Name: John Coffey, B.A., C.P.T.
Year of Birth: 1989
Birthplace: Charleston, South Carolina!
Current Residence: Charleston, South Carolina!
Sports: swimming, mud runs, racquetball, boxing, yoga, Crossfit, surfing
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have
I'm 24, and have been vegetarian for almost a decade, and vegan for most of that time. I work full-time as a fitness and weight-lifting instructor, and am finishing a Master's degree in Environmental Science. I would like to become a yoga instructor soon. My current fitness goals are to complete a single-arm chin-up, to standing press more than my bodyweight, and to become competent at handstand presses. My current fitness interests include balance and stability work, isometric training, low-volume circuit training, and advanced calisthenics. My best lift is the weighted chin-up at +105 pounds. My favorite exercise is the muscle-up. My favorite yoga pose is warrior!
Why did you become vegan?
I became vegetarian in high school after reading about the health benefits. For a few years, I was a "pizza and ice cream vegetarian." I wasn't feeling any of the benefits I had read about. I cut out dairy and started to feel much better. I struggled with eggs for a while and continued to eat organic free-range eggs. After reading enough scientific articles on the subject, I realized that the risks associated with the high amount of cholesterol in eggs outweighed any protein benefits. Another strong motivator was the environmental health and sustainability. The United Nations has stated that adopting a vegan diet is the single best change an individual can make to help mitigate climate change and other environmental problems. Now 100% plant-based, I feel much healthier, less guilty, and enjoy enhanced athletic performance!
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I became interested in fitness around the age of 15, mainly so I could tryout for sports and impress girls at my school, haha.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I eat a high-fat, moderate-carb, moderate-protein diet of whole foods.
I aim for about 4000 kcal per day and 100 grams of protein (1.4 g per kg).
I eat mostly fresh fruits and juice, nuts, seeds. natural peanut butter, dark chocolate, lentils, beans, quinoa, vegetables, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, and sometimes brown rice.
I don't eat before my workouts, but I will sometimes have a cup or two of black coffee as a pre-workout. I workout in the evenings, and eat most of my calories post-workout, right before bed. I currently weigh about 160 pounds at 5'9, and am 6% body-fat.
My favorite food is natural peanut butter!
My favorite drink is cider. All of the bodybuilders I know take a cheat meal or two where they eat whatever they want. I don't ever crave fast food or junk food, so for my cheat meal, I drink beer, even though I know gluten isn't great for me, haha.
How would you describe your training program?
I do mostly bodyweight training, powerlifting, gymnastics and yoga. I usually train for 45 minutes, once or twice per week. A typical workout for me might be something like:
BOSU long jumps for warm-up.
Then a Circuit, 5 rounds for time of:
BOSU single-leg squats, 10 reps (usually with a 20 lb medicine ball)
Weighted chin-ups, 1 rep (up to +105 so far!)
Lunges (static, 90 degree) 8 reps each leg (usually 50 lb dumbbells)
Standing push press, 4 reps (up to 135 so far)
L-sit on parallel bars (since my torn infraspinatus won't let me do dips)
Cool down of planks or other yoga.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I don't use any supplements, not even protein shakes. I did when I was a kid, but I can't afford supplements now. Customers at my gym are always showing me their bars and pills and powders and asking my opinion. I used to spend $3 for a protein bar that contains 25g of protein isolates and a dozen other ingredients I can't pronounce. Now I spend 89 cents on a bag of lentils and it is 130 grams of protein, and there is 1 ingredients on the package. Lentils.
How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
Most people are surprised and curious. Surprisingly, no one has asked me the proverbial "Where do you get your protein?!?" question yet.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
That it is feminine or snobbish or only for hippies and Democrats. I even met one person who was convinced that veganism was somehow associated with paganism, haha.
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
I've had a few friends that have become vegetarian. My mom is mostly vegetarian now. I don't preach about it, I just try to live by example. I do encourage all of my clients to eat lots of fruits and vegetables!
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
Proper form and training safely, with sufficient nutrition, rest, and recovery.
What do you like best about being vegan?
The increased feelings of well-being and peace.
What do you like best about being fit?
The biologist in me really just views physical fitness as something that is essential to survival, and thus of utmost importance.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
Find fun ways to exercise! Utilize scholarly resources to educate yourself about exercise instead of relying on "bro-science" at the gym. Pace yourself, and have patience. Focus on compound movements for large muscle groups, and don't forget often overlooked fitness components like balance, coordination, flexibility, and stability.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
There are so many exotic fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds and legumes that many of us probably never heard of until transitioning to a plant-based diet. There is so much to explore!
What motivates you in life?
Positivity and optimism
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
veganbodybuilding.com is such a great resource and an awesome community for connecting with others who are thriving on a plant-based diet.