Leonore Verheijen, a vegan bodybuilder from the Netherlands, is set to compete at the Dutch Championships on Sunday and show everyone that being vegan doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle.
As reported by RTLNieuws, the 23-year-old athlete has been vegan for two years. In spite of traditionally held ideas that meat is necessary in order to build muscle, Verheijen is ready to prove the competition wrong at the championships. “I want to show the fitness world what you can do with your body as a vegan. Vegans are not all tree huggers,” she said.
Like many, Verheijen was raised on a diet that includes animal products. However, three years ago, she came across documentaries that addressed the connection between meat and climate change. “I saw documentaries about veganism and the effects of meat on the environment, but I did not know much about the meat industry, but I was already worried about the environment,” she said. Not long after, she adopted a plant-based diet and vegan lifestyle.
“Call me naïve, but I really believe that every little bit helps and that all change must come from you,” she continued. Highlighting her family’s response to the sudden change, she said: “They did not expect it at all, especially because I was a real omnivore, they always called me the trash can.”
The fitness community was not receptive to Verheijen’s veganism at first. “They said I would never be able to participate in a bodybuilding competition, I wanted to inspire these people and show that you can be an athlete as a vegan,” she explained. Driven to prove naysayers wrong, she decided to start bodybuilding to show that you can build muscle on a vegan diet.
Verheijen said that her fitness routine isn’t different from others in the bodybuilding community, save her diet. “Instead of chicken and egg, I eat broccoli, spinach, beans, peanut butter and lots of fruit.” Many, she said, do not even realize that she is a plant-based athlete. “When they hear it, they are often very positively surprised, and I achieve the same [results] as they do.”
The female vegan athlete took home second place at her first bodybuilding competition in October and placed third in the qualifying event that allows her to compete at A-level in the Dutch Championships.
The Dutch Championships for bodybuilding will take place in Apeldoorn this coming Sunday. Verheijen hopes to place in the top five, which would qualify her to move on to the European Championships.
Image source: Leonore Verheijen