So if you haven’t noticed, our blog updates have been far and few between lately. This happens when you’re trying to get tasks done, life moving and goals reached. One guy who gets this, probably more than most, is Robert Cheeke. Robert, who many in the fitness industry know, is more or less, the Godfather of the Vegan Bodybuilding movement. Arnold Schwarzenegger with more Kale and less Austria. The man with the plant based plan. And if you know the name, and you know the man, then you know from launching the Vegan Bodybuilding revolution, he’s nailed one goal after the next, all ultimately for the animals. He literally wrote the book on Vegan Bodybuilding. Twice. And the guy is on the road more than Metallica and AC/DC.

In fact, this interview took place over the course of a few weeks due to his relentless touring schedule. “Is he in a band now?” you metalheads might be asking? Not that he’s told us, but he has spend the last few years taking vegan activism and the life of a best selling author to another level. From Europe to Australia, to countless Vegan Expos and Vegfest’s as well as Fitness Expos the world over, Robert’s dedication to spreading the word of a plant based, non-cruelty lifestyle is second to none. The Oregon native (currently in Colorado) has worked with a multitude of organizations and industry people on pushing the message to every postal code possible, and slowly but surely has been cracking open stereotypes in the fitness industry that non-vegans have about those with plant power. With two simple words: SHRED IT!

Robert and Vanessa Espinosa pushin’ weight

His latest book, SHRED IT!, is a ‘can’t live without’ manual of health and fitness information, recipes, testimonials and scientifically backed facts that has endorsements from some of the biggest names in fitness, from the likes of Dr. Colin Campbell to Rich Roll. Robert’s influence on the industry has been nothing but a positive impact, a vegan muscle meteor crashing into a fitness industry in dire need of a wake up call that many of it’s archaic traditions are no longer working in a progressive world. Remember when you heard about Schwarzenegger talking about how more should back off from meat and dairy and embrace more of a plant based diet? You can bet some of this can be attributed to Robert’s work. And chances are, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Mr. Cheeke’s plan for a less cruel, healthier planet. When he was a young kid in Oregon, he wanted to be an athlete and an author. He’s living his dream, and we all benefit from it.

MMF: So, give us a run down of the insanity that has been the Robert Cheeke world tour since your latest book Shred It! was released. I think you’ve had more tour stops than Iron Maiden in the last two years. What’s it been like going around the world promoting and discussing it?

Robert Cheeke: It sure has been a wild ride. Shred It! was released in November of 2014 and I have spent the past year and half on tour. One example of how crazy it has been is that within a few days of the book’s release I took off on a 3-week tour in Australia. It was so successful, I went back a year later for another 3 weeks in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, which are all wonderful cities. At one point in late 2015 I spoke at six vegan festivals over six consecutive weekends in places far from one another such as Florida, Texas, and Oregon as well as three cities outside of the US. Over the past 18 months I have traveled all over the USA and Canada as well as exotic places such as the Caribbean, Asia and Australia.

To me, one of the best parts of being an author is going out on tour and meeting people and seeing amazing places from small towns to iconic cities. I enjoy giving presentations, signing books, and I genuinely like the travel. Being an author has opened up many amazing opportunities for me, as well as for my family, and my business. In the coming weeks and months I’ll be in New York, Las Vegas, Los Angles, Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, and London, among other places. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was eight years old so it is really rewarding to live out that dream every day. I realize that the tours could end anytime, that I could be here today and gone tomorrow and no longer relevant, so I embrace every opportunity that I have to pursue this dream and leave a positive impact on those I influence.

Robert at one of many tour stops around the globe

MMF: Along the way you’ve had to encounter some of the bigger names in the fitness industry, not just the vegan fitness industry. Have fitness personalities outside the vegan community been receptive to the message of the book?

Robert Cheeke: Part of the fun of being an author about a specific subject, in my case, plant-based fitness, is that I quickly become associated with that topic and those seeking information about the plant-based fitness lifestyle will likely find my work. I have signed books for lots of celebrities in the vegan world and outside of the vegan world, from Mike Tyson to Jay Cutler and from Def Leppard to Tony Robbins. I have not only maintained my fitness but also put on muscle since releasing Shred It!, and I think that adds credibility, especially in the eyes of the non-vegan influencers, such as Tony Horton (P90X) who I recently worked out with at his house.

Overall, my book has been received very well from the non-vegan community. I think that is because of a few core reasons, including the passion I put into it. People can often recognize effort, heart, and passion, and can see that I spilled that into my book over the 2 ½ years it took me to produce it. Furthermore, Shred It! has been endorsed by dozens of world renowned experts, including some of the biggest names in the nutrition, health, and fitness industries. Experts such as Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., Julieanna Hever, R.D., Rich Roll, Kathy Freston, Rip Esselstyn, and about 20 other industry leaders peer reviewed and endorsed my book. These authorities in their fields have sold millions of books collectively and having their endorsement gives readers confidence that Shred It! is a good book, capable of changing lives and having a positive impact on readers.

MMF: One of the best things I’ve heard in a while was at the Portland Vegfest during the Athletes Panel with Brenda Carey and Vanessa Espinoza, you talked about the “macros” craze and had some pretty hilariously accurate choice words about it. Can you give me a little slice of that here? I know a lot of people who read the site are pretty into the “If It Fits Your Macros” craze and it’d probably be some stuff they should hear. 

Robert Cheeke: This was an interesting point during the panel discussion. We had about an hour of just Q&A, which can be challenging, but also very interactive and a lot of fun. We fielded questions from the 100 to 200-person audience and then came a question about the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) approach to nutrition. I probably overreacted to the innocently asked question when I deliberately banged my head against the table, before addressing it. It got some good laughs and then I set the tone, explaining my overreaction to the question, and addressed it head-on. Basically, my concern over this ‘nutrition’ approach is that for many people, is has little to do with nutrition. Macro-nutrients are such a small part of overall nutrition. They are a key component for sure, and too much or too little of any one of them could be problematic and have health consequences, but it is the micro-nutrients that are grossly overlooked in this scenario focused solely on macro-nutrient numbers.

Robert does pushups, any place, any time, anywhere.

For those who are unfamiliar with them, macro-nutrients are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Followers of IIFYM have specific targets, say 60% of one, and 20% each of the other two macro-nutrients. Therefore, people will aim for these targets even if the foods don’t contain actual nutrition such as pizza, ice cream, pastries, donuts, and other popular foods consumed by individuals following IIFYM. This doesn’t make sense to me. I understand aiming for specific macro-nutrient targets, and I dedicate a section in Shred It! to that subject, encouraging readers to follow a 70% (real food) carbohydrate, 15% protein and 15% fat whole-food, plant-based diet. It makes sense to have some sort of awareness of your macro-nutrient breakdown, but it makes little sense to eat foods just because they are high in one macro-nutrient if those foods don’t contain actual nutrition such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other components found in whole plant foods.

So, I spent time banging my head against the table as I addressed some of these issues in Portland. For example, would it make sense to eat donuts because you want to boost your carbohydrate intake? Of course not, as there is no nutritional gain for doing so. You might as well eat Pixie Sticks or a bag of Fun Dip. Would it make sense to drink some sort of vegetable oil to boost your fat intake? Of course not, because oil is pure fat at 4,000 calories per pound, without the nutrition that actual whole foods such as avocado, walnuts, almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and coconut have. I understand the concept of IIFYM, and I have some friends who follow it and love it, because they eat real foods, for the most part, but I think it can be problematic for many people because it serves as an excuse to eat junk foods (as long as they fit your macros for the day). One of my main underlying themes in my approach to achieving success in health and fitness is to change behaviors to create positive habits. Eating junk foods because they fit your macros is not a healthy way to create positive habits. It’s like taking a few steps forward and then a step backward every week, or every day for some people, which will often minimize or even completely negate progress.
Our outcomes in and health and fitness, and to some degree in life in general, are often largely based on our habits. Our true behaviors and habits (not the things we think we’re doing and what we post about in social media status updates) reveal our priorities and dictate our outcomes. Eating junk food daily, in significant quantities in many cases, if people are being totally transparent, is not a healthy or effective way to achieve positive health and fitness results. Therefore, I hope the banging of my head on the table has now been partially justified.

Us with Trin of Dragonz Fitness and Robert at Portland Vegfest 2015

MMF: It seems like every day the Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Facebook group has tons more members (26,000+!), celebrities are announcing they’ve gone vegan, more documentaries are coming out, etc. So with the vegan explosion on a worldwide level, do you feel as if the global awakening is in full swing? And as someone who is a leader in their respective field, do you have some ideas about how the movement can continue to grow?

Robert Cheeke: First of all, thank you, Dru, for being an admin for our Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Facebook group! I remember sitting in a restaurant with you in Seattle a few years ago, talking about the community we managed. I was worried about the group surpassing 10,000 members because it was becoming more and more challenging to run with so many passionate people expressing various strong opinions on one topic or another. I appreciate you being part of the growth we’ve been able to experience as a company, as a brand, and as a community. I know I’m dating myself here, but I became vegan before the Internet came around, so I’ve been able to witness a lot of changes over the past couple of decades that I’ve been a vegan athlete. The awareness of a vegan lifestyle is greater than it has ever been. You’re right, there are so many celebrities, athletes, films, musicians, and other influencers who are adopting a vegan lifestyle and promoting it. From mega superstars like Carrie Underwood (super popular in country music) to powerful films like Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy, the world is taking notice of the growing increase in the vegan lifestyle.

When I first went out on tour about 10 years ago there were relatively few vegetarian festivals. They existed in places like Seattle, Vancouver, Boston, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, a couple of cities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and that was it, it seemed. Today there are so many vegan festivals around the world it is hard to keep up with them. In fact, when before I had to wait weeks in between one festival and another, now I have seen as many as six vegan festivals taking place on the same day! As a touring speaker, the hard part these days is deciding which event to go to. For example, I’ll be selecting Denver VegFest over Chicago VegFest this summer and London (UK) VegFest over Melbourne, Portland, and many others taking place the same weekend. The same goes for selecting Atlanta over Tampa and London (ON) in November.
In the early days of my vegan lifestyle there were only a handful of vegan “meat” products. Now there are more than I can keep up with from brands such as Beyond Meat, Tofurky, Gardein, and Field Roast. The same goes for vegan cheeses, vegan ice cream, non-dairy milks, and essentially everything from eggs to sweet and sour pork, it’s all being made vegan these days. As someone who promotes a whole-food, plant-based diet, I don’t eat a lot of these foods, but the fact that they exist in major grocery store chains such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, and in basically every other major chain, is a clear sign of changing times. Vegan restaurants are also booming like never before, some even have chains with lots of locations such as Loving Hut, Veggie Grill, and Native Foods to name a few. The world vegan is listed on menus from International restaurants to every day common restaurants, due to customer demand. The overall number of vegans is skyrocketing in the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia, especially.

The number of vegan books, TV shows, actors, actresses, and influencers of all types continues to grow on a daily basis. One needs only to look to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or God forbid, YouTube (try to avoid the bacon comments. You can’t), and search the word #vegan to learn exactly how popular this movement is.

To continue to make forward progress in our effort for a more compassionate world, we need to make veganism as mainstream and as accessible as possible. I’d love to see mainstream athletes like LeBron James, Tom Brady, and others who have a massive influence, adopt a vegan lifestyle and promote it. The same goes for musicians, doctors, TV personalities, Presidents, and so on. People in a position of influence (millions upon millions of social media followers, TV audiences, stadium audiences and so forth) have an amazing capacity to create positive change if they choose to use their platform for such a noble effort. When the vegan lifestyle becomes more mainstream more animals will be saved, lives will be spared, and our planet will benefit. Until every cage is empty, we move onward in our quest for compassion, leading by positive example.

Robert and Vanessa doin’ work!

MMF: Knowing your work ethic, I’m guessing you already have another book planned for the future? Do you think you’ll be expanding on the Shred It! message or heading possibly into another direction or set of topics?

Robert Cheeke: To be fully transparent, you sent me these interview questions months ago, and I apologize for the delay getting back to you. It is easy to make excuses and say that I was traveling, often for weeks at a time before coming back home, all the while running my business and keeping up with a high social media presence I’m known for, but I also spent plenty of time lying on a beach, on a couch, or seated at a poker table, so I don’t use excuses. But what I will say is that from the time you sent me these interview questions to the time I’m following up, I have nearly completed a new book. I am co-authoring a plant-based fitness book with my training partner, Vanessa Espinoza, and our first draft is nearly completed. It won’t be out for months, but yes indeed, I am busy working away on a new book while I continue to tour with Shred It!. Al the while, I am working on other business projects like releasing a whole new clothing line and growing our social media communities to try to get the attention of big New York publishers. I think Shred It! is my signature book, you know, much like a band has their best album. I released Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness more than five years ago, and released a companion book to Shred It! in January of 2016, but I believe that Shred It! is my stand alone best book.

One thing that I’m considering is pitching it to big New York publishers and seeing if I can get book deal to get Shred It! into bookstores all over the country and make it more mainstream. We’ve sold thousands of copies directly, through our website and in person, and I have toured all over the world, and I think we can present a compelling case to get published by a major publisher. My books have sold tens of thousands of copies combined, and my social media following is in the hundreds of thousands, and I’m optimistic we can take Shred It! mainstream in due time. In the meantime, I have another book to finish.

Robert with Phil from Def Leppard

MMF: With the site being a combo of metal and fitness, I’ve personally talked to a lot of musicians that are or have been vegan or recently made the switch. Phil Collen from the legendary rock band Def Leppard is someone you know. Have you guys met face to face and talked shop before? What do you think it means to the vegan rock community to have a huge name like him representing us?

Robert Cheeke: I don’t consider myself much of a music guy, but throughout my years on the road I have come across numerous vegan musicians, including Phil from Def Leppard. I’ve been friends with John Joseph from the Cro-Mags for years, and I met the (now former, after 19 years) drummer of the Goo Goo Dolls, Mike Malinin, who is also vegan, and Stic Man from Dead Prez, another vegan. I first met Phil years ago in Los Angeles. I had no idea who he was, but my friend is a huge Def Leppard fan, and when I learned he was in the band I asked Phil if he would sign a photo for my buddy. A year later I was backstage at a Def Leppard concert in Massachusetts (with the friend I got the signed photo for) and we got to go on the tour bus and hangout backstage. It was a really cool experience and it was my first time attending a major concert since seeing The Smashing Pumpkins in 1997 as a teenager. Recently, Def Leppard came to Denver, where I currently reside. I reached out to Phil, and sure enough, my girlfriend and I were hanging out backstage with all access passes. Phil is a super nice guy, and incredibly fit vegan at age 57, and is the co-lead guitarist for an iconic rock band. I think it is awesome for the vegan movement. While back stage we even saw vegan cake, almond milk, foods labeled as ‘vegan,’ and I think it is very encouraging. Def Leppard has an all-vegan tour bus as well since drummer, Rick Allen, is also vegan. I’m sure you know plenty of other vegan musicians, being in the music industry. These people mentioned above are just some that I’ve come across during my travels. It sure makes touring more interesting showing up at Cro-Mags concert wearing a sweater and collared shirt and being told to stay off to the side so I don’t get hurt from the flailing limbs in the mosh pit, or whatever it is called.

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Metal Made Workouts: Less Press, More Pull

Walk into your neighborhood gym and quickly write down on a piece of paper, what you more than anything else.

Did you write down “Bros”? “Bad Form”? “Cardio Princesses”? “Bros hounding Cardio Princesses with Bad Form”? “That One Guy Who Looks Like Vern Fonk with a Journey Tour T-Shirt from 1982”?

Or did you write down “these guys”?

All these are solid answers. It’s nothing we could actually dispute since we’ve literally seen all these. One thing however we see a lot of is poor posture, and more specifically “Rounded Shoulders”.

While there are a few people out there who claim to have naturally rounded shoulders, like anything with the human body, this is stuff that is typically an imbalance. The culprit? CHEST-PRESS-LEMANIA. Too often than not, vanity muscles are over trained while neglect on the REALLY IMPORTANT ONES takes place.

What do we consider the important ones? Let me introduce you to my good friend “The Posterior Chain”.

Most of our friends don’t have skin. We’re weird like that.

Now it’s not that everyone steers away from the posterior chain. In fact, Deadlift Mania is almost as popular as that fake Chest Presslemania thing I invented above. And while that isn’t a bad thing, a lot of people can’t pull off a decent deadlift due to limited hip flexor mobility and bad form. Defend Proper Form with all your blood and sweat people! Defend it til your death!

There are other causes of rolled over shoulders that are not due to imbalance. For example, older folks spines can actually bend and roll over forward because of the kyphosis associated with osteoporosis. For them, exercise will not help with the correction of the issue, but with exercise and strengthening the posterior chain, it will dampen the severity of the kyphosis.

Better than not, folks who are smart enough to PROPERLY train the posterior chain (mad flow skills there from MC Metal Made) probably have pretty upright posture with good shoulder positioning. At least we hope dearly. And having proper shoulder posture can be a number of things but over training with chest press exercises is often the biggest reasons.

“I’ve seen bootcamps where people make plans that have WAY too many press exercises and not enough pull movements”, says Michael Bailey, a super skilled trainer out of Redmond, Wa. “Like a million pushups or so. And considering so many workouts are push oriented, it creates that imbalance that keeps people hunched over”. He has a point. He literally said this before in conversation and I’m not making it up. He’s a real person in fact. Oh yeah, and add in “texting neck” or “sitting at a PC all day” and you have a recipe for disaster as far as upright, nice, clean posture is concerned.

Going back to the stone ages. Like as in “caveman posture” stone ages.

What can we suggest? Recently we stopped lifting heavy because we got bored with it (it’s boring) and knew that for function purposes it didn’t serve our agenda to go up the sides of mountains. So the program we created has completely abandoned the Bro Culture moves everyone is so obsessed with beating like a dead horse. We have 3 total chest moves all week, and everything else is concentrated on keeping our body upright with a neutral spine, a lot of unilateral stances and contra-lateral moves and anything that will “pull our shoulders back”. So far our progress has been excellent as we’re standing up straighter and more like a superhero.

So if you stand in the mirror and notice this to be a problem, review your training program and scale back on all that chest for a bit and up the rear deltoid, trap and lat moves until things even out. And pro tip number two? Start observing your posture in the mirror or windows you walk by. If you see yourself slouched like a couch, stand the F up! You’ll feel like a rockstar after a few days of doing so. Without all the post-tour hangovers.


It’s been well documented that we have a thing for Canadians, especially in the fitness industry (and metal, but that’s for another discussion). If you were to ask us most anything about Canada we could probably tell you. Except New Brunswick. We really are in the dark about that part of the True North. We know it’s population is less than a million. It’s near Nova Scotia. They speak two languages. And there is at least one plant based fitness competitor there that is Metal Made. Other than that, we had to Wikipedia the shit out of it to figure out anything else about it.

But Nadege Corcoran calls it home. Just as she calls the gym home. Or the stage home. In a short amount of time she has already built a super impressive resume from competition. Bouncing between bikini and figure, Nadege has never finished lower than 7th (once) and maintained top 4 placing at minimum in all her other shows, showing the dedication she has not only to her training and pushing herself to stay in show ready form, and at her absolute best. And she owes a lot of it to her “For The Animals” diet keeping her strong, lean and able to train and recover like she’s training for the Olympics.

And with a busy palette of shows coming up in 2016, her focus remains the same. This includes the IFBB Natural International qualifier in New Brunswick in June and the IFBB Nationals in Winnipeg, which we’re pretty sure she’ll train her ass off for both. It’s how they roll in Maritime Providences.

MMF: So have you always been a gym rat? Did you grow up into sports or is this a new thing for you?

Nadege Corcoran: For some reason I was always seen by everyone as “active” but I really wasn’t. I played a bit of badminton and swam when I was younger but never really saw the inside of a gym until 3 years ago when I joined CrossFit. My big awakening was when I got lost in the trails in a park and had to go up a very steep hill to get back and had to pause a few times to make it up the hill. Then I realized I had to do something! I’m still a bit baffled that I stuck to CrossFit even though I was petrified!

I knew nothing about lifting but the coaches were amazing. I learned all the proper lifts and started feeling strong. Then I was hooked to working out! And the pushed me to understand what training with intensity was. I was fueled by wanting to turn my body into a tank that wasn’t afraid of a little hill. From there I eventually wanted to tackle goals other than “increase the weight on the bar”. So after 6 months of Crossfit, I switched to personal training and uncovered “gym workouts”. Dumbbells, barbells, machines, etc. I fell in love with it and came home one day saying “I wish this was a sport!” Little did I know it was! So it’s fairly new to me. 2.5 years. And I’m not a gym rat… I’m a gym unicorn for sure! (laughs)

MMF: So from all that when did competing come into play?

Nadege Corcoran: The fact that I, myself, spent so many years thinking that I had to eat animal products to be strong and healthy is what I want to help eliminate by stepping on stage. I don’t want to slander people for eating animal products. I was there myself and I know it is mostly from misinformation, peer pressure and a lack of listening to our inner self. It’s a journey and I don’t want to displace pain to animals by causing pain to humans. You attract more bees with honey! (…and leave the bees and the honey alone!) So instead of cramming something down someone’s throat I find that competing gives me a platform to showcase what veganism can do. It prompts people to ask me “how” and that helps. Most people that have that nagging feeling that what the massive industrialized animal product industry is doing isn’t ok will be prompted to ask questions. Veganism for health is also a gateway drug to veganism for the animals and for the environments in my opinion. So Health and Fitness is a great place for many to start exploring a plant-based diet.

MMF : Tells us about your experience with your first show, on stage. What you went through, how it felt to get up there, the kind of prep you did?

Nadege Corcoran : That’s a tough question for sure! There are so many things I could say! I LOVE doing things that are difficult so keep that in perspective with my answer. So when I say I loved it, remember that a piece of me loves conquering the impossible. So if that isn’t naturally in a person, they would have a totally different answer. The hard work and the dedication that it takes to get ready to step on stage is definitely not something I imagine everyone would enjoy. But I did! And I still do!

Essentially, I compare it to someone who loves running who shows up at their first race. It’s exciting and so motivating during training to have that date. The difference with a race is that everyone around you is super excited for you all the time. They love to see people running with them. They understand that to have a race you need many many runners and the finish line is the goal. Not placing. Even when you are trying to do a certain time to qualify for a certain high profile race. You don’t wish worst on other runners, you just run as best you can.

 ..The fact that I, myself, spent so many years thinking that I had to eat animal products to be strong and healthy is what I want to help eliminate by stepping on stage…”

Competing is similar in the sense that “show day” is like “race day” (exciting and motivating). BUT competitors there are not the same as runners… At least some of them.

People “size you up” and I found that very hard. Inside I am super competitive, but I hate seeing someone sad and self criticize because they compare. Which is probably the type of empathy that led me to veganism to begin with. So I found it hard to not self-sabotage in the competitive world. I would say that this is actually a very good thing that came out of that for me personally. It allowed me to come into my own and remain kind to people who maybe are hard on themselves but realize that they would do that regardless of me. So I do my best. Always.

But seriously overall it was a great experience! I have to say that my team, Blueprint Athletics, and my coaches have a lot to do with that. We are generally a very happy bunch the whole time backstage and we love the experience which produces amazing energy to feed off of. And for prep, my coaches support my goal of health first the whole way so I love prepping! Again… remember that I thrive off of really difficult challenge and I really enjoy rigor and structure.

MMF: A lot of people find it hard to be married or in relationships in this training lifestyle and or being vegan. How essential is the support you get from your guy to what you do? Is he also vegan?

Nadege Corcoran : I stay focused on the fact that I myself wasn’t vegan or into fitness when we met. And we have the same “live and let live” philosophy. So that’s first and foremost. I’m the one that changed and he does love me and support me. But he would support me in anything that betters my life and I would do the same for him.

So to answer the question, his support means everything to me! But him doing what I do is not important. There are times where competing gets hard on the schedule and there just seems to not be enough hours in the day and if it wasn’t for his understanding it would be mentally straining to get him to understand that I can’t “just skip this workout” or “eat this one bite of sweets” (which is what I hear other competitors go through when they don’t have a supportive spouse).

As for him being vegan, if you asked him, he would say he is not vegan but that he mostly follows a plant-based diet. But really… I can’t remember the last time he bought eggs, dairy or meat. So…..

As for working out, he’s always liked running more than anything and I learned to love that as well. Now that my strict competition schedule is loosed up a bit and I can workout a bit less structured, he has been joining me at the gym and he is following Robert Cheeke’s Shred It plan. He’s already feeling/seeing amazing results! I just joined the gym I go to so I think he got the bug (and I’m out of control excited about it!!!

Overall though, him supporting me is extremely appreciated and makes my life so much easier! BUT I’m ultimately I’m my own hero. I would do this with or without support. It would be more challenging if he wasn’t so supportive, but I would still be doing this.

Photo creds:
Stage Shot: Garry Bartlett photo


Sometimes you have to love the internet. Sure people can be wrapped up in pointless debates over which band is more metal on a Youtube clip, or your news feed can be littered with inaccurate news articles with old men bashing each others political stances. But here and there, we get to use it for what it was intended to be used for: to be informed and to connect. None more true on the latter is our relationship with one Canadian in particular. Canadian Bikini Champion Brandie Mabee and Metal Made Fitness crossed paths via social media early in our beginning stages and from there we’ve gained a valuable comrade across the border. The glory of networking is if you both have your palette smeared with goals, cross promotion can build friendships. With Brandie, it was pretty evident early on that we’d become pals as her mindset was one made of metal, no matter how much things like peanut butter brownie M&M milkshake sundaes get mentioned. But when it comes to show prep, her focus is that of a trained assassin. Through the scope, lock the target, aim and fire.

How can we attest to this? A look into this last calendar year of competition would be enough to fill many competitors shelves for a hopeful career. Grabbing first place last November at the BCABBA Fall Classic, a strong 3rd place finish at the BC Championships in May, then she joined up with Vancouver clothing juggernaut No Limit Muscle as a standout athlete. Round it up with two great finishes at her first NPC event in October (2nd Open, 1st Novice) and you have a shelf filling up with statues in a hurry. But beyond the stage, she uses the platform of social media to connect with others, drop inspiration whenever it strikes, and keep a sense of authenticity at all times. What you see is what you get with her. Through her Instagram you get to see her progress, her hilarious daily antics, her cats…the parts of her to remind people that personal growth means all areas on one’s life and to embrace one’s many layers. It’s the blueprint for being as badass as you can be.

MMF: When was the first time you realized you could be pretty good at this whole “fitness” thing?

Brandie Mabee : It was the night of my first show. I was backstage looking at the other 17 girls in my line-up, thinking to myself, “What am I doing here? That girl has a six-pack…that one has breast implants…that other one is practicing a fully choreographed posing routine..that one has her own assistant applying her glaze..”. I couldn’t believe it when I placed 4th, and beat all those girls who had things I didn’t have! Until that night, I thought I would only do one bikini competition, and cross it off the bucket list. Little did I know, that experience was a great big sparkly gift in personal development that would keep me coming back for more; from that day forward, I have never bothered to compare myself to other girls. It sounds cliche, but there’s something special and wonderful about each of us. Steven Furtick says it best: “We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”.

MMF: So the initial idea of going through a training program and jumping on the stage was more a personal challenge or more ‘ ill try it once…this could be fun’?…. Everyone has their own reasons for even attempting to compete in the first place….

Brandie Mabee : I always admired the sport, but truthfully, I didn’t believe I was ready to get involved. At the time, I had reached a weight-loss plateau and I knew it was because I was too “satisfied” with my progress. Another part of me has never been down with that kind of mediocrity, and I kinda got sick of my own shit one day about 7 weeks before the last competition of the year. I told my trainer, “I want to do that show, do you think we can do it?”. He was worried about my glutes (or lack thereof), but he was confident that we were going to pull it off. We stepped up the training and I reached the weight-loss goal I had originally set for myself. If I hadn’t introduced the bigger goal of competing in a show, I don’t think I would have stepped it up and dropped the last ten pounds. Back then it was the only way I knew how to motivate myself, and while I don’t think it’s psychologically healthy to use this sport as a tool to keep oneself “in line”, it can serve as a stepping stone for someone who is stuck in a rut like I was back then. My reasons for competing have evolved a lot since then!

MMF: As someone who knows why they do choose to compete and train for this do you see new girls show up exclaiming to do it for the quote/unquote ‘wrong reasons’? (The insecurity factor). And do you feel now being a veteran of this you can set a good example for the new girls?

Brandie Mabee : Totally! The sport is exploding in popularity- the relatively recent introduction of the bikini and men’s physique divisions has made it more attractive and reachable for the general population. I think most first-timers do it because they see the physical transformations their peers achieve, and if hitting the stage is the only thing that will motivate you to adhere to a strict diet and training schedule the first time, so be it- but if you use the experience of a contest prep to really observe your thoughts and emotions, I guarantee that you’ll walk away with a LOT more than the best physique of your life. The journeys have taught me self-control, and the results have infused me with self-belief. I try to be very conscious that there are people who are new to the sport, who come across my social media posts- and so I like to share about the mental journeys this sport takes me on, hoping that my statements spark their own introspective observations. I just hate that some people go through the whole process without employing it as a powerful tool of personal development- I want everybody within my reach to see what a positive thing the contest prep experience can be. If I can grab their attention through social media, I hope that will be enough for them to hear my message that there is a goldmine of personal growth at their fingertips.

MMF: Maybe give the readers a run down of what one of your training blocks is like, how to get the ball rolling, what do you leading up to a show training wise?

Brandie Mabee : I usually run a 2-days-on, 1-day-off weight training schedule year-round, with each session focusing on one major muscle group and one or two accessory muscle groups. Lots of supersets and drop sets, with short rest periods. Starting at 16 weeks out, “contest prep” officially begins, which involves cardio. The cardio regimen changes every prep, depending on where I’m at and how fast my body wants to let go of the fat. I’ve had preps where I don’t even start cardio until 6 weeks out, and I’ve had preps where I start at 12 weeks out. We start with as little as possible- maybe 20 minutes a few times a week- and ramp it up accordingly. My longest workouts are leg/glute days- my coach has me hit my legs and glutes from lots of different angles and he switches up my exercises and rep ranges every 4 weeks or so.

MMF: So what is your favorite part of the whole process prepping for a show?

Brandie Mabee : There are LOTS of great parts but my FAVORITE is the mental journey. A few areas that come to mind are positive visualization, impulse control, and productivity skills.

Preparation is king when you’re getting stage ready, and I’ve had to kick my own ass many times- sleeping in, running late, lazing around instead of cooking and weighing meals. Every prep, I get exponentially better at beating my own bad habits. And it spills over into every corner of my life. I’ve said this before on one of my YouTube videos- with every 16-week prep I grow 10 years mentally. I guess that makes me, like, almost 100. I hope that means someone’s gonna start coming over to do all my laundry and cook for me soon!

MMF: (Laughs) Great end to that….at some point you won’t be able to compete, unfortunately…I mean you could at 79 years old…but you’ve already begun to set yourself up with various interests and talents you do away from the stage. How important is that in your prep…to have those outside interests and projects?

Brandie Mabee : It`s pretty necessary for survival, actually! There`s not much time left for me to engage in other activities- I work 50+ hours a week as a pharmacist and go to the gym before and after work- I pick a once-weekly activity each prep that takes my mind away from it all. One prep, one of my patients had me over once a week to learn clay sculpting. Another time I took guitar lessons. I recognize the role the pre-frontal cortex in building willpower and discipline, and learning new activities is a great way to exercise that part of the brain. It is said that the body is capable of almost anything, but it is the mind that limits its potential- so that`s why I exercise my brain as much as my body!

MMF: Love it. Last question….if you could rework the whole competition or judging process for a day how do you think it could be improved, what changes would you like to see?

Brandie Mabee : The bikini and men`s physique divisions are still very young, so they have the most variation in the “winning look“, and I think that`s just par for the course. I`m no expert in this department, but I think the current judging process is fine as is- I am in awe of the panel`s ability to analyze 200+ physiques in one sitting and make decisions based on such a short fragment of time. I agree with their decisions nearly all of the time, and I notice that the local and provincial rankings here in BC tend to be repeated at the national level (for example, if two girls from BC placed 1st and 2nd at Provincials, and both competed at Nationals, the 1st place girl would likely still place higher at Nationals than the 2nd place girl) so that tells me there is consistency in the judging.

Follow her journey and cat pictures at:


Here at Metal Made Fitness, we’ve managed in a short amount of time to spread out name across the globe to many happy boys and girls. Strangely enough, our popularity has reached outside of the United States in the farthest point from where we’re stationed, Australia, almost as much as Canada. One of the reasons we believe is we happen to have a particular pro-vegan shirt than you may know about. And with that you would think we would have interviewed an Australian fitness personality by now. But we haven’t. And we would like to apologize to the whole entire nation of Australia for that. While we’re at it, Australia, on behalf of America, we’re really sorry for all those shitty Paul Hogan impressions throughout the years.

So when we decided to figure out which Australian to interview first, we of course went with the one we secretly have a little vegan fitness crush on, which will be the first she’s read about this. For good reason we feel. Our neck of the woods is lacking in the super fit, super athletic and super creative wrapped up into a vegan on the female side of things. Which completely embodies Simone “Simi” Collins to a tee. She’s rocked the stage in figure competitions across the planet, mastered the art of lifting heavy, gone after the world of crossfit and put her creativity into her passion for graphic design for a clothing company. Because after all, we’re all about the fitness and the arts here at Metal Made. But like Optimus Prime, there is more than meets the eye with this plant based badass. We got to catch up with Simi after she blew up the stage at the Austin Naturally Fit competition for a little “get to know ya”.

Simi Collins Ten Things:

1) What’s a bigger thrill for you: competing on a stage or in a crossfit competition?

While I haven’t done my first CrossFit comp yet, I find the training style really intense and exciting!
But I love being on the stage. The whole process of competition preparation is like nothing else – the anticipation and excited/nervous feeling I get in the weeks leading up reminds me of how I used to feel as a kid leading up to Christmas!

2) You’re stuck on a deserted island and can only find one piece of fitness equipment to use. What would that one piece of gear be and why?

Kettlebell – I just feel it’s such a versatile piece of equipment and you can do so much with it!

3) What is the best piece of fitness advice you’ve ever received that you have passed on to others over the course of your journey?

“Don’t worry about what you can’t do, focus on what you CAN do” – Tony Doherty.

4) Complete this sentence:

This world needs “less violence” and “more compassion”.

5) In hoping you are a good cook….let’s say I bring over a non-vegan who’s curious about trying to go plant based. What is the one meal you could make them that would WOW their taste buds?

Well honestly I’m not the best cook… but I can make a pretty mean vegan pizza! I’m also good at raw protein balls, like a typical bodybuilder! (laughs all around)

6) Name a song or two that would sum up your intensity in the gym?

“Cage” by Dead Letter Circus
“Ticks and Leaches” by Tool

7) We don’t like calling anyone an idol here at Metal Made Fitness, but if there was one fitness “idol” you’d love to hit the gym with that you haven’t, who would you want to workout with once?

Cornelia Ritzke, because she’s a shredded vegan calisthenics chick, and I would love to learn how to do some of that crazy stuff!

8) As someone who also battles depression and also has a creative side outside of fitness, I
understand how it can be a help to those down periods and emotions. Has art and design always been your go-to for escaping those tough times of anxiety?

Yes, it’s helped me a lot throughout the years. Unfortunately I don’t have much time for art anymore due to my work commitments and training, but I see bodybuilding as an art form as well. I am sculpting my body to the way I desire it to be. I also find my training is a great outlet and keeps depression and anxiety at bay.

9) What’s your “Power Animal” (as in the animal you think you would most be like if you weren’t human)

I’ve always loved wolves, I hope that’s not too stereotypical for a spirit animal!

10) I’m casting the next X-Men movie and you’re going to be in it. But we need to know what you would want your superpower to be?

Metamorphosis – I’ve always wished I could transform into different animals!

Visit her at


Yes, that’s Mr. Metal Made himself. I can levitate.

The next time you’re at the gym and you see someone getting their proverbial “swole on” ask them in between sets “Excuse me swell chap! I must ask, what really twiddles your knickers in this fine establishment?” and chances are they’ll respond with the following.

Cardio. I really dislike doing cardio.

For many in “Do You Even Lift Bro?” nation, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, it’s not true that people with monocles come up to us and speak in olde timey slang like the above, but cardio is very unpopular for the gym rats. Reason being it can eat away at your gains, and or, it’s just fucking boring. But what if I told you there was a way to get a great fat burning cardio slam in, without really wasting muscle away, and that would get your heart rate up to make you feel like a total champ? Would you do it? Gimmie your ears for two minutes and I’ll give you the world.

Before we explored the magic of the Complex. And while Complexes are dope like soap on a rope, they often will come after one body part involved will be straight wasted and you want to give that said body part some much needed rest. So what then? Well simple really.


Yes, sprinting intervals are fat burning gold. Lemme ask you a question: You’ve seen a lot of marathon runners right? They’re slender athletes, for the most part. Not the buffest you’ve ever laid eyes on though normally. But what about sprinters like Usain Bolt? The guy is a beast. And he’s a world champ. Built like a statue but able to kick everyone’s ass on the track. Same with a lot of well-built NFL wide receivers. They’re cut up, built and might as well be WWE wrestlers in their spare time. And they basically sprint when they aren’t lifting or complaining about not getting paid enough money.

Pictured: Runner with a gun show

I can stake a claim to this as a former long distance runner. Beings that I am a short compact ball of muscle, I’m probably not the most suited for marathons. Yet, I flipped off that stereotype and became rather good in a short amount of time. But during the training, I was unable to retain my normal amount of muscle because of the 55+ miles a week I needed to run to do well. While my legs were ripped, they were not big. And I did not have time to lift as normal because I was running 5 days a week. As soon as I stopped competing in races and went back to lifting, I brought in HIIT sprints and off I went, rebuilding my muscle and shooting back up from 156 lbs to 170 while being able to keep my body fat pretty low. High Intensity Interval Training is a real time saver, much like stereotypes are. You can get the work done in 15 minutes, and still make it home in time for The Walking Dead.

This all works because your standard cardio workouts are as simple as they come. Perform your activity at a steady, challenging-but-manageable pace (60 to 70 percent of maximal physical capacity) for 20 minutes or more, aiming for a heart rate of 120 to 150 beats per minute. HIIT workouts are more taxing and complex. You go balls out (90 to 100 percent of maximal capacity) for a brief, set time period (usually two minutes or less), then back off for a rest interval (usually three minutes or less), and repeat the cycle. While it’s physically demanding it’s really not that hard to perform.

So what is a good, no-BS workout you can do at the end of lifting to help keep the body shredded? Well I’m glad you asked chap!


Approach the dreaded treadmill. Come on, don’t front like you aren’t freaked out.

1) Warm-up with a light 5 minute jog. You have to. Can’t sprint cold.
2) Jack the speed up to a good pace for 30 seconds.
3) Then speed up to maximum effort for 30 seconds.
4) Repeat sequence for 5-10 rounds, whatever you can handle.
5) Cool down for a few minutes. So we lied, it might take a few minutes over 15. Sue us.

Give it a go. Even for “cardio” day it’s more effective than standing on the elliptical machine and churning through an hour. Bored inside? Find a track and do it outside. And here’s our link to some “research” since we know a few of you are big on that sort of thing.


As a trainer I get asked some interesting questions. “What do I do for better arms?” “Can you give me a bunch of free sessions?” “I just started working out yesterday. Why don’t I look like a fitness model?” Surely, a lot of trainers get asked these questions, better or worse, on a daily basis. One good question I get asked a lot is “What is the one best overall exercise I could or should do?”

The one question I should be asked above all is “Hey my friend is a fitness queen and she thinks you’re hot. Do you want to go out with her?”

So if I’m not getting asked THAT question, I’ll answer the other one.


Yes. Deadlifts are dope enough to require a Samuel L. Jackson type response. Why the deadlift? Well, while there are many little variations, the standard tried and true deadlift pretty much works EVERY SINGLE PART OF YOUR BODY. “That’s impossible!” you say. You should shut your trap and read on friendo. Because we’re correct with that statement. How?

1) Your arms, forearms, and hands hold the barbell and make sure it stays in the right position.
2) Your shoulders and traps hold the weight stable.
3) Your back and core help keep your whole body tight as a Republican congressman spending the federal budget on anything besides war.
4) Your posterior chain aka your ass and hamstrings, act as a lever to lift the weight. (See the tricky science picture below)

If you were to ask me how to get a strong core I would say, do quality deadlifts. If you really enjoy doing 100 of something that won’t get you the same results, feel free to do 100 crunches. We’ll be over here doing deadlifts.

The deadlift, more or less, is a basic functional movement. You do a lot of this during a day of picking shit up, moving stuff, lifting this or that. Do you have a chubby baby? Pick him up off the ground right now (chances are he pooped his pants anyways) and you just sort of deadlifted your kid. And if you’re a guy, do deadlifts. It’s a manly man exercise that you should be doing instead of cardio kickboxing classes.

And while we personally don’t deadlift all the weight in the room, we prefer to do a LOT of them. They feel great, and we feel strong afterwards. We’re finding dong more quality deadlifts on leg day instead of leg press is making leg day more fun. We like fun shit.

So you should know there are several modified versions of the deadlift. So which shall you try?

1) Conventional Deadlift – Your hands are just outside your feet, standing at about hip width apart.

2) Sumo Deadlift – Your hands are inside your feet with a wider stance.

3) Hex or Trap Bar Bar Deadlifts – Use a specialty bar made just for deadlifting which changes the biomechanics.

4) Romanian Deadlift, Stiff Legged Deadlift, Straight Leg Deadlift -These are variations that are all commonly confused. Bret Contreras has a great post where he goes into the differences between these variations in detail here.

In doing deadlifts try and wear as flat as shoes as you can. You get a far better base and feel more grounded in the movement.

(Metal Made Fitness Supporter Anna Vondracek about to deadlift the planet)

So are you ready to try this? We think you are. Go for it:

1) Walk to the bar. Stand with your mid-foot under the bar. Don’t touch it with your shins yet. Hip-width stance, toes out 15°.
2) Grab the bar. Narrow, about shoulder-width apart. Arms vertical from the front-view, hanging just outside your legs.
3) Bend your knees. Keep going until your shins touch the bar. Don’t move the bar. Keep it over your mid-foot.
4) Lift your chest. Straighten your back. Don’t move the bar. Don’t drop your hips. Don’t squeeze your shoulders-blades.
5) Pull. Take a big breath, hold it and stand up. Keep the bar against your legs. Don’t shrug or lean back at the top.

You’ve finished. Congrats! But now you’re probably just standing straight up and trying to read your phone for what to do next. So return the weights to the floor by pushing your hips back FIRST. Bend your legs once the bar reaches the knees (don’t bend the knees first or the bar will smack them).
Lastly, there are a few things you should NOT do when deadlifting. If you are, chances are you need to practice first with a lighter weight OR don’t try and be a fucking hero by deadlifting all the weight in the gym with shit form.

(pictured: shit form)

Don’t round your back! Don’t look up with your neck. Don’t hyper-extend your torso and pelvis at the top. Seriously, just….don’t. Also, don’t treat the deadlift like a squat. Don’t let the the bar leave the mid-line of the body. And for christsakes, don’t let your butt come up faster than your chest, also known as the “Stripper Deadlift”.

These are the basics you should know about deadlifts. We’re putting a good video below of a solid basic deadlift. As we stated before learn this on a lighter weight, and check what you’re doing from all sides or have a friend record you. When doing them if you don’t feel it in your hamstrings, lower back and glutes, and your knees are killing you, STOP! Check your shit. With practice, you can get the form of his down and you’ll be the champ of the gym.


In the year 2015, people seem to need to find motivation from anywhere they can grab it. Whether it be from the internet, memes, or list articles, the concept of just making a fist and punching your way through something because you want to is becoming a lost art. We take the simple things for granted and find proud accomplishments in sometimes mundane tasks and want worldwide recognition for it. So when you look to someone who perhaps could be a source on inspiration or motivation we tend to look to people who were born with genetic gifts to have ridiculously low body fat percentages, or even born into celebrity families to think maybe we could use that to kick ourselves in the ass.

I’ll tell you right now, if you need motivation to know without a doubt you can do anything you set your mind to, look no further than Championship Skier Sofia Righetti. When she was born, Sofia encountered a major complication when the doctors made a grave error during a heart procedure that didn’t allow blood to reach her spinal cord. Due to this, she lost the use of her legs from that day. Her parents fought for her in court to expose the error of the medical staff, and were able to get the courts to recognize the major mistake the doctors made during the procedure. Growing up though, Sofia looked at this as not a negative but a positive way to learn to overcome anything from a young age, with the support of her wonderful family. If someone told her “you can’t” her posi-mindset instantly said “well, how bout yes I can do that” would take over. For instance, playing guitar in punk bands growing up. Or modeling. Or how bout gold and silver finishes at the Italy Paralympic Championships? Yes you read that right. This plant based athlete refuses to be told she cannot do something, by anyone. And with an insane amount of dedication to being the absolute best possible, she managed to reach the gold medal in just around two years experience. With an iron will as such, you can bet dollars to doughnuts she’s just getting started on her path of athletics, competition and spreading an amazing message of motivation to anyone who wants to read it. Read our recent conversation with Sofia, and prepare for your motivation game to be taken to a new level.

MMF: For our first question, can you tell the readers a bit about your “disability (you’re more like superwoman to us, but you know what we mean….I dislike the word disabled personally…)” and when you started skiing…..

Sofia: Sure, and thank you for calling me “superwoman”! When I was born I had a congenital heart disease, and I got an urgent surgery at the age of 5 months! The surgery went good, but during it doctors didn’t notice that my blood was not reaching spinal cord! The result was a spinal cord ischemia in the lumbar, that took me away the use of legs! For me that’s not a problem, and it has never been, I’m lucky that mother nature gave me a strong and handsome body, so since i was a baby I have learned to do everything I wanted to do using my arms, shoulders, abdominals, and everything my body allowed me to do. I’ve never cared about what I could or couldn’t do! I think this is the key of feeling good with your own body and with yourself…. betting everything on your own potential and on your own capacity, without lingering on limits! Then you’ll see, as if by magic, those limits will disappear. I actually think as you do, I’ve never considered myself as a disable, as I see disability as a physical feature, as the fact of having the eyes of a certain color, or hairs of another! Every feature, it brings advantages and disadvantages! I sure cannot do squat when I’m at the gym, but I sure can lift more than lot of men around me!

So I started skiing in 2012, when i was 23 and I had never played sports before in my life….so I wanted to try something new, that could give me the same adrenaline I felt while I was playing guitar during a show! Alpine skiing was what I was looking for, with all that speed heading down the black slope, sitting on a monoski made by carbon and motocross shock absorber! It’s almost like riding a motorbike (laughs)

MMF: At what point did you figure out that “hey I might be good enough to go for the Italian Skiing Championships”? That’s a pretty big goal for anyone to go for!

Sofia: I started right away with an agonist mindset. I didn’t want to do 4 hours of driving to reach slopes just to spend my time and have fun. More so, my instructors noticed that I was good and I had a great sense of balance, then I started training with experts and qualified instructors to face poles and ski races. I’m a very competitive person and always get involved to be the best, so I worked hard and I trained a lot for Italian Skiing Championships, but it was a goal I had in mind since the first times I started skiing. And listening to Motley Crue, Testament, Pantera and the likes gave me so much energy like no drug ever would! I love music so much, and I played electric guitar for years in punk and metal bands. Listening to metal music is like pumping fuel in my veins every time, I love the way it makes me feel, so strong and powerful. My way of facing life is truly expressed in the music I listen and I love, and that energy I brought with me to become a Skiing Champion.

MMF: Describe how it felt to get gold and silver medals. It’s a dream for anyone to reach the top of a sport, but you did it on the biggest possible stage available.

Sofia: It was a unique, unbelievable and crazy feeling. The silver in slalom happened because I fell on the way down, and it took seconds to stand up again and continue my race with the best concentration. It was a great satisfaction to reach 2nd place despite of the fall, and counting that I started to practice between close poles just 3 months before. The day after there was the giant slalom, my specialty, and once I finished my race I heard speakers saying “Sofia Righetti maintains 1st place…” I just couldn’t believe it, I started to realize what was going on when I saw my instructor coming to me with tears in his eyes out of happiness. That was a beautiful day, surrounded by people who love and support me. Skiing is about strength, but also about technique and strategy, it takes a tiny error to make you throw it away, since sitting skiers like me have just one ski, and they cannot correct using the other ski, as standing skiers can do. To become a champion after two only years of training is such a great great satisfaction.

MMF: So when did you decided to go vegan and make that a part of your lifestyle?

Sofia: Even as a child I always had a great love and respect for animals, and I have always empathized with them. Unfortunately I do not come from a vegetarian family, and it was not easy when I was so small to make my parents understand that I did not want to eat meat no more. I became a vegetarian definitely at 14 years old, and I have passed through adolescence making me an active party for animal rights by making people aware of the atrocious conditions in which the non-human individuals in our society are forced in, both in terms of livestock, slaughter houses, fur trade and animal testing. I then graduated at the University of Bologna in philosophy of medicine with a thesis against animal testing, by obtaining the highest marks. I became a vegan in 2012, it has been a gradual process. Even before I avoided milk and eggs, but definitely becoming vegan was the greatest act of love that I could do for animals, the planet, and also myself. Many people do not know all the pain and cruelty that lie behind the production of milk, eggs, cheese and dairy products, but unfortunately it is so. And the animals are treated as objects, machines geared for the sale of food that man It does not need to feed it, and I can not accept it and do not want to comply with that.

And being vegan is easy, as there are lots of products full of protein that taste delicious like seitan, tofu, tempeh, soy, mopur … and then the vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals … Nature offers already everything we need to live in full health. Obviously also regarding clothes and shoes I am very careful to choose objects not made of leather, wool or feather duster. But it is also easy here, many production companies are adapting to the growing awareness of the people, making high quality products and cruelty free. Becoming a champion of Italian skiing was amazing because I could prove that you can be strong, athletic and strong and get to higher levels of competitive sport following nutrition plan that does not completely involve animal suffering. Many people are doctors and nutritionists in sports who follow vegan athletes, just as there are more and more athletes of any discipline who are vegans. Besides skiing, I practice hand bike, gym and a bit ‘of crossfit, and have always been strong, toned and muscular, I never had problems with nutritional drops

MMF: Who are your biggest inspirations?

Sofia: Every single person who has fought for the ideals of love and respect for other forms of life, and that continues strongly with the joy of the heart. All these people, who may be the philosopher Tom Regan and Gary Francione, the actor Jacquin Phoenix or even the singer Morrissey, the singer Alissa Withe-Gluz are great people and wonderful to me, and to think that “I am not alone” and that we in many to take practical action for a better world fills my heart with hope. Even those who are spreading an idea of disability as strength and power, not as “bad luck” is my very great sources of inspiration: I first do conferences (I’ve just been a TED speaker, in Verona) talking about disabilities as potential and not as a limit, so that maybe one day there will be no difference between disabled and non-disabled, and who knows … maybe the Olympics and Paralympics can expect celebrated in the same day, many athletes with different characteristics.

MMF: Between being a championship skier, model, learning to play guitar….it sounds like you are able to do anything you put your mind to. What are some of the next set of goals you have?

Sofia: Thank you very much again! Now I am dedicated to hand bike and workouts in the gym, and I’m always looking for sponsors because here in Italy no national sports company will finance anything. I had to pay coaches, equipment and travel with my money and I assure you that skiing is a really really expensive sport. I always want to try new sports too, so I’m more than happy to try something every new chance that comes around. I really hope to find some sponsors who support me, because I live for competition, and maybe I’ll win again! As I wrote before, I also keep conferences on sport / disability / vegan life, I manage a Facebook page:, where people can follow me in my various sport adventures and have advice for a vegan lifestyle. I care very much to my fitness and to my peace of mind, to be an inspiration to all people, disabled or not, who want to undertake a healthy lifestyle and respect for other creatures, and reach to forward that self confidence I’m lucky to have. Being a model of strength, determination and empathy doing all I can to improve the lives of other individuals, human or otherwise, it is an important milestone and I am grateful if I can succeed with my purpose.

Follow Sofia on Facebook


Yes you’re addicted to working out. Admit it. That’s the first step to recovery you know? “But I can rest whenever I want!” you exclaim. Oh yeah? So why is it you’re doing HIIT sprints for 3 hours and calling it a rest day? You took a nap? That’s not a rest day, that’s just awesome. But it’s not a full on rest day. You pulled a groin muscle but you’re still in the gym trying to squat a PR.


When you’re full on into your training a rest day can feel like the absolute worst thing since Mondays. You sit at the window like a Kermit meme wondering if you’ll ever have gains again. Or you mentally start freaking out like one day off will get erase months worth of progress. Get over it. Last I checked you’re not Robocop and even Robocop needed some downtime to eat baby food or have weird spastic dreams. But at least he took some downtime.

Thing is, even if you’re Alpha-Robot Fitness God, you’re hurting your Alpha-Robot-Fitness God self by not taking 1-2 days off during the week. In fact, it can be EXTREMELY capitalized and detrimental to your health to not take a rest day. Lack of proper recovery makes you hit the dreaded plateau wall. Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend? They’re probably wondering why they haven’t seen you in two months. Have you called your mom lately? No? You mean you didn’t even go see that one movie you wanted to see for the last year? C’mon man!

Think of it this way. Unless you’re Jay Cutler you have no reason to train 7 days a week. And you wanna know something else? Jay Cutler did only three things while training for a show: Eat, Workout, Rest. So you’re just trying to look and feel good you need to back the F up. This 7 days a week thing isn’t going about things the right way. It’s like balancing out a relationship. You’re only in the gym (in bed) one hour a day with training (having sex with your partner) so you need to make sure the other 23 hours are using the time wisely and effectively to make sure all stays good in the hood.

If you don’t rest, you won’t experience the strength, power or endurance adaptations that you’re bothering to train for in the first place. Without adequate recovery, your musculoskeletal system, nervous system, and immune system become compromised, which puts you at a greater risk for injury, illness, weak lifts, and, frankly, a piss-poor attitude. Your body’s hormonal response to the deterioration of these systems is often a state of sympathetic arousal—your “fight or flight” response—which floods your body with high levels of catabolic hormones like cortisol. None of these things are good for growth.

So let’s get our labcoats on for a second so you can be convinced I’m not a dope talking about this. During sleep, solid 7-8 hours of “balls out awesome” sleep is when your Growth Hormone (gH) is at it’s highest. This is when physiological improvement takes place. And this is another reason eating clean and consuming proper supplements while training is important too.

Sure, training like a beast conditions the body. Badass workouts will improve efficiency of the heart, increase capillaries in the muscles to bring greatest amounts of blod floow and increase glycogen stores and mitochondrial enzyme systems within the muscle cells aka YOUR SWOLE BRO.

So during a recovery period this all works together and these systems build to grand levels to compensate for the stress you have put your body through. Now you’re at a more improved level. But if proper recovery time is not given, your body won’t be able to regenerate. Ever wonder why after training 761 days in a row people complain they look flat? Well dude or dudette, it’s because your body will store less glycogen when you overtrain. This imbalance between too much training and not enough rest will just cause overall performance to decline.

So what are signs, besides the above, that you’re overtraining? Physical symptoms can include an elevated pulse in the morning (no shit), or consistently high blood pressure levels. Throw in a jacked up immune system, increase in injuries, constant fatigue, loss of focus, decreased sex drive, mood swings, depression, insomnia, emotional distress…any of this ringing a bell yet? Yes. BURNT OUT. That sums up the feeling of going overboard with training.

X-ray vision helps you see your own overtrained joints. And a lot of bad underwear in public.

One of the worst parts of this is something we’ll touch on many times in the future. A study done somewhere by someone in some lab or college (trust us) found that overtraining jacks up the body’s CORTISOL levels and DHEA. These are the body’s long-acting stress hormones and are antagonistic to each other. DHEA has an anabolic influence, while cortisol has a catabolic (tearing down) effective. Normally these two are in harmony and riding on unicorns together.

Get your own damn unicorn!

But when one gets too high or low, bad shit goes down. During chronic overtraining, the body will produce WAY more cortisol than normal, and reduce the amont of DHEA. Too much cortisol can cause you to crave a lot of carbs at night, make you feel like crap and tired as hell all the time, then jack up your cholestrerol, decrease your seretonin levels and lead to depression, deplete vital nutrients and vitamins in the system, so on and so forth. From my experience, if you’re overtraining and trying to bring your cortisol levels down, you’ll get trapped in a loop of “I need sleep to bring these levels down but the only way I can bring these cortisol levels down is with sleep but I can’t sleep because I can’t bring down my cort…” GET IT YET?

Put the weights down for a day or two. Your body is screaming at you for REM sleep. To get it, take a day off already. Take two.

First off, take two days of no activity. If you can, do some calm yoga and help stretch your body out or get a massage. Also, reduce your caffeine intake as it can raise your cortisol levels and dopamine levels as well. If you’re already taken a preworkout that has any caffeine in it, you’re probably taking in too much. Considering it stimulates the same neurotransmitters as herion, it’s probably why we’re all addicted to it. Take a L-Tyrosine supplement to help get it it under control. Check what you’re eating and eliminate sugars and simple carbs for a bit while of course upping your veggies and protein sources. Another thing to help with sleeplessness is a Cal-mag supplement at night. This is something we’ve tried and had great results with.

(Getting a massage can do wonders. So treat yourself!)

In short, or long, and what a read this is… We love to train. we love the gym. We love lamp. And we wanna love the gym for a long time, injury free to keep our bodies in tip top shape. The workout is half the battle, the rest is the other half and an integral part of the whole eating well and recovery phase of getting yourself in the shape you desire. Never turn your back on a rest day. Chances are, your gains will thank you for it.


You know the old saying “you never know what battles someone is fighting beneath their smile”? In the fitness industry, that couldn’t be more true. The industry is focused on the aesthetic, the visual, and the physical so often we forget the competitors are people. For every bulging biceps, abs of steel or gorgeous glutes, the people who train hard to have them share the same insecurities or worries or stresses non-competitors do. Once you know their stories though, the more you realize we’re all in the same boat in life, doing out best to reach our goals and encountering struggles along the way.

IFBB Pro Jessica James, upon first glance, is built like an action movie superhero and has a smile bright enough to escape a black hole in space (that’s some science and a really good line, you should look it up if you’re not sure what that means my friends. Huge compliment…). It’s helped her win several shows over the last few years and place in the top 5 of many more. But she had been facing her own struggles and battles for years with an eating disorder, which she has been very public and open about. Upon talking to Jessica, you find a positive, vibrant personality that loves to laugh out loud and crack jokes to get others to laugh with her. But she also knows with the popularity she’s created in the fitness industry, she can play a vital role in identifying and connecting with others who have been through what she has been through. She knows where she comes from and what obstacles she has faced and uses it as motivation to keep her centered and grounded in the ‘now’ of life. And there’s nothing more real than someone who’s able to be forthcoming with the fire they’ve walked through.

We recently caught up with Jessica to dive deeper into her story and where she’s headed next. The answer might surprise you. Rest assured, wherever she’s headed, she’ll be doing her best to get the world to smile along with her.

MMF: We’ll start with the cliche fitness questions first! (laughs) So you had a great 2013 and 2014 for doing shows, finishing extremely well, are you on hold from competing right now or is there a show coming up you’re training for?

JJ: Well actually I am not competing any longer!

MMF: Oh! Well that’s news to us apparently!

JJ: I am done. I announced it about two months ago that I am was not going to compete any longer.

MMF: So what lead to the decision to move on from it?

JJ: Well I love to compete and I love to be on stage. Before I ever competed, I did cheerleading in my youth, and I basically grew up on stage, in front of people and I’ve always been super out going….but I also have a passion for coaching and teaching. I believe everyone is born with a talent and their niche, just have to find it…and my mother owned a cheer gym and was a preschool teacher and I was exposed to teaching at an early age. Being active and competing is very much in me, but when it came down to it, and when I started not placing as high as in not placing top 5…coming from being an amateur and winning a lot and then going pro and getting my ‘ass handed to me’ (laughs) it kind of made me think a lot about why I was doing it. “Why was I doing this?” And it really was at first I wanted to be patted on the back and be told I was the best. And when I wasn’t getting that, I went “so what is the joy in doing this?” And I loved it, but while I was competing I was also working with a lot of competitors and my business grew. The competing was great but I found that my happiness was stemming from my clients’ success, and dealing with them. So when it came down to it, it’s about helping others. And it didn’t have to be getting them on the stage or show ready or anything, just helping them in general and stepping out of myself, ya know? I did a couple shows when I started shifting my motivation from trying to win, I was training but I was putting more of my time to my clients…I actually started doing better at my shows…I was doing better and looking better. Prepping was easier. It was because I was happier! So I took from that and I though “I wanna put my attention into just helping others” I know that sounds cliche, you know hearts and rainbows (laughs)…but when it came down to it, what was I doing it for? Behind the scenes or for the spotlight? I asked myself, “Where do you get the most satisfaction in the long run?” and that was it. I’m still training hard, and eating healthy of course because that makes me feel good because it makes me feel better and I’m able to help other people. Because if I’m miserable with myself and not in the gym and putting myself last I can’t be helpful to other people.

MMF: Well as a trainer myself if you not in this business to help others you’re in the wrong business. If you’re in it to JUST make money, you won’t last. People who love it would train people for free, like if a friend needed it. So it sounds like competing was a big step to getting you to this next point. Do you think it was like phase one to leading you to this new phase two of your life?

JJ: I believe it all happens for a reason. I do believe competing and doing shoots, and building status, gave me a position to be able to reach a larger group of people. Like selfish at first but lead to something bigger than just me. So my plan now is to growing my business and reach as many people as possible, on a bigger scale. Not just the competition world, but the whole fitness world, anyone trying to live a better, more sane life. I’m sponsored by and Muscle Pharm, so that in itself though it’s not my main career, it supplements it and gives me an opportunity to reach out to more people in more places.

MMF: You have been doing a series for FitnessRX for Women for a while, the “Fire It Up” workouts. How did you hook up with them for this, and do they allow you full say on which exercises you highlight?

JJ: I got involved with them was I got approached after the Tijuiana Pro, and called saying “hey we want you for the magazine” and with them getting to know me, the photographers report back to the project guy and I had briefly met the people from FitnessRX for Women….beings that I’m a personal trainer and not JUST a bikini pro, and I know what I’m doing and I have a team of girls. So I know what I’m talking about (Laughs) So we brainstormed ideas, and I really liked the HIIT cardio idea and anything that I can help and be involved in. They’re really particular on who they choose. Same with Muscle Pharm and I didn’t get picked just because I looked good, it was because I shared my story and that isn’t not just sunshine and rainbow all the time. It’s easy to think these fitness icons, not saying that’s me, but that they’re all superwomen and supermen….when really we’re all real people, ya know? So it was about being authentic. There are so many good bodies out there and attractive people out there in the fitness industry and I remember going to LA and them really pushing on me…”what is your BRAND?!! You need to stand out and be unique” and they were really pushing that on me. Which I think is the sad part of the industry “what are you going to do the stand out?” and act like you’re something you’re not. I’m blessed that instead of opportunities leaving me which is a great fear whenever I share something really personal or “perfect” or how dare I miss a workout (laugh) but it’s attractive to people because that is real. It’s how I coach. I expect progress, not perfection. Because I don’t expect that out of myself.

MMF: Folks have a preconceived notion about fitness models about them being “perfect”…do you feel being in a spotlight you have a responsibility to break that stereotype, especially to young women who might be only focused on the that, and not total personal development?

JJ: The reason I love sharing how imperfect I am because I really did look up to those girls and I punished myself so much internally for not living up to that. I thought “what’s wrong with me that I’m falling off my plan?” or “what’s wrong with me that I don’t have motivation 24/7?” “why can’t I have a six pack year around??”

The more I beat myself up about that the more I got lost in something I didn’t want to be. You know those memes that are all “this is what my friends see me doing/this is what I’m really doing?” or “how we want things to go vs. how reality is”? Perception was everything. Every time I messed up it got me closer to my goals, whether a week, a day or a month later. I’m very open about struggling with my eating disorder and I did not know how much I’d be able to help others and how much more I’d learn about myself by going through such a deep dark place. When I was down in it, I felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. So just sharing that…everything we go through is for some kind of reason….

MMF: Your history with your eating disorder is something you’ve been very public and forthcoming with. For our readers who aren’t familiar, could you shed some light on your battle with it and overcoming it?

JJ: I work with an eating disorder program, or I guess my program of recovery (without breaking the anonymity) and I speak a lot and share my experience and what it was like before, how recovery worked and how it is now….I can break it down like that I suppose. I grew up in sports and such. Not really paying attention to my body type or what it looked like, I was a skinny kid. Maybe even getting teased for it, I was just active. Through a chain of events, in my high school years a lot happened. My parents got divorced and I had a personal trainer who basically taught me how to be anorexic by doing cardio all the time…then moving away for the first time, and then I got into my first real relationship where I never expressed how I felt…you know, early life stuff but it all happened at once. It changed my relationship with food, forever really. I was getting attention as I grew up as how I was looking, but I was hungry all the time and the binge eating started. But I kept it a secret and it was something I thought I could control. I started using food as a drug, a way to feel happy or reward or when I felt down or punish myself. Drugs and alcohol were never an issue so fod was really my ‘drug’. When I found bodybuilding, and I went to an LA Fit Expo, it was like ‘whoa!” So I got into all this as a way to channel and control my food as a way of doing something I could be successful at. (laughs) And I got crazy for a while. It was all or nothing, obsessed. I was always posting these black and white “you’re either first or last” messages on social media, I didn’t have a social life and I became pretty self centered.

Photo: Jason Little

I did get a lot of success out of doing shows from it, the shows didn’t give me the eating disorder. I had this under lying way of hiding it, though I channeled it to do well at shows and do something good. But it’s a progressive problem if you don’t get real help for it. So what happened was I white knuckled it, by being on these restrictive diets but as soon as I had a period where I hit my target weight and the shows were done, it was always followed by this period of craziness. Where I would binge then over exercise, throw up, binge, getting back on a diet, and the only way to get control was to sign up for another show. But every time after a show, it just kept getting worse and worse. After my pro show in 2014, I kind of put up the white flag. I think I hit my rock bottom. Everyone’s rock bottom is different, some gain a ton of weight, some waste away into the hospital from anorexia. Everyone has that “oh crap I can’t do this and I need help” moment and that’s what I hit. I remember having this mindset of “I”m not doing this today” followed by a binge. I woke up one morning to work off what I did and I couldn’t get out of the car. I just broke down and cried. Bawled. And I just couldn’t do it anymore. I called my parents and told them that I needed to get help. I am so grateful for the rock bottom because it changed my relationship with food and working out ever since. It almost makes me want to cry thinking about it….I didn’t think working out and eating healthy could be easy like it feels now. I’m sitting here today obsession free of food and I’m in control of my body. I eat healthy of course, but it’s been work for me. I think a lot of women struggle with this, maybe not to the extent I did, but some might even more than I did, some less…I got into my program of recovery which I’m very active in so I can help others with their eating disorders, I have a mentor in it…it’s easier now than when I started but I still have to work harder than your average person who doesn’t have the a disorder. But a lot of great things have came from that struggle. Having great friends to be around, helping others. I went through this period of recovery and thinking “ok I think I want to compete again!” thinking it was going to be different, which it was. But I tried it and though it was wonderful to be on stage, but the focus putting it all on me and being compared to others…

MMF: …it became a trigger?

JJ: Yeah, it was because it changed the mindset of “I”m healthy” and shifted it back to “it’s all about my body” again. It didn’t really help. And it just made me rethink why I was competing. I don’t think competing is for everyone. I think a lot of people get into the industry for reason like I did in the beginning. But if you have issues with food or body image, from my experience, it’s probably not the best sport to get into. Though the fitness community has a lot of supportive people in it and people doing it for the right reasons….

MMF: Society seems to want people to focus on those who look a certain way a lot, and comparing yourself to others a lot of the time can lead to self- destructive mindsets. Like counter-productive ways of thinking…

JJ: It all comes down to, for me at least, the self centered mentality. I never though of myself as one of those people, but I constantly was trying to control everything. The way my life was going, how people treated me. I didn’t realize that type of control was what was keeping me dysfunctional in my food. Not that I don’t want to into the whole God and higher power thing here, but for me it was just giving up all that control. Letting go. That’s what it comes down to. It starts with your mind, and the body then follows. If we try and control every single little thing, that self-centeredness comes up again…what you resist, persists. Being able to finally let that go if you make a mistake and to be able to move on from it. I would mess up on food or a workout and panic would set it. And then I would over compensate and control everything. And that was the mistake I was making. Letting go and living the “Progress not perfection” was the key, living it.

MMF: Are you to the point of being able to enjoy treats now? Having a “cheat day” like a lot of people who are very into fitness?

JJ: Yeah, that’s been a big thing. even when it comes to sugar and such, I think it’s about knowing your body and yourself. So I know no matter how strong I feel, if I’m going to feel any sort of guilt and shame afterwards, I just don’t partake in it. For me, it’s not worth it. Some can handle it, eating certain things all the time. Some can’t go there. It’s a person by person basis. There is no perfect food plan or cheat meal that is correct. Everyone is different, person to person. And my food plan might not work for someone else, some can eat intuitively. But I do know, one of the most freeing things every, I would compulsively weight my food. Even if it was a lot. Comes back to control, and it was kind of scary. And in recovery I’ve been able to let that go. I actually found out that weighing and measure your food obsessively is an disorder called orthorexia. It was a very eye opening thing to discover, and it was really powerful for me. Putting my scale away after finding that out was big for me. I know for competing a lot of people have to weight their food for food prep, but I know so many people who are so scared to NOT weight their portions and food during shows….I’m far more free about my food now. I ate a burrito for lunch today and whatever my family had when I was out there them. And it was all healthy and such, maybe a bit too much oil….but whatever. I’m at that point where I accept it and it is what it is. (Laughs)

MMF: Have you found that through helping your clients and others it makes dealing with all the battles of the eating disorder easier to manage?

JJ: I found that the more I’m out of myself and that I’m helping others, the more I stay on plan. Whenever I do I pause and think “ok stop, remove that” and I look to help someone else. It sounds stupid but I’ll even grab trash on the ground and throw it away if it’s for something besides me. Like text a random friend and say “how are you” or call a client and check in with them. Or heck, grab flowers and take them to family or even pay for people behind me at Starbucks (laughs) I do that all the time now. So when I feel body conscious or focusing of food or beating myself up, when that mentality creeps in, I put my focus elsewhere to helping someone. Like when my clients email now if they say “I” or “me” too much I let them know that, and I’ll ask what they did to help someone else that day. I have a client who texted me who was nervous before her stage show, this happened earlier. She was nervous and didn’t know what to do. I told her “find someone around you to help”. She did and she instantly felt better. Getting out of your own head can do wonders. It’s been a huge thing. you’re like being selfish by being selfless (laughs).

MMF: So to switch gears, I saw you did a shoot recently with the geek shirt and the Superman top, looking like a hot nerd (laughs). Do you have a nerdy side where when you’re not in front of the camera or on stage?

JJ: No (laughs). That’s really funny. God, I wish I was a nerd, nerds are hot (laughs). Unfortunately I don’t really have that nerdy cool side. I am hilarious though (laughs) I do like to play practical jokes, it’s something that runs in my family. I mess with people, not in a harmful way of course (laughs). I spend a lot of time with my family, like tons. They are my best friends, from top to bottom. Step-dad, my mom….I’m always around them. And we play jokes on each other a lot. Like I put up on Instagram on April Fools I was pregnant (the belly pic) some people flipped out about it actually, but hey you can’t please everyone, ya know. But we’re always playing games and such. We’ll play Cards Against Humanity, Apples to Apples, we love playing games. Card games, boards games….no video games. I don’t even have a TV in my house actually.

MMF: So with all this the past few years wrapping up, and the new direction, after the battles you’ve dealt with in your life and clearly you’re excited about the next phase of your life, what is next for you? More writing? A book maybe?

JJ: I actually thought about writing an E-Book, not sure which direction to go with like any one direction. Maybe I’m not qualified to talk publicly about balance, but yeah, I’ve been brainstorming. I would really like to speak. I’m not sure if people wanna hear me speak (laughs) but I want to travel and go in front of a broader audience and connect with men and women all over. But the direction to go to speak on, I’ll figure it out.

MMF: Well this new direction gives you a new wide platform to connect with others……

JJ: Well I want to meet a lot of these women with their stories…I’ve called people on social media that have stories similar to mine before. I love connecting with others. Being able to meet them and hug them. It’s emotional for me, and It would be amazing to do that in the future.

You can follow Jessica on her various socia media links at: