How Ninja Warrior champion got shredded on a pure vegan diet 3 years ago

How Ninja Warrior champion got shredded on a pure vegan diet

Do you need meat to put on muscle and get ripped?

Nutritional orthadoxy says that chicken, beef and pork pack the best protein punch to put on lean tissue as meat is full of the amino acids that help repair and grow muscle.

But there is a growing welter of athletes and fitness professionals showing there is another way.

UFC fighter Nate Diaz and 2014 Mr Universe Barny du Plessis are just men who have shunned all animal products to follow a strict vegan diet.

UK Ninja Warrior champion and pro Parkour athlete Tim Shieff is another who is bigging up the benefits of veganism which got him in the best shape of his life.

He's 5ft 9in and weighs 75kg but he's absolutely ripped.

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"I feel like a better athlete than I’ve ever been, he told JOE.  "I'm the most complete athlete I've ever been and part of that is due to knowing a lot more about nutrition – and that nutrition being a high carb, low fat, vegan lifestyle."

While the likes of Diaz gave up meat and dairy for health, Shieff made the switch three years ago for ethical reasons.

"I just always considered myself a kind individual," he said speaking to JOE. "If there was a spider in my house, I wouldn't kill it, I would take it outside.

"I don't want to see animals hurt. But when I saw a video it made a connection for me. I saw cows getting slaughtered and I didn't like it.

"I looked into veganism and saw there were athletes and healthy humans that don’t eat beef. I thought I'd try it."

He looked into the egg and milk industry and said he found they were 'destructive' towards animals and the environment too.

The choice to make the huge dietary switch away from meat and dairy was then an easy one.

Any hard-training carnivore would probably break out in a cold sweat at the prospect of removing meat and dairy as a protein mainstay from their diet.

Most performance eating plans rely on lean animal protein - but now the way Shieff eats is completely different.

While many athletes eat between three and eight meals a day to keep their muscles fueled and their metabolism on fire, Shieff has just two.

Yes you read that correctly, two main meals a day (with a few snacks in between).

"I don't eat in the morning. I generally fast. I think as many hours as you can have with nothing in your stomach, then your body is healing the rest of your body.

"As soon as you put food in your stomach it focusses on digestion rather than healing ligaments and joints. Part of recovery for me is to drink water with lemon in until 12."

Half a watermelon and grapes are the first thing he eats for the day before he has a salad at 2pm. But we're talking a mega salad.

"It's like a big glass salad bowl that you’d put on a table. A full one all to myself.

"A whole bag of spinach, some kale and some lettuce, corn, tomatoes, pesto and avocado oil and some avocado as well.

"You need a bit of fat as well. Greens on their own are boring. But if you put a little bit of fat like some good oils, cashew nuts and some avocado then when youe at the salad and it's slicked with gentle fat, it tastes nice and you can eat a lot more than you think."

He might have a fruit smoothie with six bananas and other fruit later on - but his next and final big meal is in the evening where he will have a rice, potato or sweet potato dish - full of good, healthy carbs (so no bread).

"They're huge portions as well. I keep it not too much fat. I never worry about protein. As long as I have that big salad bowl and get those vegetables in, then I'm getting more than enough protein."

The amazing thing about the way Shieff eats compared to most physique athletes, bodybuilders and CrossFitters is he never counts his calories or even bothers to consider the ratio of macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat) he's consuming in a day.

"I would say I'm having maybe 3,500 or 4,000 calories a day – but there is absolutely no accuracy to that guess.

"I eat a lot, but I choose my moments. I eat heavier later on. If I'm training during the day, I don't want to be heavy so I eat fruit and salad.

"Then in the evening I get all my calories in. Then I sleep on that and I don't eat in the morning so my body is still processing that."

Tell this to most bodybuilders or anyone trying to get lean for the beach and they'd probably tell you to get out.

But this unorthadox approach to nutrition is clearly paying dividends. He's been vegan for the past three years and performs as a top level Parkour athlete and obstacle course runner. Just look at his training.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Just one look at his physique will tell you that he's getting all the muscle-building, fat burning nutrients he needs.

"I'm lean. I'm pretty ripped at the moment. That's when I'm at my best shape when I eat like that.

"Occasionally when I'm travelling or in the winter in London when it gets dark quicker and I don't want to train as much naturally, I'm eating more vegan fast foods like (vegan) cheeseburgers and things like that.

"But with races coming up I'm eating well and I'm in pretty good shape. It's fascinating what a high carb, low fat lifestyle can do."

You would imagine that switching from animal based foods to plant based foods might be a lot to handle.

But actually Shieff says it actually helped improve his performance levels and had clear benefits on his body composition.

"I was a bit swollen and I lost that, because I was eating a fair bit of cheese before that but I cut that out of my diet.

"My skin is a lot nicer now, I'm the optimum weight for how my build should be. I feel like when you go vegan your body finds its natural equilibrium where it should be.

Especially with the sports I'm doing – with Parkour I was too big. I was still a good athlete, but now as a vegan and a Parkour athlete I'm a lot more nimble, I feel.

"It translates to running, climbing and obstacle racing too."

It has been a journey of discovery for the Londoner. But he says he's learned an incredible lot about nutrition and how his body works by becoming vegan.

Yes he misses having a cheeky Nandos. Yes he still gets cravings. But he says he can see the bigger picture.

One huge thing he's learned is that portion size is irrelevant, especially when you're eating healthy plant-based foods.

He eats massive portions of simple ingredients, where a meal can consist of just sweet potatoes, avocados and a sauce.

"Don't be afraid of eating big portions of simple ingredients.  I eat six sweet potatoes in one sitting. I love them, and avocados.

"Some people will have a small portion of avocados and when they swap their meat, they wonder what's going to take its place.

"You just eat more of the rest – the vegetables and things.

"One thing I learned is when you simplify things in life, you become happier with less. That was one thing I found when I cut meat and dairy out of my lifestyle."

Tim Shieff will be taking part in Toughest on April 23. To join him please visit