Interview with Billy Simmonds: Vegan Body Builder
Written by Leigh-Chantelle
Created Thursday, 11 April 2013
Billy Simmonds is an Australian Professional Natural Bodybuilder, Powerlifter, Martial Artist and Vegan. He is currently working as a Stunt Performer and Nutrition Consultant. He is the winner of the 2009 Mr. Universe title, holds multiple Black-belts in Martial Arts and has set world titles performing feats of strength. He is a passionate advocate of a vegan lifestyle for its health, environmental and ethical benefits.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
As a teenager I started to learn about what was on my plate - where it came from and what it was doing to my body. I became vegetarian then later on vegan.
How long have you been vegan?
Vegetarian for over 14 years, vegan for 4.
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
A clearer conscience, more energy and a sense of purpose.
What does veganism mean to you?
Each and every person who decides to be vegan makes a massive difference. From literally saving animals from suffering and death, to improving their health and the environmental benefits - being vegan means seeing the bigger picture and saying I'm going to do what I can and take a stand.
What sort of training do you do?
I compete in natural bodybuilding, powerlifting and martial arts competitions. Depending on my specific competition goals I will temper the volume of each to accommodate each modality. I also incorporate yoga and other cross training into my schedule.
How often do you (need to) train?
I'll train typically twice a day - weights in the morning and martial arts (Taekwondo/Hapkido/Muay Thai/Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) in the evening.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
I personally coach people on a one on one basis to assist with their nutrition planning specifically for body recomposition.
What sports do you play?
Other than my main disciplines - I love surfing and enjoy going for a run or doing sprints, which helps my overall fitness.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
The biggest misconception is that its a disadvantage physically and even socially. I have never felt better, been fitter and even many of my non vegan friends love coming out to eat with me at veg restaurants. I've learnt how to make the nutrition aspect work and also control my environment so there's only upside.
What are your strengths as a vegan athlete?
Nutritionally I'm eating specific high nutrient, alkaline foods that fuel my body for performance, growth and repair.
What is your biggest challenge?
Only those I set for myself!
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
My putting myself out there in competitions and winning I would say that they see my approach as a legitimate alternative to the 'traditional' methods - and many are open to learning more.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
My parents thought it was a phase but over the years they have become more and more supportive and respectful.
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?
Of course the cliche "Where do you get your protein?" but also "What exactly do you eat?" There is still a lot of mystery around vegan nutrition and the idea you can't feel full, let alone get enough protein. I'll always just discuss the sort of foods I eat and why they are more beneficial than animal based foods.
I'm motivated by being the best example I can of what can be achieved physically and ethically. I strive to excel in what I love doing and don't believe in the idea that I can't be strong and muscular because I'm vegan, that I can't be fast or flexible because I'm a bodybuilder, and that one person can't make a difference.
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - Green smoothie with raw Alkaline Protein Powder, banana, berries, avocado and spinach
Lunch - Tofu or tempeh, bean and kale salad
Dinner - Bean pasta with seeds and steamed greens, perhaps a yam if needed
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - Rice cakes with almond butter, raw vegie sticks with hummus, fruit and dark chocolate.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - at the moment its a toss between mung bean pasta, tempeh and Alkaline Protein Powder
Calcium - Greens like kale and nuts like almonds
Iron - (the gym - LOL) and of course dark leafy greens, lentils and broccoli
What foods give you the most energy?
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - lift heavy weights, eat protein rich plant foods, be patient and do it naturally
Losing weight - reduce your portion sizes, do more cardio, cycle starchy/sugar carbs and take your time
Maintaining weight - find your baseline Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and get the ratio of protein/fats/carbs right
Improving metabolism - do more High-intensity interval training cardio
Toning up - same as above
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
By trying to create the most compelling contradiction of what a 'typical vegan' is so that others just simply have to ask. People are much more receptive when they are asking the questions.
If you wear the vegan badge then wear it proudly, and realise that people will make a judgement if its right for them based on how well you articulate and demonstrate its benefits.
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