Badass Vegan Athletes Part 5: Tobias Sjösten
Tobias has been vegan since 2014. A self-described "jack of all sports and master of none", he’s competed in CrossFit, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and powerlifting. His most memorable competition was placing first at Arnold Fighters, but between a day job as a software architect, a family of three (soon to be four!), and running Athlegan.com, there’s never enough time to do all the training and fun he wants to.
What are some ways in which your active, vegan lifestyle contribute to your quality of life? What does it do for you? How does it enhance your life?
Being vegan is a huge relief for my conscience. I’ve always had this nagging feeling that something didn’t add up and however confident I used to feel about eating meat, I never really wanted to dig into it because I somehow knew I couldn’t explain how my values justified my actions. They didn’t. And now that I am living my values, it’s like a stone has been lifted from my shoulders.
Please share your best nutrition tips for vegans who are interested in healthy diets to support their active lifestyles.
Finish your plate, then have another! So many new vegans run into problems because they’re simply not eating enough. Get your energy intake under control before thinking about micro-optimizations in your diet.
Also, explore other cuisines. My current favourite ones are Ethiopian, Mozambican, Vietnamese, and Mexican. Lots of “accidental vegan” meals there and others that can easily be veganized.
As a plant-based athlete, what sorts of foods do you prepare or pack when you travel?
Nuts and bananas! Occasionally I stock up on Clif bars as well. If I’m flying, I opt for cashew, hazel, and walnuts (just in case someone has a peanut allergy), but otherwise peanuts are my go to.
How do you think your life would have been different had you not decided to become vegan?
I would never have started Athlegan, that’s for sure! And that’s had a huge impact on my life. Other than that, I believe I might not have been as empathetic to others, regardless of their species. It’s really a system of abuse and one end feeds another.
Do you have any active living tips to share with vegans who are just beginning to exercise, or those who want to be more active?
Get on a structured program and follow it for at least three months. In fact, pick one quality to improve at a time and focus on that for at least three months, while maintaining your past progress. Serving two masters and all that.
Also, be patient. Anyone can make huge changes and see big results in just a few months, but it takes a long time and lots of patience and grinding to create long-term lasting results.
What has been the greatest diet- or nutrition-related challenge for you as a plant-based athlete?
It was actually surprisingly easy to transition for me. I was expecting it to be confusing and hard but then the weeks passed and nothing really came up. It was just food, albeit with some minor tweaks, and I’ve been eating food since I was a kid.
The biggest challenges about veganism has nothing to do with diet and everything to do with non-vegans.
Though, if I had to say something, it’d probably be learning to pick and combine foods to nail all the micronutrients. But that’s tricky even as an omnivore, so nothing really unique for vegans.
How do you promote muscle recovery?
I lift heavy and consistently and I eat plenty of carbs and protein. I also try to sleep as much as I can – I’m a firm believer that alarm clocks are our worst enemies, waking us up before we’re done sleeping for the night. If you have to get up early, simply go to bed early.
What are some athletic achievements you’d like to highlight?
I hate to rest on old laurels but I haven’t done a whole lot since I won gold at Arnold Fighters in Barcelona – Brazilian jiu-jitsu – back in 2016. Some second and third places in tournaments after that.
I also managed to hit a new all-time squat PB of 150 kg last year, nine months after a knee surgery, which I’m proud of because it shows I took rehabilitation and training seriously and worked consistently for a long time.
Tobias on the No-B.S. Vegan podcast
Tobias discusses goal setting, tracking your fitness progress, leading a community of badass vegans, and more on episode 038 of the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast.
The Badass Vegan Athlete Series
Sprouted Gains: Your guide to gaining muscle, losing fat, and fuelling your strength training on a plant-based diet.
Karina's ebook, Sprouted Gains, shows you how to enjoy delicious plant-based foods while making sure you nail your fitness and physique goals.
The best part? You don't have to cut carbs, chug 3 protein shakes a day, forgo your favourite foods, or spend 5 hours meal prepping every Sunday.