By Lori Stultz, Communications Manager
The surge of incredibly strong, fast, and talented vegan athletes is one of my favorite parts about this movement. The types of athletes vary widely, and it’s inspirational to hear vegan athletes talk about their concern for animals and the environment, and the ways in which they take care of their own bodies.
I’ve never paid attention to the sport of weightlifting, but it definitely caught my eye when I heard about Clarence Kennedy, an Irish weightlifter who lifts weights—a lot of them—fueled by, you guessed it, plants! I watched a few of his YouTube videos and read multiple interviews online, and I was immediately impressed.
I reached out to Clarence to ask if we could do a brief interview. The interviews I read prior to making contact discussed a lot of the specifics of his weightlifting, but I was curious about a few other things—like why he chose this sport and why he decided to go vegan. I was also interested about how his weightlifting community responded to his transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
This is seriously an interview you don’t want to miss out on! And for that athlete in your family who thinks it’s impossible to be athletic without eating meat, forward them this blog post! I think Clarence’s compassion and overall balanced approach to veganism will make them rethink what it means to be a vegan athlete.
Lori Stultz: What got you interested in weightlifting?
Clarence Kennedy: About 10 years ago I got into a sport called tricking, which is basically an underground sport that combines elements from gymnastics and martial arts.
After tricking for a while, I wanted to increase the height and power of tricks. I read that athletes incorporate the Olympic lifts and its variations to increase power and speed (this is the oldest footage I could find of myself doing Olympic weightlifting). So, I started adding lifting into my training and I enjoyed them so much that I got hooked and I slowly stopped tricking, although I still do it from time to time.
Lori: Do you lift professionally or is it something you do as a hobby?
Clarence: Weightlifting for me is purely a hobby. Before, I had wanted to become a professional athlete, but my goals have changed in recent years and the reason is quite complicated. In the future, I might release a video explaining why.
Lori: What sparked your interest in changing your eating patterns to one that is now completely plant-based?
Clarence: The reason I switched was purely for ethical reasons. It had nothing to do with weightlifting. From a young age, I was aware of the hypocrisy of people claiming to be against animal cruelty, yet those same people would consume animal products. It just became normalized for me and it was something I purposely ignored until I came across a few YouTube videos from TheVeganAtheist, ThinkAboutThis, Unnatural Vegan, and other channels. After watching a lot of YouTube videos and reading the articles about veganism, I realized there was absolutely no good argument against veganism and I slowly changed what I was eating.
Lori: How has the lifting community of other weightlifters responded?
Clarence: Surprising well. I expected to get a lot of hate for the vegan food video I uploaded online recently, but it seems a lot of people were actually willing to try changing their eating habits too. Quite a few people liked the fact that I didn’t criticize meat eaters.
Lori: What’s your favorite go-to meal?
Clarence: Probably just cereal with fruits and seeds, because it’s simple to prepare!
Lori: If you had to offer one piece of advice to someone who’s interested in going vegan, whether they’re athletic or not, what would it be?
Clarence: I would definitely say research a lot on how to eat healthy when living a vegan lifestyle. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of pseudoscience in the vegan community. A simple rule is to avoid getting information from people advocating juice cleanses, raw vegan diets, not taking supplements, and people exaggerating the health benefits of a veganism (I’ve seen some vegans claim veganism can cure Crohn’s disease). Most of the information I got on plant-based eating is from VeganHealth.org. It’s the only website that really explains the common pitfalls of going vegan and backs up the information with science.
Another thing I would say to someone is that they should continue to educate themselves on why they should be vegan. It’s extremely easy to fall back into the culture you were born into, especially since 99% of people around you—depending on where you live—are meat eaters and tell you eating meat is normal.
Lori: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few of my questions, Clarence. You’re certainly an inspiration in the growing number of athletes who are moving toward to a vegan lifestyle.