Name: Shae Valko
Year of Birth: 1989
Height: 6’ 2”
Birthplace: Rochester, MI
Current Residence: Shelby Township, MI
Sports: Hobbyist Bodybuilding
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have
Well, that is a complicated question. I just graduated with a BS in environmental Biology but I’m entertaining notions of returning to get my Masters in Public Health and Nutrition. I want to make a career out of my obsession with health and fitness. I’m also an artist, more specifically musician, actor, and writer. I would love to try and carve out a decent career in those disciplines as well. Hell, I’m currently developing a science fiction TV series to pitch to some production studios. I’m of course passionate about treating out environment and its organisms right.
Why did you become vegan?
You know it’s funny. I went vegetarian for a month on a dare from one of my vegetarian friends at college. It was so easy. Then I picked up a pamphlet from Vegan Outreach on impulse. The things I learned about the treatment of animals were disgusting. I decided I wanted nothing to do with that. I was a junior at MSU. It was bound to happen. As a science major, I was hard-wired through education to be skeptical of all things, including societal norms, like the meat-centric “American” diet.
When and why did you become interested in fitness?
It was at almost the exact same time that I became a vegan. I was incredibly unfit in high school (225 lbs and not in a good way). Then I went down to a dangerously low 175 lbs after running a lot and not eating. It wasn’t healthy either. I’d never been a buff guy. I wanted to achieve that. It was an uphill battle, because of my new vegan lifestyle and my long arms (building biceps and triceps is a bitch). But I found this website and discovered an entire subculture of athletes and bodybuilders completely animal-free. I was inspired. I started doing more research than I can even recall. I started doing a 5 day split. The rest is history. I love it!
How would you describe your nutrition program?
Well, I am currently trimming down for the summer beach body season. So I am eating around 500 calories a meal, 5 to 6 meals a day. In a month, I will return to trying to build muscle, but I want to keep mid-section fat gain to a minimum, as that was a problem when I started out. I plan on maintaining a 3500 to 4000 calorie intake, high in healthy whole foods. I don’t fear carbs, so long as they are low glycemic (except immediately after training of course) or whole grain carbs. I eat tons of legumes (mmmm lentils), dark greens, nuts, seeds, and whole soy products like tofu and tempeh. I usually cut most carbs out after 7pm. Big salads loaded with nuts, tempeh, and tons of home-grown sprouts make up a big part of my evening diet.
How would you describe your training program?
Right now, I am at the tail end of the Insanity program. It has been a totally different fitness experience; all body weight and core cardio training. I can finally see my abs. It is fantastic! But I miss being buff as I lost a lot of shoulder and arm muscle cutting down my caloric intake for the program. After Insanity is done, I will start bulking again, this time having a nice lean frame to build upon. I plan to hybridize weight training and Insanity by doing a 5 day weight split with Insanity cardio workouts on the 2 days off. It will another interesting experiment that hopefully helps me make substantial muscle gains with a minimum of fat gain. We’ll see.
What kind of supplements do you use if any, and why?
I make use of several brands of protein powders, namely Plant Fusion, Sun Warrior, and True Protein. When bulking, I use creatine as it has worked wonders for me. It also has some sound science research to back it up. I trust the research. I also make use of superfoods like spirulina, chlorella, gelatinized maca root, and goji berries when possible.
How do people react when they find out you are vegan?
Most seem really confused, especially when I add that I’m trying to build muscle mass. They almost laugh in my face, then I show them the progress and they back-pedal mercilessly. Again, many people are hard-wired to think that meat equals protein. Us educated vegans know this to be far from the truth. And of course my biggest pet peeve “Woah where do you get your protein?” Such a silly question when you think about it for even a second.
What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
Vegans are gaunt, malnourished, feminine, tree-hugging hippies that will never be as athletic as the fat guy with the beer belly who eats piles upon piles of ribs and bacon ranch dressing.
Have you had success in promoting veganism / vegetarianism to others? If so, how did you go about it?
Yes! My aunt Michelle and her husband Aaron recently went straight vegan from omnivory. My aunt had been picking my brain whenever she had the chance as family gatherings and holidays. I am always happy to discuss veganism and fitness with anyone genuinely interested. We do a secret santa drawing for Christmas every year. Last year, I drew her name. So I got her a book called The 31-Day Vegan Challenge. They both tried it and haven’t looked back since. It feels wonderful to have 2 more devout vegans in the Valko family.
What do you think the most important aspect of training is?
It may seem obvious, but it’s discipline. Yes the diet and fitness regime are important entities to commit to, but it is that commitment to these regimens that is the key. A lot of people think that they can work out hard in gym or outside then eat any shitty food they can. False! Those foods like potato chips and soda don’t do anything for you other than waste caloric space. Especially when starting out, discipline is important, as you haven’t yet earned the metabolism to have a cheat meal (I don’t believe in these anyway). If you truly want to better yourself, you need to reevaluate your entire work ethic as well as your nutritional pitfalls. To quote Shaun T of Insanity, you need to dig deeper!!
What do you like best about being vegan?
Proving the naysayers wrong. Honestly, it is a great thing to have a friend or relative say that vegans can’t possibly be buff only to see them months later with a noticeably bulkier physique. The look on their face is priceless. I also love cooking for non-vegans. It’s rewarding to teach people that healthy food is not only terrific for you, it is downright delicious!
What do you like best about being fit?
The unbridled confidence it gives you in all realms of your life. Feeling great about your body will permeate your entire existence right down to how you even interact with others.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with training?
Keep with it! It is frustrating at first because you’re seeing these other guys in the gym lifting circles around you and hear you are with your two 25’s doing chest flys. You’ll get there. Just remember. Everyone’s body builds differently and needs to be fueled in different ways.
What advice do you have for people who are thinking of becoming vegan?
Do your research. Make sure you know how to get all your necessary vitamins and minerals in addition to carbs, fats, and protein.
What motivates you in life?
Not betraying my values, despite the constant scrutiny from people who simply fail to understand a lifestyle different from their own. I am motivated by the need to do something incredible. My goals and ambitions are lofty sure, but they drive me.
What do you think of veganbodybuilding.com? Has it helped or inspired you?
Oh yes definitely. The very inspiration for my weight training can be directly chased back to an interview with Big Rob. The man is one of my idols and I’m happy to finally be at the point where I have the discipline to attempt to reach his level of fitness.
Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I am a huge comic book nerd and it’s safe to say that Christopher Nolan has crafted one of the all time greatest movie trilogies in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Had to be done.