Nick Squires is an accomplished powerlifter who competes in
the raw divisions in California, USA and internationally.
He’s taken overall first in the LA Open, and Conejo Valley Open and category first in the RAF Open. In 2018 he was placed 2nd in the Drug Tested California State Championships before going one better and winning it in 2019. In 2018 he competed in the Drug Tested World Championships.
Nick has competed in both the 242 lb (110 kg) and 220 lb (100 kg) categories. At the California State Championships 2019 he competed in the heavier category and set personal bests with a squat of 562.1 lb (255 kg), a bench of 363.7 (165 kg) and a deadlift of 628.3 lb (285 kg). This gave him a category win and second overall. In 2020 he broke the California record for single deadlift in the 100 kg Open category, with a 295kg lift (read more here).
“I think my favourite achievements in powerlifting have been my two “First Overall” awards” he told Great Vegan Athletes. “I have often worried about being stuck in this category of ‘strong for a vegan’ so taking home the award of being the strongest person at the entire meet was really meaningful to me.”
Nick has been vegan for all of the above achievements, having made the change on May 11th 2014. He was inspired to do so after working with other animals.
“For a couple years before going vegan, my wife (vegan for 15 years now) and I began working in bully breed dog rescue. It began to eat at me that I was spending time and money working to rescue and rehabilitate these animals while at the same time, eating others.
“We adopted a dog named Wilbur that really reminded me of a cow, and I realized I could no longer eat beef. As time went on, this led to me realizing that it was still hypocritical to not eat cows but continue to eat other animals and their products. I cut out pork, then chicken, and was content being pescatarian until I watched the film Earthlings. About 10 minutes into that film I knew I could never eat another animal product and made the decision to go vegan.”
“I cannot imagine any scenario in which I would intentionally eat an animal product for any reason.”
Like many athletes, Nick has little difficulty in ensuring he has the right nutrients. He’s aware that his sport demands higher than usual calories and levels of protein.
“I lean a lot on fake meats like the Beyond burger and sausage as well as less processed proteins like tofu and seitan to provide me with enough calories and protein for training” Nick says. “Of course, these are just part of my diet, veganism has opened me up to experiencing foods and dishes I wouldn’t have considered before going vegan. The amount of Brussels sprouts I eat would shock the person I was 10 years ago.”
Fuel for the lift
As you may expect, his training regime is demanding, and Nick works hard to build his strength.
“My coach programs me four days a week, with two squat days, one deadlift day, and one deadlift variation day per week. I generally bench all four days and these four days amount to about two hours per day in the gym. Outside of the normal squat bench deadlift movements, I work in some strongman stuff like log presses as well as deadlift variations like block pulls or deficit deadlifts.
“Outside of the gym I play ice hockey and wrestle with my daughter.” (Nick’s daughter is currently six).
Traditionally, good protein sources have often been assumed to be animal-based, although Nick has discovered better levels of understanding from some of the people he trains with.
“What has kind of surprised me as an athlete is that the more experienced someone is in strength training, the more open they are to the idea of a vegan athlete” he explains. “I think these people have spent so many years understanding the nutritional aspect of what they’re eating that when they spend five seconds thinking about it, they can understand the number of plant based foods that contain high levels of protein.
“The only people who are adamant that veganism cannot translate to muscle building or strength gains are people who are newer to the sport or who don’t participate in strength sports in the first place. To be clear, it does catch people off guard when I first tell them, as most people haven’t met a vegan who looks like I do.”
He also has views about making the transition.
“When people ask me how to transition to a vegan diet, specifically athletes, I usually suggest a transition in which one animal product is eliminated at a time while the athlete learns how to replace it in their diet from a nutritional standpoint.
“I would, of course, love to see everyone go vegan overnight but I’d rather someone take a year to go vegan and stay vegan than cut out all animal products overnight, not know what to eat, and quit after a few months.”
Nick was 32 as he took the Californian title, which means he has potentially plenty more years in the sport. He plans to take his lifting to new levels.
“This October we will be travelling to Limerick, Ireland where I will be competing in the 2019 Drug Tested IPL/USPA Powerlifting world championships. This is my second year competing, I competed in the event last year in Las Vegas, finishing 5th in my division. I was happy to be there and very happy to finish in the top five, but this year I hope to make the podium.
“At the same event, I’m hoping to reach an elite total in the 220 lb [100 kg] class. My goal when I started powerlifting was to reach 1500lbs which I did at worlds last year. It makes me emotional to think about reaching the elite classification (1642lb total) because years ago I looked at that number and didn’t even consider it a possibility. For my individual lifts, my goals are currently for a 600 lb (272 kg) squat, 675lb (306 kg) deadlift, and 400 lb (181kg) bench press.”
We wish him well and be watching with interest.
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