Interview with Mark Chapman, Vegan Bodybuilder

mark chapman

Mark Chapman is a professional vegan bodybuilder from Central Oregon. He has been weight training for over 30 years but just started competing shortly after his 50th birthday in 2017. He earned his Pro card at his 4th show. Mark is also a retired police sergeant from Orange County, California. Here we get his insight on being a vegan athlete.

When did you decide to go vegan?  What caused the change?

My wife and I went vegan over 10 years ago after being vegetarian for about 10 years. We have always been against the cruelty of animal agriculture and decided that we would not contribute to it any longer. The health benefits were also a plus but were not the driving force at the time.

What was the hardest food to give up and how did you overcome it?

I honestly can’t say I had a hard time giving up any animal-based product. I was never “addicted” to cheese or any dairy product and had many digestion issues with animal flesh. For those that find it hard to give something up I say just do it. Most people use the excuse of not being able to give up a particular food simply because they don’t want to, not because they can’t.

How did you make the connection between diet and disease?  A lot of people don’t seem to make that connection.

I am the type of person that strives to be very educated on a subject when I decide to participate. When we went vegan, I read all the Engine 2 Diet books, The China Study, The Gerson Therapy books and countless other articles and studies by prominent plant-based doctors. I also felt the connection as I eliminated all animal-based products from my diet I felt much better and had more energy.

What results/benefits have you seen by going on a plant-based diet?

Prior to adopting a plant-based diet I had blood pressure issues as well as frequent stomach discomfort and diarrhea. I was a police Sergeant at the time and was taking 2 different blood pressure medications for about 10 years. I was vegetarian at the time which just goes to show how bad dairy products are for the body. Once I switched to a vegan diet all my stomach issues and diarrhea disappeared and I was able to stop all my blood pressure medications. I now have below normal blood pressure and am 10 years older than I was when I was on meds.

Another benefit is that I rarely, if ever, get sick. I think the last time I had a cold was over 2 years ago and even then, it was very mild and over in a couple of days. When your body is not compromised by hormones, antibiotics and other drugs present in animal-based products you enjoy a healthy immune system that is able to fight off viruses and other bugs.

How do you get enough calories for body building on a plant-based diet?  How many calories do you require per day?

I really don’t know how many calories I consume in a day. I have never counted or payed attention. I know that I get over 150 grams of plant-based protein every day and my carbohydrate intake will vary depending on whether I am prepping for a show or in the off-season. I use the mirror as my guide and will vary my food intake based on how I look. I never get more than 10 lbs over my stage weight in the off-season, so if I am getting too heavy from off-season goodies I will simply cut back for a week and get my weight back in check.

As a competitive bodybuilder I am always adding muscle mass so year after year my stage weight is increasing which I why I use the mirror as a guide. As an example, in my first shows of 2017 I went in at a stage weight of 149.6 lbs. Now I have a show in May 2018 and my stage weight is 154 lbs. So, over the year I added a little over 4 lbs of muscle mass. It goes to prove that you can get plenty of protein on a plant-based diet and build quality muscle mass, and I am doing this at 51 years old.

What is your typical breakfast?

My typical breakfast is oatmeal with flax seed, chia seeds, raisins, hemp hearts and some molasses for flavor. We use soy milk to cook the oatmeal. In the off-season we will have pancakes or waffles on Saturdays because you have to live, right? I also have a protein shake right after my workout which is before breakfast.

What are examples of some of your favorite dishes?

There are so many good vegan foods it is just ridiculous, but some of my favorites are black bean and potato pie, Cornish pasties with black beans and potatoes, and sweet potato lasagna.  For treats, homemade vegan doughnuts and of course (non-dairy) chocolate.

What are some of your favorite high protein sources on a plant-based diet?

My main protein source pretty much year-round is homemade Seitan. It has as much protein as lean beef and very few carbs. We also make tofu “jerky” with extra frim tofu and teriyaki sauce. During the off-season we will eat several different varieties of beans, but they are too high in carbs for when I am in contest prep. I also eat Pepitas (raw and unsalted) year-round as they are a good snack and very high in protein.

Do you know how the body assimilates plant protein vs. animal protein?

Yes, plant protein is easily absorbed into the body where animal-based protein can be hard to digest and make the body work harder to break it down.

You have small dogs that are also vegan?  Do you think a vegan diet would work for bigger dogs?

Yes, we have been feeding our dogs a vegan diet for about 8 years. Our last set of dogs that passed away a few years ago were vegan and lived to be over 15. Our current dogs have been on a vegan diet since we adopted them, and they are thriving and go out on several mile walks every day.

There is no difference in the physiology between a large dog and a small dog, so a vegan diet will work just fine. The only difference will be the amount of food they eat. We have been using V-Dog food for many years and it is a great choice. You have to order it online, but the shipping is fast, and they have treats as well.

Have you inspired others to go vegan?

Yes, I know of a few people who have made the transition based on conversations with me. I also know I have inspired countless people that I do not know at bodybuilding competitions who come up to me after the show and am amazed that I am vegan. I get lots of questions and I always make myself available to them. I have given out my email address to many people and offered them to contact me with any questions and several of them have done just that.

Do you have any tips for people to transition to the vegan diet?

I think the best thing is just to do it. If you are skeptical, try it for 30 days and see how you feel. Most likely at the end of 30 days you will not go back as you will feel and look so much better. I would also caution against buying too much pre-packaged vegan foods or foods that are meant to imitate animal products. Even when they are vegan, pre-packaged foods are still high in sodium and fat so you will not get as good a results as if you ate a whole foods plant based diet. Pre-packaged food is also very expensive compared to buying the raw materials and making it yourself. There are many, many great cookbooks on the market to help the new vegan create incredible meals for very little money.

Do you think you’d go back?

I don’t think there is any logical reason to consume animal products. You can get all the nutrients you require (except B-12) from a plant-based diet. The cruelty of the industry has only gotten worse over time and you are literally killing yourself by eating animal products. If you choose to live with a clean conscience and enjoy all the benefits of healthy eating, then a plant-based diet is the answer. Understanding that you are greatly reducing if not eliminating the risk of heart disease, stroke, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, asthma, skin related issues and a ton of other common medical problems simply by adopting a plant-based diet should be a no brainer.

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