Ivan Blazquez is a certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in exercise physiology, a pro natural physique competitor/bodybuilder – and a competitive triathlete. Holding a coveted pro card in natural bodybuilding since 2009, he gradually transitioned to a vegan diet as he experienced benefits for both health and physical performance.
Ivan has been 100% plant-based since 2013 and promotes a nutritarian-vegan diet in his work as a personal trainer and researcher. “I became vegan naturally as a by-product of seeing improvements in my health, fitness, body composition and overall mental state as well”, says Ivan.
Effects and unexpected benefits of a plant-based diet
What was your motivation to go vegan?
“To get more shredded and leaner as a competitive pro natural bodybuilder. The thing that made me different was I did not want to do anything contest preparation wise that would or could compromise my health. I wanted to attain ‘unhealthy’ looking results by actually doing it the healthy way and being healthy.
“Well, I’m proud to say I accomplished this feat. And it was accomplished when I switched to a 100% plant-based diet. I simply was able to shed that stubborn fat I never could and I got absolutely ridiculously lean in 2013, hitting 4.2% confirmed with skinfold caliper measurement. Nowadays, I sit around 6-8% bodyfat year round with great ease…“
- Medallist in Pro-class bodybuilding shows
- Podium place at Western States Championships
- Winner of individual and team relay triathlons
Ivan was expecting to lean out better on a vegan diet but was surprised to find that at the same time, he could hold on to muscle better than before. The list of benefits continues: “… I also saw great improvements in my stamina and fitness as a competitive triathlete and cyclist. My overall health improved and I simply have more energy daily now, it’s truly remarkable. I recover faster, I rarely if ever get sick anymore and I just feel and function better. I also feel like I think faster and better, drive better, have quicker reflexes, etc.”
As a vegan, Ivan has been a medalist in the pro physique division in several NGA Shows, including the Garden State Pro Show (2013 and 2015), Central Florida Classic Pro Show (2014) and in 2016 the NGA Western States Championships Pro show. Ivan also counts averaging 21.8 mph for a 10-mile bike course at the 2014 Woolmarket duathlon and winning 1st place in various triathlons among his greatest achievements. In 2016, Ivan and his relay team placed 1st at the Zydeco triathlon as well as the Macho Man and 2nd in Bring it to the Bay triathlon.
“The experiences in these competitions, the time spent with friends, are priceless. I cherish more the journey than the outcome or destination…To me, I view the process as a success, regardless of the outcome. In other words, I’d rather win or lose a competition doing it the right way than winning a competition doing it the wrong way”, Ivan comments.
As an exercise physiologist, with several published research studies in reputable journals, Ivan uses a scientific approach to continuously tweak his own diet. Based on research and his own experiences a plant-based athlete, Ivan has a lot to say on the topic.
“I am not tempted at all to eat animal products and to be honest, in my mind I classify animal products as basically animal-based processed foods…chemically-manipulated products full of potential antibiotics, GMOs, hormones, pesticides, etc. Furthermore, I simply don’t see any significant or real clinical nutritional value in animal products except for vitamin B12, which is bacteria formed anyway … One positive can’t possibly justify all the negatives such as the IGF-1 factor, saturated fat, cholesterol, lack of antioxidants, lack of fibre and the recent health warning released by the World Health Organization finding a correlation of increased risk of various diseases by consuming processed meats and animal products”, he argues.
When it comes to a well-planned vegan diet, Ivan can’t say enough positive things about it. “I eat simply nutritious and delicious foods. Fruits, veggies, beans, nuts/seeds. Sounds so simple but there are hundreds, if not thousands of different foods within these four food groups I just listed. So the options and combinations are limitless and endless….
“I look at animal products as robbers of opportunity to create more diversity with our consumption of veggies. But by and large, regardless of what anyone thinks about a vegan diet, the one thing it undoubtedly does…, is it increases one’s consumption of fruits and veggies. A vegan diet literally forces us to eat healthier because we have to replace animal products with more health-promoting foods…
“Being vegan has taken my veggie consumption to a whole new level and it’s exciting since veggies are probably the least controversial food group to eat and being vegan has allowed me to capitalize on increasing my veggie consumption”, Ivan enthuses.
Training for physical and aesthetic performance
As Ivan competes in sports that in between them put great demands on stamina, strength and explosivity as well as muscle development and definition, training needs to be quite varied. Ivan combines cardiovascular training and weight training with core exercises, balance training, stabilization training, functional training, yoga and stretching. He has not experienced any problems or negative reactions due to his diet from people he trains with, rather the contrary. “In fact they are inspired and amazed at the success I’ve attained with it. But I will say it has inspired my clients to eat more plant-based and for that, I’ll take credit!”
Future hopes and plans
Ivan has had some injuries that have forced him to re-evaluate the near future. He took a planned year off from physique competition, expecting to participate in some bike rides and triathlons. Looking further ahead, his ultimate goal is to win gold in a pro physique competition. Ivan is also looking forward to continued efforts in his scientific field and is passionate about sharing his knowledge of diet and exercise.
“A vegan diet is truly amazing and I will continue to research it in an unbiased way, not just learning more of the benefits, but also working to understand and address the caveats as well”, Ivan asserts.