Name: Joe DeMarco
Height: 5' 4"
Weight: 165 lbs. off season, 150 lbs. competition
Current Residence: MA
Why did you become vegan?
I grew up in a traditional Italian family where meat was served pretty much with every meal. I never really gave much thought to it when I was young. As I grew up, I began to eat less and less meat and eventually became a vegetarian for several years when I was in my late twenties and early thirties. For whatever reason, I went back to eating meat in my mid to late thirties. Then, about two years ago, I started sensing bad Karma each and every time I ate meat and/or animal products. I really don't know how to explain it, but I was feeling compelled to begin a vegan lifestyle. I was fighting this urge at first, mostly because of the fear of not being able to remain competitive in the bodybuilding world. Vegans, after all, are skinny and have no muscle (or so I was told).
One day, as my thoughts of becoming a vegan weighed on my mind, I went home for lunch and found about a half dozen PETA magazines on my kitchen table. Apparently, my sister-in-law, who has been a vegan for 30+ years, left them off at my house. I began flipping through the magazines, and within 5 minutes, my mind was made up to never eat animals and/or animal products again. I felt that those PETA magazines being on my table on that day were a sign from God. It was his way to finally convince me to do the "right thing".
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
I have always had an interest in working out ever since I was a little kid. It's what I always wanted to do. I was so interested in working out that I actually talked my parents into buying me a weight set when I was 8 years old! I have been working out ever since.
How would you describe your nutrition program?
I eat "clean" year round. I eat about 5-6 small meals during the course of the day. I pretty much just stick to the basics. I eat oatmeal, tempeh (probably my favorite food), lots of different vegetables, rice, yams, beans, etc. When preparing for competition, I make very little changes in my nutrition program other than eliminating any occasional cheat meals and slowly reducing serving sizes.
How would you describe your training program?
I train using my own system that I've developed over the years. I just completed a book on this system and it is currently going to print. (I will be more than happy to go into detail of my system once I am close to the release date of my book.) I believe in heavy training focusing on single body parts each workout. I continue to train as heavy as I can right up until the time of my competition.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I'm not a huge fan of supplements, and for many years did not use any. Currently, I use branched chain aminos during my workouts. I feel that the branched chain aminos help speed my recovery and also reduces muscle breakdown during training. About 15-30 minutes before my workout I use a drink that contains B vitamins and creatine ethyl ester that is called Maximum Muscle Pump. I also have started to periodically use an herbal based testosterone booster.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
I have a question/answer thread on a couple of the big bodybuilding websites. One of the most common remarks I see is that vegans are skinny, weak, etc. Most of the time it comes from those uneducated individuals who think that "getting big" means eating 300-400 grams of animal protein a day. My goal is to show everyone that you can build muscle on a vegan diet without all those grams of animal protein.
What do you think the most important aspect of fitness is?
The most important aspect is to lead by example for our children. Show them how important it is to eat right and stay fit.
What do you like best about being vegan?
I love the way I feel mentally and physically. Mentally, I feel nothing but good Karma by living a vegan lifestyle. Physically, I've never felt healthier, stronger and more muscular.
What do you like best about being fit?
I like being able to do things that a lot of guys my age can't do. Whether it's something simple like running around with my kids or something more involved like competing in bodybuilding.
What are your strengths as an athlete?
My greatest strength is my determination. I can not be defeated by anyone, only myself. I train hard all the time and have never missed a scheduled workout, NO MATTER WHAT.
What advice do you have for vegan athletes who are just starting out?
Don't let others discourage you. Stick to your beliefs, train hard, and eat healthy. If you do this you will come out on top.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
If you are going to do it, educate yourself first. Learn about what nutritional needs you will have if you don't eat meat or dairy. I have seen people get sick and run down if they become vegans on a whim without learning proper nutrition.
What motivates you to continue to be a successful vegan athlete?
I love the surprise on people's faces when they learn that I'm a vegan. I enjoy the feeling of being different. I would say that 99% of all bodybuilders don't think you can be a successful bodybuilder on a vegan diet. My goal is to prove them wrong!
How has the website www.veganbodybuilding.com helped or inspired you?
It feels so good to read about other successful vegans out there. The stories of others truly inspire me.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your vegan fitness lifestyle?
Yes. No matter how hard you train or how well you eat, at the end of the day you have to give all thanks to God.