Starting Strength – The vegans of the strength-training community

Yes, the title of this post is very much tongue-in-cheek but, like all humor, there is a lot of truth to it.  On the surface, the communities couldn’t be more different.  Peruse any Starting Strength forums or groups and you’ll quickly realize that their 2nd favorite topic is probably the consumption of meat.  And I’d very much doubt there are numerous threads in Vegan forums extolling the virtues of powerlifting, much less Starting Strength.  If both communities were cars, then Starting Strength would a used Ford F150 pickup with a gun rack and Vegans would be a Toyota Prius.

I respect the ideas and the body of knowledge of both camps.  In any given week, about 75 percent of my meals are technically vegan, with the remainder containing some very well-sourced organic meat and dairy products.  I find this “omnivore” approach works best for me.  Similarly, Starting Strength was huge influence on me when I first started strength training.  In the past 8 years I have bought 4 copies of the Starting Strength book as I gave my first 3 copies away to friends.  It’s a fantastic book, perhaps the best strength training book ever written for the general public.  I still strive for perfect “starting strength” form in my squats and deadlifts.

To be fair to Starting Strength, the methodology is very science-based and is all about protocols and form what will elicit strength gains for most, if not all, lifters.  It’s very pragmatic and no-nonsense about its stated goal.  Veganism can be considered both a dietary regime and/or an ethical choice.  Which seems fairly straight-forward,  you’d imagine, yet there exists a very vocal strain of “magical thinking” amongst some vegans (more about this later).

So how are they similar?  Simply put, both communities are very Orthodox to a really weird extent.  I stopped reading Starting Strength forums because it became very apparent a favorite past-time was ridiculing “heretics” who dared question any of the methodology.  Many people posting seem to consciously mimicking  Rip’s (the founder of Starting Strength) style of treating most questions as inherently stupid so, cue the weary sigh, let me lay some common sense on you.  This is also why I quickly stopped watching any Starting Strength YouTube content that isn’t strictly a form tutorial.  Rip’s manner is grating but it’s his personal style,  you can either take it or leave it.  That so many people want to emulate it is strange and, I think, makes Starting Strength a drag.  So there are some really great ideas, but the overall vibe of the community is sort of off-putting.

Vegans, well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?  It’s a shame that the bat-guano crazy vocal minority give veganism a bad name.  It’s a highly viable dietary regime for many people, for general health and even for athletic performance.  There is a long, growing list of vegan athletes.  The ethical reasons, if that is a prime motivator, are sound.  So why must it be sullied by the zealotry of a fairly large minority?  Many of us have met the stereotypical smug self-righteous vegan with a capital “V” in real life, you know the one with whom no actual discussion or discourse is possible.  Why do so many vegan Youtubers (and especially that guy who did the “What the Health” documentary) come off as easily triggered, programmed cult members?  You can literally see, when looking into their eyes, that some function of critical thinking has been switched off.  And speaking of “What the Health”, why the bad science and misrepresentation?  Guys, the facts literally speak for themselves…why twist things?  And why the hyper-sensitivity to criticism?  It makes the whole community look “cray-cray”.  When’s the last time you saw an easily triggered vegetarian?

The Starting Strength methodology is a great tool.  I believe that everyone interested in strength training should read the book and run the protocol a few times.  You may find that at some point another training protocol fits your needs and that is (or should be) OK.  Eating solely plant based is great but the reality is that the majority of the population will likely never do it.  Pragmatically speaking, what is the greater good;  that 5 percent of population become strictly vegan or that a much larger percentage reduce their meat consumption significantly?


2 thoughts on “Starting Strength – The vegans of the strength-training community

  1. I disagree that the majority will NEVER go vegan or at least vegetarian. Stores are selling more and more vegan products, people are buying them more and more, vegan restaurants are popping up everywhere. You can’t go a single day without hearing or reading the word vegan unless you live under a rock. Veganism was coined less than a hundred years ago so for something so new it’s spreading rapidly. Between the health/fitness people and the ethical/compassionate people the future of veganism is looking good right now.


    1. Hi Amanda – love that you responded to this and I agree with your point that Veganism is growing rapidly. I think I read something in the last week or so that in 2011 only 1 percent of the US self identified as Vegan where as in 2016 about 6 percent did. That is huge growth by any standards. I still don’t think it will ever be a majority thing, even though I’m sure it will become a bigger minority. I grew up in and around vegetarians and vegans from day 1 – I know the history, the arguments and the lifestyle from way back to the early 70s in places like Berkeley and Cambridge . The ethical argument for me – veganism as opposed to anything else, is the Ace in the sleeve for vegans. There is not much you can counter that argument other than, yeah, you’re right, but I will continue to do X. Dietary arguments much less clear. What prompted my blog post was a pronounced, but minority, attitude amongst 2 communities that I really respect, have learned a lot from, but I think are counter productive. But it pains me to see that some people in these communities get dogmatic and small-minded in tone because it’s a turn-off to the larger message. I still think that if 80 percent of people vastly reduced their meat intake it would make a much broader ethical impact than if 13 percent of the population became strict vegans. It’s just simple math. When things like diet or exercise – both subjects that are near and dear to my hear – become dogmatic and, I check out. I steer clear of dogma in politics, religion or pretty much any other arena. For the record, IMHO I don’t discount that a slight majority might one day be vegetarian – but if I had to bet my house on the majority of people on earth becoming vegan – logical though it may be – I don’t think that will happen. Anyway, thanks so much for responding with honest feedback – growth and other interesting things happens when you get honest feedback and a different view. A simple “like” is similar to an echo chamber.


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