Vegan bodybuilding might seem an oxymoron, but in Portland it attracts
a (pretty small) crowd
In front of the mirror, Alexander Dargatz flexed biceps the size of
Cornish game hens and abs rippled like a rack of ribs.
He's a bodybuilder, works out four days a week and boasts the body fat
of a gnat. But you won't find him at the training table getting his
protein fix with a Double Whopper.
Dargatz is a vegan, visiting Portland for a gathering of like-minded
weightlifters and other athletes that ends tonight. Theirs is a lonely
calling, a subculture within a subculture, which might explain why
only six of them showed up Monday for a workout at a nearly empty St.
Vegan bodybuilding, it seems, isn't quite ready for ESPN.
"These are world-class athletes," said Robert Cheeke, who lives in
Portland and organized the seven-day gathering. "But we're in a sport
that's not very popular. And we're a lifestyle that's not mainstream."
It's been so much fun that Cheeke, who owns a company called Vegan
Bodybuilding & Fitness, wants to host a similar gathering every year
in Portland, which is known worldwide as a vegan-friendly city.
That doesn't mean, however, that you'll find local gyms packed with
vegans. People often tell Cheeke that vegan bodybuilding is an
oxymoron. It certainly goes against everything that grandma and
grandpa preached. But, apparently, you don't have to eat your meat and
potatoes to grow up and be a strong man. Or woman.
Vegans, of course, live on plant-based diets. That means no prime rib,
medium rare. No bratwurst smothered in onions and mustard. No corned
beef Reubens dripping with Thousand Island.
Dargatz, though, doesn't miss meat. He's a 29-year-old physician from
Germany and has been a vegan for more than six years. He doesn't need
a T-bone to get his protein.
"Protein is everywhere," he said. "You can't eat a proper amount of
food without getting enough protein."