Shannon Marie Chapman‎ recently shared about her recent victory as a vegetarian bodybuilder on our Facebook fan page, and I had to reach out to her to see if she would also share about her journey as well.

I just competed in my first competition one week ago. I placed 3rd in Masters Figure. I’m a proud Vegetarian Bodybuilder!

Shannon’s Profile

Name: Shannon Marie Chapman‎
Age: 36
Diet: Vegetarian since July 2013 lacto ovo-vegetarian (lacto only when not in contest prep)
Hometown: Philadelphia PA
Residence: Columbus OH
Occupation: Bartender (for 16 years), assistant GM for the Tilted Kilt for 3years, and took a job for a period of time as the Marketing Coordinator for Complete Nutrition, a supplement company in Columbus.
Life: Married to a man with the same name…  Shannon, son’s name is Dylan (16, a vegan hipster), and a 1 1/2 yr old rescue pitbull named Grace.


Training and Yoga

  • Been working out casually for the past 7 1/2 years
  • Practice Yoga for the past 6 1/2 years
  • Certified Holistic Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition
  • Certified Yoga instructor through Yogafit and AFFA

Competition Stats

  • Decided to compete in Dec. 2013 (You’ll see why when you look at my before photos. I indulged a lot during the holidays, was unmotivated and not happy with my job)
  • Started contest prep Jan 6th 2014 (18 weeks out)
  • Competed in my first Fitness Competition, The Mike Francois Classsic on May 10, 2014
  • Placed 3rd in Masters Figure
  • Currently in prep for my 2nd show (12 weeks out) in August, The Delmarva Classic in Wilmington DE.


  • Beverly International Fit Tabs (multivitamin)
  • NutraKey Glutamine, Vegan BCAA, Beta-Alanine, and HMB
  • I also take additional supplements of Zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Vegan B12

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Topics of Interest

  • Vegetarian female fitness competitors
  • Vegetarian contest prep meal plans
  • Vegetarian “peak week” contest prep meal plans
  • Contest prep as a vegetarian. What to expect, what are the challenges, how to “dry” out for the day of the show
  • Looking for a vegetarian to write a vegetarian contest diet plan for the next competition. Would like to see the difference between prep diet and one from someone who is vegetarian.



When and why did you become a vegetarian?

In July of 2013, I was studying to become a Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I was sitting at my kitchen table, eating my lunch (chicken and rice), listening to a lecture by Howard Lyman, The MadCowboy.

He was telling the story of how he was a fourth generation cattle farmer turned vegetarian and eventually vegan. He was a farmer at a time where the country demanded meat and a lot of it, regardless of cost to the land, the quality of meat or the treatment of the animals. He, in detail, described some of the practices of Big Farm.

I was so disgusted and angry, that we allowed this, mostly because of our ignorance to the situation.

Which was no fault of our own, that I put down my fork and decided that I was no longer going to eat meat. I have no problem with eating meat. I do have a problem with the quality of meat in our food supply and I choose not to eat it.

I believe in the energy that comes from our food. If I had my own farm, where I raised my own cattle or chickens, l knew what they ate and that they grew up in an environment that was conducive to their best health and slaughtered in a humane way, I would be a carnivore.

Unfortunately, I do not own a farm or cattle or chickens. So I eat plants and grains and nuts and healthy fats and oils. When I decided to become a vegetarian it was a little oxymoronic since I really don’t like vegetables that much. However, once I took meat out of my diet, I felt like a weight had been lifted. I had a lighter energy and I didn’t feel weighed down.

Almost a year later, I still feel that light energy. It’s not something I notice as much because it’s just a part of me now, but I definitely still have that feeling.

How and when did you get into vegetarian bodybuilding?

I met my husband 8 years ago. He was very into the fitness lifestyle as a casual bodybuilder. He was in the gym all the time, prepped his meals, the whole nine yards.

I, on the other hand, was not very athletic, never played sports, I was a dancer for 9 years all through grade school and high school. That was the extent of my athletic ability. He invited me to go to the gym with him one day, and being that we had just started dating and I was excited that he was inviting me into his world, I obliged.

Typically, the gym is a manly thing, so I felt way out of my element. He trained with a friend of his who was a competitive bodybuilder and trainer. That day happened to be leg day!

You would think that after never being in a gym, training with a trainer and my first time was leg day that I would have run for the hills after the pain I felt the next couple of days. I could not walk, sit or stand. But I wanted more! I was hooked. I swore that I wouldn’t be that girl in the gym drinking protein shakes and carrying a cooler around with me… I am SO that girl!

I began reading and researching everything there was about diet, working out, supplements and fitness models. In my search, I found OXYGEN magazine, a fitness magazine dedicated to woman. It had everything I needed and I read every page from cover to cover. I still have every issue of OXYGEN magazine since I started reading it.

It has like my Playboy stash for my fitness obsession. In the back of the magazine they always covered recent fitness competitions. I’ve always wanted to do it but always found some excuse that held me back from going for it. I didn’t have time, my job was too demanding, financially I couldn’t afford it, what if I couldn’t finish it, what if I failed.

I am an only child, so I tend to do things on my own. As I became more confident about my self and my way around the gym, I would go by myself, since most of the time I work in the evenings. Even though my husband got me into bodybuilding and fitness we don’t train together.

We did at first. But with conflicting schedules I had to train on my own most of the time and it sort of became my sanctuary. It was my time to my self, to work on my self. Besides, I didn’t like my husband telling me what to do. I think that is really the reason I don’t like training with him!

I always tell him, it’s his fault, he created this beast.

Why was competing important for you?

My decision to compete was dual purposed. In December 2013, I was not happy with my job, unmotivated in the gym and my diet went down hill. Even as a vegetarian, there are unhealthy foods out there. For example, all the cakes, cookies and pies made around the holidays. So I needed some motivation.

My husbands training partner called him up and asked him to do a bodybuilding show with him in May. His training partner was going to do it, his girlfriend, a physique competitor was going to compete and my husband said he was in too.

I thought, “Well if you’re doing it then I’m doing it. We can do it together. So then we’ll both be miserable and hungry together.” Ended up both the boys postponed their show dates and the two girls decided to go for it. I figured I was already in, I can’t quit now. I had made the commitment, most importantly to myself, I didn’t want to let myself down.

This was the time. Financially I could do it. There is no stress to my job. It afforded me time to train and prep without killing myself. Let the journey begin! I knew I could do it. I knew that I could commit 110%. I knew that I could be good at it. I had let fear stand in my way. Not this time. God gave me this opportunity and I wasn’t going to waste it.

Tell us about the experience of competing, what was the hardest part?

My primary goal of competing was to get up on stage and look and feel like I belonged. That’s it.

Two other personal goals I had was to:

  • commit 110% to the journey
  • take it one day, one meal, one workout at a time

I didn’t want to be that girl that everyone was looking at and thinking “She probably should have waited till the next show.” Since, I felt like I wasn’t at my best shape when I started I took 18 weeks to prep for the show. The first two weeks were more about preparation and getting into the routine of eating several meals a day, getting to the gym, prepping food & drinking lots of water. It wasn’t until 16 weeks out did I have an actual “Contest Prep” diet.

I am a very simple person, so I appreciated the simplicity of my diet and I don’t have a problem eating the same thing everyday. I did that all the time when I was a kid. I would find something that I liked and would eat it every day for weeks and even months. So in that respect, I was kind of made for competition dieting.

There were a few weeks in the beginning that were tough and I decided I needed to add a “cheat meal.” More for my mental sanity than anything else. In the 18 weeks of prep, I had 2 cheat meals. One was a veggie burger with sweet potato fries and the other was veggie lasagna from Olive Garden. I most certainly enjoyed both!

When you are around people who are in this “competition world” they always want to know what you’re doing, who is writing your diet, what are your macros, who’s your coach or what “team” are you on. I’m just out here like, I’m training myself, I had someone write my diet and I’m a vegetarian. So, my “macros” are a little different than yours.

It usually shuts people up when you tell them that you are a vegetarian and training to compete because they don’t know the first thing about getting protein in their diet without chicken breast or tilapia.

Throughout the contest prep, my diet stayed the same, as far as what was on the menu, we just played around with carb manipulation, changing how many carb, half carb and no carb days I had.

I had the pleasure of meeting a USDA inspector at my work. We got to talking and I mentioned that I was a vegetarian, all before I knew he was a USDA inspector, he asked me why I became a vegetarian and what I ate. Since protein is a huge part of building muscle, eggs are a big part of my diet.

I would eat anywhere between 10 and a dozen eggs (mostly whites) a day. He gave me an insider tip, after telling me all the disgusting things I already knew about the meat that is in our food supply. He told me that Eggland’s Best are the best eggs on the market. They back up everything that they stand for and are the most inspected, with the most stamps of approval than any other egg farm in the US. They are truly free range and vegetarian fed…. and they are only eggs that I eat.

What physical and emotional changes did you experience when you made the transition from meat to plants?

When I made the transformation from meat to plants I thought that I would be hungry, tired and cranky; because after all, chicken, fish and beef was the cornerstone of building muscle. Right?

I have tried every “type” of diet, not only on my own but as a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. We learn over 100 dietary theories. Some are fads, some are scientific, some are more spiritual. But not every diet is for everyone.

We are all different, we all have different personalities and are genetically made different. So there is no reason why we should all eat the same way. We have to figure out what works best for your body type.

One diet that I tried was the Ketosis diet (high fat, high protein from red meats, little to no carbs). What I noticed when eating like that was that I was so angry all the time. I was mean and agitated all the time. What occurred to me, was that I was eating angry animals, animals that were forced to live and die inhumanely.

Animals that were probably pumped full of antibiotics and fed chemical laden foods and processed in a less than happy place. Of course they were unhappy, and my belief is that the energy from that beef that I was eating was directly affecting me.

When I made the switch, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Surprisingly, I had more energy. I didn’t feel weighed down. I thought that I was going to be hungry all the time, especially since I wasn’t really a veggie fan to begin with.  In fact, I feel more satisfied after I eat. I think that is because nutritionally fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds and healthy fats are more filling. Your body can process them naturally.

I occasionally get a whiff of bacon and think that I am crazy for being a vegetarian. I love the smell of bacon, but I can”t bring myself to eat it. When I was in contest prep, I craved the cheeseburgers at my work. They looked and smelled so good.

After my competition was over, we went to my work so I could try some of the menu items that a vegetarian can eat (None of them were healthy! It was time for me to indulge). My husband got a cheeseburger and I made him cut me off a little piece. It smelled and looked so good. I took one bite. It was awful!

I am a vegetarian bodybuilder now, I eat plants. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually there is no need for me to go back. This is a way of life for me now, it’s a part of who I am.

How did yoga enter your life, what were the initial reasons for trying it, and what you get out of your practice now?

My first experience with Yoga was in college. My roommate and I took it as a college credit. I enjoyed it but I didn’t have any connection to it. When I started working out and going to the gym, I noticed how stiff my back and hamstrings had become. I was a dancer growing up and was always flexible but working out at the gym made my muscles very tight and shortened. I couldn’t even bend down and touch my toes.

My gym offered a Yoga class, which was included in my membership, so I decided to go, it couldn’t hurt. It did a little… ok a lot. But again, a glutton for punishment, I loved it! I started to go on a regular basis and noticed that I slowly began to loosen up. Eventually I could touch my toes and my back pain started to go away.

As I got more and more in to it, I started making the mind-body connection. I’ve been practicing Yoga off and on for almost 7 years. It wasn’t until two years ago did I finally figure out MY Yoga breath, which brought a more spiritual element into my practice. I am the type of person that if there is something I like, love or enjoy I want to know everything about it that I can. I am a student of many things but a professional at nothing.

I decided to I wanted to learn to teach Yoga so that I would be able to practice Yoga by listening to the cues more and thinking less. I have two certifications to teach Yoga, one through Yogafit and the other through AFFA. I really didn’t take the classes with the intention of teaching anyone but myself and strengthening my own practice. Yoga really came in handy the last week before my competition.

I knew that I had to keep my mind mentally clear in order to handle the stress of the final week coming up. I was very grateful for my practice that week and it most certainly helped keep me calm and focused going into that final week.

I have experimented with all types of Yoga, Yoga studios and even Pilates. My new obsession is TGM. It’s called the Tracey Gardner Method and is offered here in Columbus, Ohio. It is a hybrid of Yoga, Pilates and strength training moves set in a pitch black room, lit with candles and fueled by Tracey’s signature aromatherapy sent, intense music and heat upwards of 115 degrees.

It is the most transformational hour you can spend with yourself. Everything is done on a Yoga mat, body resistance is your weights, there are no mirrors (= no judgement or comparison), it is hard, intense and hot.

I have never sweated my entire life like I do in that class, total detox. It is so hard, that the only thing your mind can do is focus on yourself and pray that you can make it to the end of class. Nothing exists outside of that room for one hour.

It’s the most important thing that I do for my mind, body and soul.

How your yoga practice help your training in the gym?

Practicing Yoga has helped me make the mind body connection. Since, I began practicing Yoga, I not only have become more flexible, but I am able to feel my body in a way that I wasn’t able to before. You become more aware of all of your muscles and how they feel on a good day and how they feel on a bad day.

When you are in the gym and working hard on a body part you know when you have taken it too far or that you can push a little harder. Yoga has connected my body to the movements and weights in the gym.

I think once I found my Yoga breath, I was able to function in the gym in a whole new way, especially during cardio. My least favorite thing is cardio, especially running, so learning to really control my breath and slow my mind down helps me get through not only cardio but a tough set as well.

What will you do differently in your next fitness competition?

I am proud of the package that I brought to my first fitness show. I competed in the Class A open Figure and the Masters Figure division. I ended up placing 3rd in Masters Figure. I had accomplished everything that I set out to do.

Just like my first time in the gym, I’m hooked! I plan on competing again in August. I have 12 weeks until my next show. I knew that I had to strip everything down to see what I had for my first show.

For my second show, I want to experiment a little. The first one, I did everything by the book. Moving forward, I’d like to add muscle and come in fuller. It’s all about trial and error and figuring out what works best for your body. I am going to play with my diet by adding some healthy fats, almond butter, coconut oil and avocado (my fave!).

With the extra energy I’ll have from the extra calories I’ll be able to lift heavier and hopefully add some muscle and fullness. Eventually, I’d like to get a new contest prep diet from someone who is also a vegetarian to see how it compares to the one I previously used.

I’m excited about trying your vegetarian bodybuilding diet program to help with all that; it looks like the guidance I need to further refine my diet and get the protein I need add muscle. We’ll see how these tweaks suit my body when I step back up on stage in August!