Interview with Austin Barbisch: Vegan Trainer & Bodybuilder
Written by Leigh-Chantelle
Created Thursday, 20 March 2014
Austin Barbisch is a full time personal trainer and massage therapist and has been since 1996. He is interested in pretty much anything involving the human body including nutrition, postural correction and how the body adapts to different training techniques. He also loves running, completing his second 100-mile ultra in February 2013 and winning a 24 hour race December 2012 with 115.32 miles. Austin does bodybuilding shows as well, with two completed shows in 2013 resulting in four 2nd place trophies. Other hobbies include sculpture, photography, coffee shop and bookstores dwelling. His main passion right now is to show how a vegan lifestyle can support our personal health, the health of our fellow animals and the world we all live in.
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
I switched to a plant based diet for ethical reasons. I had seen factory farming atrocities in the media long ago, but somehow managed to displace that reality from my everyday life. I met a few vegan friends, and started to realize that in order to live in ethical truth, just being kind to my neighbor was not going to cut it. Being vegan makes me feel like I am doing something kind for the world and the beautiful life forms running, flying and swimming on it. If my instincts don’t lead me to kill an animal, then I have no place eating one.
How long have you been vegan?
Since July of 2012.
What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
My recovery after strenuous work is much faster and I seem to thrive on one less hour of sleep (that's 15.2 days of conscious life a year.) I have had increased cardiovascular endurance, taking 35 minutes off my last 100 mile run as well as placing higher in bodybuilding competitions (4 second place trophies and 1 third place!)
What does veganism mean to you?
It means treating the world as you would like to be treated.
What sort of training do you do?
I run and lift weights. I train and compete in ultra-marathons in the cooler part of the season and switch to competitive bodybuilding as it warms up.
How often do you (need to) train?
I train on a five-day split with chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs having their own day. I train pretty intensely, trying to break prior weight or rep records every time if possible. Starting with a few warm up sets, I get up to my heavy lifting with low rep sets, finishing up with lots of drop sets or high rep burnouts.
Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Yes, I train out of Gym One in Austin TX, and also do telephone consultations.
What sports do you play?
I compete in ultra-marathons and body building shows.
Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?
When I first started this journey into a plant-based diet, I was fairly sure that my running would probably get better, but my bodybuilding would suffer. I feel that most people currently feel that vegans are not very athletically competitive, and will go back to eating meat after they get tired of being weak and lethargic. I have been breaking all of my previous running and lifting records since turning vegan.
What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My recovery after strenuous work is much faster and I seem to thrive on one less hour of sleep. I have had increased cardiovascular endurance, taking 35 minutes off my last 100 mile run as well as placing higher in bodybuilding competitions.
What is your biggest challenge?
To continue to increase my running endurance while gaining more lean muscle mass.
Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Many fellow trainers gave me grief about my decision. They said I would run my muscle off with too much running and a plant-based diet, but are now starting to respect my decision based on proven muscular gain and running performance.
Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
My awesome family is supportive in any endeavor I pursue. Most of my friends know I'm crazy, but not stupid, so they were also supportive.
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?
The ever popular "How do you get your protein?" to which I answer, “It's in the plants.”
Who or what motivates you?
I am extremely motivated to prove the performance improvements that can be obtained from a vegan diet, under the guise of my selfish desire to help the animals who don't have freedom or a voice to stop their senseless slaughter.
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:
Breakfast - I usually start my day with a Proto-mocha-latte. This is a breakfast concoction that I have been relying on for the last 10+ years to start my day. It is comprised of 2-4 cups of coffee, a cup of almond milk and, currently, Plantfusion protein powder. Sometimes I add a ½ cup of oatmeal for additional carbohydrates.
Lunch - I try to get one or two nice big salads into the day (mixed greens, chopped apples, pears, steamed cauliflower, broccoli, nuts and a good dressing tossed with lots of nutritional yeast.) I usually make a smoothie with protein powder, frozen bananas, strawberries, blueberries, and some type of green like Kale, spinach or frozen broccoli after my workouts.
Dinner - Usually the salad bar at Whole Foods, or a repeat of lunch
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) - I very occasionally have an almond or coconut based ice cream at parties, but keep it out of my fridge. I do keep a bag of Beanito chips and grandma's hummus handy most of the time though. The sweetness of my protein powders seems to quench the sweet tooth most of the time.
What is your favourite source of:
Protein - Plant fusion cookies and cream protein powder and Wildwood tofu (non-GMO and sprouted)
Calcium - Green salads, nuts and fortified nut milks
Iron - Greens, nuts and hemp protein
What foods give you the most energy?
My proto-mocha-latte of course!
Do you take any supplements?
I take Arginine (vita cost house brand), Creatine and beta-alanine (Jarrow brand) when I'm prepping for a body building show. These are natural amino acid compounds that help in recovery and strength. I also take a multi vitamin and glucosamine HCL (from Deva) daily.
What is your top tip for:
Gaining muscle - To train with total intensity using 8-15 rep sets. I love to reach failure in a set and feel the burn, because that’s when the muscle is forced to adapt by growing. Just make sure you don't work the same body part more than every six days or you may not allow your body enough time to heal the damage in order to grow bigger and stronger.
Losing weight - Dropping processed food out of your vegan diet and reducing the daily caloric input slightly. I also recommend fasting a couple of hours before bedtime. Cardio 3-6 days a week in 30 min bouts helps me finalize my stage conditioning.
Maintaining weight - If it ain't broke , don't fix it. If, however, you want to replace your fat weight with muscle, then I would refer to the gaining muscle advice and drop all processed foods as a starting point.
Improving metabolism - Eating consistently throughout the day with high intensity weight training sessions and short, fast cardio sessions.
Toning up - Cutting processed foods, with 2-5 weekly workouts and 3-5 20-minute cardio sessions.
How do you promote veganism in your daily life?
I try to promote it by example. If I can look healthy and do well in races and shows, the results will speak for themselves.
How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?
For non-plant based eaters, I would recommend they switch for a month just to see what happens to their energy levels. For fellow vegans, I would love to see them at bodybuilding shows, running events, or some awesome sport that I'm not involved in. Anything to spread the plant based message. We have animals to save!
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