One might wonder how a competitive weightlifter gets his daily fill of protein. But Kendrick Yahcob Farris isn’t just any weightlifter ― he’s the only U.S. male weightlifter competing in the Rio Olympics, and he’s also been vegan since 2014.
So how does he get all the protein he needs to lift as much as 800 pounds? “I just research the foods I’m eating,” he told HuffPost, and “try to be efficient. How much protein is in this avocado?”
Cutting the meat out of his diet hasn’t held him back. Farris won the gold medal at the past two Pan American Championships (and lifted more than 800 pounds at each) in the time since he discovered his heritage: “Israelites from the lost tribes of Israel. I knew I needed to do more research to understand the ways of the ancient,” which includes their kosher diet.
He eliminated meat completely, out of respect for animals. “I don’t necessarily trust the way the food is being processed,” he said. “I don’t agree with the way the animals are mass-slaughtered. So that’s one thing that kind of got me looking at what they call a vegan diet.”
And when Farris made up his mind, he did it instantly. “When I initially told my wife [Katrina], she laughed at me, like ‘I don’t know how you’re gonna do that,’ because I didn’t really mind what I ate.”
Katrina, the cook in the family, agreed: “It was so random. I believe he sent me a text message ― when he’s at the gym, he always sends me these random things ― and I believe he said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about going vegan,’ and so I was like LOL.”
Katrina, 32, said that Kendrick, 30, would eat a lot of different foods pre-epiphany. “He loved burgers and all the things you think of when you think of Olympic athletes. Meat! So I didn’t think he was going to stick with it. But two years later, I think it’s made him better.”
Kendrick said that he feels lighter these days, cleaner and more clear-headed. “My mind is extremely clear. I’m not easily flustered [now]. My attitude is totally different. I had a really bad temper growing up, something I worked on for years. And now I’m able to recognize different emotions and I’m not governed by them. Doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I’m human. But I’m not easily moved.”
Katrina told HuffPost that she’ll cook two or three meals a day, and mix Kendrick up some snacks, such as guacamole or avocado quesadillas. “If he needs a snack, it’s something quick.”
Here’s an example of how his day breaks down:
For breakfast, Kendrick will have oats or pancakes; for a midday snack, a vanilla or chocolate flavored plant-based protein shake. For lunch, avocado quesadillas and then he’ll head to the gym. He’ll come back and eat another snack, this time of guacamole and black bean chips, and then a dinner of black bean quesadillas. “I use black beans for everything,” Katrina said.
He might have another protein shake before bed, if he’s hungry.
Here are some tips to learn from his lifestyle:
It’s not about restrictions, or what you can’t eat:
“I think a lot of people look at things as being restrictions, but that kind of shows me the way they view life. I don’t view it as restriction ― I look at what I can eat, what’s going to be the best source of energy for me,” Farris told HuffPost.
But keep your temptations out of the house:
Kendrick says Katrina has been very supportive. “We have been growing in this journey together,” he says, but Katrina said she still eats what she wants to eat. “Here’s the thing, at home, we don’t bring any products that aren’t vegan into our home, or I try not to,” she said. “But if I’m out and I want some chicken, I’m going to get chicken. I’m not a vegan but I do respect my husband and respect anything he’s doing. So I don’t bring any of it in the house.”
Inspiration is everywhere:
A couple of Kendrick’s favorite vegan dishes are meat-based recipes from Katrina’s grandmother and mother that she modified with plant-based proteins ― a lasagna and enchilada recipe. She said she doesn’t even necessarily google vegan recipes, but rather finds good looking recipes that she can use with beans or plant-based cheese substitutes.
Katrina goes to the store every two weeks with recipes in mind, and gets creative once her ingredients start to dwindle: “When I’m going grocery shopping, I look at what I can get two weeks at a time. I look up what recipes I would like or something new I want to try, maybe something on Facebook that I want to try to make vegan, and by the time the end of the second week gets here, most of our groceries are dwindled down so I’ll have black beans. It’s like, OK. What can I make with black beans? Originally there’s a plan but by the end it’s about, what can I put together?”
Here are some recipes Katrina says are easy to convert into vegan dishes, and that are Kendrick-approved:
Avocado Quesadillas with vegan pepper jack cheese ― “This is the closest recipe to the ingredients I use in my quesadillas. I would add Go Veggie pepper jack singles to this and salsa. Also, instead of salt, use a seasoning blend with oregano leaves and a veggie tortilla to make it vegan.”
Veggie black bean enchiladas ― “Cookie and Kate is actually one of my favorite sites but everything is vegetarian so vegan substitutes would need to be made! I actually tried this recipe two weeks ago (my grandmother’s is super detailed and this was a quicker version) and it turned out great with the following substitutions: I used store-bought red enchilada sauce, no onions, no broccoli (tasted great with just the spinach), oregano leaves (a pinch because they are potent) instead of cinnamon, seasoning salt instead of regular salt, veggie tortillas, and Go Veggie Mexican shreds.”