Joe Clark

Vegan Lifter Project

Do vegan male powerlifters have a kind of “inbuilt religion” toward veganism – one that overwhelms the urge to eat red meat that tags along with the urge to get big and muscular?

I suspected the answer was yes. I worked from an assumption that only the uninformed (or weak, or spindly, or female) would contest: The bigger and stronger and more muscular you get, the more your urge to eat meat. To eat like a man, essentially.

As a researcher of decades’ standing I knew I had to fact-check my own ass. I’m the kind of verificationist who will read over 70 economics papers to determine if a claim is true. So I looked up a few dozen male vegan lifters on Instagram and Twitter and asked them if they’d help out. About 15 responded substantively. (Many more popped out of the woodwork subsequently, by which I mean Instagram’s algorithms pointed me to more such subjects. As is now the case in the United States, huge numbers of them were black: African-Americans are vegan so often now it’s barely notable.)

I posed not very many questions and didn’t change those questions much from respondent to respondent.

Body size

Where possible I asked for everybody’s height and weight. That wasn’t popular.

I explained my hypothesis that vegan lifters hew toward the ripped/lean/six-pack-abs style of fitness rather than bulk and thickness. That seemed to be true.

(Mark Rippetoe: “An adult male weighs at least 200 pounds.”)


Two questions asked how they’d prefer to be named (if at all) and by what means they wished to communicate. Reduced to their essence, the remaining questions were as follows.

What would you say was your path to veganism?
“my insistence on consistency and general hate for hypocrisy”
“an ethical choice related to animal welfare”
“I made the connection that what was on my plate was once a life with the same feelings as me”
“In high school I started eating meat again, but I always felt guilty about it”
“The mental connection was made that eating meat was not only unhealthy and unnecessary, but wrong”
“I had to step out after it was finished and ended up crying in the school bathroom for a few minutes”
Were you lifting before, during, and after this conversion to veganism? Would you agree that “conversion” is an apt term?
(almost nobody agreed with the latter)
What do you think of the proposition that being big and strong and meat-eating are such a package deal that it seems odd and even incomprehensible that a large and muscular male might be a vegan?
“I think the thought of being big and strong being associated with voracious omnivory is a well-justified proposition”
“The biggest, strongest animals on the planet are plant-eaters”
“I think there tends to be a ‘manly’ fantasy around eating meat”
“I think, of course, that it’s complete bullshit – usually perpetuated by metrosexual guys in skinny jeans and perfectly trimmed moustaches”
Just free-associate between the words “vegan” and “masculine.” What comes to mind there?
“I feel that people who choose to eat a vegan diet for ethical reasons are incredibly strong”
“Being manly means wielding your sword wisely”
“I would say not eating animals is more manly because you are standing for and protecting the weaker and innocent”
What do you think of the issue of bigorexia or body dysmorphia?
“I feel that the majority of physique-minded enthusiasts and athletes experience some form of body dysmorphia”

All results and notes

This posting, the full Q&As, and related notes are
collated at my personal Weblog ☞

Updated 2018.11.29 13:03

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