Daniel Austin

powerlifter  strong vegan 

Daniel is a powerlifter who has only ever competed as a vegan. He's competed at 75 and 82.5 kg, taking three national titles.

  • Squatted 205 kg at 82.5 kg
  • Three US National titles
  • Four Texas State records
  • Two Arkansas State records
  • 2nd at IPL World Championships

As of 2023 his personal bests were 212.5 kg for squat (at 79.5 kg bodyweight), 142.5 kg for bench and 240 kg for deadlift.  He’s won six Arkansas State titles and placed second at the IPL World Championships.

“I wasn’t winning any meets at first, but by Spring 2016 I got my first medal (2nd place) at a local meet, and then in late 2016, I won my first place in a local meet,” Daniel told Great Vegan Athletes.

“I was proud of qualifying for USAPL Raw Nationals in 2018. As far as I know, I was the only vegan male who competed in that one. At the time, it was the biggest qualified powerlifting meet in the world. USAPL has the highest qualifying standards to compete in Nationals, too, so it was insanely competitive. However, I just don’t like doing two-hour weigh-ins, and I prefer deadlift bars, so the next year I went back to USPA and the IPL.

“I competed in IPL Drug Tested World Championships in Ireland in 2019, where I got second in my open weight class.” 

“From 2020 onward I have competed in USPA Drug Tested Nationals, as that is a bigger, more competitive meet than IPL Worlds. For three years straight, from 2020-2022, I won first place in the Submasters age category for my weight class at USPA Drug Tested Nationals.

“Just recently, in 2023, I won 2nd place at USPA Drug Tested Nationals and set all Texas State records for the Masters category of my weight class. I think I am most proud of all my national medals and the Texas state records.”

Vegan power!

Daniel has been vegan since age 22 in 2005.

“I am completely vegan,” he says, “no compromise on that, ever. It’s an ethical stance. If this lifestyle made me suck as a powerlifter, I still wouldn’t change my stance.” 

It doesn’t.

“I was a pescetarian/vegetarian in my teen years out of a general concern for animals and thinking meat was pretty gross. I always cared about animals (in terms of my sentiments about them), but I think I was in denial about the cruelty of the dairy industry (and how it is one in the same with the meat industry), as well as how destructive and disgusting the seafood industry is.

“Eventually, watching videos about veal calves and the emotional responses of calves and mother cows being separated from each other convinced me I had to just go fully vegan.”

Daniel took up powerlifting later, and now trains hard to reach the standard he has achieved.

“Being a raw lifter, my big three lifts comprise the base of all my programming. That means: low bar back squats, competition grip bench press, and conventional deadlifts. I work in variations of those main lifts as assistance (some high bar squats, close grip bench, floor presses, overhead presses, deficit deadlifts, and occasional sumo pulls for volume), and other than that, I may do some assistance with cables (rows, tricep work).  I also do hanging leg raises or kettlebell swings for core and glute activation. I am also big on working in reverse hyperextensions, mainly as recovery work from deadlifting.” 

This is all fuelled by plants.  Daniel eats almost anything of plant origin “…from healthy, whole foods to junk (like donuts and cereal), fake meats, and everything in between. If it is vegan, I like it (with exception to okra and eggplant).

“Most of my daily diet routine involves fake meats and tofu for protein, plus plenty of green vegetables and fruits, often blended in smoothies with protein powder and creatine. I’m also a big fan of fat, from nuts and nut butters, to avocados/guacamole, to coconut oil and olive oil, and vegan mayonnaise or tahini sauce.”

Strength in numbers

Daniel’s record speaks for him, and his choice to eat vegan doesn’t attract much scepticism.

“Nah, non-vegans come to me for advice much of the time” he says.

“People respect results no matter what you eat. On the same token, I will take programming advice from strong herbivores any day. But as for my veganism in regards to the gym/competition cultures I am in, I walk the walk in terms of strength training and competing, so other strong folk and I just make friends, no problem.

“I also get my bloodwork done twice a year usually, and my testosterone levels remain healthy into my 40s now, and I have always been drug free, so no one can say shit about my rampant soy consumption. I’m still getting stronger too, so I think it just makes my non-vegan gym homies curious, at least sometimes. When I won my first few powerlifting meets there was some teasing, even by judges, about my vegan socks and so forth–probably because they were shocked and uncomfortable about a vegan even being there, let alone winning.

“Over time, however, the atmosphere of teasing has changed to genuine curiosity or outright celebration. It’s been nice to experience.”

Having competed at the highest levels and into his 40s, Daniel has already achieved great things – but he’s still planning to keep doing more.

“I just plan to keep claiming medals and records for my age bracket” he says. “I think high protein veganism is a key to aging gracefully. I think I still have many years of improving my total ahead of me, too. So the goal is to just keep increasing my Vegan Power at a time in life when other men just get weaker.”

A wise approach to eating and training is clearly something Daniel is keen to practice, and he’s also eager to bring that to others.  His book ‘The Way of The Vegan Meathead: Eating for Strength!’ aims to help other vegans with athletic or diet goals to get there.  For more info see his site, and it’s also on Amazon.

“I always tell people: There are a million ways to be vegan, and most people go vegan out of ethical considerations, meaning they often don’t consider themselves and their own nutrition. Over time, this can take a toll on both your physical and mental health, but hear me out: veganism is not only a way to save animals – it’s also a way to physically become your best self (if you do it accordingly).

“If you go vegan but then do not like how your body composition changes (as it very well may when you change your diet), rather than quitting veganism, please do your due diligence to find resources to help you troubleshoot your diet (i.e. get enough protein to maintain muscle, find proper supplements like B12 and Vitamin D, balance macros, experiment with your caloric intake, calorie and macro tracking, etc.), because these things are always a numbers game, and the numbers game is the path to victory.

“Vegans are often guided by feelings, and that’s okay, but if you have fitness goals, it’s time to get real about the numbers regarding food. You can be any kind of vegan you want to be: skinny, strong, thick, fast, vascular, lean, etc., and if you don’t figure out how to make a vegan diet work for you, that’s on you. The information is out there to help you succeed, so seek it out if you need it! If it matters enough, you’ll make it work. Not only that, beyond ourselves, we also owe it to the animals to make it work.” 

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