One issue that comes up over and over and over again for vegans and especially now for me as I am juice feasting is “where do you get your protein”?
People wonder if it’s possible to gain muscle while eating a vegan diet. And, indeed, as I am juice feasting, is it possible to gain muscle while eating or drinking only fruits and vegetables?
Many people are operating under the mistaken BELIEF that humans cannot build muscle mass without chugging down bottles of protein powder or eating tons of steak, chicken, eggs, etc., and other animal protein.
Well, here is an answer: meet Gina Matthews. Gina is vegan. She is now also transitioning to RAW. What that means is that she eats very little in the way of protein, absolutely ZERO animal protein and yet as you will see in this interview, she is a very fit woman with lots of muscle mass on her body. She is also over 40 years old….
I am thrilled to present Gina to you as yet another example of what how veganism can do a body good. Earlier I had profiled raw vegan fitness competitor Erin Moubray. While Gina is not a fitness competitor, not even a bodybuilder, I’m sure you would agree that she could hold her own on any fitness stage and is a model of health and fitness.
Read on and be inspired by this lovely woman…
1) How old are you and how long have you been vegan? What made you decide to become vegan–ethics, health or both? How did you find out about veganism?
I have loved animals all of my life. So much so that I would have been a vegan my entire life if I had been able, but unfortunately like many, I was raised under the strict belief that meat was a necessity. It went against everything in my heart, so once I was an adult and became independent, I made changes.
I am now 41 and have been vegan for 6 years. I had been vegetarian for many years before, but for ethical reasons only. My health was of little importance to me, in comparison to the suffering of animals in the food industry. I honestly didn’t care if my lifespan was shortened by lack of perfect health, what mattered to me was that I was not hurting anyone. I always thought that one day I would make efforts to buy other protein sources to make up for what I wasn’t eating, but it didn’t really happen. I occasionally bought protein powders but rarely used them up before they expired. I have never bought tofu, nor was I using beans or excessive amounts of dairy or eggs to fill the void.
One fateful day, I learned the difference between vegetarian and vegan, by watching videos about the dairy and egg industries. Fairly new to the internet, I signed up for emails from Peta. I received a link to a petition for ending the seal hunt in Canada. After completing it, I noticed other links to pages on Youtube called “Meet Your Meat”. Those links changed me forever. It was one of worst days of my life and I will never forget it, but I am grateful to know the truth that I wish everyone knew.
2) What does your typical diet look like daily? How many calories? How tall are you? How much do you weigh?
I am currently 5’8” tall, 125 lbs. and I’m using a low fat raw vegan diet. I eat raw fruits and vegetables, sometimes juiced or in smoothies and drink lots of spring water. I occasionally drink store-bought almond milk and eat the odd cooked item or veggie sandwich, but I prefer raw. I would also consider myself to be a mono-grazer, because I usually eat one type of food at a time and eat small amounts, many times a day. I find that since it eases digestion, I never feel hungry or full, my stomach is always flat and it keeps me feeling energetic and amazing all day.
3) How are your energy levels for training eating this way?
I’ve noticed a great amount of increased energy since switching to raw. Most people sit down after a meal and want to rest their bodies, but I don’t feel that way anymore. I could go do hills or ride my bike any time of day. Now if I ever DO eat anything cooked or processed I get a tummy ache, or feel tired and heavy with a full stomach that hurts as though it’s being stretched. It makes me want to sit down instead of exercise. Eating raw gives me the energy to do anything I want, any time I want.
4) You have been transitioning to a raw vegan diet. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Soon after high school I dated a bodybuilder for a few years. During that time I learned about pre-contest dieting and eating clean by keeping things low fat and very plain. Cutting out sauces and dressings, and eating things dry was a habit for me back then. I became someone who ate for the nutrients and the timing instead of the taste. This is why my weight has rarely changed over the years and also why it was fairly easy for me to switch to a raw vegan diet. Avoiding processed foods and letting go of cravings was something I was used to, so it worked out well for me. Many people would struggle to make such a drastic change, which is why I encourage cheating on being raw, especially in the beginning. When you eat raw most of the time and then eat something cooked, you notice it instantly. It may have been a treat and may have satisfied that craving for something you miss from your old diet, but the effects on your tummy are clear. The body acts as though it is saying “why did you feed me that stuff again, when we were doing so well?” and then it makes you realize that it was smarter to stay raw. I think of it as a gentle reminder to put you back on track ,and it is a clear sign of what the body truly wants and needs.
5) What did you used to eat as a cooked vegan? Why raw?
As a cooked vegan I would eat things like steamed vegetables and rice, baked potatoes, store-bought juices, Mexican food, pasta, vegan pizza, veggie burgers, sometimes veggie-dogs, frozen sorbet, the list goes on.. but I still ate salads and fruit in their raw state. There are so many great cooked vegan options, it’s quite endless to list them all.
When I learned about the raw vegan diet, it made so much sense to me, I could no longer see it any other way. Aside from the occasional “treat” or outing where you might have a cooked meal, I think raw vegan is the perfect diet. It makes complete sense for health reasons because according to nature, this is our diet. Why eat anything that is not designed for the human body? I always wondered why animals in nature did not alter or cook their food, but humans do it constantly. Animals in nature also do not eat outside their own food supply, they eat based on their anatomy. Humans are the only species deliberately going against nature by eating things that are not designed for them, and are also the only species getting sick all the time. Some domesticated animals get sick also, but mainly because humans control their food intake and are doing it wrong.
I love raw vegan for the health benefits, the way it feels inside and for the fact that it scientifically the correct diet for our anatomy. I would recommend it to everyone. There really is no smarter way to help your own health and that of your family than to give the body what it wants. Anything else is like putting oil in the gas tank. People take better care of their temporary vehicles than they do the one they were born inside.
Once your body is clean, it functions perfectly. It doesn’t want cooked or processed food, so it tells you right away. It is truly amazing how pure you feel when you eat raw, and how it seems as if you have finally found out what the human body was really meant to feel like, from the inside out.
6) What do your family/friends/co-workers/neighbors think about your diet?
I get a variety of feedback from different people in my personal life.
Some are amazed by what I do and show support for my ability to stick to it, but most have absolutely no interest in trying it themselves. Some want to learn from me and get in better shape but do not have the willpower to follow through or even get started. In many cases, the interest has been for the purpose of getting physically fit, but not for internal health reasons or for the sudden desire to help animals. And of course a small few are completely against me and have no interest in learning anything about it. Luckily though, I do have a small number of people in my personal life who are opening up to it and a few have already joined in.
7) Do you ever get an flack in the gym for the way you eat? What is the normal questions you get and how do you answer them? Do people listen to you or just roll their eyes and say “I’m glad that’s working for you”?
Before I learned the truth behind veganism and the fact that we are not physically designed to consume animal products, I often struggled with explaining it to others. I didn’t know the science behind the health questions, so I didn’t have all the answers. My sympathy towards animals didn’t seem to mean enough to most people, and many would try to scare me into thinking I would die young. I was vegan for the animals, not for myself, so I had not researched it. People would ask me where I got my protein from and I really didn’t know what to say, but somehow I maintained my muscle mass even though I was not taking in any alternate sources of protein.
This is another reason I am so grateful for finding out the truth about food and finding our perfect diet in raw veganism.
Now if I’m approached by someone or questioned about “how do you get your protein” I can explain the science to them. The proper amount of protein is already supplied to us within the plant based diet, but the main misconception people have is the amount they are required to consume daily. I tell them that the need for protein is a myth. A myth that is causing most people to overdose themselves, which causes more damage than good. I tell them about our anatomy and how it’s designed. I can explain all the theories about food and the proper way to eat, and once combined, the theories prove we are not meant to eat animals and it leaves them nearly speechless. Depending on the person, they may get mad and end the discussion with the “agree to disagree” option, or they end up even more curious than before and want to learn as much as possible. Those are my favourite, because their questions become more out of genuine interest than an attempt to prove me wrong.
8) What would you most want people to know about veganism? You are quite active on your Facebook page about promoting vegan causes…are people responding to you?
There are many things I wish people knew about veganism. I wish they knew that veganism is not just an opinion, but a scientific fact. We cannot deny our anatomy, not when we can look at dinosaurs and clearly judge who ate what, based on things like teeth, nails, digestive tracts, agility, speed and night vision. I wish everyone realized that the meat and dairy industries are not only completely unnecessary, but that they are polluting the planet more than all vehicle emissions combined. I wish they knew that we would not have starving villages all over the world if we weren’t using all the land, water and grain to grow food for and to feed cattle, which are then fed to humans who already have plenty of access to their own natural food sources. I wish people understood that they could prevent most of the human caused diseases and ailments by eating for their anatomy, instead of continually eating animal products and wondering why everyone is getting sick. I wish they would stop testing on and killing animals in order to find cures for diseases they are causing by eating against their anatomy. I wish they knew that the food guides and pyramids they have believed in all these years were designed for profits, to create an economy and NOT for health. I wish they knew that the meat industries are not humane like they claim, there are no happy, laughing cows and that the dairy industry directly supplies the veal industry. I wish people knew the truth behind the egg industry and how completely shocking the truth really is. I wish people knew the truth about the fur, skin and leather industries, the aquariums, dolphin swim parks, zoos and circuses. The list is nearly endless. I also wish people knew how great vegan food really is, how many amazing options there are, and how incredible you can feel, especially if you eat for your anatomy. Not only do you feel great on the inside but you feel the comfort of knowing you are no longer supporting unnecessary cruelty and you are on a path to better health.
I have been fairly successful with my posts on Facebook. I have had many positive responses and have also been brought to tears (of joy) by hearing individual stories through private messages. Many have told me that they have converted after watching my posts, but did not say anything until they found they were successful in their transition. Others are looking to start making changes and want to do so with my help. I get people asking advice on all different levels, from food to fitness. I even get messages from other animal rights activists, asking for my input on a post, because they know I can explain something they are struggling with. All of these inquiries make me feel happy, because people are opting away from animal products and realizing they feel much better without them. I have had so many new people add me on Facebook, it has caused me to expand my profile to additional accounts. I have had letters from people who have been watching my posts and look for new ones on my wall each day, so that give me hope. I’m realizing how many people want to learn and get healthy, and since it seems to be spreading, I am even more motivated to continue. This help the animals, it helps the people, and the planet as well.