Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

Q&A With a Female Vegan Bodybuilder

Written by Ashley Palmer | October 19, 2011

One of the most frequently asked questions that many vegans receive is the always annoying “Where do you get your protein?!” By now, I’m sure you know that you’d have to be calorie-deficient to be protein-deficient. For people who are looking to build muscle, lose fat, and gain confidence, a vegan diet may be just the trick!

Take, for example, vegan bodybuilder Amanda Riester, who is in the hot seat in today’s Q&A:

When and why did you first decide to go vegan?
I have always been a huge animal lover. I became a vegetarian in kindergarten after my 11-year-old cousin teasingly told me where meat came from. Although she wasn’t a vegetarian, she was just trying to make me cry—it worked! I was horrified at the idea of eating an animal friend and never touched a piece of meat again. I remember being 5 years old asking at restaurants if things were made of meat before I ordered! Although I have always lived a vegan lifestyle (never wore leather or fur), two years ago I finally got the motivation to cut out all dairy. I read Skinny Bitch and The Ethics of What We Eat, and that sealed the deal for me!

What was the biggest change that you experienced when you switched to a plant-based diet?
My energy level skyrocketed. The bit of belly fat I had melted away within weeks. I always say I lost my “cheese fat” because if you actually look at fat, especially on the back of thighs, it really resembles melted mozzarella!

What is your favorite vegan meal?
I absolutely love homemade seitan! I eat it four meals a day. I find it to be the perfect protein source for me. It has approximately 150 calories, fat free, sodium free, 9 grams of carbs and 27 grams of protein! And you can season it any way at all. I usually add chili powder, fresh lime juice, cilantro, and some diced tomatoes, onion, and green peppers. Yum! If I want a healthy apple cobbler, I add sliced apples, dried cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger, and a bit of brown sugar. Then I add some cooked and sweetened quinoa on top and bake it. It’s a great base to do anything with! The possibilities are endless.

How frequently do you work out, and what do these workouts usually entail?
I am a complete gym addict! I train six days a week, twice a day. I do morning cardio before breakfast for about 45 minutes. I prefer to jog outside with one of my dogs, but if they aren’t up for it, I head to the gym and enjoy hitting the heavy bag or walking on an incline on the treadmill. In the evening I head back to the gym and hit the weight room for about 90 minutes of intense weight training. I lift heavy on legs and light on upper body since my upper body is way more developed then my lower from years of boxing. My favorite body part to train is legs. I can lift 720 pounds on the leg extension 10 times! I always have a crowd around me watching when I do leg workouts!! I love showing up the guys and telling everyone I have “vegan superpowers”! ;)

What advice do you have for other people who want to lead an active and healthy lifestyle?
When you start out, begin with an activity that you will really enjoy so you have the motivation to be consistent. Take it one day at a time and work at your own pace! Start out with whatever you can do … if it’s five minutes on the treadmill, tomorrow do five minutes and 30 seconds. Every day try to improve just a little bit. It will add up in no time!

*****

Amanda’s activism for animals doesn’t end when she leaves the gym. In addition to being the proud mom to three rescued dogs, she works full time as a professional animal communicator and pet-loss grief counselor.

While I may not be headed to a bodybuilding competition anytime soon, Amanda’s advice is spot on, and I admire her for her hard work and dedication. Are you inspired by Amanda’s words?

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  • Jamesa Brown says:

    I just read this article after a BAD night at the gym. I couldn’t do more than two reps on my legs (ironically they are my favorite part to work also).One word about this woman: STUNNING! She has inspired me to start up again, this time with a legitimate game-plan! Thank you SO much for posting this article PETA.

  • Esme says:

    I love this woman! She is a real inspiration to me. PETA, please do more interviews with vegan athletes!

  • Jacquelyn Marks says:

    That is insane!!! I wish that I could do that! “I can lift 720 pounds on the leg extension 10 times!” I’d love to hear more about her meal plan.

  • Amanda Riester says:

    Thanks everyone for the feedback!! Please LIKE my FB page to ask away! http://www.facebook.com/StrongHealthyVegan
    Let me try to answer your questions here.
    @Whatsinaname, to discourage a dog jumping, I put my hand in a STOP position and mentally and verbally say NO. I have learned that sending the mental image to an animal works way better then just words. Animals use mental images to communicate with eachother much more then humans do. Feel free to visit my web site for more info and FAQs ADeeperUnderstanding.com
    Laura & Kendra, I am almost finished with my book and hope to get it published very soon! Its full of meal plans for both bodybuilding cutting and bulking!
    Sable.. No ma’am, I most certainly did mean the leg extension machine. At my gym you can rack your own plates and I put 8 45# plates on each side! I wish my entire body was so freakishly strong, but this seems to be my best strength!~

  • Kendra Julian-Baker says:

    Amanda it is so great to read about a vegan female athlete. If possible could you post a daily meal plan. I am working out and I am trying to follow Brendan Brazier’s alkaline based diet. I want to put on more muscle. You are so right about being vegan the cheese just melted off my thighs too. You are a great inspiration. I sent you a friend request on FB. Thanks so much for telling your story.

  • Diane says:

    I am now a follower. As a long-time rescuer myself, I so much enjoy reading about others that dedicate their lives to healthy living and working to eliminate the suffering of animals. You rock Amanda and I’m happy to know who you are. Only a vegetarian at this time, I really need to make the plunge…a great goal for 2012!

  • Sable@SquatLikeALady says:

    Vegetarian powerlifter here — hi! :) You look amazing. Have a question though — did you mean you leg press 720#? I have NEVER seen a leg extension machine that goes above 300# and most of them only go to like 200-250#.

  • whatsinaname says:

    Amanda, you mentioned you were an animal communication specialist. I do not own a dog myself, but was walking around my neighborhood the other day and noticed an owner having some difficulty with a very large puppy. The puppy, thinking he was being friendly, was jumping on people as they passed. Unfortuntately, the owner kept hitting the puppy on the head to discourage him from jumping. What cruelty-free method could the owner have used to discourage the dog from jumping?

  • Jenn says:

    Hi,
    I’m a semi-vegetarian (I eat only fish and seafood), because I love animals and I can’t describe my connection to them. I have always felt like there is not much difference between humans and animals and just because we (think that) we are more intelligent or have another life style, doesn’t mean we can slaughter others. I would love to have some more easy recipes for vegan or vegetarian meals that are spicy, taste great etc.
    P.S.Most of the people around me who see how persistent I am when it comes to not eating meat (sometimes without commenting it too much), kind of start joining me and at least cut down on eating meat drastically.Maybe by being different and patient (but determined) we can make a change towards animal rights.So let’s keep up the good work.

  • Chris says:

    I am a cancer survivor and I turned vegan when I was diagnosed 10 years ago. I started juicing every hour for 13 hours per day consuming a combination of different vegetables plus eating salads twice a day. My energy level skyrocketed and I flew thru my treatment with no problems or side effects. I was growing stronger and not weaker like most cancer patients. Vegan is the only way to go.I thank God and people like Amanda for giving me the morivation to continue my lifestyle.

  • Laura Serio says:

    Is there a book I can get on vegan figure bodybuilding. I have recently gone vegan. I have done figure competitions and would like to continue but can’t find a vegan diet. Please help.

  • Dali says:

    Amanda, you are really an inspiration to all of us! I love when I read about people who really love themselves! Great work!!

  • Amanda Riester says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind words! I have 3 pit bulls and one foster shepherd mix. And a fancy rat too! There are a lot of vegetarian dog foods on the market, Natural Balance is a great one. I myself, feed my dogs human food. I prepare a weeks worth of our meals every Sunday and have an extra freezer to store the individually packaged meals in. (For bodybuilding prep, its necessary to have meals made in advance because you need to eat every 3 hours.)
    Buying vegan shoes is easy! And cheaper too! I love thrift stores, but imitation leather shoes are very easy to find retail. I dont know anywhere specifically in England, Im sorry, but here in the US pretty much every store in the mall carries them. Maybe try Ebay!
    My seitan recipe is easy, add me as a friend on Facebook and I will email it to you. I will warn you, its not as good as my favorite store bought brand, Uptons Naturals. That brand is a MUST TRY! My favorite is Italian and Chorizo. And for a supplement Vega Sport protein shakes. Those two brands are a savior for me while prepping for competition,they are both very high protein and so delicious!! =)

  • Kristen says:

    It’s always inspiring and heart-warming to read or hear about someone so strong physically–and mentally–on a vegetarian or vegan diet. I am making my way back to vegetarianism, and I had more energy on that diet than any other format of eating. The vegan diet does take discipline (as I have tried it before for a few months), but the feeling one gets is worth it. It is about progress, not perfection. The principle that we strive towards not only a healthier lifestyle, but a more compassionate state of mind and living coexisting with our amazing animals, is key. Your resilience and ability to allow the “bullets of others’ comments” to bounce off of you, is to be revered and admired. Thanks for your story, Amanda. You’re an inspiration.

  • Genevieve says:

    I LOVE those stories. They truly are an inspiration and I always make it a point to post them to my gym’s FB page to show vegan healthy strong people. Thank you Amanda and thank you Peta for sharing !

  • chall says:

    Yay, Amanda!! Could Peta please ask Amanda if she has a Facebook fan page? Like Noel (Vegan Fitness Model)? I would love to be her fan!

  • DuchessofHildebran says:

    Would love to see a sample menu for a day or two. I have trouble being creative with veganism.

    Thanks!

  • Amber says:

    I would really love to have your Seitan recipe. I too am an avid “gym rat” and although I have not gone vegan yet, I am looking for ways to do so and still get the amount of protein I crave.

  • peter3dogs says:

    How many dogs ^ cats ^ other animals do you have??

  • Shell de Mol says:

    Love your work Amanda. Good on you for encouraging others to be vegan. I just struggle with one thing, and that is because one day I want to own one (or more) dogs (from the pound, of course). But how can one own a dog and be vegan at the same time? Dogs eat meat, so one is still supplying a demand for the death of other animals, isn’t one? Or are there alternatives so that the dogs are healthy and happy, and no animals are being killed for them to survive? I would really love to know, because it is my dream to own a dog one day, but be able to give it the love and care and nutrition it deserves – without harming any animal for it to eat.

  • Lisa Healing says:

    what product do you use as a vegan alternative? also where can you buy vegen shoes in England that you can try on?

  • Diane Napoleon says:

    WOW ! Amanda, I am so proud of you ! You have a heart of gold and body of steel. You inspire me to get as healthy as I can, and also to give up meat, it is kinda of gross when you think of eating somethimg that used to, or still does have blood pouring out of it. And all the rescue work you do for all the dogs- you will have good Karma all your life, thank you for rescuing Niko, Princess, and Clay , those were just dogs I knew, I know you have helped hundreds of others. Everyone should have your morals and ideals. And thank god Christie teased you about meat when you were little, see how annoying cousins can sometimes make a positive change in your life !! You are the a good person, and I am so proud of you………..Aunt Cookie

  • Lisa says:

    Wow, Amanda is such an inspiration. I always love hearing about vegan and vegetarian body builders and fitness experts, it gives me so much hope that *maybe* other will catch on.

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