For those that don’t know Robert Cheeke, he looks like an above average bodybuilder pumping iron and throwing down on meal preps looking for that next gain. However, any vegan who has touched a weight has heard of him and seen his iconic flexing thumbs up. Robert Cheeke takes well deserved pride in being a natural vegan bodybuilder and entrepreneur who inspires others to achieve their body goals and to keep on pushing to a healthier compassionate lifestyle.
Robert grew up on a farm in Corvallis, OR where he adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1995 at age 15. Today he is the best-selling author of the book, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness: The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet, and his latest book, Shred It!.
As a two-time natural bodybuilding champion, Robert is considered one of VegNews magazine’s Most Influential Vegan Athletes. He tours around the world sharing his story of transformation from a skinny farm kid to champion vegan bodybuilder. Robert is the founder and president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. He writes books, gives lectures around the world, and maintains the popular website, VeganBodybuilding.com. He is a regular contributor to Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine, a multi-sport athlete, entrepreneur, and has followed a plant-based diet for 20 years.
Robert was generous to sit down with us after a long trip (and before another) and talk about his book, training, diet, and keeping your eye on the goal. We’re certain anyone from the novice to the seasoned lifter can get a lot from what Robert brings to the table.
We asked Robert if he ever feels the need to or is put into the position to defend a vegan lifestyle when going to the gym. He finds that he doesn’t really get approached about the topic too often but he does get noticed given his size and his gym attire. Robert is, of course, always ready to answer questions and provide information to anyone looking to learn more.
His journey started back before the internet (yes that time existed, I was surprised too). His sister being vegan before him paved the way by sharing information and exposing him to the reality of animal cruelty. Robert went vegan around the age of 15 and found an interest in activism.
Robert had a couple of “ah-ha” moments that lead him to a compassionate lifestyle. One of which was growing up on a farm and being in the 4H program. In the program he raised cattle (he lovingly calls his buddy) for show which would be sold off. When he realized they were being sold off for food and not to “another home” it was a wake up call.
After Robert’s 10 year stint in bodybuilding he decided to take a break and put his knowledge and experiences down in a book. This break lead to his book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet. This book is focused on bodybuilding and geared to the serious dedicated lifter. His new highly endorsed book, Shred It!, relaxes its focus allowing all levels to enjoy the contents and pull from it what they need to either get started or level up their current routine.
Robert’s primary focus is a whole foods diet. Understanding that a focus on your diet can supply your body with what it needs without having to resort to heavy supplementation. Being aware of your metabolic rate vs calorie intake on a whole foods plant based diet provides a better nutrient return on investment. These behaviors and habits can make or break you.
Carbs, especially fruit, tends to get a bad rap. As we’ve heard from quite a few, “fruit will make you fat.” Robert is proof of the opposite, even going as far as eating bananas during his workout. You have heard, as we have, that you shouldn’t eat so close or during a workout as it pulls blood from the muscle and inhibit growth but as Robert points out it depends on the type of food you eat that could lead to an issue. Of course, diet before (and during) your work depends on your personal goals.
When it comes to macros vs calories Robert does prefer a ratio. Given he’s been lifting and eating like he has for so long he find it easy for him to be aware of his level based on how he feels. However, most people don’t have this personal knowledge so documenting intake and using a book such as Shred It! can help guide new lifters to their proper ranges and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to reach their goals.
Robert makes a great point that people look for reasons to justify their bad habits; whether that be by using a “study” they found or simply by ignoring the facts. This tends to be because people are so resistant to change and would much rather stay in the dark instead of make that change and put in the effort. Of course, as Robert notes, that type of attitude prevents a person from reaching a higher level of success.
When we hit those roadblocks that prevent us from making that change we need to keep asking why. Find the answers to those questions and it break those barriers and provide a direction. The same can be used when learning a language or getting to the gym. Answering the question why you do something and focusing on that answer can be your driving force. The important thing is to “find your why”.
For those that don’t have a barrier but instead find themselves lacking the motivation at times, Robert points to what he had to do on those days: keep your eye on the next steps. Knowing you just need to break through this day to get to the next one is his way of getting over that hurdle and back on track. He also says, “the discipline I can exercise today is going to help me later on.”
When asked about what he would say to himself before switching to a vegan lifestyle Robert spoke about compassion. However, if you want to hear his full answer, you’ll need to listen to the show (aren’t I a stinker).
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