Omar Salama is a 31-year-old certified personal trainer, a certified strength and conditioning coach, and a plant-based nutritionist. In this brief interview, we sit with Omar for a quick chat about veganism and bodybuilding.
Why did you decide to go vegan?
I would first like to clarify that veganism is an ethical way of living that involves abstinence from all animal products and the avoidable torture and unnecessary killing of living creatures. I went vegan almost five years ago after watching a documentary called Earthlings. The documentary was a major eye-opener for me, and I just couldn’t go back to eating animal products. People think I went vegan for health reasons, but I did it out of ethical responsibility; I was so committed to the cause and wanted to save as many animals as I could.
Given that you have been lifting for 17 years, how did going vegan affect your body and your ability to build muscles?
I went into veganism prepared to lose muscle mass, body strength, and my career as a personal trainer. Needless to say, I was very surprised when the exact opposite happened. Following a whole-food, plant-based diet, I was gaining muscles, strength, and mental clarity. My bloodwork results would come out great, and my doctors would be equally amazed and relieved. The myth that vegans can’t build muscles needs to stop because everyone can build muscles following any diet as long as they’re in a caloric surplus and are getting enough protein. People also need to distinguish between a vegan diet and a whole-food, plant-based diet. A diet of chips and coke is considered vegan, but it is the unhealthy vegan; whole-food, plant-based diet is what we’re looking for.
Is it true that supplements are indispensable in a vegan diet?
You can get all the micronutrients your bodies need from a whole-food, plant-based diet. The only nutrient that you need to look out for is Vitamin B12, which is created by soil-based bacteria. I would recommend that anyone following any diet takes at least 2000 micrograms of Vitamin B12 every day. A whole-food, plant-based diet is also suitable for all ages and growth stages.
Are there any proven health benefits to going vegan?
Cardiovascular disease, like heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death around the world and is often the result of diets rich in cholesterol and saturated fats. The only diet proven to reverse cardiovascular disease is the whole-food, plant-based diet. This diet also appears to prevent the growth of cancer cells and to improve insulin uptake in diabetic patients. I would encourage everyone to read more into the health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, and to check real studies and clinical trials.