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PlantBuilt coach and bodybuilder, Korin Sutton, proves once and for all that vegan athletes can not only build muscle but also win medals and smash world records!
Korin is a coach at PlantBuilt and Vegan Strong, an ISSA Certified Sports Nutritionist and Fitness Trainer, a Mad Dogg Athletics Certified SPIN Instructor and has a degree in Exercise Science. He was in the military for 8 years and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom III and IV.
As a vegan athlete, Korin doesn’t worry about his protein intake one bit. He’s proudly putting the stereotypes to rest about vegans, muscle growth and athletic performance.
Vegan Muscles for the Win
Like many of us, Korin wasn’t always vegan. Now, he gets to travel the world and help others grow strong and healthy on a vegan diet. He does so with the help of Vegan Strong and PlantBuilt.
Vegan Strong is a nonprofit organization that travels to different food and fitness expos to promote veganism. PlantBuilt helps connect athletes in the vegan world, helping them train, compete, and educate their communities, while showing the success of compassionate veganism.
Now, there is definitely a rise in vegan and plant-based athletes. Taking place on October 7-9, 2022 at the Mr. America competition, one of the biggest bodybuilding competitions in the world, PlantBuilt made up about 10% of the contestants. And they medaled over 18 times. Some of the individuals broke world records! That means that out of that team, about 75% of the team medaled, placing in the top three.
This proves that you can be strong, an athlete, and vegan at the same time and you don’t need animal or whey protein to compete at a high level. And the athletes at PlantBuild don’t just stop there. They use this opportunity to promote veganism and animal rights.
During the competition and in daily life, Korin is noticing an increased interest in this topic. He sees plant-centered eating expanding within the fitness and bodybuilding community. From the outside looking in, it seems like they are slowly crushing the ancient myth surrounding protein deficiency within the plant-based community – quite literally.
Korin knows first-hand how you can turn your life and personal beliefs around if you know the right arguments. For him, it was hearing a talk by Gary Yourofsky. It was blunt, it was tough, and it was honest. After that, he transitioned slowly from an omnivore diet to being pescatarian and gradually went more and more plant-based – until becoming 100% plant-based about eight years ago.
But the thing that really encouraged him to take the final step and change his mindset entirely wasn’t just because of the talk he heard. It was because he had been through war. As a member of the United States Marine Corps and a total of eight years in the military, he deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom III and IV. He’d seen violence. He knew what it did to society. He’d witnessed its impact on innocent people – so what was the difference to animals? He no longer wanted to be part of that movement; he didn’t want to do any more harm.
The Vegan Athlete
Once he started to cut out more and more animal products, Korin saw some changes in his body. He was losing body fat, he had more energy, and his skin was clearing out. Naturally, like for most people, once he realized it was going well for him, he continued going down that road until he was fully plant-based.
With the help of his major in exercise science and certification as a nutritionist, he started balancing out his diet. He started adding more protein and gaining some of the weight back that he lost at the beginning of his transition. And yet, he still attributes the reason for his physical appearance to be based more on his active lifestyle, rather than his protein intake.
Back in the day, there wasn’t really much processed, convenient vegan food. So, Korin was automatically eating whole food plant-based. Over the years, his diet has evolved as more and more vegan products come to market. But he still relies a lot on whole food plant-based ingredients.
As he adapted his eating over the year, this gave him a greater insight into the reality of eating, as there are so many different shades of being plant-based. According to Korin, the misconception is that “it’s either I go all the way, 100% organic, super purists, or nothing at all”. But what about transitioning slowly? What about the gray area? Luckily, he is helping others see that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – which he knows very well himself.
During his training and studies, Korin also started to notice more problems within the fitness industry. Some people only limit themselves to the knowledge of what they want to consume themselves. Some people stop educating themselves once they get their certification. Some people continue to teach their clients what they know without investing in their own personal continuing education. Luckily, that comes really easy to Korin as he loves learning more about nutrition and fitness. And that allows him to successfully bust misinformation around protein.
The Protein Myth
It feels like in nutrition, there always needs to be a scapegoat. Especially within the fitness industry, according to Korin, people are so insecure with themselves that they have to find something or someone to blame if they can’t achieve something. But they don’t see the hard work that goes into bodybuilding.
Korin spends about 3 hours a day in the gym, which is not possible for most people. So how could the average gym goer get the same results without putting in the same effort? According to Korin, it’s easier to blame the lack of protein, rather than gym time.
But protein is Korin’s daily bread – quite literally, as he consumes it mostly by eating tofu and seitan, the latter being pure vital wheat gluten. But he also eats a lot of other foods like rice, beans, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fruits, all of which contain protein in various amounts.
When it comes to protein shakes, he tells people that they don’t need to drink protein shakes if they go vegan. But, in his industry, most people already consume protein shakes. So, then those can just be made vegan, easy peasy. Luckily, nowadays, for most animal products out there, a vegan version exists.
Thanks to his various education, Korin knows how to build a balanced vegan plate with a lot of protein. He is all about those great combinations, like adding in some hemp seeds with his rice and beans, which he has with seitan and avocado in the late afternoon.
If you add that to his morning shake, some tofu scramble for brunch, you really get colorful and nutrient-dense meals that provide enough protein for a bodybuilder. That will put the vegan protein myths to rest once and for all. Plus, it shows that high-protein meals can be budget-friendly and quick.
Korin doesn’t shy away from fiber either, even though there are many false claims about bloating circling the web – most of that originating from the fitness and wellness bubble. These false claims leave out the importance of fiber and a healthy gut for overall health. And, let’s be honest, what about bowel movements? That’s really not the kind of access weight you want to be lifting every day.
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