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Vegan Bodybuilding

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. Johns gym.

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."

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