athlete” is drawing controversy from teammates and fans. In the past few weeks Whalen has been tweeting images of Vega products, tweeting shout-outs to ultramarathoner and vegan Rich Roll, and generally being incredibly positive and motivated by his new vegan routine.

 

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photo: colts.com

In a recent interview for the Indy Star, Whalen is grilled about being what they call “a leaf eater”. It seems the choice to forgo masculine, animal-based foods never ceases to amaze or invoke the stereotypical responses, despite a wealth of easily found scientific and nutritional research and a roster of vegan athletes that should speak for itself. But in the article, they show how his positive example is even rubbing off on other players:

Whalen’s dietary choice piqued the interest of punter Pat McAfee. During the off-season, he gave it a try.

“I decided I wanted to change my body a bit,” said McAfee. “I had no idea what exactly I wanted, but I knew if it looked anything like Griff Whalen’s, I’d be good to go. The dude might have a 14-pack.”

So, McAfee had Colts executive chef DeWitt Jackson start whipping up the same exact meals that Whalen was eating. He calls it “some of the most interesting stuff I’ve ever consumed.” – The Indy Star

 

Muscle, Vegan Heavyweights & Strong Hearts

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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.

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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.

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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 “.

 

BRUNO CARVALHO: Vegan Warrior Royalty

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Bruno Carvalho is 32 year-old welterweight MMA champ who is a Brazillian transplant living in Sweden, training with Team Carvalho at Allstar Training Center. His warrior lineage is no surprise, with a grandfather who was a seventh Dan in Judo and founded the Itapagipano de Judô Club in Brazil in 1966,  a great-uncle who was a Vale Tudo legend, and an five black belt uncles, one of whom gave Bruno his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu in 2003. Bruno went on to win more than fifty trophies in Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Submission Wrestling, among them four BJJ State Championships and a Silver Medal at the European Championships in Jiu-Jitsu in 2007.

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Bruno had an eight-fight unbeaten run from 2009 to 2011 which culminated in capturing the Middleweight Championship of World Freefight Challenge, the biggest and most professional Mixed Martial Arts organization in Southern Europe – but Bruno’s last fight in October of 2013 ended with Carvalo knocked out. For the last several months, Bruno has been training hard, preparing for his next fight against Norwegian Moshen Bahari on March 22, 2014. Part of Carvalho’s edge is that he has been vegan for over two years, and credits his veganism for the seemingly limitless endurance that he displays while training seven-day weeks.

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Bruno took a break from training to have a quick chat with me:

Joshua Katcher:  Bruno, when was your last fight and how did it go? When is your next, and what are you doing to prepare?
Bruno Carvalho: My last fight was in October of last year [2013], it didn’t go so well. I’ve been dealing with lots of injures and personal stuff. I’m fighting Moshen Bahari on March 22, 2014 in Denmark, and I’m preparing very well, all the shit has passed, and now it’s full focus!

JK: You grew up surrounded by martial arts. Your family is a sort of ‘martial arts royals’. What was that like, and did you ever consider doing anything else?
BC: That was and is the best thing I can think of and wouldn’t ask God for something else! Never considered doing another thing, that’s how my family lives and that’s what I love to do!

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BC: I read a looooot about everything, love to read on nutrition, health… All vegan related book and athletes, also successful people’s biographies. From them we can always learn!

JK: You moved from Brazil to Sweden. Was that a bit of culture shock? Did it have anything to do with your veganism? How long have you been vegan and why have you chosen to be vegan?
BC: It was a big shock in all areas! I came here to teach and train, I wasn’t vegan at the time (unfortunately).  I started as a vegetarian and feeling the progress in my life and training, the vegan tradition came along and now it’s been 2 years.

JK: MMA is a hyper-masculine world. Caring about animals and being vegan isn’t necessarily seen as “masculine” by the mainstream. How do your family, friends, teammates and competitors respond to your veganism? Have you experienced any misunderstanding, bullying or ridicule because of it?
BC: Well, there’s always lots of jokes and questions, but the results and my performance show them the reality! I really don’t care when they joke, I just love to prove them wrong.

 

JK: You captured the Middleweight Championship of World Freefight Challenge. What does your training regimen look like as far as food and exercise in order to be a champion?
BC: I love to train very hard, and as much as I possibly can every single day. That’s one reason I became vegan, because it gives me the advantage to recover faster and train harder! I train every day of the week, even on Sundays I do a complementary sesh! Diet wise, I eat lots of fruits, salads, veggies, shakes…. You love to eat too!

JK: I do love to eat too, but I don’t work out as much as you do! What issues do you care about the most, and how do you address them?
BC: I care the most about health and performance… But of course I’m an animal lover and having watched many vegan videos and movies, I just can’t be contributing to violence against animals. We must respect all kinds of life!

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JK: Do you know any other vegan athletes? Do you guys ever talk and trade advice?
BC: Yes! My good friend Akira Corassanii in NY is a vegan fighter, and I always talk to other vegan and vegetarian athletes and check their FB pages for news.

JK: What is your signature move?
BC: I have good throws because of my judo background, and on the floor I always get omoplatas and triangles!

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JK: You’ve traveled a lot for work. What are you favorite places you’ve been, and where is the best vegan food int he world?
BC: I loved Thailand, and Middle Eastern countries are very attractive too! Best vegan food? Hmmm, always at home!