Wrestling Superstar Austin Aries has won championships in 11 organizations since his first professional match in 2000. In 2016 he made headlines as the first vegan wrestler to ever sign a contract with the WWE.
He recently released a new book titled ‘FOOD FIGHT: My Plant Powered Journey from the Bingo Halls to the Big Time’ and answered a few questions for Veggieboards about life on the road as a plant-based wrestler.
Wrestling and veganism don’t typically go together, how long have you been vegan?
17 years ago I cut the meat out and kind of went back and forth on dairy and eggs over the course of the years and I’d say about 5 years ago I went completely plant based.
Are you the only vegan wrestler?
Surprisingly, it’s more prevalent now than ever.
I know Daniel Bryan is pretty well known and there was a good stretch where he was completely vegan. I know now he makes concessions here and there but sticks mostly to a plant-based diet. There are some people I know behind the scenes who have adopted a plant-based diet with some great results.
Really it just means more and more people are adopting a maybe not 100% plant-based diet, but are definitely adopting parts of it to their diet.
Have there been any downsides to going vegan? How do you deal with eating vegan on the road?
There really aren’t any downsides other than some inconveniences, but I think if you’re trying to eat healthy you’re going to be facing those same inconveniences because the vast majority of the food that’s the easiest and most readily available are some of the worst choices for us.
So, you know, for all of us in my profession where I’m travelling it’s challenging no matter what your dietary choices are if you’re trying to eat a healthy and consistent diet.
It really comes down to being prepared so I keep things with me at all times.
I’ve always got some nuts, some fruit and some pre-cooked lentils and the cool thing is I get to travel all over the country or all over the world for my job so I make it a point every time I get into a city or a town I try to find a good local cafe plant-based cafe or grocery store type thing and go check out what they have there and sample any places I get to visit.
Are there any resources you would recommend people online for finding food when they’re on the go?
Yeah, I mean obviously HappyCow.net is one of the first ones I came across and then of course things like Yelp. I just plug it right into my maps and just see what’s around me. I type in vegan or plant-based and just see what pops up around me and then do a little research. That’s the cool thing right now we’ve got so much information literally at our fingertips.
So, if you’re interested in exploring plant-based diets or trying that type of stuff you can find all the information you want.
Yelp has saved my life many times. You have a book that just came out recently, right?
Yeah, we just started shipping on June 9th and it’s really something I started a couple years back before I signed with WWE.
I started this project based on my journey and what I was finding was that the more people that I came in contact with I would get a lot of the same questions. There was a lot of curiosity about my reasons behind going plant-based and then of course the questions of how do you do it? Where do you get your protein? Do you miss bacon? All those types of questions that I’m sure any of us who have that lifestyle have encountered from time to time.
I thought it might be an interesting spin to chronicle my journey of how I got from a cheese eating brat loving Wisconsin kid to a completely plant-based professional athlete and entertainer and that was kind of the concept really to explain my journey. Answer some of those questions I had gotten along the way of the why and the how and just give everyone a basic overview of the seeds that were planted and why and how I live the way I do now.
Have you had any resistance from people for going vegan? Do you ever get teased for it or told you aren’t strong enough because you’re vegan?
You’re going to have those conversations because the thing is it’s you know it’s something we’re indoctrinated with before we really understand, you know, and I just always encourage people to do the research and follow the money.
A lot of times the arguments that are being made towards me are the ones that are being bought and paid for by the companies that are selling you their products, but at the end of the day I really believe everyone has the choice to live their life the way they want.
My book really isn’t trying to convert people necessarily it’s more about telling people to pull their head out of the sand and take a closer look at the corporate food system.
Take a closer look at what we’re being fed and what it’s doing to us.
We’re a very sick nation and we keep trying to figure out why and what the causes are of all these ailments and nobody wants to talk about our diet and nobody wants to talk about food and the corporate food system.
So, really what me going vegetarian meant in 2000 what that forced me to do was I decided that my diet was now important to me. It forced me to look at it, it forced me to look at what nutritional facts meant and what ingredients lists were and when I started peeling back layers of the food system it really blew my mind how bad this stuff was. Like, what was in this food?
That, I think, was the greatest journey of all. To be plant-based and all the benefits of being plant-based was awesome from the health benefits, the environmental benefits and obviously the benefits of just not harming other living creatures.
Really, the education it brought me as far as food awareness and understanding the choices I have when it comes to what I put in my body has been one of the biggest things I’ve learned.
People just need to look at your physique to see you don’t need meat to be strong.
Listen, some of the largest and strongest animals on our planet eat plants.
You know, the elephant is pretty big and large and strong and you think he’s just eating a bunch of peanuts that’s where he’s getting all this protein from? All the amino acids you need to build muscle are found in plants so you don’t need meat to build muscle or have a good physique.
What is your typical daily diet to build muscle?
Everyone’s body is different, right, so what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone else and that’s always important to remember. I’m someone who has trouble keeping my size on... some people would probably consider that a luxury but for me just making sure I’m consuming enough calories is important.
I love my Vitamix, I’ll give a little plug to the Vitamix I think it’s a great contraption for the kitchen. I call it the Rolls Royce of blenders.
I always start my day off with a good smoothie with some oats, some frozen berries, banana, little scoop of a plant-based protein powder, some flax seeds, little cinnamon, I put some frozen kale I like to hide some frozen greens in there too.
I try to start my day off with a really good meal with some complex carbs, some antioxidants, some greens, a little bit of protein, some healthy fats... and really just try to construct all my meals around that base.
I don’t know, I love food so the cool thing for me is replicating all these things that people love to eat and try to replicate those flavours plant-based, you know. And so your creativity is really endless because there’s nothing you can’t do with plant-based foods.
My diet is so much more diverse since I went vegan. Your diet is quite inspiring, I eat a lot of junk food myself.
The cool thing is vegan junk food is still better than non-vegan junk food. I always tell people I eat probably a little more junk food than you’d think because the vast majority of what I eat isn’t really terrible for me and even the stuff I eat that’s bad for me is probably still better than what you’d think is good for you on the meat eating spectrum.
The other thing is everyone has their comfort zone of stuff they like to eat, stuff they know how to make, they know where to get it and they stick to those 6 things. Just kind of rotate them around. But when you start eliminating things from your diet it forces you to find new things and I’ve discovered all these different foods.
You can learn more about Austin and buy his book here: FOOD FIGHT: My Plant Powered Journey from the Bingo Halls to the Big Time
Written by Natalie Zaracko AKA Werewolf Girl