Veganism won gold this weekend, as vegan powerlifter Satish Sundarrajan placed #1 at USA Powerlifting Lake Pleasant Classic 2018! And this is just the latest achievement in Satish’s vegan strength crusade, proving the needlessness of eating animals.
Of course we had to have a chat! I think we can all learn something from the example Satish sets.
Hey, Satish! Could you tell us a little about your veganism?
I was born into a vegetarian Indian family but have been fully vegan for 3.5 years now.
Harm to animals is looked down in my culture but in 2012 I came to know about the horrors of the dairy industry. At first, I was going through this phase of cognitive dissonance, where I tried to convince myself that dairy isn’t unethical but then, truth settled in.
I could no longer be a hypocrite who held values such as “cows are sacred beings”, yet consume products obtained through immense maternal grief to them. So, I decided to make the change.
Initially, I had very little knowledge about nutrition and I did not plan on how to obtain nutrients that I was previously obtaining through dairy. I developed deficiencies with regards to vitamin B12 and vitamin D3. Later I studied up on nutrition and started correcting those mistakes and here I’m today, being the best I have ever been in terms of health and athletic performance.
So the embedded advice here is to research properly before making the transition to veganism.
What was your transition to veganism like?
The easiest thing about being vegan is I can eat most of the foods raw and hence the time spent each day on cooking is minimal. I also find it very easy to get up to 200 g of protein a day. I have never had so much protein in my life, even as a lacto vegetarian.
The hardest part about vegan is the awareness of what happens to innocent sentient beings because of the demands of so called decent humans. The hardest part lies in being forced to be social with people who indulge in moral atrocities which you vehemently oppose.
Can you tell us about your powerlifting career?
I grew up as a very unathletic kid, with interest in very few sporting activities. But then when I was doing my undergraduate degree, I started hitting the gym. First two years of my life were wasted by just doing Cardio and pushups. But in the start of 2012, I started barbell training and I have been in love with it ever since.
My proudest moment as an athlete was winning an inter collegiate powerlifting meet back in 2012. I am almost doubly stronger now and it was exciting to compete and again this previous weekend to see how I’d perform.
I was chasing a 1300 lb powerlifting total for this last meet and managed 1268 lb but with plenty left in the tank on squats and deadlift as you can see from my last successful attempts. This included personal bests in all lifts; 217.5 kg squat, 105 kg bench, and 252.5 kg deadlift, at 90.6 kg bodyweight.
I would love to hit a 500 lb/227 kg squat and a 600 lb/272.5 kg deadlift in the near future.
What’s your training like today?
My current training regimen is currently focused on powerlifting and I have been strength training seriously for a good 4 years now.
I have a coach (who is also a vegan powerlifter) who takes care of my programming. It is basically a milder form of RPE/autoregulation based Daily Undulating Periodization. My current training frequency is squats 2x, bench 2-3x, deadlift 1-2x each week.
Volume has varied from 4-5 sets of 8-2 reps over the past one year. I usually rest between 2-10 min between sets based on how much I exerted myself previously. Intensity is usually around 70% to 90% of my 1 rep max.
My training philosophy right now is to focus on short term goals, taking each training session rep by rep, set by set. I also believe a lot in skill development as I have always been someone who lacks natural talent for any sport and I have had to labor hard at developing myself in this sport.
What do you eat during a typical day?
Ever since I went vegan I have not been much of a foodie as all my favorite dishes involved dairy. But that’s also because I lead a busy life and have very little time to think about trying different cuisines. But some of my go to cuisines these days are mostly Mexican and Indian cuisine.
What I eat differs from training days to rest days.
On training days I start my day with 4 slices of high protein sprouted grain bread, peanut butter, beyond meat beast burger patty, some steamed veggies. For lunch I have bean spaghetti which is extremely high in protein. Before my training I eat bananas and berries and for dinner I might eat Mexican food high in carbs and sodium or oats with a protein shake.
Basically on training days I try to eat high carbs and high protein.
On rest days before a heavy training session I make sure the dinner is a big meal rich in complex carbohydrates. My protein goals are around 150 to 200 g a day as a 200 lb male. I shoot for more than 400 g carbs about 24 hours before a big training session.
How about supplements?
I started using pea protein powder to see if high quality amino acid profile does help with muscle building but as of now I see miniscule effect. Other supplements that I use are B12, algae based DHA, EPA, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iodine, and vitamin D3.
For all those who are looking to transition to veganism, I advise them to have a vitamin B12, vitamin D3, DHA, and EPA supplement. It would be wise to do comprehensive research on how to obtain essential nutrients that one would be losing by eliminating animal products.
What advice would you share to a new vegan powerlifter?
I’m big on self belief and positive reinforcement. No matter how well planned your diet is, you can’t progress if you don’t trust your nutrition, your training and most, importantly yourself.
I see a lot of people fail vegan diets because sub consciously they believe they aren’t getting enough protein.
I too had this thought when I transitioned to a fully vegan diet but once I let go of that concern I started progressing.
It is important to develop friendship with like minded people to deal with societal aspects of veganism. Having a vent can help a lot.
Also, it helps to have an aggressive mindset and take up pursuits like strength (which are traditionally meat eater dominated). Nothing feels more satisfying than having someone come and tell you “you are strong man, I took up powerlifting because of you” and then getting to tell them “its because I eat only plants and leave the poor animals alone”.
Lastly, when I am under difficult situations, I just think of how insignificant my inconvenient situation is compared to the animals and that gives me the strength and right frame of mind to navigate through.
Be sure to check out Satish on Instagram, where he shares his lifting and golden vegan nuggets!