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NBSV 115


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 115

Vegan bodybuilders [and cofounders] Giacomo Marchese and Dani Taylor

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 115. Vegan bodybuilders Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese of are on the show to discuss long-term habit change, strength training on a vegan diet, reaching big fitness goals, and more.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. If you're a new vegan, or if you're veg-curious, make sure you head to for nine of our best tools and articles, to help you kick ass with your fitness and nutrition on a plant-based diet. All free and all at

Today, we have two amazing guests. Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese. Dani and Giacomo are co-founders of They also co-founded, a nonprofit organization of strength-based vegan athletes who compete together to raise awareness for veganism and money for rescued animals at farm sanctuaries. They also travel to various fitness events across the country with the vegan strong team to raise awareness for animal rights and welfare. Dani and Giacomo’s favourite vegan meal is seitan, greens, and grains. Here's our conversation. Hey guys, thank you so much for coming on the show. Happy to speak with you today.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. Thanks So much for having us. We're excited to be here.

Giacomo Marchese: Yeah! It’s an honour.

Karina Inkster: Well, I'm glad we could connect. I would love to jump in with your background stories and I kind of, I feel like the vegan story is gonna connect with what you guys do in your business and in your organization. So do you wanna maybe do like your coming to veganism story and then how that relates to what you're doing now with your work?

Giacomo Marchese: Well for me, it all began through fitness.

Karina Inkster: Okay.

Giacomo Marchese: And in high school, I wanted to make a tennis team and I was also a musician and my conductor was a champion bodybuilder. So it was like the perfect storm. He was like, okay, the gym just started. The gym had just opened up for the first year. He took me under his wing and I made a tennis team and I found that I still had a love of bodybuilding. Fast-forward to like college, and we had the most jacked tennis team. It just worked out that way. So it was social support. And after I graduated, the job market was weird in New York City because it was post 9-11. And I had the privilege of looking for a job. I was living with family at the time. So long story short, I got into personal training, arguably for selfish reasons. I wanted to see how far I could take it, but I'm also a people pleaser and a giver, which there are some strengths to those two personality types, the way that I am.

So I wanted to help other people. And after I competed and someone got sick that I knew and loved, and I realized that western medicine was treating the symptoms, I said to myself, what could I do to help? And I felt powerless because you can't change people. You can't control people. You can't necessarily influence people directly, but you can lead by example and you can learn and you can research. So all points led me to veganism as a philosophy, but primarily to be healthier. And I felt like, okay, let me try this as an athlete. And my performance started to improve. I felt better. My tests were coming back better. My cholesterol went down and then fast forward to meeting an animal rescuer, being connected with what was on my plate, understanding the impact of a plant-based diet and how it benefits the earth from an environmental standpoint, I decided, okay. So I got into activism, met Dani through a vegan bodybuilding forum, and I'll let her take over from here, cause there's a lot more bits and pieces to this story.

Karina Inkster: Brilliant. Well, let's get your vegan background story, Dani. I'm sure it relates - and then you can kind of go into like how that relates to Vegan Proteins and all the things you guys are working on now.

Dani Taylor: Yeah, totally. So my story is almost the opposite of his. He was an athlete, became a vegan. I was a vegan and became an athlete.

Karina Inkster: Cool.

Dani Taylor: So I actually went vegetarian when I was really young, like eight years old or so. There was an incident with a lobster that I had been hanging out with all day at my family's cookout and the lobster met its not-so-great end, and that was horrifying to me at the time. And I started to realize like, oh, chicken nuggets are like, you know, they're chickens. Like I don't wanna do that. And I remember saying to my mom, like, do I have to eat this? And she was like, well, some people don't. And I was like, okay, I would like to be one of those people. So I stopped eating meat when I was about eight, but I did still consume a lot of dairy and eggs for the next eight years or so.

And then when I was doing a research paper in high school about vegetarianism for an English class, I stumbled upon a website. I think it was called or org. It doesn't exist anymore, but it explained, you know, the connection between the dairy and egg industry and the meat industry. And I already knew I didn't wanna support the meat industry. So I realized like, okay, in order to like, be true to what I really feel, I gotta give this up. And I did. I gave up dairy and eggs overnight. But at this point, I was very, very overweight. I was very large. Everybody in my family was very large. So I just always assumed it was genetic. I didn't really care. It didn't bother me. I was just like, oh, this is what it is, whatever.

But I went vegan when I was 16. Next time I went to the doctor for a checkup, she informed me that I was down 30 pounds and I was like, what?

Karina Inkster: Wow.

Dani Taylor: Cause that was never my intention. I never went vegan to try to lose weight or anything like that. Strictly ethical reasons. But after that point, a kind of light bulb went off like, oh, well maybe this is more in my control than I thought it was. Maybe my health is more in my own control than I thought it was. And that's when I actually started learning something about nutrition. Cause I was not like doing the vegan diet right. I just had given up dairy and eggs - you know, 16 years old, what can you do? And then I started to learn about nutrition, eventually got into fitness, and that was back in like 2008. So I've been vegan for, this is my 20th year of being vegan now.

Karina Inkster: Amazing. We're the same-aged vegans then, haha. That's so cool.

Dani Taylor: That's amazing. It's a pretty small population I would say.

Karina Inkster: It is for sure!

Dani Taylor: Yeah, very different world now, and had I not gone vegan, I don't think anything would've led me to - like that's exactly what led me to where I am today.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. that's amazing. So can you tell me and our listeners a little bit about the work that you're doing with the various fitness-related organizations that you have running and kind of how those relate to bodybuilding, fitness, health, all those kind of things?

Giacomo Marchese: For sure. For a little bit of context, we started as a supplement shop, and then we realized that the world didn't need a vegan online supplement shop anymore; they were accessible and now are accessible everywhere. So through our work with Plant Built, we got athletes to the stage. We competed with the team and we helped the bodybuilding team, cuz it's a multi-sport team, get to the stage. And then we wound up researching and coaching others. That's what we do with Vegan Proteins. Now we also work with Vegan Strong. We are ambassadors and teammates there and we reach a mainstream fitness audience. We go to different expos, we have a mic, we do food demos, we do presentations and we've branched outside of the community to try to reach as many people as possible to bring veganism mainstream. And there's a tie-in between what we do with Plant Built and Vegan Strong as well. And that's probably the culmination of over a decade, the evolution of over a decade worth of work outside of coaching, which I'd be happy to unpack a little bit more here.

Dani Taylor: And that's our full-time job, is running Vegan Proteins where we coach vegans to whatever goal it is that they have, whether that's bodybuilding, powerlifting, just wanting to get healthier. So that's what we've been doing for the last 15 years as our main thing, is Vegan Proteins.

Karina Inkster: That's awesome. And so are the clients that you work with there mostly already vegan? Like our client base is coming to us because we're vegan coaches. Is that kind of similar?

Dani Taylor: Exactly. Yeah. So that's like we only have a couple of rules for the people that we work with: we work with people who are either already plant-based or they're looking to become plant-based.

Karina Inkster: Exactly.

Dani Taylor: Like we're happy to help people become plant-based, but if someone isn't even interested in making that change, I'm always like, how did you find us? There’s so many other coaches out there.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. It’s the same for us. It’s why we have an application process, right?

Dani Taylor: Yes. Exactly.

Karina Inkster: Where it’s like, okay. You gotta tell us a little bit of important info here first.

Dani Taylor: Mm-hmm yeah, exactly the same. Mm-Hmm.

Karina Inkster: That's very cool. Let's go back to the connection between Plant Built and Vegan Strong. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and kind of how they're related?

Dani Taylor: Yeah. So back when we started Vegan Proteins, which was the supplement store originally, We started that in 2008, because then it was like really hard to find plant-based protein powders. So it made sense to have the supplement shop then. And while we were doing that as our main thing, we were traveling the country, going to veg fests to promote our store. You know, to let people know we existed. Hey, if you're looking for vegan supplements, like this is the place. And every single city we went to, we seemed to like meet a new vegan athlete who was just like kind of mind-blowing. And we had never even heard of them before. Every single city. And it was just so crazy. We were like, okay, there's not that many of us. Like the vegan community is small, the vegan fitness community is smaller. Like we should all know who each other is at this point in 2008, 2009. And Giacomo had the idea like, well, what if we got all of the vegan bodybuilders that we knew together to compete, you know, at a big show as a group? Like, wow, wouldn't that turn some heads, if all these vegans just descended on this competition and did well?

And in 2013 we formed Plant Built. And that's exactly what that is. It's a team of vegan strength athletes. So we've expanded beyond just bodybuilding. Now it's bodybuilding, powerlifting, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, kettlebell sport. And this coming year, hopefully, Strong Man as well.

Karina Inkster: Exciting. That’s awesome.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. It's so cool. And we started doing this in 2013 in Austin Texas at a huge event called the Naturally Fit Super Show that had all of these sports going on at the same time. So we are a team of, you know, like 50 people or so say, coming into this competition, that probably is like 2000 people. And we all have our vegan hoodies on that say vegan muscle team on the back really big. And people are kind of snickering as we walk in the door, right? Like what’s with this vegan crew? But then by the end of the weekend, we did pretty well. We took home a good chunk of trophies considering how small of the competition we made up. And people started asking like, okay, tell me more about this vegan thing that you do. So it turned into this awesome form of advocacy where you kind of like, just show by example what's possible as a vegan or on a vegan diet. And it's just grown and grown and grown since then. And now hopefully we'll be coming back in 2022 under the Vegan Strong team umbrella as well. So very excited for that.

Karina Inkster: Cool. So is Vegan Strong, the kind of Robert Cheeke led initiative? What's the deal there? Like how is that separate from Plant Built? Cause I know he was kind of involved in that as well.

Dani Taylor: Yeah, we work on it together. It's so funny cuz like our businesses have grown kind of side by side so that there's this point where they almost sort of mesh a little bit and people can't tell us all apart anymore. So Robert Cheeke owns Vegan Bodybuilding, like That's sort of his brand. We own Vegan Proteins and Plant Built. And Vegan Strong is kind of something else that's all of us coming together just to spread education and awareness to the fitness community. Kind of as like a nonprofit. But as Vegan Strong, we don't usually compete. We're going to the Arnold and the Olympia and talking to these people about a plant-based diet. COVID kind of put a stop to that so now we've been doing online education mostly. But hopefully next year we're gonna kind of make all of the brands, if you will, kind of come together to do something hopefully very cool.

Giacomo Marchese: Mmm-hmm.

Karina Inkster: That is very cool. Yeah COVID, I mean that’s, any in-person kind of related initiative has been majorly affected, but hopefully things keep moving in the right direction and hopefully that'll be a reality for you guys pretty soon.

Giacomo Marchese: Yeah we hope.

Dani Taylor: I hope so.

Karina Inkster: Very cool. Well, let's transition into kind of talking about maybe what we all do with our clients. Maybe some kind of hands-on ideas around habit building when it comes to a healthy plant-based lifestyle. All of our listeners are already somewhere on the spectrum, kind of like our clients, they're either vegan already, or they're veg-curious and they're listening for more information. So we're kind of speaking to like the long-term pros, but also the newbies who just went vegan last week, and the people who are considering making that transition in the first place and haven't yet.

So when you two work with folks who are new to veganism, so they're coming to you because either they went vegan two weeks ago and they're not sure they're doing things right, or they want your help with making the transition, what are some of the things that you work on? I mean, obviously, you're gonna have the fitness piece, which is kind of its own arena, but then you also have the nutrition piece and potentially the, “well, what do I eat instead of cheese,” piece for someone who's just making the transition, right? So what are some of the things - I know it's kind of a loaded question - but like where do you start with someone who's like, dude, I wanna go vegan! And I have no idea what to do?

Giacomo Marchese: And we encounter that a lot. There are different scenarios too. Sometimes someone isn't even veg-curious, but for some reason they're attracted to the way that we coach in our site and they're like,

Dani Taylor: “I'll do it for you guys!”

Giacomo Marchese: Yeah! “I’ll do it for you guys if you coach me.” Other times, someone is veg-curious and they're not ready to make the leap, but they're willing to do it to get results. And then sometimes you have the, “I'm doing this, but I need help.” So I would say that those are the three common scenarios. The approach is mostly the same. It's a matter of not trying to take their menu and do a 180. And they trust that because, well, I feel like they can trust it because this is what we consistently do. So when we say it, we mean it. We're like, no, really tell us how you eat.

How do you normally eat? And we make it as close to that as possible. We use as much of the same foods as possible. And we start to encourage nutrient-dense and voluminous foods. It just works out that way. Whole foods, they give you energy and they fill up your plate and they fill up your belly. So we like we tell 'em okay, well we want you to eat vegetables preferably twice a day, but we can start with once. Ideally, try to get fruit in once a day. And as many of the foods you already enjoy, we work in. Now, it's a matter of, well, what kind of meals do you like? Do you like pasta and meatballs? Do you like soup and salad, for example. And we work in those kinds of meals into the plan too. So that's what we do as far as menu planning.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. So basically we meet people wherever it is they're at and then help them take small, sustainable steps from there rather than just trying to like overhaul their whole lifestyle overnight. That almost never works. The other thing I would say is we really kind of talk through people's expectations about what they think veganism is gonna do for them. Because a lot of people -

Karina Inkster: That's a good call.

Dani Taylor: Yeah! A lot of people just, and you know, I'm probably a terrible spokesperson for this because I did go vegan and just start losing weight, but veganism is not a weight loss diet. Like, yes, that's gonna happen for some people, but there's a lot of people that that's not gonna happen for, just on its own. Some people might even gain weight because it has nothing to do with the vegan diet.

It has to do with how much food you're taking in. So for some people going vegan is gonna naturally cut their calories. For some people, they might start incorporating a ton of avocados and nuts and seeds. Their calories might go up, you know?

So talking about why they want to go plant-based and just sort of tempering the expectations there, explaining that, you know, I love veganism for so, so many reasons, but there's also nothing magic about it in terms of what kind of body you're gonna achieve by going plant-based. And I really wish like as a community, we could really stop selling veganism as a weight loss transformation. That would be cool.

Karina Inkster: I am with you on that. I kind of find, I don't know if it's just me, but in our experience with clients, we've seen that folks who go vegan only for weight-loss reasons, they're not vegan a year later.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. They don't stay vegan. The "why" is really important. If you're just doing it cause you think it's gonna change your body, you're very unlikely to stay vegan. Like that's not motivation enough. And your outcome is probably not gonna be what you expect it to be.

Karina Inkster: A hundred percent. Yep. For sure. So what about the longer-term vegans? So they're already vegan. They don't need help making the actual transition. Maybe they're coming to you because they're high-level strength athletes and they wanna make sure that everything is on point with their training and their nutrition. So if you're working with someone who's more advanced, what are some of the things you're looking at there? Like levels of protein versus carbs and fats? Like presumably you're going into more detail than someone who's just, you know, making the transition and needs your help with it.

Dani Taylor: Yeah, absolutely. So I would say there's two kinds of long-term vegans that we work with. There's plenty of people who have been vegan for, you know, 15 years and they just wanna be healthier. They just wanna be fitter. They don't have a super-specific goal. And for those people, it's been super interesting cuz like we just mentioned, it was very different for vegans 20 years ago. There weren't a ton of options. You almost had to eat healthier because that's all there was! Now it's a very different story. Now, anything you wanna get vegan, you can just walk into most supermarkets and just find it. And like, this is so cool in so many ways. And also it makes eating healthier on the whole a little bit more challenging than it was for vegans 10 years ago, 15 years ago.

So we’re, for the first time in the last handful of years, having to start helping people make better choices, even if they've been vegan for a long time, because you know, the Impossible Whopper was not an option if they went vegan 15 years ago! And suddenly they're hungry, they're driving home from work. It's right there. It's so convenient. Like, wow! This is something that as coaches, we've never really had to deal with that before. So it's a double-edged sword there.

But for the more advanced athletes and people who were advanced athletes and then went vegan, or they've been vegan and now they're like advancing as athletes, yeah, it does come down to the details a little bit more in terms of making sure they're getting the right macronutrients in - their proteins, carbs, and fats for themselves, making sure they're timing them well throughout the day. Also really focusing on their recovery, their sleep, their mental health. All of that matters. I mean it matters for everybody, but it matters even more when you have a really specific kind of hard to achieve goal, I would say.

Giacomo Marchese: Mm-hmm yeah. And to add to that, I feel like longer-term planning is important when someone is advancing because there is that goal that's right in front of them, but there is what leads up to it and there is what happens after it. And I think you get strategic about programming and you also get strategic about mindset and approach. There are certain periods of time where it makes sense to be more granular and be more exact. And there are other times where it makes sense to free up your time and your energy. Like your mental energy - even though you don't mind it, why not improve your quality of life? And arguably you can lessen your stress levels and lessen the kind of anxiety that you don't ask for. And I think it makes you a more successful athlete long term. You wind up getting better results.

Dani Taylor: Some hardcore athletes, you need to teach them actually how to pull back a little bit. They're pushing, they're pushing a little too hard and it's doing them a disservice, their health a disservice, their lives a disservice. So some people they hire you to hold them back a little bit, you know?

Karina Inkster: Yep. I've been there. I totally understand that it's in their best interest and like nine times out of 10 they know that's what they need. It's just like kinda autopilot at that point. So they need that outside, extra eyeballs kind of situation, so yeah.

Dani Taylor: And permission.

Karina Inkster: Permission, right!

Dani Taylor: Like they need permission to like chill a little bit. They need somebody to be like, it's okay. It's actually gonna benefit you if we taper this back a little bit. You're gonna get better if you have a little bit more rest in your life, a little more balance in your life.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm absolutely. So let's talk about the clients who are strength-training, whether they just started, they've never been to a gym before. They now have a program from you two, and they're going in there and they know what to do. But also the more advanced folks who have been strength training for years and they just kind of wanna level up their goals. Are there any vegan-specific aspects that you work on with them?

So for us, for example, we have different protein goals depending on how hard someone is training, of course. How many days a week they're training, how long their workouts are - but that's not really vegan-specific, right? The thing that's vegan-specific is generally you wanna eat a little bit more protein than folks who are not vegan, just for digestibility and absorption issues. So are there other kind of like vegan-specific nutrition things that you work on or is it mostly just about having the community of other folks who are on the same page with values?

Dani Taylor: So that is definitely the biggest one and one of the reasons people find us. I mean, that's why our company is called Vegan Proteins.

Karina Inkster: Right!

Dani Taylor: Because you know, a lot of people, vegan or not, they know they need to get protein for this specific goal, but they don't know how to do it. So it's not just having them hit certain protein goals. It's like, okay, well, how do you do that without maybe blowing the rest of your calorie needs out of the water? There's a learning curve to that that I think is different for vegans than it is for non-vegans. Because if a non-vegan eats a quote-unquote “protein source” there's often virtually no carbohydrates, and sometimes there's some fat in it. When you're vegan a lot of the protein sources also have trace carbs and fats. So if you're not paying attention to those things, and you're just focusing on the protein goal, you can kind of blow those numbers past where you want them to be.

So what we do with newer clients, like newer to fitness, newer to training, newer to tracking maybe, and like being mindful of what it is they're eating, we will have them focus on their calories and their protein only, not so much their carbs and fats. We're just gonna kind of let those fall where they may. But if we can get into these windows, not specific numbers, cuz people get really hung up on nailing that number. So we give them windows to try to fall in of calories and protein. And if they can do that, they're gonna make progress for a long time. And with the more advanced athletes, we're a lot more specific about the numbers with like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, like how much of each macronutrient are you probably gonna need at this time of the day in relation to your training.

And then also tweaking that really carefully as we go, because everybody's different. You know, it's not just a super straightforward formula. Like some people are gonna respond better to more carbs in the morning. Some people are gonna respond better to more carbs at night. So you know, paying attention and tweaking that as you go. But it does get way more nitty-gritty the further advanced somebody is.

Karina Inkster: That makes complete sense. So where are you two at with your own training? Like Giacomo, maybe you could go over kind of like where you're at with what you're currently working on, in how much detail you're looking at your own nutrition. What's kind of going on in that world right now?

Giacomo Marchese: Well, it's been a five-year plan. I entered a prep three years ago, stopped it right at the start, built back up and now I'm back at it and this prep should, hopefully, I'll see it through, but I'm ready for anything. So if I have to pull out again next year I will. But so far I've yeah, I mean, I'm firing all cylinders right now and getting ready for competition season for five to 10 shows between late summer and early fall. And unfortunately, I'm going back to skills and tools that I don't like using because I don't need them the majority of the time, but right now I do. Like tracking food and tracking protein, weighing, and measuring. I'm walking daily in the morning and it's pretty non-negotiable. But in some ways, that kind of discipline does help me in other areas of my life. It keeps me sharp.

But ideally, I look and I reflect on this and I say to myself, it reminds me that when I’m thinking ahead and I'm long past this, 2023, 2024, that I don't have to do all these things, but I still, every once in a while, have to take a look at what I'm doing two to four times a year and say, am I still getting in enough protein? Am I eating the right amount and staying within the range that I wanna be staying at? Am I eating nutritionally? Because like anyone else I'm human and I either get lazy or I fall into patterns that I feel are not necessarily unhealthy, but they're not serving my goals. So I remind myself that while there are negatives right now for the type of extreme level of discipline that I need, that there are also positives because it keeps me sharp in the future, just in a less disciplined fashion.

So these are like things I'm thinking about ahead of time, because honestly, Karina, the stuff that I do right now is pretty autopilot. But I will say that I'm trying to do things differently in this prep. In the past, I've used way more coping mechanisms to survive dieting. And this time around, I've been keeping pretty quiet about it, cuz it's like until it happens, I don't wanna talk about it, but so far so good. I'm not relying on extremely protein-dense foods to get my protein in. I'm not relying on artificial sweeteners or soda or carbonated beverages. I’m not playing with volume metrics trying to fill up my plate with as much food as possible. So all of those things that are healthy until they're not when you're in competition prep, which is an unhealthy thing to do, I'm holding off on them strategically and also from a health-based standpoint.

Karina Inkster: Hmm. That's really interesting that you're coming from a health coaching background, but also kind of like hey, we're acknowledging that this is not quote-unquote health, cuz what's the definition of health anyways? But that's a whole other podcast episode. But you're kind of like acknowledging that hey, this is not purely a health pursuit, right? It's kind of like this is the sport. This is how it works. This is what you're judged on. These are the criteria. And it's not something you're doing, I mean like any sport probably at a high level, it's not a health pursuit.

Giacomo Marchese: Yeah.

Karina Inkster: There’s probably health risks in most professional sports if you think about it. But it's interesting that you're acknowledging that it's not like bodybuilding does not immediately or necessarily equate with a hundred percent best thing you could do for your health.

Dani Taylor: Totally. And we've been accused of hating bodybuilding and we've definitely talked more people out of it than into it. No question about that. I'm not sorry about that at all. It is an extreme sport and unfortunately, we can look at a lot of extreme sports and be like, whoa, that's superhuman. I don't wanna do that. But for some reason people look at bodybuilders and think, yes, I wanna do that. I wanna look like that. What can I do to look like that? They're so healthy, they're so fit and you are the least fit that you will ever be the day you step on stage. And we do love the sport. But there are a lot of pitfalls if you don't know what to look for. And a lot of people think they're gonna just check this off their bucket list and they end up with body dysmorphia and disordered eating and all of these terrible things because they just didn't know because people in the industry aren't talking about it. And they need to be because you know, it's very easy to get hurt in this sport.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That is awesome that you're coming from that background. I did not know that, you know, based on your kind of like web presence and kick-ass website, I was like, okay, these people are like serious! But it's very important. I think especially cuz you're working with clients from various backgrounds. They're not all bodybuilder competitors or they don't all wanna go that direction. I think it's important to acknowledge that kind of background and how it can affect people psychologically.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. A lot of people say, you know, I don't wanna compete, but I wanna look like I compete. That's so common to hear that. And you know, tempering expectations again, we talk about what it takes to actually look like that. And the fact that you know, even for us, it's a look we achieve for this sport, and then we get right back to something that is more healthy and sustainable for us until the next competition prep season. But people are gonna compete in bodybuilding and we wanna help them do it the best way that they can. So that's what we try to do.

Karina Inkster: That's amazing. So Dani, are you doing any sort of prep right now?

Dani Taylor: I am not actually. I competed all of 2018, pretty much all of 2018, and had coronavirus not happened, maybe I would've done something last year, but we don't compete at the same time because it is like a 24/7 full-time job eventually.

Karina Inkster: Smart!

Dani Taylor: So when one of us competes, the other one kind of picks up the slack in other areas, and vice-versa. So we sort of alternate.

Karina Inkster: That's a good approach. I like that.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. It makes it really hard to get good promo pictures though. Cause one of us is always in like stage shape and the other one is not. So it's kind of funny, but you know, it's the best way for us to do it.

Karina Inkster: For sure. Can we go back to, just in case some of our listeners are a little confused about the bodybuilders being like in the worst shape possible - well not possible. But they're probably at their weakest and their most depleted and you know, least physically fit if that's what you wanna call it, when they're stepping on stage. For folks who might not know, because they're not sure what it entails, why is that?

Dani Taylor: The number one reason is because your body fat is so low and your body fat's not supposed to be that low. So for myself as a woman, I mean, I'm gonna touch 10% body fat. Giacomo is gonna get into the like low single digits of body fat. We call this essential body fat for a reason. We have to have some of it to survive. And there's a lot of good stuff that our body fat does do. We store vitamins in it. We synthesize hormones in our fat and when you don't have enough body fat, your hormones are going to get thrown out of whack. You know, most women will lose their menstrual cycle. Most men's testosterone is gonna tank. Most everybody's thyroid is going to be temporarily affected, but affected people have problems with their hair, their skin, their nails, because you know, body fat is important to have.

And like, yes, it looks very cool when it's really low for a little bit. But the people who try to stay there for very long suffer real long-term health complications. Not to mention the fact that you're just exhausted and cranky and weak and you're not sleeping very well. Like there's a lot of reasons for that.

And any bodybuilder who is being honest will tell you all of that if you ask them, especially in natural bodybuilding, right? Cause there's no performance-enhancing drugs in natural bodybuilding. You know, obviously, we compete in natural bodybuilding, but without any aids, any chemical aids helping us, everything goes south, you know? And you gotta be mindful of that. If you are hearing stories about people who are getting stronger through to the end of their prep, they might have some chemical aiding going on making that possible. That is probably not going to be possible for you.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That makes complete sense. I think there's also a myth out there that the photos we see of folks basically stage-ready are how they look year-round. And so people just kind of assume, well, if I get to that point at some point, that's just gonna be my new normal. I'm just gonna be like a hundred percent shredded, 24/7, you know, for the next decade, but that's not really how it works. This is why there's seasons. And you know, you're either doing a prep or you're not. You know, it's not something that you're doing constantly, presumably.

Giacomo Marchese: Yeah, exactly. And this is where the opportunity comes in to work on body image and also understanding how you are progressing. And we use different cues that take the client off of focus on how they see themselves in the mirror because you just can't be objective. And when your body changes fast, I feel like it can skew your judgment when you're in a place where your body's at maintenance. And when you're looking to think about where you'll be in five years, you have a hard time accepting where you are. And like everyone else, sometimes you see something in the mirror one day that you don't see the next day. And there's so much going on with social media, with the way that people - it’s illusions and mirrors with filtering and lighting and posing, et cetera.

Dani Taylor: And getting a ton of photoshoots done while you're in your best shape so that you can just drip those out for the next year. Like that's really, really common.

Karina Inkster: Yes! That’s contributing to the myth, isn’t it?

Dani Taylor: Yes. So like follow people who show you all the sides, you know? Like inventory who you're following on social media and make sure that they're, you know, if it's somebody that's making you feel bad at all, you shouldn't be following them. That's just how I feel. But you know, I love fitness professionals who are keeping it real and showing you not just their best look, their stage look, but also off-season looks as well because quite frankly, those are usually healthier, stronger, happier. They have better social lives and family lives and relationships. And you know, that balance is important. Especially if you wanna keep doing bodybuilding into your ripe old age. You can't just beat yourself to death constantly trying to stay lean forever. You will not be in this sport in five years. You won't be.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. That’s super important for folks to know. Because I feel like the, I don't know if it's a barrier to entry kind of thing, or if it's social media just bringing it out to the masses, but it seems to be more and more common for people to just think, oh yeah, I'll just check it off the bucket list, like you mentioned earlier, not really realizing A: what it entails and B: how long it takes.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. It does have a really low barrier to entry. And now with the newish, I mean, it's not that new anymore, but the bikini division in bodybuilding has made it, you know, it's a look that most of the time people look at bodybuilders and they're like, I don't wanna look like that. That's gross. But they've introduced these new categories that people are like, oh, I would kind of like to look like that. So now yeah, way, way, way more people want to do it. There's a lot of predatory sort of competitions that just sort of like scalp people from their gyms and convince them to do it, even if they didn't know that this even existed, you know, a month ago. And now they're in a prep. Like they literally don't know anything about it, or what they're in for. And social media has made it just so more people know about it now. Just because of social media, more people are intrigued by it now.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm. Makes total sense. There's pros and cons.

Dani Taylor: Yeah.

Karina Inkster: We can connect with folks around the world, especially people who have values like ours, which is important. A lot of our clients don't know any other vegans, literally. They don't know anyone. Their family is not on board. They don't have any vegan friends. And so having a team mentality, a team that they can be on with other vegans is pretty huge. And I feel like that's a benefit of social media, but a lot of these downsides sometimes make me question if it's worth it, honestly.

Giacomo Marchese: Oh yeah. We've been there.

Dani Taylor: I've been having an existential crisis over it for like the last year. So I totally feel you. It’s like, oh, I wanna be there. I wanna help people. I wanna give a good message! And then it's like, I hate this place. I don't wanna be here at all.

Karina Inkster: I know! We don't use it in our business at all. It's basically just there for fun, which is great, cuz we rely on SEO and Google. And that's cool, but I kind of feel for folks who need it, and they kind of like, that's where they get their leads from in their business. Yeah. And they're kind of tied to it at this point if they wanna maintain a semblance of a business right? It's kind of tough.

Dani Taylor: That's what we've been working on actually for the past year. I finally was like, I don't like this machine. I don't like this social media machine. I don't like what it's doing to people. I know other people are being perfectly successful without it. We're gonna figure it out. So we're kind of starting to lean more in that direction and use social media for more as just like fun and conversations with people. Less like you must show up five days a week and have these great pictures. It's like, dude, I don't wanna be in front of a camera all the time. I'm not that interested in getting my picture taken every day.

Karina Inkster: Exactly. Well, it can be done. Google is your friend and those are folks who are actively looking for your services versus Instagram, where you might just, you know, pop up on some random person's feed who may or may not want what you're offering. So it's pretty huge. So what's in store for you two in the future? Is there anything upcoming? Hopefully some more in person, post-COVID you know, Vegan Strong, Plant Built events? But anything else? What are you kinda looking to in the future?

Dani Taylor: I mean that's the big thing is the Plant Built event in October. It should be in October at the Mr. America competition in New Jersey in Atlantic City. So that will be really, really cool, if and when that happens. And our company, Vegan Proteins, we’re growing. We're hiring other coaches and we're, you know, hiring all these different people because there's so many more vegans all the time that, you know, they need help. They need guidance. And we're just so lucky, like you are, to be able to be in that position to help people. So we're just super excited for 2022 - although not too excited, cause we were really excited for 2021, and that turned out to be a weird year too.

Karina Inkster: Expectation management!

Giacomo Marchese: Yup, pretty much!

Karina Inkster: Expect management. Awesome. Well, we are gonna have show notes where our listeners can check out all of your websites. We have some links to some programs that you guys are offering and it was great speaking with you. Nice to meet you. We're kind of like weirdly in the same world and haven't had an in-person conversation yet. So it was really awesome to connect.

Dani Taylor: It reminds me of those veg fests where I'm like, how do we not know each other already?

Karina Inkster: I know, exactly.

Dani Taylor: We should connect more in the future.

Karina Inkster: And thanks to Robert Cheeke for connecting us. So he got in touch and was like these people should be on your podcast. I was like, yeah, no shit! Obviously.

Dani Taylor: Yeah. I'm really glad that he hooked us up. So we should be in touch more. This was super cool.

Giacomo Marchese: Yeah. This has been really cool. Thank you.

Karina Inkster: Thank you for coming on and look forward to connecting in the future. Dani and Giacomo, thank you again for joining me on the show. Much appreciated. Check out our show notes at to connect with Dani and Giacomo and check out their programs. They have a ton to offer including a 28-day overhaul, a vegan health and fitness membership plan, and a vegan fat loss course. So that's Thanks so much for tuning in.

Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

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