Interview with Jimi Sitko: Vegan Bodybuilder
Written by Leigh-Chantelle
Created Thursday, 20 December 2012
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I chose to go vegan after seeing what happened to my body after I quit eating dairy and bread. After reading Skinny Bitch, I started reading more and more books on the processing of all foods and got quite disgusted at how things were made. I joined the Vegan Body Building and Fitness forum and got even further educated on issues involving food, diet, and health. It wasn’t an overnight process but has been an exceptionally awesome process at that.
How long have you been vegan?
I started the going vegan process back in 2007 and had a goal to become 100% vegan by the age of 30 and can now say I am (I turned 30 in August).
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
The main benefits from being vegan are my health and physique. I haven’t gotten sick at all while being vegan and my body looks like a well-defined bodybuilder’s body all year round usually (check FB for proof). I’ve also transitioned into not eating out and I cook all my own food. I know what’s going into my food, how long it will take to cook, and enjoy the foods I like and don’t have to choose from something I don’t.
What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism is a main part of my life. I’m constantly teaching people from day to day what it’s like to eat like I do and be an athlete and succeed in the fitness world. It means respecting not only animals but all things living too.
What sort of training do you do?
I mix it up every day & every week. Some days I want to lift heavy weights while others I might want to let my muscles relax and just run up to 10 miles or bike upwards of 30 miles.
How often do you (need to) train?
To be in the best shape and look that I like to go for I need to workout twice a day for close to 2 hours each time. I get a lot done too so there’s not a whole lot of resting time in between.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I am a NETA certified personal trainer and its what I currently have been doing for the past 6 years professionally.
What sports do you play?
I don’t play sports per se but do consider myself an athlete. For example, last year I decided to run a half-marathon in November. I hadn’t run anything past a 5km (3.1 miles) that year really. I didn’t run the week of the marathon and still finished it in a 9:40/mile pace. I have competed in Bodybuilding both natural divisions and non-drug tested division (NPC) as a drug-free athlete and have gotten 1st place. I also bike when I get bored with weights or running.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
A strength of mine would be helping people. I love to teach people about health, fitness, and exercise and what it means to succeed in all areas. My main weakness is not really a weakness to me but is seen as one in the business world and that’s giving advice and helping people for free. I do it all the time without compensation and sometimes that not as productive financially. It's how I am and what I love to do so that won’t change, whether I'm broke or rich.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
A big misconception I get is that vegans don’t eat enough food. I hear it all the time that I must not eat because I’m so lean (and defined.) That clearly isn’t true. I just have a great willpower not to eat bad foods. I see how many people here in the South are obese and sickened. I don’t want to be and won’t be like that ever.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
I don’t have to train for anything particular to be successful. I do exercises that I enjoy and then push myself in competitions to see how well I do against people who specifically train for it. Usually I come out ahead of a lot of people. In addition, I stay lean year round so at anytime I can go run a long distance or compete in a bodybuilding competition without preparing ahead of time for it.
What is your biggest challenge?
I don’t like to chew my food. I know-I know… bad Jimi. I usually take a bite, chew 2-5 times and then swallow. Its crazy, but it all goes back to being raised without food so I tend to scarf it down.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
People who see what I’ve achieved on a plant-based diet and are usually wowed and if not before, are then supportive. I hear a lot of people say you cannot gain muscle or do this or that but I have proved most wrong and have set the bar pretty high within my community.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
They respect the fact that I do it, but are in no way interested in doing it themselves. Their loss right?
What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that you are a vegan and how do you respond?
How do you build so much muscle not eating meat? I respond by telling them "the same way someone who does eat meat gains muscle. I eat the foods I like and make sure they’re lean and they have some protein.”
Who or what motivates you?
My biggest motivator has been the friends I’ve met through the vegan bodybuilding site. Robert Cheeke I idolize for everything he does, what he believes in, and how hard he works to reach his goals.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Sometimes I eat just a Larabar and a banana and other times I eat oatmeal (in vanilla coconut milk, nut/seed/fruit mixture, and cinnamon) or tofu scramble.
Lunch - 1-2 cups of brown rice and 1-3 avocados.
Dinner - It changes as my mood does. Mostly it involves tofu (cooked numerous ways), veggies (leafy and cruciferous), brown rice/quinoa, and avocados (yes I love me some avocados)
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - You will almost always catch me with a palm or two of bananas at one time. I’m always getting comments that I’m either part monkey or I’m going to turn into a monkey once I eat all 6-12 bananas. I also like to eat apples and Tortilla chips (don’t hate).
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Tofu and brown rice.
Calcium - Spinach
Iron - Spinach
What foods give you the most energy?
I have the most energy when I have some leafy greens like green leaf lettuce and brown rice.
Do you take any supplements?
Currently I take a pre-workout drink called Vega Sport and a brown rice protein by Nutribiotic.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - My #1 tip for gaining muscle is to squeeze on the contractions and to eat different type of plant-based proteins.
Losing weight - Smaller portions, cleaner foods, and a little bit of cardio. I can get my body fat to levels under 5% just by eating more produce (vs. packaged) and smaller portions.
Maintaining weight - Just do what you normally do. Most people aren’t always constantly gaining or losing every single day.
Toning up - Stick to a regular 4- 5 days a week workout regime and decrease breads, oils, and sugars.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
When people ask me questions regarding my physique or just plain awesomeness in the gym I always first and foremost tell them I’m vegan and I’m still looking for ways to expand my kombucha drink line Jimbucha.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
Anyone interested in veganism, fitness, personal training, or whatever do research. Read the facts and opinions for yourself and make your own opinion on what you’ve read. Most everything is trial and error. If you’ve tried something before and stuck to it and it didn’t work, well then do something else that may work. Be creative and inquisitive with everything you do in life.
I have a website with a blog, photos of past competitions, and updates of what's going on. My wife, Tonya keeps a fitness and vegan dietary journal which is very popular and sometimes gets as much as 1,000 views a day.
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