Spotlight: Ryan Nelson

Name: Ryan Nelson AKA Big Nelly

City: Minneapolis, MN

Occupation: Personal trainer (Ryan Nelson Fitness) and vegan body builder

3 words to describe yourself: Compassionate, Energetic, Outgoing.

What inspired you to switch to a plant-based diet?
I came to the realization of how many animals were being sacrificed for me to do body building. At that point, I decided it was no longer necessary for me to eat animals and that I didn't want to harm them anymore.

What are some differences you noticed when you went plant-based?
My recovery from my workouts improved. My hair grew faster and thicker, and my fingernails grew faster. Those were interesting things that I noticed right away. Mentally, I'm a lot more clear.



What are some common reactions you receive when you tell people you're vegan?
Commonly, I get a weird reaction. There are a lot of stereotypes that go with a plant-based vegan diet, like that you can't build muscle or be big or that you're going to be some kind of hippie tree-hugger. I know several other vegan body builders who have grown muscle on a vegan diet and look great. 

What do you do to stay physically active?
I have a pretty strenuous routine. Currently, I'm doing 5 days days a week of strength training. Leading up to a show I'll include more cardiovascular work and work out 5-6 days a week. 

What film would you recommend to people who are interested in learning more about veganism?
Cowspiracy takes a really great look at veganism from multiple angles. It's great for people to hear the facts that are presented in it. I don't always go towards Earthlings but it can be a helpful tool for some people.

Favorite local restaurant:
I really like Ecopolitan. I take a lot of people there and go there myself probably too frequently. French Meadow has some good vegan options.


A photo posted by Big Nelly (@alphad307) on


Favorite place to buy groceries:
I shop at The Wedge Co-op and I come here [to The Herbivorous Butcher] because you guys have lots of vegan options. 

Favorite animal:
I really have a thing for pigs. I don't have any animals that live with me so I've been thinking about getting a pig. I think I need to get something different than what everyone else has. I recently went out to LA and spent a week at Have a Heart Animal Rescue Foundation, which was a really cool experience for me and brought me back to my childhood. A lot of my childhood was working on a farm and ranch. It was cool to be there with a different perspective on things now.

What advice would you offer someone who's interested in transitioning to a plant-based diet?
Reach out to people you know who have successfully transitioned to vegan. Get as much help from those people as you can. Do research on your own online to see what people are doing and what can work for you. Reach out to local stores and restaurants that offer vegan options and make sure you can keep a really good variety in your diet. Doing some nutrition tracking initially can help too.


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