Leah Coutts, vegan bodybuilder

Leah has taken to competitive bodybuilding with rapid successes.  In early 2022 she saw an intense three month period of competition.  She won a Pro card with Ms Fitness Australia in Figure Classique. Leah then followed this with a Pro win at the nationals.  This qualified Leah for Miami and the Fitness Universe competition where she again won the Pro class.  The win gave her the title of Figure Universe Champion.

Competing with the INBA federation she competed in the Australian National Show. She was awarded three PNBA Pro Cards in the Figure, Figure Classic and Physique categories.

These achievements mean the world to me” Leah says. “I have my eyes set on Natural Olympia in Las Vegas next November. I’ll be competing against the best natural bodybuilding competitors in the world!”

These high-level achievements did not come easily and Leah had to overcome chronic pain and complex injuries and surgeries. 

This is caused by ongoing hypermobility, which means Leah’s joints don’t quite hold her together as they should. In her late teens and early 20s, her shoulder was continually popping in and out. This caused her capsule to wear away.   She’s had three surgeries and had to re-learn basics like walking, sitting, driving, and strength exercises.

I had numerous medical professionals tell me I’d never be able to pursue my fitness goals. But I didn’t give up on finding answers, rehabbing, and working toward my dreams.”

“After working through years of chronic pain and no answers due to how complex my dysfunction has been, I am grateful every day for my body’s ability to heal” Leah says.  “I’m grateful this allows me to pursue this sport and the people who have helped me to rehab and repattern my movements. I still have limitations, but bodybuilding with its controlled movements is just perfect for me!”

While the vegan diet has supported her, Leah went vegan for other reasons, making the change in October 2014. 

Vegan power

“I had been vegetarian through my teenage years after visiting a sheep farm and slaughterhouse on a school excursion when I was 8. I regrettably returned to eating meat in my early 20s due to a really poor diet and being bullied. Then, 6 years ago, I read Peter Singer’s book ‘The Most Good you can Do’. This has a chapter on animal ethics in it, and went vegan overnight!

I was terrified of carbs thanks to years of following a paleo diet and had a lot to learn. But it’s the best decision I’ve ever made (and I’ve developed a very healthy relationship with carbs)! “

Now a typical breakfast is protein oats with berries and banana. Protein chocolate pancakes is a favourite go-to as well.

“I’m such a simple cook – I love my air fryer, so air-fried veg, tofu, and plant-based chick*n are regulars. I batch cook red lentil or textured vegetable protein Dahl and basmati rice. A favourite decadent snack in my improvement season has to be peanut butter-filled Medjool dates.”

This has to fuel training, and Leah’s love of training is evident.

“The gym is my playground!” she says. “I train five days per week. My splits change depending on how I’m responding to training through various cycles. We prioritise recovery and ensure I’m getting the most out of each session. When I can, I also like to maintain my yoga practice – not only for its physical benefits, but its mental and spiritual benefits too.”

Leah’s past problems have not gone, and cardio is still affected.

“In my improvement season, I average 8-10,000 steps per day, and this goes up to 12-15,000 when I’m in prep.

I have some past hip injuries that limit my ability to do cardio, so this hasn’t yet formed part of our toolkit. Though I must say, I actually hope to be able to use the stair master in my next prep. “

An interesting aspect of Leah’s training is the influence of Eastern Philosophies.  Key to these are concepts of  presence, mindfulness, connection with nature and not seeing herself as separate from others.

“Being able to separate feelings of discomfort from any emotional response and the stories attached to them has been one of the most beneficial skills I’ve learned, and I view my bodybuilding journey as a playground for my spiritual one.”

She’s an advocate of Jerry Lynch’s concept of ‘The Competitive Buddha’.

Veganism is becoming increasingly recognised in bodybuilding, and Leah doesn’t feel isolated. 

“I have a vegan coach, which is extremely important to me. Not only because we have shared values, but because nutrition is such a huge component of the sport. To have a coach who can tailor nutrition advice not only to your sporting needs but to your lifestyle and can do so because they live it themselves brings so much value and peace of mind. 

“Other people in the sport mostly react with surprise but tend to be supportive while justifying or explaining why they couldn’t do it. I’ve had everything from ‘well it clearly works for you’ to the usual ‘where do you get your protein’ and ‘I couldn’t do it because (insert love of cheese or other typical response here)…’. I take all responses as planting a seed, and you never know who you’re inspiring or when the seed will grow. I’ve also connected with other vegan bodybuilders, and it feels good knowing there are a growing number of us showing what’s possible.” 

Leah’s coach has teamed up with her to create Conscious Physique Coaching – a bodybuilding and comp prep service for vegan and plant-based athletes.

Plenty to aspire to!

“My main aspiration is to win the PNBA Natural Olympia in Figure/Figure Classic. My next competition season is October-November 2023, and I’ll compete there for my final show of the season. A large motivator for me is to not only fulfil my personal potential in the sport but to inspire others to compete on a plant-based diet. As a coach myself, I’m committed to growing the vegan athlete presence in the sport and to ensure my athletes have a positive and supported experience.” 

Leah’s also developing her women’s vegan health and fitness coaching business, Soulful Vegan Fitness.  This supports women to create a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that enables them to achieve their fitness goals while developing inner confidence and vitality. 

“I really just want to support people to live their best selves while minimising harm to others. Veganism and fitness are both wonderful playgrounds for both those things.” 

“I believe that fuelling your body with life-supporting plant-based foods not only prolongs your life, but adds to its depth and breadth as well. When you live with integrity, your whole world opens up and you can explore what you’re truly capable of.”

Leah’s health and fitness coaching

Instagram: @leahmarie_figurepro

Leah’s bodybuilding and comp prep coaching: Conscious Physique Coaching

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