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Davis, California

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Vegan bodybuilding as alternative to animal protein bulking


Jeff Morgen & Vegan Bros. discuss unique approach to fitness

On Tuesday, Jan. 23, UC Davis’s vegan activist club, People for the Elimination of Animal Cruelty through Education, brought vegan bodybuilders Jeff Morgan, Phil Letten and Matt Letten to campus to talk about their experiences going vegan and incorporating that new lifestyle into their workout routines and everyday lives.

Jeff Morgan’s journey with fitness long preceded his vegan diet. At age 12, Morgan was inspired by the U.S. men’s gymnastics team’s gold medal win at the 1984 Olympics. He began training and competed as a gymnast for the next 10 years, and he was enthused by the physical transformations his body experienced through such intense training. Morgan became a certified fitness trainer soon after his gymnastics career in his early 20s. However, no workout routine seemed to be able to fix many physical symptoms of unhealthiness that Morgan suffered, including allergies, joint inflammation and rosacea. With help from his wife and many articles and videos, Morgan decided to try a different approach and switch over to a completely vegan diet; he hasn’t looked back since.

“Study people that you wish to become like. Study those that are doing what you’re doing. Learn about how they eat, what they eat, do experiments, and find out what works for you personally,” Morgan said, regarding his best words of wisdom for those starting out in vegan bodybuilding. “Find your examples and mimic them until it becomes your version.”

In pairing veganism with his regular workout routine, Morgan found that his recovery time after training was much quicker, meaning that he was able to work out more frequently and with more intensity. He is now able to hit all of the muscle groups in his workouts at least twice a week.

Morgan also dismantled the argument that animal protein is needed for bulky muscle and that plant proteins are not complete proteins; the protein found in meat comes from the plants that the specific animal eats. By being vegan, consumers cut out the animal middleman and consume amino acids directly. Morgan also recommends switching up workout routines regularly so that the body’s muscle groups do not get too used to one type of exercise and eating plenty of calories and protein.

Morgan created his own YouTube channel called Guilt Free TV, where he posts recipes, workout tips, and continues to address questions and myths about vegan bodybuilding.

While brothers Phil and Matt Letten also spent the early years of their lives eating meat and animal-based products, their individual journeys to vegan bodybuilding differ from Morgan’s. Phil Letten quit eating meat in 2004, but it was not until about five years later that he met an employee of an animal advocacy organization and truly found a passion for animal rights. He spent the next four years traveling around the country to advocate for veganism and working on his own growth and development. During his college years, Matt Letten was about 100 pounds overweight, but became dedicated to getting himself in shape. He was able to lose the extra weight and open three successful gyms, helping many people achieve their fitness goals. With encouragement from his brother, Matt Letten took the next step in his own journey and became vegan.

The duo soon worked together and created their own brand, Vegan Bros., in September 2014. They advocate for animal rights and a lifestyle based on clean eating and a healthy workout schedule; on top of that, the Letten brothers have worked with many animal rights activist groups and like to focus on helping individuals achieve their goals.

“Going vegan doesn’t need to be this all or nothing thing,” Phil Letten said. “There’s 100 percent, there’s 0 percent, and there’s a lot of middle ground. Think about the way you’re eating now and maybe try going vegan one day a week.”

Like the Vegan Bros., Jeff Morgan’s success in vegan bodybuilding has allowed him to promote the cause he is passionate about and impact many all over the world.

“The most rewarding aspect of what I get to do is knowing that I’m playing a part in a global shift in consciousness, which is toward health, toward compassion, and towards reducing the suffering of other sentient beings,” Morgan said.

Matt Letten added to that sediment with a different piece of advice.  

“Remember your ‘why.’ Different people have different reasons why [they choose to go vegan],” Letten said. “Basically everything you’re doing in life, if you can come back to your ‘why,’ that’s the motivation to continue doing what you’re doing. Test it out, and always remember why you’re doing it. It never has to end because you’re always on a journey.”

Phil Letten shared his favorite aspect of getting to speak on behalf of veganism and Vegan Bros.

“I think seeing the reactions and seeing that most people, especially most students, are receptive to this message,” Letten said. “If you’re opposed to animal cruelty, you’re already 90 percent vegan — your diet is just the last 10 percent.”


Written by: Kennedy Walker — sports@theaggie.org



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