Vegan Athletes: Q&A With Husband & Wife Vegan Bodybuilders

While browsing YouTube for dinner ideas, perhaps you nabbed an easy lentil recipe from a vegan bodybuilder. Or you glanced at an article about Venus Williams and other renowned vegan athletes. While attending a Veg Fest event, perhaps you were drawn to a toned and sculpted speaker who happened to be a plant-eating bodybuilder.

Plenty of professional athletes, bodybuilders, and other fitness enthusiasts are happily advocating their preferences for foods that are free of animal products. For insight on the trend, husband and wife fitness professionals, Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese offered their perspective – and some yummy favorite recipes.

Dani and Giacomo relish their roles as vegan ambassadors. They offer vegan fitness coaching through their business, VeganProteins, and founded PlantBuilt, a touring team of vegan strength athletes.

Earth911: Why are you vegan?

Dani Taylor: I became vegetarian at age 8 but continued to eat plenty of dairy and eggs for a long time. I was writing a research paper about vegetarianism for my high school English class, and I stumbled across a website that explained the connection between the dairy/egg industries and the meat industry. I never knew how cruel they were before that. I went vegan overnight. Best decision of my life.

Giacomo Marchese: I am vegan for the animals, for the environment, and for my body. In no particular order. This is a lifestyle for me. About 19 years ago, I decided to adopt a fully plant-based diet. Leading by example, my desire was to show others what a body fueled by plants was capable of. After (becoming) a stronger athlete and watching my health markers all improve almost overnight, I decided to stick with it. Learning that an animal had to suffer for the food that was once on my plate gave me further conviction that this was the right way to live. Being vegan is also single-handedly the most responsible choice you can make for the environment. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change. By not contributing to the problem by eating animals or animal byproducts, you are part of the solution.

Earth911: What is your philosophy about being a vegan athlete?

Dani: I think that the myth that protein only comes from animal products is still alive and well. We now know scientifically that that isn’t true – but this information is still trickling down slowly … By competing as a vegan athlete, I have the opportunity to lead by example and hopefully show people that it can be done and inspire others to try the same.

Giacomo: Typically athletes have strong reasons that push them to be their best. For some, it is their faith. Others are personally influenced by a family member, loved one, etc. For me, it shows the world what is possible when you adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle. Plants are where you get your nutrition from. Your recovery time improves when you eat a plant-based diet. Which means your work capacity improves too, because you’re able to get to the next workout faster – and stronger.

Earth911: What are your sources of protein?

Dani: I love so many plant-based protein sources. But my favorite is seitan, which is sometimes called wheat meat. I also eat plenty of tofu, tempeh, and PlantFusion protein powder if I am making a smoothie.

Giacomo: I like making my own vegan meats. Everything from ribs to chicken, burgers, and deli meat. Typically the recipes we work with call for soy, wheat, and pea proteins. As the saying goes, “anything you can make, I can make vegan.” It isn’t hard. You can find a lot of high-protein vegan recipes on our YouTube channel.

husband and wife vegan bodybuilders, Giacomo Marchese and Dani Taylor
Giacomo Marchese and Dani Taylor

Vegan Recipes

Enjoy these two vegan recipes from Dani and Giacomo.

From Dani: Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup soy milk
  1. Mix the cocoa powder and brown sugar together in a bowl. Stir well.
  2. Fold the chia seeds into the mixture.
  3. Pour the soy milk into the bowl and stir.
  4. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes before stirring again. Repeat, stirring a few times over the course of 20 minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to overnight.

From Giacomo: Barbecue Seitan Ribs

Vegan Barbecue Seitan Ribs
Giacomo’s barbecue seitan ribs. Image source

You can also watch Giacomo’s YouTube video on making this recipe.

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon liquid smoke
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce (Webers is vegan!)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C and lightly spray an 8×8-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

  1. Mix gluten, paprika, nutritional yeast, onion powder, and garlic powder in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the water with the nut butter, liquid smoke, and soy sauce.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir to mix well in the bowl for a couple of minutes. It will be a very elastic mixture.
  4. Put the dough into the baking dish and flatten it so that it evenly fills the pan. Take a sharp knife and score it well into 8 strips; then turn the pan and score those strips in half to form 16 pieces.
  5. Put it in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. While it’s cooking, prepare your grill pan or grill.
  6. Remove from the oven and carefully re-cut each strip, going over each cut to make sure that the ribs will pull apart easily later.
  7. Brush the top with half of the barbecue sauce. Take it to the grill pan or grill and flip the whole baking dish onto the pan so that the ribs are now BBQ side down (or use a large spatula to lift the seitan out, placing it sauce-side down on the grill).
  8. Brush the top of the seitan with the other half of the sauce.
  9. Watch it closely to make sure that it doesn’t burn (although some people prefer it a little blackened).
  10. When sufficiently brown on one side, turn over and cook the other side, adding more sauce if you like.

When done, remove to a platter and cut or pull apart the individual ribs to serve.

Looking for more vegan recipes? Be sure to check out Dani and Giacomo’s vegan protein recipes on their YouTube channel.

Feature image courtesy of Dani Taylor and Giacomo Marchese