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Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 94

"The Godfather of Vegan Bodybuilding" Robert Cheeke on his 100-pound gains journey + more

Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 94. Robert Cheeke is here to discuss adding a hundred pounds to his frame as a vegan bodybuilder, his new book, The Plant-Based Athlete, and much more.


Karina Inkster: Hey, thank you so much for tuning in. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS, vegan, fitness and nutrition coach. Today, on the show, we have someone pretty much every vegan into fitness will recognize, Robert Cheeke. We've actually been in touch for a number of years, but this is the first time we got to have a proper long form conversation. Robert actually wrote the foreword for my first book, Vegan Vitality, which came out back in 2014, and recently in February of 2021, my fourth book came out, which happens to be the second edition of Vegan Vitality, retitled, The Vegan Athlete.


Robert's foreword is still included. The new version though, has new interviews with vegan athletes. We've got major recipe updates, and there's a new chapter on everyone's favourite vegan topic, protein. If you want to check that out, you can get your hands on it at pretty much any bookstore or online where books are sold. Again, it's called The Vegan Athlete. Now, introducing the star of today's show, Robert Cheeke. Robert grew up on a farm in Corvallis, Oregon, where he adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1995 at age 15, weighing just 120 pounds.


Something we talk about in our discussion today is how he added a hundred pounds to his frame over the last quarter century that he's been vegan. Today, he's the author of the books, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Shred It, Plant-Based Muscle, and the new release, The Plant-Based Athlete. He's often referred to as the godfather of vegan bodybuilding, growing the industry from infancy in 2002, to where it is today. As a two-time natural bodybuilding champion, Robert is considered one of VegNews Magazine’s most influential vegan athletes.


He tours around the world, in non-COVID times of course, sharing his story of transformation from a skinny farm kid to champion vegan bodybuilder. Robert is the founder and president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, and maintains the popular website, veganbodybuilding.com. He is a regular contributor to No Meat Athlete, Forks Over Knives, and Vegan Strong. He's a multi-sport athlete, entrepreneur, and has followed a plant-based diet for more than 25 years. Robert lives in Colorado with his wife and two rescued chihuahuas.


His favourite vegan meal is a burrito bowl, which I think is on my current list of top three favourite vegan meals. Here's our discussion.


Hey Robert, welcome to the show. Thanks so much for being here.


Robert Cheeke: Thank you, Karina. I appreciate you having me. Good to see ya.


Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. I've been following you for so long, like years and years, and we actually worked together back in 2013 for the book that came out in 2014, but this is actually the first time we're having an actual conversation, so I'm super excited that you're here on the show. Thanks again.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, we do have quite that background. I mean, that's almost, I mean, it's close to 10 years. 2013, it's only eight years ago. Yeah, we've been at it for a while, like spreading this message in our own ways and writing books and happy to collaborate with you and to be involved in your projects and happy to be on the show today.

Karina Inkster: Well, that is awesome. Let's jump right in then, shall we? I know that we have some exciting developments in your world to talk about as well, including a book, which we will get to for sure, but why don't we start at the beginning? You are pretty much the founder of the vegan bodybuilding movement. Every vegan, even if they're not into fitness, knows who Robert Cheeke is, which is fantastic. You've been vegan for over a quarter of a century and you've been training this whole time. You have managed to gain a hundred pounds on a plant-based diet throughout or during that time.


Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that journey? I think, were you 15 when you first started like way back in the day?


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, I was.


Karina Inkster: Yeah. I mean, we don't have to go into super long like life story, but we're interested in a little bit of the origin journey, if that makes sense.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, Karina, I'll give you that story. I grew up on a farm out in Western Oregon. My parents came from farming backgrounds. In fact, they met in the animal science department at Oregon State University where my father was a professor there for, I don't know, 35 years or so. He's now retired, but he spent decades teaching people how to raise animals for food. I grew up on a farm raising animals and showing them in the 4-H fair and selling them at the auction, saying goodbye to dairy calves, and to chickens, and I think rabbits and other animals that I sold at the auction and got some money for that, which as a teenager, or younger than that, 10, 12, 13 years old was exciting and fun.


That's what I knew coming from a farming background. Then my older sister, Tanya, did something kind of radical. She became a vegetarian in the early '90s. She must've been only like 10 years old at the time. Then by the mid-'90s, she became vegan. I didn't know really what that was all about, but she was organizing an animal rights week at my high school. That's when I decided that, out of respect for my older sister, I’m going to become vegan for a week, whatever that means. This was December 8th, 1995 when it started.


I attended this animal rights week. I listened to speakers. I watched videos of factory farming and animal testing. I read literature and I talked to people, had conversations, and it was on that day that I decided, you know what? I'm going to ... maybe I'll give this a go for even longer than a week, and now it's been something like 1300 weeks, and my 26th year doing this thing. But Karina, one of the important parts of this story though, which really gives me a story at all, really, I mean, it's the only reason I think that I'm even relevant or that I can write books, or anything, is that, at the time, I barely weighed 120 pounds as a five sport athlete.


I was an athlete. I was in it. I mean, I was a runner, a basketball player, a wrestler. I was in track and field. I played soccer, I played tennis recreationally. I was into it. Before that, I mean, in eighth grade, I was only 89 pounds. I was small, and my sister didn't even weigh a hundred pounds, kind of a small family, but I wanted to be bigger and stronger. That's where the juxtaposition was. I mean, I grew up watching pro wrestling, He-Man, Captain Planet, and now you know the era that I grew up in. I'm 41 now.


I mean, that's what I really wanted for my life, to be honest. I just wanted to be bigger and stronger. Part of that is we want something we don't have. We want, whether that's travel or ... we often crave the things we haven't yet been able to experience. For me, it was being bigger and stronger, especially as an athlete. I questioned whether I could do this on a plant-based diet, or plant based wasn't even the term then, but the vegan. Could I do this as a vegan? So, that's what I set out to do. I worked at it, worked at it, worked at it, and I failed miserably at first, which is again, part of my story as well, making zero progress because I didn't know what to eat.


I just knew what I didn't want to eat anymore. Then eventually transitioning from long distance runner to bodybuilder, I kind of figured it out and I started putting on weight pretty quickly. To this day, I have put on exactly 100 pounds, from 120 pounds to… I was 222.2 on the scale two days ago with clothes on, so right about 220 these days.


Karina Inkster: Wow. That's huge. That's a transformation right there if I ever saw one.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, and partly because I became vegan before the internet was a household thing, and it wasn't expected. That's the thing. My parents, my family, my teachers, my coaches, teammates, no one expected me to be able to achieve anything, especially achieving muscle building and strength gains. That just wasn't in the cards. As the internet became more popular, websites like MySpace came around. You could connect with other vegans out there around the world, and I started to realize that there's other people doing this too. Collectively, a bunch of us, you included, vegan athletes have been out there showing that plants have all the protein you need and that you can build your body on a plant-based diet.


Karina Inkster: Exactly. We'll get into that as well, ‘cause the whole protein discussion, I mean, you can't have Robert Cheeke on a podcast and not talk about protein, but you were mentioning like it was not expected, right? Your teammates, your family members, your classmates - the vegan thing was not expected, but was there pushback? What was the actual response of these folks in your life? Was it negative? Was it positive? Did they just not get it? What was the deal?


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, good question. At first, there was. There was resistance. That's natural for the mid-'90s in an agriculture community and in the family that I was in.


Karina Inkster: Good point. Yeah.


Robert Cheeke: My parents, see, my dad being an animal scientist and just being a scientist and nutrition expert in general, he was concerned. He's a PhD professor, author of 15 textbooks, pretty smart guy, and was worried about my health, and my mom as well. Again, coming from a farming background, they weren't sure that I was going to get all the nutrition that I needed with plants. That was then. That was the mindset then. My teammates were, I think, a little bit flabbergasted by my approach. One day I'm going out to lunch with everybody else, eating meat sandwiches or burgers, or the things that we ate, and wearing leather soccer shoes and basketball shoes.


Then it's like a flip of a switch, and all of a sudden, I wasn't. I even started slightly changing the group of friends I hung out with because I started getting in friends with my sister and her friends, and all the environmental kids, and the recycling kids, and the vegan kids.


Karina Inkster: Awesome.


Robert Cheeke: That community. Initially, what's really interesting, because I've been able to watch this over the last quarter century, where 25 years ago people were concerned for my health as I adopted a plant-based diet, and now fast forward 25 years later, the common message from people is that, I know I should go plant-based for my health, right?


Karina Inkster: Hey, that's a really good point.


Robert Cheeke: ... complete opposite mindset, and it happened in less than 25 years. I mean, it's probably happened in the last 12 years. Or that mindset of you're not going to get nutrition or be healthy on a plant-based diet, to the complete opposite of, I know I should adopt a plant-based diet in order to lower my cholesterol, reduce my risk of heart disease, reduce my risk of diabetes, to reduce my risk of obesity, to help reverse conditions I currently have, to feel more energetic, to drop body weight, to ... fill in the blank. The answer is a plant-based diet for so many people, whereas before, actually, it was the concern that people had.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. We have similar stories. You did go vegan before I did. I think it was 2003 for me, so it's been about 18 years, but my dad is also a prof, not in the environmental health sector. He's a communications prof, but both my parents were academics. So, when I decided to go vegetarian and then vegan, their first response wasn't resistance necessarily, but it was like, hmm, you better do your research. Let's make sure you're getting all the nutrients you need, and of course back then, without the internet and Facebook groups that are easy to access and all those things, it was more difficult. You did need to do a little bit of digging way more than you do now to get useful information, especially if you're an athlete.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. What's also interesting is that, obviously people will say, well,  a plant-based diet is so much more accessible now, restaurants, foods, and all that, but I'm always quick to say real food has always been out there all along. Produce has always been there, fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, seeds, legumes have always been there. It's just that now we have all these comfort foods, the vegan pizzas and ice creams and burgers and all these things that really were pretty scarce 25 years ago when there was one or two brands of soy milk or-


Karina Inkster: And they weren't even that good back then.


Robert Cheeke: No, they weren't that great, and it was hard to get people to adopt a plant-based diet back then, because it's still a joke to this day, like veggie burgers, these black bean, or quinoa or carrot beet, whatever they are, burgers, just don't move the needle for getting people to stop eating animals, whereas Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and other ones do. Not to say those are like saviour foods or those are like ... as in they're saving the movement or anything like that with their innovation, or that those are like go-to foods. It's just that there's a much easier way to communicate a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle now in a way that it sticks compared to decades ago when it was much more fringe, less accessible. You had to have a co-op or natural foods grocery store nearby, and live in a town with vegan restaurants to make it anything worthwhile as far as a social setting or with friends or relationships or whatever. Whereas now, that's just simply not the case. It's so commonplace that anyone essentially has the opportunity to have a compassionate vegan lifestyle and have comfort foods and favourite foods accessible around them.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. I mean, not to go into a whole spiral here, but there are of course legitimate contexts that we need to take into account, like economic status, living in a place that doesn't have access to a lot of fresh produce, cultural food beliefs and traditions and things. Yeah, of course these are all important things to take into consideration, but I think the point is, no matter where you are, I mean, we have someone in the middle of Australia, in the Outback, 10 hours from the closest town who's vegan. It's possible if you know how to do it.


Robert Cheeke: Karina, those are very important things you’ve brought up. I've written about that a little bit over the years. Not that I'm an expert, but I've mentioned it in articles or in my books because it is important, that there are cultural barriers, there are food deserts, there are access inhibitors, there are barriers put up in many places regarding religious beliefs or family and cultural beliefs. Economic resource is a huge one. I mean, that was a big part of even my life, because I became vegan as a teenager. I didn't have a lot of my own money to be able to buy what I wanted, and I had parents who didn't want me eating a certain way and so I had to figure things out.


 Obviously, I know I come from a privileged background. There's a lot of people don't have that opportunity and may not have access to all these great $10 vegan burgers that you can get at these restaurants in big cities like Toronto or Vancouver. There's a lot of people, but what I think what we're both kind of talking about is the mainstream public at large, especially in North America where we live, but in many developed countries around the world, the access is incredible.


But also, in underdeveloped countries, I've been to a number of them, in Asia, in central America, in Europe, where economics are a bit harder, but rice and vegetables and tofu and broccoli and stuff is abundant. You see that, you see that in Indonesia or Thailand or Honduras and some of these places. I think it's a matter of perspective and priority and what kind of foods you crave and like. For example, my wife and I spent three weeks on vacation, visiting friends in Indonesia and Thailand, and we felt like we ate some of the healthiest, aside from the coconut milk that was in a lot of the curry, you know.


Karina Inkster: Oh yeah.


Robert Cheeke: Aside from some of the coconut milk, which probably had a bit more fat than we would eat at home, we felt like we ate some of the healthiest and best food around in big cities like Bangkok, but also smaller cities too, and kind of out in the countryside because we had local tour guides who would show us around, and eating on the floor, eating literally off the ground on the floor in a little village in Indonesia where a friend of ours lives, who made the food, vegan meals for us right there. Basic and very affordable stuff that's sold in street markets, especially with dark fruits and such.


There is access for the majority of people. I think sometimes we look for excuses. We look for justification of this, that, or whatever. But I also do want to acknowledge that some of those barriers absolutely do exist. Many of us have been able to witness that firsthand, especially through global travels where some people just have it obviously much easier than others, largely based on economics and cultural background.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. I think it is an important aspect to keep in mind. Do you think that some of the so-called barriers could be how veganism as a movement is approached and how it's kind of North American-centric at the moment?


Robert Cheeke: Possibly, as far as the ethical and moral standpoints of the essence of veganism. I think plant-based diet is very common in places like Asia and other parts of the world, certain parts of Europe, especially in ... You want to talk about where veganism is really coined and founded in the UK and where it's 300 vegan in restaurants and in England and all of that, or in London itself, I should say. I just mean the plant-based diet culture.


 I've spent a lot of time, probably years combined, because I used to work on cruise ships where I'd spend eight months at a time in the Caribbean. I've spent a lot of time in places like the Caribbean and Central America, either on a cruise ship or going there on vacation because I enjoyed it so much, and again, this is just a very common way of eating. There's this Rastafarian way of eating in Jamaica, Ital, plant-based diet, it’s veganism. It's cruelty-free, it's not harming others in order to eat. Some of these things, the essence of a plant-based diet is very common all over the place, whether we acknowledge that or not. But as far as how we identify with the moral and ethical stances of veganism, taking that perspective certainly is very heavily focused on North America and Western Europe. Also, places like you mentioned Australia, which I've toured there for six weeks in total, and it's just been absolutely incredible, the response there and the rise of veganism in that country.


Karina Inkster: Yeah, absolutely. It's pretty amazing to see how it's just blossomed, as cliche as that sounds, worldwide, in even the last, I would say like five to 10 years. It's pretty incredible.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. I mean, the growth was slow 25 years ago.


Karina Inkster: For sure.


Robert Cheeke: From '95 to '96, '96 to '97. I mean, these were tiny incremental things that were hard to measure, but you're right, the last five or 10 years have been just so big. A lot of that has to do with media. A lot of that has to do with internet. We can talk about certain documentary films. Obviously, I think Forks Over Knives was a big turning point for people in 2011, so 10 years ago now. Wow. It’s already been 10 years!


Karina Inkster: Definitely. I know. Isn't that insane?


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. I worked for that film too. I was there in the office when we debuted the film. I was living and working in Santa Monica, and I didn’t realize this is the 10 year anniversary right now, because we released it in May, I want to say. I'll have to touch base with those guys. They're probably doing some sort of thing for it.


Karina Inkster: Interesting. You know what's funny? Actually this weekend is the 10 year anniversary of my own business, so we're doing a big three-day online event. Talking with you isn't officially part of the free events that we have for folks, but it's like a highlight of the entire thing, so I'm pretty stoked that!


Robert Cheeke: Part of the festivities. I'm happy to be here.


Karina Inkster: It worked perfectly.


Robert Cheeke: I'm happy to be here for celebrating a decade of your business and a decade of your first book launch and all that stuff. Congratulations, Karina.


Karina Inkster: Well, thank you.


Robert Cheeke: Congratulations on all that. As someone who is a fellow author, for me, I don't know exactly your story, but for me, it was a dream of mine, literally since third grade to write books. I think I was eight years old when I decided I'm going to write books, and I wrote in laminated books back then. I still have them. I'm still in touch with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Young.


Karina Inkster: Oh that's amazing.


Robert Cheeke: I've told her about my latest book that comes out in a few months. That's one of the best feelings, to be able to share that success. Because this particular dream took 33 years for me to achieve. It's a long time to keep grinding at it, ‘cause I self-published books for more than a decade before I landed a deal with a publisher, which the new book is, and so I know what it's like to be an author and to work at it and to work at it and to see your book in stores, and to know that you put so much work into something that you care so much about, and you want to share that message first and foremost, and whatever comes after that, if there's opportunities to travel or give lectures or to sell lots of books, or whatever, those are all bonuses. From my view, it's communicating a message and sharing an idea of hope that some people may not get access to until they decide to pick up a book and learn about it.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yes. We have very similar stories actually. It's pretty much the same, actually, when I was five, I used to make little books and give them to my parents, being like, look, I want to be an author. It wasn't like the main thing I wanted to do. I think back then, I wanted to be a naturalist/author. So, it always involve animals and plant life in some form. 


But yeah, I actually want to go the other way. I have not yet self-published anything, so I would kind of like to though just to kind of see the difference. There's pros and cons. You've got a lot of more authority on your own content and that kind of stuff, but yeah, it's one of those things.


Robert Cheeke: We could have a completely other conversation about this because I feel like I know that as well as anybody, because I've done it for 10 years, and I did it when I had a pretty good sized platform, even before the rise of Instagram and before Instagram was even a thing. There were fewer platforms and so I had a larger presence. I had a stronger voice, I should say. It gets more watered down, as far as an individual, the movement grows as a whole, which is great, but as far as an individual, I think, individual voices get watered down a little bit as the pool gets bigger, but it's for the greater good, so it's a positive.


But yeah, I mean, I can tell you all kinds of stories, pros and cons of self-publishing, which is also, it's a big part of my journey, which makes this new book, The Plant-Based Athlete book so exciting, because when I self-published, I was doing this over 10 years ago and didn't have a lot of money, and I was like literally driving from town to town and sleeping in my car. Like the old stories you read about people selling books out of their trunk, I was literally doing that, and crashing on couches, strangers' houses, as well as people I knew, sleeping on floors, but mostly just me and my car, just me and my Prius driving around, just trying to make it.


The things you learned about yourself during that process like, is it worth it? Man, I thought I'd be so much further ahead than this. Do I have self-worth? Is my message even worth communicating? Should I quit? Or this is great, I'm on top of the world. I'm a self-published author getting all expenses paid, trips to Australia, and Asia, and Europe to go speak, and how did this happen? And why me? I'm not as big as the other guys. There are so many better vegan bodybuilders. I just happened to be first or very early.


All this stuff runs through your mind. It often comes back to, have I earned this, or do I deserve this, is someone else better to carry the message? That's actually what I think about, which is a hard thing to think about, because for me, it's message first, not me first. It's always message and we first, and if there's someone I feel is better to communicate that, then I get behind them. I've done that most of my life. You can see it with my support of Forks Over Knives or The Game Changers, or anyone, Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, people who have big projects I try to get behind it. I just ordered your book. I know I've got one on the way, but I've got another one on the way now.


Karina Inkster: Oh, I sent you one, man.


Robert Cheeke: I know, but I ordered another one.


Karina Inkster: Well, thank you.


Robert Cheeke: I have the Vegan Vitality. I've got other ones at home, and that's one of the things that I try to do, is support other writers and authors in many different ways. But largely, ordering their books because I know what it feels like to have someone order your book. It's like, that someone cares to read what you have to say is amazing. I mean, whether you have an audience of hundreds of thousands or an audience of three people, it's cool that three people even care. In a world where there's so much apathy and there's so much “me, me, me,” and there's so much noise and everyone promoting themselves. And you know, for a good reason - a lot of people are entrepreneurial and they have important messages to share. It's just nice when when people do acknowledge your work and are willing to pick up a copy.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely.


Robert Cheeke: I love that feeling, and so that's what I try to give that feeling to other fellow authors out there.


Karina Inkster: Well, you just did. Thanks, Robert. Also, thanks again for writing the foreword to this book. It's the second edition that just came out. So, your foreword is now technically in two different books, Vegan Vitality, and the new edition, which is the Vegan Athlete.


Robert Cheeke: Well, and that's exciting too, Karina. That's fun to be asked to write a foreword. I've done that for a few books now. That's a lot of fun, to see your name, either on the cover or inside cover or-


Karina Inkster: Oh, it's on the cover.


Robert Cheeke: No, I know. I know. I think I sent you a photo months ago when I was in a Barnes & Noble here in Colorado. Do you remember that?


Karina Inkster: Yes, I remember that. You sent me a text on Instagram.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. Because I'm like, hey, your book is here in the bookstore. Like, there it is, and there’s my name!


Karina Inkster: So awesome!


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. It was a cool thing, ‘cause I had just moved to town. We're dealing with the pandemic. I'm new to the city, and just to go into a store and see your name and my name. It was just like a surreal feeling. Because I told you, I said, yeah, I know what it feels like to have your book in the stores, but I'm only in a few stores. I've been able to see it and experience that, but I haven't really, on a big scale, these are just like random stores, and many of them are frankly have been like thrift shops and such where my books are on the shelves, ‘cause I've only self-published. Now I'm finally going to be legitimately in those Barnes & Noble.


Karina Inkster: Oh, you're going to be everywhere.


Robert Cheeke: I will tell you real quick story, 30 second story. I would actually read this book called Half-Priced Books in Arizona where I live. It's a pretty good sized chain. I think it's in Texas and other places. It's called Half-Priced Books. You get books at discount obviously. For the excitement of wanting to see my book on the shelves, I took copies that I paid for and I bought my own book online from Amazon, and then resold it to Half-Price Books for like a dollar. They gave me like a dollar or $2 for it, brand new. It was a brand new book, they gave me like a dollar or two and put it on the shelf. I went back and took pictures on my phone. It's like the diet nutrition section that has Shred It and Plant-Based Muscle. I'm like, “yes!"


Karina Inkster: Yes!


Robert Cheeke: I totally lost money on that transaction just to get my name out there, but that's the kind of stuff that I would do because I was chasing this dream and wanting to be in bookstores. If that's what it took, I was going to ... Then allows people to buy my book at a discount too. You can get a book for 10 bucks at that kind of store. I lost money, but I got a chance to fulfill another step of that dream in the process.


Karina Inkster: Exactly. That is hilarious and genius, and it literally paid off. Let's talk about this new book. It's amazing. So, you partnered with Matt Frazier, is that right?


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. Matt Frazier from No Meat Athlete. We are long-time colleagues. In fact, we met about 10 years ago. I was on tour. I met him like twice during the same time. I don't know if it was first in DC or in Baltimore. I want to say DC. I was giving a talk in Washington, DC, and he was in the audience, and I kind of ... I knew of him and he knew of me. We hadn't met. His blog was pretty new. It was only like a year or two old, the No Meat Athlete blog. I think I saw him probably wearing the t-shirt in the audience, and so I kind of knew that-


Karina Inkster: You're like, “oh, I know that guy.”


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, that must be the guy. Then we went out to dinner in Baltimore, which is nearby DC. I don't know if it's an hour away or so. That may have been during the same trip or another tour stop when I was in that part of the country within that same time period. We've worked together in some capacity really ever since. I've written an endorsement quote or been involved in every one of the books that he's written. He's done the same for me, provided some sort of endorsement for every book that I've written. We've just been on these similar paths of promoting the plant-based diet to a wide and diverse audience.


He reaches more of a runner and long distance athlete audience, he's a long distance runner. He qualified for the Boston marathon and he mostly was writing about running. It was really a running blog for years - it was all about running.


Karina Inkster: I remember those days.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, picking out your shoes, and tempo, and all this stuff. I was doing bodybuilding, running, bodybuilding. All these years later, and we've been on tour together, out in the Caribbean on this yearly vegan cruise, that is currently on hold, of course, with COVID. But I was a speaker for 10 years there. He was a speaker, maybe for three or four of those years. I've had this idea for The Plant-Based Athlete for a long time. It actually goes back. The story is even more kind of crazy, but I'll briefly tell it.


I wrote this proposal for The Plant-Based Athlete in 2013, and I pitched it ... I did have an agent, but I pitched it on my own at first to a publisher and almost got picked up. I was actually living in Canada for that summer, in Victoria.


Karina Inkster: That's pretty close.


Robert Cheeke: I was having my cousin who's brilliant - She's an environmental lawyer and my friend who just got his PhD - they were both helping me with the proposal. I felt super confident, super pumped. Ultimately, that publisher passed on that book, which is funny - a couple years later, Matt Frazier got published by that very publisher.


Karina Inkster: Oh, no way.


Robert Cheeke: His book went on to do really well. I'm talking like sold over a hundred thousand copies. His No Meat Athlete Cookbook. That was the publisher that I was hoping for. I went back and self-published Shred It, because my Plant-Based Athlete book didn't work out, and then I co-authored Plant-Based Muscle with Vanessa Espinoza, and then I wrote an ebook-only, a separate ... It was still 232 pages, but it was an ebook about building a vegan brand.


Karina Inkster: I read that. It is genius. It's excellent.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah, there's a lot of good ... I still use a lot of those principles today that have really helped me a lot with Vegan Strong and other brands. There's some good things in there. I mean, actually, it was one of the most fun books to write. It's how to build a successful vegan brand. I was part of Vega for 10 years, part of Forks Over Knives. I've worked with Beyond Meat for many years, Vegan Essentials. I've been part of a lot of great vegan companies and organizations, so I feel like I have some good things to share.


Then I've been building my own brand, Vegan Bodybuilding, and now with Vegan Strong, but just on that note, that's how rich history is with me and Matt. I mean, I had this idea eight years ago. It didn't quite work out, but as I released more books and he released more books and our brands grew, I flew out to Florida where he was attending the conference, and I deliberately, I knew he was going to be at this conference, I flew all the way across the country from Arizona to Florida, and I showed up there, I met up with him and said, "Hey, you want to go for a walk?"


It was really funny. That's literally how it went down. I said, "Hey, do you want to go on a walk with me outside for a little bit?" So, we went on the boardwalk along the beach in like Fort Lauderdale Area. Then I said, "Hey, this is what I've been thinking about, this Plant-Based Athlete book, where we feature ... We basically tell the compelling stories of the world's greatest plant-based athletes, and then we share, obviously plant-based nutrition and fitness advice and meal plans and recipes and all that. But we really amplify these stories of James Wilks, and Rich Roll, and Fiona Oakes, and Dotsie Bausch, and all these, Meagan Duhamel - Canadian - and others."


Sure enough, all of them are in our new book. He said, "Yeah, I'm in." So we worked together and it's been a long process, like two and a half years in the making. But we did land finally a major publisher, and we've been working crazy, and the book comes out June 15th. It's available for pre-order right now, which we announced it on my 41st birthday on March 2nd. So it's on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and I think everywhere else. In a nutshell, Karina, this book ... That is what we do, we tell the compelling stories of the world's greatest plant-based athletes.


I personally interviewed about 60, including at least a dozen Olympians, probably more than a dozen, maybe two dozen world champions, and tons of professional athletes from, whether it's former NFL, NHL, current world record holders, current Olympic gold medalists, like David Verburg, who's on the US Olympic sprinting team and is a gold medalist, Dotsie Bausch, of course, and Scott Juke, one of the greatest runners in the history of running, not just in the vegan world, and Rip Esselstyn, Brendan Brazier, a lot of that you’d expect. Laura Kline, who's a world champion Duathlete, one of the most dominant ever in her sport. Darcy Gaechter, who's a world record holding kayaker, just a whole bunch of people. Like I said, Meagan Duhamel, Olympic gold medalist and figure skating Canadian world champion, the whole thing. 


Furthermore, not only did we interview them, they provide their day in the life, their sample day in the life, like their routine, what they do morning ’til night. Their workouts, their meals, whatever, they provided recipes. You know, most books have recipes. Most vegan books have some sort of recipes, typically by the author or by a recipe specialist, a chef or something. Ours come directly from the athletes.


Karina Inkster: Well, that's pretty brilliant.


Robert Cheeke: These are recipes from Vanessa Espinoza, who is just as good as it gets pound for pound as an athlete on the planet. I mean, you’re talking…


Karina Inkster: Oh yeah, she's a beast.


Robert Cheeke: She's been vegan for 20 years. She was an All-American basketball player, drafted into the WNBA, is a three-time Golden Gloves State Champion boxer. She almost set a world record in her first ever powerlifting meet, and she is, pound for pound, the strongest person I know. Period. We've literally leg pressed a thousand pounds together, and she weighs 130.


Karina Inkster: Wow.


Robert Cheeke: She presses 110 pound dumbbells in each hand.


Karina Inkster: That's incredible.


Robert Cheeke: She pulls 400 pounds off the ground in deadlifts. Three times her body weight.


Karina Inkster: That is incredible. I had no idea there was this much involved. I just hit “buy” and I'm like, dude, I cannot wait until this comes out. June 15th, right?


Robert Cheeke: Yeah.


Karina Inkster: But I actually didn't know that it was so in-depth and so story-driven around athletes and their own struggles, challenges, routines, recipes. That is freaking awesome.


Robert Cheeke: There's even a grocery shopping section. Like what, Julia Murray, who I think you'd probably know, another Canadian Olympian in skiing, what she eats. Or what Sonya Looney, another Canadian, world champion.


Karina Inkster: I see a theme here.


Robert Cheeke: I know! Kevin Hill, Shanda Hill, more Canadians, world champions and Olympians. Kevin Hill, a two-time Olympian. Yeah, I acknowledged everyone I talked to in the front of the book, their name, even though some of them never made it, even their quotes didn't make it into the book. That's just how it works too. That's another bummer like the difference between self-publishing and big publishers, is that when I self publish, I've got control over all of that, and if it's like a friend or a role model or someone I really look up to, I want their quote in the book, right?


But the publisher says, “nope.” And that removed like, in one round of editing, we removed like 30 people from the book, where that was their only participation in the book was those quotes and they got taken out. That's how it goes, but I feel like there... If this book does well and we hope it does, and whether people, inspires people, and you've already heard a lot of the reasons why, I mean, you're going to get the inside scoop on how the greatest plant-based athletes in the world eat, live, and train, including their grocery shopping lists in some cases, their day in the life, routines, their recipes, what they really do.


You'd be surprised, Karina. I can't believe how many elite athletes love Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Like… ‘cause we put them on a pedestal.


Karina Inkster: This is so awesome.


Robert Cheeke: Like in my mind, at least, I thought these athletes were like the equivalent of like a Dr. T. Colin Campbell nutrition approach, that they were just ... Or as I said, they're very precise. You have to be the best in the world, right? Or so I thought, but that's what you find out -


Karina Inkster: That's what I thought.


Robert Cheeke: That's what you find out. You find out that nobody's perfect, that some people don't get as much sleep as they should. Some people eat vegan ice cream almost every night, even though they set national records in their sport, that some people don't use any supplements aside from B12. Some people use lots of supplements, and that Karina, was one of the hardest parts of the book, I have to tell you. One of the hardest parts of the book, because it's like 350 pages. There’s a lot of other material too, besides athletes stories, right? 


There’s a ton of it. There's chapters about plant-based nutrition and calorie density and a dedicated chapter to protein, carbohydrates, fats, recovery, nutrient density, all these different things. To take all this body of information and evidence-based studies - we cited tons of evidence-based studies, including some of the recent ones, even the February 2021 study that was just recently published. We put it in the last minute, like the book was off to print.


Karina Inkster: That's awesome. Nicely done.


Robert Cheeke: It literally goes off to print like today or Monday or something like ... the deadline was a couple days ago for any, any, any, any changes, but we were able to squeeze that in, if they put it in there. They still have to let me know if they added it or not, but we have evidence-based studies in there. So we have all of this stuff, this body of literature, and then to try to get real life athletes to map onto that doesn't always work. But that was also really fascinating and enlightening that there is no one size fits all.


You’d think that if everybody would eat the same legumes, leafy greens, certain grains, fruits and certain amount of vegetables and calorie intake and protein ratios, like we'd all perform the same, but it's not the way it works. That's what actually humanizes a lot of these people, because even though, as an athlete, and I excel to some degree. Actually, if I'm being fair, probably more in running than I did in bodybuilding, but I can't even relate. I just can't relate to some of these athletes who do these just incredible feats. How does Scott Jurek run six marathons in one day?


Karina Inkster: Yeah, seriously.


Robert Cheeke: And set the world record for most miles ran, something like 165 miles in a single day in a road race. I can't comprehend that. I also can't comprehend being 420 pounds and then losing 240 pounds, or 260 or whatever, and then be down to 180 and running over a hundred miles and winning. I can't. You have to find dots that connect the stories because they're out there, and they're easy to miss if you're not looking for them, but that's what you'll find.


I can actually sum it up in two words, the people who succeed and achieve over and over again, it all comes down to showing up. They just show up at the start line, they show up in the gym, they show up in the kitchen, they just show up. Anytime there's an opportunity to quit or walk away or throw in the towel or do something different, they just keep showing up. That's one thing that I took away from it, from the interviews, and what I've applied to my own life, like where my training has continued to excel in my 40s and step it up a notch. Because I look at these men and women who I've had the great pleasure of interviewing and realized that they had similar goals, similar dreams, not that I wanted to win some bike ride in the Himalayas, but I wanted to find fulfillment, right?


That's what it's about. It's about, we all wanted to find personal fulfillment. I wanted to get bigger and stronger. I did it. I'm talking to you, I weigh 220 pounds as I'm talking to you. I was able to do it and I can look at the patterns that I used, of showing up day after day, even in the face of adversity or in the face of challenges in a way that's similar to how other people showed up.


I think the book is, it's been described as stunning by the publisher. The copy editor, who I don't think is plant-based at all, described it as life-changing. More endorsements from Dr. Campbell and Esselstyn, and Brenda Davis, another Canadian, and John Robbins, one of my all time heroes, I mean, from Diet For a New America. I just can't help, but think this book is going to help so many people learn so much about themselves and about what a plant-based diet can do for them to achieve what they really want to achieve in their active lifestyle.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely fascinating. I cannot wait. Something I was thinking about when you were talking about like, yeah, sure, we can have all these, Esselstyn style wave a magic wand ideal diets, but then you go into real life and the logistics, and what are these folks actually doing on a day-to-day basis? I feel like that is going to be a game changer in the vegan movement, where I don't know about you, but I feel like there's a lot of all or nothing thinking like, either you're 100 raw or you're doing vegan wrong, or either you're 100% whole foods, no oil, or you're doing vegan wrong, you know?


I feel like there's still a lot of that in the vegan movement, and so something like this where you're saying, well, not only is there no one size fits all approach, but there's no one size fits all approach in the world's greatest athletes. That's huge.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. At first, I saw it almost like a negative at first, because I'm like, man, here's what the literature says. I was actually having this conversation with James Wilks recently, the creator of The Game Changers, who was able to like sympathize with me, because I'm like, okay, here's what the literature says. I think you and I are probably on the same page. We both come from academic backgrounds. My father is a professor, PhD, so is my uncle, my older sister who encouraged me to vegan is also a PhD professor. I'm not, but we come from these academic backgrounds. I really like the evidence-based nutrition.


I never used to be. I was always just like young, 20 something year old weightlifter random dude building a website. But now, I hang around Campbell and Esselstyn, and Gregor and so many others, Brenda Davis. Really, I mean, that's a key demographic in my group of colleagues, speaking on the vegan cruise or these health conferences, or wellness conferences. I see them a lot. So I focus a lot more on that evidence-based nutrition now, and so I'm like talking to James, like, man, so here's what the science says, here's what the studies actually say. Why is it that all these athletes do stuff totally differently?


It comes down to human nature, it comes down to a habit forming, it comes down to cultural backgrounds, it comes down to preferences, how we manage the 1440 minutes we have every day. I know you want to talk about protein, that's the thing. There's basically concrete or fairly consensus recommendations on protein intake in general and protein intake for athletes. That's, I don't know, somewhere around 1.2 to two grams per kilogram of body weight. You can do the math and figure out how many grams that is for an individual, but it's pretty well understood, yet athletes at the top of their game, including in strength sports, where protein you'd think would be a huge factor differ in their intake.


In some cases, very significantly. We've got one guy who's in the book, Nick Squires, you might be familiar with him. He's kind of a hilarious character on Twitter. Like, “Meatymcsorley” is his name or something, but he's an international record holder in powerlifting. He's a strong dude. He's also the record holder in the State of California, which by the way, has more people in it than Canada, 39 million or something in California. He is a legitimately very strong guy, and he eats protein all day long, beyond burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and all this stuff.


Yet, there's other powerlifters that have great world-class success, who don't emphasize protein intake at all. And then there's me. I know you're probably going to get to it at some point. I have my own controversial approach. People have an opinion about it, because I make it public, but I personally have not used protein supplementation since 2012, nine years. At that point, I was actually retired from bodybuilding and got back into long distance running, and got down to a body weight of 165 pounds. I actually found pretty good success in running during that time, my early 30s, and I've since gone from 165 to 220 on a very, very modest protein intake with no protein supplementation and little emphasis on high protein foods like tofu and tempeh and seitan.


And that's just part of my truth. Some people know that, some don't. In fact, when I document it in chronometer for my own sample day in the life, I'm often consuming under a hundred grams of protein per day, sometimes 75 grams weighing 220 pounds, people say, that's not possible. I've been doing it for 10 years. I mean, you tell me. That's the thing, the human body is so different. Then when you talk to Olympic athletes, I don't know if you have this experience, check this out. This may not be a shocker for you, but it could be for a lot people listening, you ready for this?


There are a lot of Olympic athletes, so we're talking basically best athletes on the planet who also did not use sport supplements because they feared failing drug tests, including, if it was whey protein or anything else, any kind of protein, whether vegan or not vegan at the time. I talked to these Olympic athletes, I talked to in-person, I talked to via email, and they said, no, we didn't touch the supplements, because if we fail the drug test because of some hidden ingredient, our Olympic dreams since we were a kid is over.


I found that to be fascinating, because general recommendations for most people, plant-based or not, or vitamin B12 is recommended for everybody. Vitamin D, recommended for many people, DHA, EPA, Omega-3 essential fats recommended for many, many people. Then, for some people, protein powders or other things, you know, more of a multivitamin or meal replacement or added protein for their sport, yet there are many people who excel in athletics who don't use that. It's what makes the book very challenging and frustrating to write, but also it makes me step back and realize, there is this human element that each individual has and that nobody's perfect, or nobody, behind the scenes, is what they look like on social media, you know?


I don't look like super ripped all the time like when I get the lighting just right and I have a mirror to look at to gauge how I'm coming across. So there's another layer to it, and we reveal that. That's why I joke, that I'm like, man, I couldn't believe how many times you search in the document for Ben & Jerry's, how many times it pops up. I didn’t know that was like a big, popular thing among vegan athletes, but it turns out, when you work really, really hard, six, seven days a week, that's a nice thing to relax and kick your feet up.


And that has to be acknowledged, I think, and in a way respected, because like you just said, we have this perception that people are perfect, or like Esselstyn even says, you know, “my son is plant strong, I'm plant perfect.” Sometimes we think that. But then, when I've spent time with some of these people, I even have photos with like me and Dr. Gregor on the vegan cruise. He's got a plate with pizza in it. I'm hanging out with Dr. Campbell at midnight on the cruise eating vegan pizza. I'm like, oh, I can relax a little bit, because I always thought, to get these guys, their endorsement of my work, I had to be perfect too.


It turns out they're not, they're human too. That allowed me to feel that way. I think writing this book allowed a lot of the athletes to feel that way as well, that they could reveal what their real lifestyle is. I think readers are just going to find that so interesting, and including the stories. I gave some of it away, of people losing weight and setting records or overcoming addiction. There's plenty of other stories I didn't mention. There's a bunch of athletes I didn't mention by name, so those will be a surprise to you and everyone else, but it's going to be a fun one.


Karina Inkster: I am looking forward to it. I think the point about “perfect" that you made is a really important one, Robert. Yeah, we do put these professional athletes on a pedestal. Yeah, we do often expect, if you're not 100% on point with whatever diet you set out for yourself, you're going to immediately fail, you know? Yeah, everyone's human. I'd also like to put forth the concept though, that maybe you are still perfect if you're eating pizza. That's not a bad thing. What’s the rest of your diet like? I mean, maybe that's part of your actual plan and your way of looking at nutrition.


Robert Cheeke: Right. I'm so getting on board with that these days, because I have a horrible work addiction as well. I'm one of these people, you probably saw me obnoxiously for over a decade, glamorizing, working 15 hours a day.


Karina Inkster: I did the same thing.


Robert Cheeke: I get old notifications from Facebook where I'm like, I haven't slept in 24 straight hours. I've taken four flights over the last day and a half. I would brag about this stuff, to be honest, just keeping it real. I would glamorize things.


Karina Inkster: I used to do the same thing. I'm right there with you.


Robert Cheeke: I always thought, because I had this entrepreneurial mindset from when I was a kid, like I'm going to outwork everybody in the room. That's the only way I made it as a vegan bodybuilder. I had no business being here. I was some skinny farm kid who became vegan. I have no business winning bodybuilding competitions, but I did. Now what? I have no business writing books. I don't have a background in that, and then I became a self published bestseller and sold over a million dollars worth of books and toured around the world. Now what? I had this, but a lot of it was ego.


I realized a lot of it was ego and that I was projecting something that I thought made me look awesome. But really, what it was was like, in some ways, making other people feel bad or inadequate that they weren't as driven, but you don't have to be. That's what it took me a long time to realize, that you don't have to set out to be the best in the world at something. That's something that I wanted to do. That's a very rare goal, to be the best in the world at something. Most people don't have that, and most people just want to be happy.


I'm so big on that now, that when I wrote Shred It, and I was so just on top of the world, getting endorsements from Campbell and Esselstyn, that I wouldn't eat anything processed or oil, at least for a period of time. I'm still supplement free aside from B12 and occasionally vitamin D and DHA, EPA, but no sports supplements or anything in about a decade. 


But I realized like, yeah, it's the total body of work. Where are the total 3000 calories coming from? At least that's my rough intake. Something like pizza or burger or lasagna or ice cream or a popsicle is okay, because I'm working two hours a day in the gym. I'm going on dog walks, getting fresh air. I'm staying hydrated. I'm eating other good quality calories, lots of fruits and vegetables, and it's okay. 


It took me like, that's the thing, and you've probably experienced this too about writing, you learn so much about yourself. Like, wow, I didn't know I had either this addiction, this habit, this maybe food absence from my diet, or that I have so much more to learn, or that I'm too stuck in my ways, or I'm too rigid. I need to be more flexible. That's helped me. I want to thank actually a lot of the people that I interviewed for this book that helped me reflect on my own life and helped me make some changes that have helped me even as an athlete, a plant-based athlete of 26 years, to be better. That's another thing that I got out of this experience.


Karina Inkster: Wow. This is huge. Was that one of the main turning points for the work-related portion of our discussion? I mean, I know the diet is kind of a separate piece, but I'm totally with you, man. If I look at my old Facebook posts, it's about like how many jobs I have at once, back 15 years ago, and how many projects are happening and blah, blah, blah, but there was a turning point for me. 


It was actually kinda in progress already, but what was really the catalyst was, what I call the anxiety shit-storm, where I just ... It crept up on me and then just went, screw you, you are completely debilitated for three weeks. You can't do anything. Took about a year to get out of it. For me, there was a very clear catalyst, like, okay, I’ve got to look at my work habits here, but was it kind of more of an organic experience for you?


Robert Cheeke: Well, I have to say it's a few things, and I think it's beyond just anxiety, and that's something I've told you that I deal with, but I want to be honest too. I think it's a bit of insecurity as well. If I can project that I'm outworking everybody else, that helps me cover up some of my shortcomings.


Karina Inkster: Yeah, that's a good point.


Robert Cheeke: That I know that I have. I'm not like oblivious to the fact that, my education isn't what it could be or that my achievements in bodybuilding are really ... I was early, it was less competitive. I wasn't ever great at it. I was just early when bodybuilders kind of sucked, and I found some success. I'm aware of that stuff. That does feel like a bit of insecurity. I was never that great, yet I'm hailed as this, or heralded, whatever the word is - see, there's the lack of education coming through - as this is innovator in vegan bodybuilding, and I certainly was, but a lot of it had to do with just being a go getter.


I just put the pedal to the metal when other people weren't doing it, and that's what created an opportunity for me to have my career and now my second career, which is writing, which is what I always wanted to do from age eight anyway, but it's something that ... Karina, it's been kind of brewing for a while. I know I've been a workaholic and obsessive compulsive about it, but I also hung around a community that supported it. The early days of Gary Vaynerchuk, for example, I first met Gary in 2009 on his Crush It tour before he was like super popular. I mean, this is like 11, what? 11, 12 years ago?


I met Gary a Long time ago in person, 2009, 2010, I think 2012, a bunch of events. I kind of got into that entrepreneurial community, even if I just mean like on Twitter and Facebook and social media. I had the opportunity to meet Tim Ferris, and a lot of people we would consider to be great entrepreneurs, or innovators, or business people, or people into hustle. All this like 24/7 hustle, and I used to even buy those t-shirts that would say things like that, like “Hustle 24/7, 365.” Oh man, I mean, I got so into it that I thought that was cool, basically to burn yourself into the ground, and I achieved burnout a number of times where you just say like, screw it all, man. I want to quit everything, and that's not sustainable, and that's not healthy. 


So, that's certainly come across my path. Even recently like, I'm working with Vegan Strong, this non-profit vegan athlete organization full time. I'm having to write this book that's took a year longer than planned, and so now it's like, everything's at the same time, and deadlines pop up constantly, then there's marketing the book, because we have strong aspirations of making this a best seller. Dr. Gregor wrote the foreword. Matt Frazier is my coauthor, endorsed by all these great people. I mean, amazing athletes are featured in the book from Rich Roll, to Scott Jurek, all the rest. We have big aspirations, but it comes with an incredible level of stress and anxiety and expectation.


I talk more and more and more about, I would just love to live in a beach community in a foreign country and eat fruit and exercise outside in warm weather and hang out with the locals and be off the internet for good, basically. Aside from, you know, keeping in touch with my family and friends through text message or phone, but like leave the internet behind like period. It's weird. I go through phases where I'm like anti-capitalism, yet I'm benefiting from it. Here I have a major book that's going to be in every bookstore in America. I even hear it's going to be in Chapters in all these places throughout Canada.


I'm benefiting from a system that I don't always appreciate, capitalism, and so that's another conversation, but it's something that I have to internalize and deal with as someone who is an athlete now turned author and trying to make ... really, trying to spread this message, but I have to do it in a capitalistic way basically, because you've got to sell books. The publisher's got to get their money back.


Karina Inkster: Yeah, exactly.


Robert Cheeke: So yeah. There've been a lot of bumps along the road that do lead to anxiety and burnout and those types of things, and certainly being a workaholic has been part of that. I do want to give a shout out to my friend, Jordan Baskerville, because not only have I known him since preschool, and he's the person I was going to lunch with every day when I became vegan, he's also the person that introduced me to the sport of bodybuilding and has helped me with every single one of my books. We've been good friends, and basically best friends these days. He's the one I visited in Thailand when I was going out there. He went with me when I met Arnold Schwarzenegger for my 21st birthday.


We got our photos with Arnold. That's what we did for our 21st birthdays. He, for years and years and years, has been giving me subtle, and also not so subtle advice on how to bring it down, because I'm lifetime drug and alcohol free, but I was basically on a big drug addiction of work, of dopamine, like "hustle, 24/7 is so awesome!” That was my drug. Again, I've never touched alcohol, cigarettes, whatever. Drug and alcohol free lifetime, and now supplement free for 10 years too besides from B12. I'm like, on paper, the most boring person in the room.


But I was addicted to this drug of basically how me projecting what my life is like to an audience and their response, how that made me feel. It justified that I'm doing all this great work, like, look, I'm out there changing the world and all this stuff, ‘cause I'm working so hard, when really, behind the scenes, you pull back the curtain, I'm burning myself out, and not sustainable. People can joke about that and talk about it like, oh man, I can't believe that guy is burned out or ... we see it in other people. I've seen other vegan activists, and including people who come from very privileged background of being a white male and educated and great economic status and being in America and have every advantage.


Burnout, it’s still there if you put yourself in that situation. Yes, I've been dealing with that and I'm just hoping this book does really well, and then I can, even on a personal level for my own mental health, just take a step back a little bit and say, man, I've worked for this for 33 years. I got the message out there. It reached a lot of people. Let me regroup for a little bit and maybe I can come out with a part two of this book when the time is right.


Karina Inkster: Absolutely. You make a really good point. I think there's an aspect of this whole workaholic construct that is very personal. How we are putting ourselves out into the world and why, but also, I mean, our whole society is basically built on this whole concept of “hashtag hustle." We're not actually learning strategies for managing workloads and preventing burnout. We live in a society of “over-workedness,” if that's even a word. I feel like there's a part of it that's kind of like how people grow up not being vegan. It’s just the thing that happens, and then it takes that extra little bit of effort to break out from that norm, I think.


Robert Cheeke: One of the challenges is, Karina, is ego. We all want attention. Even before the internet, we all wanted attention from our peers, our teachers, our parents, our siblings. We're all in this desperate need for attention because we want to feel acknowledged, we want to feel important, we want to feel heard, we want to be recognized. That's just in us. Yes, you can be an introvert. Yes, you can be an extrovert, but at the end of the day, we want to feel appreciated, we want to feel acknowledged. The internet and social media allow us to do that. We can post photos on social media and be told how pretty and handsome and fit and strong and all this we are.


We're addicted to that. You can deny it and say, no, that's not me. I don't fall into that category. I'm self-aware. No, no, no, no, we're all impacted by it, whether you want to ... You can be honest about it or not. You can lie about it and say it doesn't impact you, or you can be honest about it, just embrace it and realize there's a reason why we check our phones 150 times per day. We're absolutely addicted to it. I mean, what do you do when you're at a red light when you're driving? You look at your phone. What are you doing when you're waiting in line in the grocery store? Look at your phone. What do you do when you're bored or you're feeling like under appreciated or left out? You post it on social media. You find your best photo and post. Okay, good, and compliments are coming back in. 


There's this insecurity, there's this need for uplifting of ego, and that's okay, because we used to get that probably from our parents, from our teachers, in our small community, our sports teams, our teammates. We would feel good from the five or six people we spent time around, but now it's thousands of strangers on the internet that we're trying to appeal to. Maybe that's not serving us so well in a lot of cases.


For me, I'm trying to get more, it's cliche to say, I know you've used that word already, I think, try to get back to my authentic self and that's a long discovery period, and it's a quest and it's a pursuit that doesn't happen overnight. Doesn't even happen in a year.


Karina Inkster: Well, it's lifelong, I would say.


Robert Cheeke: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It's a lifelong pursuit, and that's what I often say in my talks. It's this pursuit of the best version of ourselves and taking steps toward that on a regular basis.


Karina Inkster: Okay. We, for sure, need to do like a series of podcast interviews.


Robert Cheeke: I have to interject. One reason why we have to do that is because I actually have a COVID test I need to go take in 15 minutes.


Karina Inkster: Yes. I know that you were on a time schedule.


Robert Cheeke: My wife actually came and peeked down the stairs like, “you're still on?” Because I need to be there in 15 minutes, which I need to get out of my pyjamas.


Karina Inkster: Oh yeah.


Robert Cheeke: This is how hang out if I'm here at home.


Karina Inkster: I'm wearing my sweat pants. It's all good.


Robert Cheeke: I'm in my pyjamas with a shirt, Vegan Strong shirt on.


Karina Inkster: Vegan Strong shirt. Yeah.


Robert Cheeke: I will need to wrap up for today, but I think I've just told you, the first person I contacted, by the way, you've been reaching out to me to be on the podcast, and with my anxiety issues, and I couldn't do it. I just couldn't talk to anybody. As soon as I decided, you know what? I've got a new book, I've got to do podcasts. In a way, I have to force myself to it. I said, the first person I'm going to talk to is Karina Inkster. That's who I want to talk to you first. You're the first person I reached out to, and here we are.


I thank you for having me on, and I know there's still much more we need to talk about, about protein and about building muscle and all that, but I think we'll have to probably do a part two, and I'd love to do another part two, either on or before the book comes out in mid-June, if that works for your schedule. If not, no worries. And congratulations on your 10 year anniversary for your business and your big event this weekend. I'm going to spread the word.


Karina Inkster: Thank you so much.


Robert Cheeke: It's so cool to connect with you via video today.


Karina Inkster: I know, it's been fantastic. Robert, thank you so much. I know that you've got places to go, but I have been following you basically since day one. I've got all your books, most of them are signed. I super appreciate you coming on the show, doing the foreword to our project over here. Yeah, I think this is going to be amazing to just get our listeners thinking about some concepts that haven't really come up on the show before, and we look forward to your book. Congratulations. Super exciting. I cannot wait to get my hands on that, and I would love to have you back. I think that would be fantastic.


Robert Cheeke: Well, let's do it. I'm working right now to develop veganbodybuilding.com to have some info about the book on there. We're creating a little book landing page on there that should be up there maybe by the time this thing airs. People can check that out. The book is The Plant-Based Athlete, super excited and we'll have some sample content and some free bonuses and all this stuff that comes into ... As part of marketing, it's all a necessary evil that we have to do when promoting and selling a book, but I thank you so much for having me on today and I look forward to talking with you again soon.


Karina Inkster: Thank you so much, Robert. Much appreciated.


Robert Cheeke: Thanks, Karina.


Karina Inkster: Robert. You're the best. I loved our conversation. Thank you so much for speaking with me and coming on the show. Check out our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/094, where you can connect with Robert, and pre-order, or if you're listening to this after June, 2021, order his book. Thanks for tuning in today and hope to see you for our next episode.




Sprouted Gains ebook: Your vegan athlete starter kit. Lose fat and gain muscle on a plant-based diet.