Zack Belknap is a pro-card holding bodybuilder and NASM certified personal trainer and from Eugene, Oregon. He has been awarded a WNBF Pro Card after impressive performances at regional level.
“My greatest achievements in bodybuilding have been winning my pro card in September 2018 and then winning my first pro show in April 2019” Zack tells us – although he has fond memories of another competition. “My favorite achievement, however, was winning my very first bodybuilding show and having my coach present me with my award!”
Zack’s top achievements have been made as a vegan after making the change in February 2016. It hasn’t presented him with any problems and he’s been able to maintain his principles when away from home.
“Most places I visit are either vegan friendly or I find restaurants that make for easy alterations to make plant-based dishes” he says.
The change came thanks to a fellow bodybuilder’s influence.
“I have a friend in the bodybuilding community who is a long-time vegan and he was constantly urging me to align my morals with my lifestyle and I, like so many others, was afraid that doing so would result in decreases in performance in the gym. Then one day I watched the documentary Cowspiracy and I was horrified at the devastation to the environment that is caused by the consumption of animals. After that I immediately made the switch and never looked back!”
Building and maintaining a physique like Zack’s is hard work and Zack uses a lot of heavy resistance training. In preparation for the stage he does fasting cardio, although outside that period he prefers to lift weights as cardio. He also enjoys hiking, slacklining and biking.
“I currently am following Brendan Brazier’s Thrive diet” Zack told the site “so I eat a lot of vegetables, spinach, chard, nuts, seeds, legumes, and non-soy tempeh made from things like wild rice, black beans, split peas, as well as ancient grains such as millet, quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat.”
Despite the success of some high profile vegan bodybuilders, Zack is still in an environment where people are surprised to hear that he’s vegan.
“Due to the overall resistance to eating plant-based, if I bring it up to someone I usually make sure they are first aware of my achievements and then I drop the hammer and watch the surprise in their face!
“The people close to me like workout partners, my coach, co-workers etc. are either understanding of my lifestyle and no longer surprised or open to the idea of making some changes themselves.”
However, Zack is still something of a pioneer.
“When I first started competing it was a little tough because my coach, although supportive, had no experience with plant-based bodybuilders and was unable to give me suggestions for food and I had to figure it out how to hit my numbers myself.”
The transition has clearly been a successful one, and Zack is emphatic that there are many good reasons to make the changes he has.
“I would like to add is that there is no wrong reason to do the right thing” he says. “I ultimately switched my diet because of the environmental toll of animal agriculture, but as time has gone on I have become more and more aligned with animal rights and my compassion has continued to grow the entire time. Whether you are an environmentalist, an animal lover, a humanist, someone passionate about health or anything else – going plant-based supports your mission.”
It will continue to be part of Zack’s life as he continues on his bodybuilding path that has already been eventful – and promises more.
“Bodybuilding has become an integral part of my life. The community is my family and if I am not competing I am coaching or test judging or guest posing. My plan is to continue bodybuilding and coaching for the remainder of my career and/or life. I want to take myself and my athletes as far as possible and I want to continue demonstrating what is possible on a plant-based diet. My more immediate plans are to hopefully grace the Worlds stage in 2021.”
We wish him well and will be following his progress.