If you doubt that vegans can build muscle, just take a look at the rock-solid physique of American, IFBB Pro Vegan Bodybuilding Champion Torre Washington, who’s been vegan for over 20 years now! As a young man, he was influenced greatly by superhero culture and bodybuilding legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger which served as a motivating catalyst empowering him to deal with certain challenges he had to face and ultimately overcome.
He first stepped onto the competitive stage some 11 years ago in 2009 and has since won numerous titles and accolades including the NPC State Championship, SNBF Pro, Musclemania Universe, WNBF-Naturally Fit Show and more.
With a degree in mechanical engineering from Tuskegee university, Alabama, Torre worked in the automotive industry and became increasingly passionate about the process of design and began applying those ideas to building and crafting the ultimate structure; his own physique. It doesn’t stop there however, as he’s just as keen to share and infuse these ideas into training sessions with his private and online vegan, fitness and bodybuilding clients.
In this exclusive Keep Fit Kingdom interview, this polite, thoughtful and likeable bodybuilding champion shares his views on vegan bodybuilding, his plant-based lifestyle and philosophy, training, diet and much more!
Welcome Torre! Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in this interview. Before we start, Keep Fit Kingdom’s goal is to help a billion people reach 100 years of age happily and healthily by the year 2100. What are your thoughts on that?
That’s great! I think it’s a great goal.
Thank you! So, let’s start out by looking at your vegan bodybuilding background, what made you want to start bodybuilding in the first place?
My bodybuilding background came about because I was raised in two different places. I was born in the US and moved to Jamaica. Upon that move to Jamaica my accent was something very different than a lot of people there are used to. I got picked on for my accent. So then, I internalized my anger by not doing anything and just watching TV, watching superhero stuff and wanting to be a superhero so then I wouldn’t be picked on. I and my brother moved back to the US from Jamaica and got picked on again. People used to make fun of us with our Jamaican accent.
The Influence of Arnold Schwarzenegger
Imagine this kid who now experiences that on both sides. I decided to do something about it, I wanted to emulate my superheroes, and I started to workout. As I started, I got into watching and learning about Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rise from a bodybuilder to an actor, and seeing how he built his physique helped me decide that was something I wanted to do; workout, build my physique and compete.
I ended-up leaving high school, going to college and getting an engineering degree. Working in corporate America as an engineer, I totally forgot about my goal of being a competitor.
I then get told by a friend of mine that one of our colleagues, from back in high school, is competing in a bodybuilding competition near where I was living at the time (Alabama). So I decided to go and watch him compete. When he came off the stage it excited me because he looked like the heroes that I wanted to look like.
From that day on, I was thoroughly excited and I said “You know what, I want to compete!” I don’t want to live my life and at the end of it say “I wish I had…” or “I should have done…”
By April 2009 I entered my first competition. I got third place in a class of nine guys. That thrilled me and I said “Maybe I can come back and get second place.” About three months later, I decided to compete again and I ended up winning that show and getting a Pro Card. That forever placed a stamp on my life that this is something I’m good at, I need to proceed. That’s how I got started in bodybuilding.
Nice back story! So, you’ve competed since then?
Yes, I’ve been competing since 2009.
Great. What do you consider to be the most significant highlight of your career so far?
Being that I wanted to emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger, his place in this world of bodybuilding is so immense, he got his IFBB Pro Card, so I wanted to do that as well. I was preparing that I might not be able to get it because I was vegan bodybuilding all naturally, and most of the guys in the bodybuilding world aren’t natural, they’re using enhancements to achieve a specific look.
I wasn’t going to do that because I was very much into being natural. I thought it was going to be hard to do, but I was so happy when I was able to achieve that in 2017, getting my IFBB Pro Card.
Wonderful and Arnold’s a very inspiring character.
Yes, when it comes to bodybuilding, definitely so. Movies too and just being able to get past your own limiting beliefs.
Indeed. So how many IFBB vegan bodybuilders are there? Do you think there eventually might be more vegan bodybuilders than non-vegan ones?
I don’t know if there’ll ever be more. Right now, I know of three other people who got their Pro Card as vegans. Most of the other ones became vegan after they got their Pro Card.
Can you name them?
There’s Nimai Delgado, Jehina Malik, and Natalie Matthews.
The Art of Physique Design
I see. So, who are your Top 5 favourite IFBB bodybuilders of all time?
I remember most of those guys from the 1980’s and 90’s. You hold a mechanical engineering degree from Tuskegee university, Alabama. How has your interest in engineering influenced the way you view your body?
As an engineer I was in the automotive industry and I wanted to be involved in the design aspect of it, but the design aspect is usually attributed to certain individuals with a unique capability. I didn’t have that. I was involved on the manufacturing side but I always wanted to be in design. So as I didn’t get to design that way, I ended up doing design on the human body. So I would design my physique the way I wanted it to look. I’d take my technological expertise and put it into the bodies of people and myself.
Fascinating. What do you see as the main difference between vegan bodybuilding and conventional bodybuilding?
Well, one of the main differences is that we vegan bodybuilders experience less inflammation, so we don’t have to develop as quickly when it comes to our muscles and our organs.
Secondly, oftentimes conventional bodybuilders remove the food that we eat from their daily regimen early on, whereas we can continue eating them all the way up to competition.
It’s really just a change in the mindset around where you get nutrition, because often people assume that you can’t get that nutrition from plant-based products or plant-based origin items. We’re able to show them that you can. We’re able to eat more of a variety compared to the stereotypical bodybuilder.
Vegan Bodybuilding Diet & Lifestyle
Mindset, yes. So, how much do you think your vegan values impact other areas of life, for example, relationships and your sense of purpose?
I think relationships really should cause people to grow in a sense that it shouldn’t exclude people from your life.
What typically seems to happen when people live this [the bodybuilding] lifestyle is the tendency to exclude others because they don’t have the same priorities in life. I think this can cause people to view it all as rather uncompassionate.
So for me, I’m aware of how I feel about it but I’m compassionate when it comes to those who don’t feel that same way. I’m not there to pressure them into it.
The Art of Self-Care
Can you tell us what a typical day in the life of a vegan bodybuilding champion, namely Torre Washington looks like. Can you walk us through it?
Sure. Nowadays I’m on more of a journey of self-introspection, self-care, self-love, and then serving others and building better relationships. So I start off my day with a bit of meditation.
Immediately after that I’ll grab something to eat, drinking water early, then I’ll go to my first client who I coach daily. Then I head to a studio, train clients there, and then I’ll be on my laptop as much as possible, answering and responding to emails.
I eat probably 3 to 4 times a day, sometimes more depending on my nutritional requirements or caloric intake. I have my workout usually in the middle of the day.
My goal is to be in bed with enough time, usually at least an hour before midnight, where I can get that good REM sleep and recovery that’s needed to build and maintain muscle.
How many hours of sleep do you get?
Anywhere from six to eight.
Solid. What are your preferred Top 5 foods that give you the most energy for workouts, quick recovery and life in general?
I get this question often when it comes to energy. Energy needs are more derived from how mentally ready you are to attack your day.
If it’s something you enjoy doing, you will have that energy because you enjoy doing it! So I go to a workout, I may be tired, but once I get there, I’m right on it! I don’t typically take anything prior to get me ready.
Every now and then I enjoy blueberries, bananas, and apples before a workout and I will even have something of a starchy nature like a sweet potato. Sometimes, I don’t have anything before a workout and still train just as intensely.
So it’s much again, to do with mindset then?
I see! So, do you have a favourite superfood?
Yeah I have, if yellow dragon fruit is considered a superfood, that’s my favourite!
Need to try that one! Are you into juicing and smoothies?
I am into juicing. I used to juice a lot more in college, but I haven’t really got into it since I’ve been living on my own now. As a person with a career, I haven’t been doing it as much. I do love it though and I make them every now and then, if I’m going somewhere.
As far as me personally manufacturing or making them, I would have to find the time to do that and make it a priority because I know it can be a daunting task. It requires a lot of food selection and patience when it comes to juicing. I’m learning a bit of that from the man himself, Jonny Juicer, who’s an avid juicer.
Good source! What are your favourite sources of plant protein?
Sounds good. The Netflix movie “The Game Changers” has had a positive impact on many top athletes and people in general. Do you think vegetarianism and veganism are headed towards an accelerated global uptake?
Yes. There’s also a documentary that I was involved in called “From the Ground Up”. You can find it at “From the Ground Up Film.com“. It’s a documentary that came out very similar to “The Game Changers”. It came out a year and a half prior and I’m actually in that film.
I’m glad to hear about that and will check it out.
It’s another one to add to “The Game Changers”, “What The Health”, “Cowspiracy”, “Earthlings”, and all the other documentaries teaching and spreading awareness about the lifestyle. We have to get people beyond the dogma and the stereotypes.
It’s about constantly educating people.
What do you say to people who may try to attack or criticize your decision to maintain a vegan diet?
Well, no one has actually attacked my decision because when they find out that I’ve actually been vegan for over 20 years, they’re like “Oh, you were vegan before all of this information came out.” So they know that my decision was based on more than me just watching some video.
An Expert Take On Supplements
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients your body needs, most especially if you’re an athlete. Proteins can be obtained from animal and plant-based sources. Also, proteins may come in conveniently prepared products, such as protein powders and other forms of protein supplementation.
Here are the important details about supplementation:
- When it comes to taking supplement, such as BCAAs, one must think of the active ingredients. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are commonly used as great protein building blocks. It involves in the synthesis of muscle cells, which is highly recommended for bodybuilders. One example of BCAA with the strongest effects on muscle building is leucine.
- Valine and isoleucine are highly beneficial in the production of energy. They help regulate blood sugar levels.
- While whey protein is not vegan because the protein is extracted from milk, vegan proteins can be obtained from a variety of vegan protein sources, such as hemp, pea, rice, and algae.
- What makes whey protein different from plant-based protein? Whey is considered a complete protein source. Whey protein also contains all essential amino acids that your body cannot produce. It can be absorbed in the body and metabolized at a rapid pace.
- Both whey protein and plant-based amino acids help optimize resistance training. They provide the best body fuel to help you maximize resistance training. Regardless of the protein source you choose, protein supplementation can help you attain your fitness goals at a faster rate than consuming food alone.
Great forethought. So, what does a typical training day look like for Torre Washington and how many days per week do you train?
Five to six days a week. I’m usually in the gym an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. I’m on a strength-building programme right now, keeping my rep range between 8 and 20 reps.
I do multiple muscle groups because, being all natural, most muscle groups need to be hit at least two to three times a week. I do two to three body parts per session to help me increase the frequency of training for that muscle.
Thorough. What are your Top 3 Gym exercises and your Top 3 Bodyweight exercises?
Good choices! What sort of protocols do you like to use? Supersets, drop sets, tri-sets, anything like that?
I use them all.
Do you prefer to train heavy or light, or a mix of both?
A mix of both. I prefer in between because I want to be able to squeeze the muscle. It’s also nice to lift heavy at times because it gives you a sense of how strong you have become.
Absolutely. Can you tell us some of your best lifts in the gym?
Good strong lifts there Torre. Do you do any cardio?
I don’t really do any cardio until I’m getting closer to a competition.
Interesting. What type of cardio do you like?
I’m into the Stairmaster.
On your website Torre Washington.com you offer various programmes and products. Would you say there is more demand for plant-based diets, vegan bodybuilding and ordinary bodybuilding programmes, or all equally?
Now, it’s more about the plant-based diet.
You offer a Primer bodybuilding guide and the Nourish vegan bodybuilding nutrition guide. What would you say is one unique feature of each?
The unique feature of the nutrition guide is that it’s very simple. There are food items that you can get in a store. It’s not overly complicated.
The training is foundational. It contains exercises that we often don’t do because nowadays it seems everybody wants fancy movements. My programme is more geared towards refining and defining the basic foundational movements.
For visitors wanting to follow your example and use your training tips, which resources on your website would you advise them to start with first?
It depends on what they’re looking to do. If they want to build their bodies, they can now incorporate the nutrition of being a plant-based vegan as well as building their physique. I usually suggest people get them as a bundle.
Insights & Reflections
Thanks for the advice. What can you tell us about the principle of ITAL?
Ital is all about natural. Rastafari use “I” to represent complete oneness with the one God, the one universe, as people call it. They place the “I” in front of a lot of things to change it up to a more positive look. “I” has a connotation of being love and acceptance. Ital is basically the principle of not using sugar or salt, and eating naturally from the earth the way the food was grown.
Have you been following that principle all of your life?
No. I was raised Seventh-day Adventist. They have a vegetarian lifestyle, that’s the priority when it comes to their nutrition. I was raised in a lifestyle that spoke about vegetarianism, and then I started going towards a different consciousness in regards to Rastafari. It also talks about vegetarianism and veganism lifestyles without using religious terminologies.
Supplements & the Evolution of Vegan Bodybuilding
That’s really interesting and thanks for elaborating on the concept. Going back to your training, what’s the worst injury you’ve sustained and how did you work around it?
I haven’t sustained any injuries when it comes to training. My actual injury that I sustained was from playing American Football in high school. I injured my ACL.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I realized that the injury was from high school and an injury that needed to be repaired because it didn’t heal properly. I went and had it fixed and repaired properly. That’s the only injury I’ve ever had and that wasn’t related to working out.
Glad to hear it’s healed now. Such injuries are very common in intense sports with contact. You’ve mentioned that you don’t take supplements. Can you tell us how you arrived at that decision?
I don’t like putting anything in my body that isn’t natural, I just really want to eat food. I’ve done that for the longest time and was so against supplements, but then I realized supplements have their own place and that I shouldn’t be against them. For the past few years now, I’ve been using protein powders and BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids).
How do you think men’s bodybuilding will evolve in the next 3-5 years?
Right now, they seem to be evolving nicely. These guys are getting bigger and bigger. We thought it was going to change but then they created Classic Physique which is supposed to represent the Golden Era of symmetry with size.
Then they have Men’s Physique which is supposed to be more about the beach body, the guys that may not have the lower body to complement the upper body. Everybody’s getting bigger, they’re increasing the weight ranges which allows for people to get bigger.
What are your tips for someone who wants to live to 100 years old?
Lots of sleep, lots of water and lots of love!
Simple as that! How do you think the internet has affected vegan bodybuilding (and conventional bodybuilding) and what do you think of social media platforms such as Instagram?
I think social media has increased the participation in bodybuilding. People can now see someone else looking how they want to look. Then they go to the gym to emulate that look.
Fun & Leisure
An encouraging influence. Our quick-fire round now…
So, if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what superpowers would you like to have?
I would be Superman but I’d also have the power to be invisible.
What are some of your hobbies?
Bowling, shooting guns, skating, travelling, and laying in the sun.
Can you tell us a couple of your favourite films including a bodybuilding one?
“The Matrix”, and “Pumping Iron”.
What’s your favourite music?
Staying Motivated & Message for Keep Fit Kingdom Readers
What’s your proudest accomplishment so far in life?
Building a relationship with my son.
What are some of your future goals?
To help the world become better and to take ‘vegan’ to a place where you don’t have to use the term. That the term disappears and it’s just the normal way people eat.
Do you have any motivational sayings or life quotes that inspire you to do your best?
To live in freedom every day. What I mean by freedom is mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. A lot of times our lives are dictated by how much money we can make. Usually we are doing something that we don’t really want to do because we’re financially tied to it, but we’re not emotionally, spiritually and mentally tied to it. But if you’re free in all those places you’re able to be who you truly are.
Finally, what special message would you like to share with Keep Fit Kingdom readers and your fans and followers (both vegan and otherwise) around the world?
Stay consistent, get the rest you need, love yourself and love others.
Nice note to finish on! We’ve come to the end of the interview and I want to say a massive thank you from all of us at Keep Fit Kingdom. It’s been a genuine pleasure to talk with you and we hope it gives our readers a more in depth insight into Torre Washington. We wish you every continued success on your bodybuilding journey in 2020 (despite the coronavirus lockdown)!
Thank you so much. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share my story and my journey. Thank you! Take care.