“I think the majority of your ab definition will come through diet though. Dial the diet in well enough and the abs will just melt through the fat.”
Name: Fraser Bayley
Occupation: Founder of Plant Strong Fitness, Co-founder of The Bayley Body
Location: Madisonville, Louisiana, USA
Type of Training: Vegan Bodybuilding
Facebook Group: Plant Strong Fitness
This is an inspirational vegan story you won’t want to miss.
In addition to some great vegan bodybuilding tips, Fraser Bayley also gets vulnerable with us and discusses a time in which he became borderline suicidal.
Fraser courageously illuminates the darkness he felt, and how he overcame it.
I can certainly can relate, as I personally recovered from crippling alcoholism a few years ago, and nutrition/fitness certainly helped me climb out of that insidious hell.
Q: Tell us about the path that led you to vegan bodybuilding:
Below is a post from Facebook explaining a bit of my journey into veganism titled, “From Butcher to PlantStrong Vegan: How It Changed My Entire Life.”
Many years ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD learning disability, bipolar disorder/heavy, long-term brutal depression, as well as crippling social anxiety — borderline suicidal.
I just happened to be a butcher, too. For about six years of my life.
I smoked. Drank a lot. My diet was a typical Western junk food diet, too. I was also on a myriad of prescription medications for anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
None of which I felt worked at all for me besides just numbing me from the world, turning me emotionless and void of feeling.
Over the years, I cleaned my diet up in many ways.
No smoking or drinking, but went with what you would call a “Paleo-style diet,” still consuming large amounts of animal-based protein (250g per day).
I made a lot of progress from where I had been, BUT I still didn’t feel anywhere near like deep down I KNEW I could. I still felt like I just wasn’t living vibrantly or with full color yet.
Yes, I had built muscle and those things, but does it really matter if you feel awful doing it? I know MOST people put themselves through this kind of torture, I was one of them.
My sleeping was horrible, really broken, leaving me feeling incredibly unrested each day. I would actually get MORE tired after I ate than before I had eaten. It was like every time I ate, the lethargy and brain fog just compounded, leaving me pretty unproductive and feeling quite crippled at times.
See, for me, it wasn’t just enough to look good, I KNEW I had to discover more from this life. That this simply couldn’t be it, right? There HAD to be more.
And so my journey into veganism began.
Along my transition, I even cried one day — tears of happiness and loss. Loss in the sense that I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend, someone I had grown apart from and didn’t recognize anymore, my old self — but happy that I had room in my life to expand beyond anything I had ever experienced.
“No meds. No drink. No more animals. A real stripping of the old identity — that I was a butcher. Or I was a bodybuilder who needed to eat meat to build muscle. Or my family had traditions around eating animals that went right back to when I was young. It was a shedding of the old skin.”
It was a beautiful feeling, and I am proud to say it brought me to tears!
I want to show other guys that you CAN do this, still achieve ALL of your personal goals, live well, and really change the world. If we are willing to unlearn all the things we’ve been conditioned to think as “fact,” and realize we have the ability to create our own world.
That everything we know has been taught and programmed into us. That the mind-made chains that keep us trapped are just an illusion. When I finally let go of that, I felt liberated. Free. And so much more conscious about how I had been letting fears control me all my life.
Since going vegan, my life has changed in ways I NEVER thought it could.
My sleep for the first time in my life is actually sound. I wake feeling rested, and don’t need to blast caffeine all day to function. I have more clarity, more energy when I eat. The food actually makes me feel MORE energized! The food is beyond amazing.
Beyond that, I am stronger than I have ever been in my life, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life, yet it’s so much easier to maintain that now – very counterintuitive to what most people think will happen on a vegan lifestyle and diet. My recovery is so much better – now, could it all be a placebo?
Maybe, but all I know is that it’s changed me, and I am not going back!
“I now feel like the message I preach about peace and love is finally congruent with my actions and the way I treat this planet and what I put on my dinner plate.”
The more I learned and immersed myself in vegan bodybuilding, the more reasons I found to just support my change. The health benefits. Animal ethics. Environmentalism. Spiritualism. Compassion, strength, and evolution. I combined them all to have a really solid base to propel me through massive change. And you know what? It’s been SO much fun along the way.
Why wouldn’t you want to not only feel better, look better, have a higher quality of life, be more congruent with your ideas of peace and love, be kind to other beings on this earth, and treat this planet like it was our only place to live? It just makes so much sense to me!
“So for me, it was about transcending.”
Evolving from that old me on the junk food diet, on meds, and feeling lost. To someone with clarity. With vision. With health. With compassion. That’s what veganism has given me — I feel like it is the final step to higher consciousness and health. I am SO glad I stepped outside my fears, identity, and conditioning, and tried this.
It has truly changed my life and seeing people in their 40s, 50s and 60s looking like they are half their age in phenomenal health. The answer for me was simple. Let it change your life, too.
Just start! It won’t be perfect all the time, but just begin, and watch yourself evolve and grow.
Q: You have some great ink on your body, which ones are the most meaningful?
One is a series of guardian angels in a sleeve down my right arm watching/guarding over different people in my life. One for different family members that really matter to me.
The Southern Cross (stars) on my side, representing the Southern Cross star constellation that can be seen at night from New Zealand – my birth country, even though I live in the US now.
Q: How do you relax and refocus?
I love to sit outside in the sun and get fresh air and perform [grounding] by putting my feet into the grass, and just breathe. Grounding helps discharge negative ions out of the body. I feel clarity having bare feet on the Earth and just focusing on my breathing. I love it.
I listen to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s essays on “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu (written over 2,500 years ago). It’s incredibly interesting, and is a series of principles for life, how we should live and be. Listening to it helps me get back to what matters and refocus – I listen to it daily.
Q: What does your daily meal plan currently look like?
- Wake up 4:00-4.30am – Lemon water: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
- 6:00am – Black coffee and sweat leaf stevia (pre-workout)
- 7:00am – Workout
- 8:30am – Post-workout PlantFusion shake 20g (1 serving)
- 9.30am – Banana “nice” cream (3-4 bananas) and 4 medjool dates and some granola with hemp seed, pumpkin seed, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and oats and coconut water
- 12:00pm – Quinoa cannellini bean burgers or falafels or some frozen/pressed marinated tofu or tempeh and a big salad or stirfry (with the addition of some extra starchy carbs on a higher calorie day like potato, rice, couscous, etc.)
- 2:00-3:00pm – Snacks: oranges, rice cakes with nut butter, and hemp seed, for example
- 5:00-6:00pm – Similar to lunch meal, and sometimes banana “nice” cream for dessert
My food intake varies depending on my training cycle, so I go through periods of lower calorie and higher calorie days, so this is an average day – some days I do more, some days less, or just add in more green vegetables and reduce my starchy carb and or fat intake a little bit.
Q: Philosophy on supplements?
“I think keep them to a minimum and aim to spend that money on good food – food is what really fuels development.”
There is a time and place for some supplements, for sure. For instance, I use clean machine BCAA while I train, as I train in a fasted state. I also use PlantFusion protein, but that is it.
I think if blood work indicates you need something, then look at it through diet first. Then, if it’s still not getting addressed, I try the supplement route for things like B12 or omega 3s, iron, etc.
Q: What are your strength stats?
- Bench – 315lbs (separated my AC joint years ago, so don’t go quite as heavy anymore)
- Deadlift 600lbs for 3 reps (haven’t done a 1RM in a long time)
- Squat 405 for 5 reps (again, I tend to avoid 1RMs and shoot for 3+ reps in most sets)
Q: Describe your training splits:
- Monday – Shoulders / Triceps
- Tuesday – Chest / Biceps / Abs
- Wednesday – Legs / Calves
- Thursday – Back / Biceps
- Friday – Chest / Shoulders / Triceps
- Saturday – Back / Legs / Calves / Biceps / Abs (mainly dead lifts and squats)
- Sunday – Rest
Q: If you have to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be?
- Dead lifts
I feel like the combination of those three would hit every muscle group hard. You have your posterior chain and back work through dead lifts. Through dips, you hit chest, arms, shoulders, traps, and lats. Through squatting, you hit the entire leg and core stabilizers.
Q: You have a robust ab training routine. Do you think training your abs really hard matters as much as diet?
The two ab exercises that would give you the most bang for your buck would be:
- Ab wheel rollout from your knees or feet
- Hanging ab work: leg lifts, windmills, and knee tucks
The wheel rollouts really work on the extension part of the abdominal wall, which is often overlooked, and the hanging work targets areas more specifically like obliques and upper and lower abs, depending on the hanging exercise.
I think the majority of your ab definition will come through diet, though. Dial the diet in well enough, and the abs will just melt through the fat.
Q: What tips can you share about bodybuilding?
If I were to give someone the fundamental tips to get optimally healthy and in great shape, it would be this:
- Sleep: Sleep is KEY. 7-8 hours per night, or you won’t recover fast enough and will burn out. Your workouts won’t be as intense, and you will get more cravings.
- Train hard and keep rest periods short: I do a lot of super sets and drop sets. A lot of volume, combining heavy weight with light weight, low reps + high reps. Do a lot of volume and keep rest short, and you will burn fat and build quality muscle.
- Go plant-based: Eat a solid, diverse range of plant foods. Cover your bases, don’t eat the same stuff week in week out, get a range of different food sources to really maximize your vitamin/mineral and amino acid intake.
- Meditate, do fun things: Learn to bring your stress levels down, control your nervous system by meditating and just relaxing more. A strained nervous system effects how the body burns fat, it impacts your muscle growth, sleep patterns, digestive health, and cognitive function. It’s so important.
Q: What are the three biggest trends you see in fitness right now?
- Vegan bodybuilding and plant-based athletes. I see a big rise coming in plant-based athletes and plant-based foods and nutrition. I sense the wave is coming!
- An increased emphasis on digestive health. Finally, more people “get it,” that it’s not just about what we eat. It’s what we absorb. So I’m seeing more focus on absorption and gut health to maximize how the body uses nutrients, which is great.
- Powerlifting. I see a big rise in strength training around powerlifting style programs and lifts, especially in beginners and even women. I think it’s great, it gives people tangible goals/targets/numbers to shoot for that bodybuilding does not.
Q: Have you been able to build more size and strength from plant-based nutrition, or are you just maintaining the same size?
Yes to both!
Before I was vegan, I weighed about 183-188lbs, below 10%. Now I am around 190-195, below 10% (my weight fluctuates depending on where I am in my diet/carb cycle), but I truly feel like I was able to add on some more size and stay lean.
My strength went up dramatically. Which I feel was a precursor to added muscle growth. My main lifts went up by anywhere from 20-60lbs and more, in some cases.
“My reasoning behind it is all is the added glycogen from the increased carb intake as my protein intake came down. The volume I could handle went up, and my recovery is faster, too. I can just do MORE than before, which is a key factor in muscle growth (progressive overload).”
Q: What advice does Fraser Bayley have for someone who wants to try a plant-based diet and is struggling with the protein concept?
My advice would be to just START. Very often we want to data mine every blog and forum on the ‘Net, and there is SO much conflicting information, it sends people into a state of paralysis.
“The best thing you can do is just begin, even if you don’t feel ready – start. Even if it’s one plant-based meal a day to begin with, start there.”
Also veganize some of the foods you current love. If its lasagna or macaroni cheese – Google search “best vegan lasagna recipe” or “best vegan macaroni cheese recipe,” and try that out – it will act like a bridging tool to help you realize the changes aren’t as drastic as you think.
“Let go of your obsession with protein. In conventional circles, there is a massive, entrenched obsession with protein intake.”
Everyone freaks out about protein. Realize that this is bodybuilding social conditioning! It’s what we’ve been taught. We don’t actually need half as much protein to build muscle as we think.
The key is quality protein sources (i.e., plant-based proteins) which are much more easily absorbed and broken down than animal protein. Combine that with enough calories from additional carbs and fats, and you will build muscle.