Strongest Hearts 16; Plant Built Bodybuilders

Strongest Hearts 16; Plant Built Bodybuilders from Strongest Hearts on Vimeo.

It’s the end of the year, and we’ve saved our best episode for last. We’ve come to the final installation of our trip to Austin, Texas to the Naturally Fit Games this summer. We covered the crossfit competition, the weightlifters, and now the biggest group on the Plant Built team, the bodybuilders.

Between our pre-competition video and our week in Austin with the Plant Built team we learned a lot about the fitness community and everything that goes in to these kinds of competitions. I’d first like to say thank you endlessly to Giacomo Marchese and Dani Taylor, the founders and leaders of Plant Built for having us, and for putting together such an amazing group of people to speak on behalf of animals and showcase the strength of vegans. And, of course, thank you to the athletes for speaking with us throughout their competitions.

The Plant Built team had competitors in the physique, bikini, and figure categories. The competitors are judged by a panel on criteria regarding symmetry both up and down and side to side, muscle size, and leanness. Each category has different criteria of muscle development and leanness. It takes months of extreme dieting and intense exercise to develop the muscles and lose the body fat to get the bodies that these athletes have for competition.

Going in to shooting this episode we were wary on highlighting an athletic endeavor that promoted such strict dieting that can sometimes lead to development of eating disorders, as well as further the noise regarding what a perfect body looks like. There is so much pressure to be thin for women that there has been a rise in incidence of anorexia in young women 15-19 in each decade since 1930. That’s 80 years of more and more girls starving themselves in order to look the way society and media has taught them to be. Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of the ideal body shape. 47% say the pictures make them want to lose weight.

While many people will see these athletes and want to emulate them, intense dieting is not for everyone, and it is not always effective. 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years. Many of the bodybuilders we overheard speaking at the Naturally Fit Games warned other new competitors of the ‘post show crash,’ where after months of calorie restriction they binge and overeat, and within weeks look nothing like they did during their show. This can often lead to depression and makes it difficult to get back into weightlifting and dieting for another competition.

Some of our competitors were kind enough to speak to us about this topic in the video. While it may seem like bodybuilders are muscles-all-year-long, many only focus on one or two competitions a year and go through waves of building muscle and then cutting fat. One of the Plant Built members had spent a year in competition mode and needed a break for their body.

We’d love to know what you think of this competition. And we thank all the Plant Built team, again, for teaching us so much about this sport.  These athletes are incredibly strong and even more dedicated to animal rights than they are to lifting weights, and that’s saying a lot.  They are an amazing example of what it means to be the Strongest Hearts.

And, as the filmmaking team, we’d like to apologize to the athletes on Plant Built that we were unable to speak to. With only two of us and 30 of you, we were outnumbered from the beginning! We hope you enjoy this episode, please leave a comment!


  1. Best episode yet! Keep ’em coming 🙂

  2. I’m very impressed by your Web Series, have watched them all! Having been a vegan for over 20 years, I feel I have heard and seen every vegan argument, but you offer a fresh take on the topic. I found several of the episodes to be quite moving, and vegan athletes have become my new heroes.
    Thank you!
    Greetings from Sweden,
    Pelle Strindlund