A former corporate worker has revealed how he transformed his physique on a 90-day plant-based diet plan - and became an online vegan fitness coach himself after the plan changed this outlook on life.
Ben Raue, (who is now 46, but 45 at the time of the 90-day plan) from Chicago was what he described as a 'junk food' vegan. Overworked and burnt out, he decided to take a few years to travel through Thailand, India, and Central America.
During his travels, he worked on meditation and self-inquiry practice, and while he experienced what he calls 'moments of deep peace' throughout these years, he still felt a sense of unease that he was only focusing on inner growth, and not taking action externally in the world.
What the Health
Then around the beginning of 2018, Raue rewatched the documentary What the Health which inspired him to start moving towards a whole food plant-based diet.
"I also rewatched Cowspiracy which brought back to mind the extraordinary impact animal agriculture was having on human rights, rainforest, species extinction, climate change, ocean dead zones, and more," he says.
"Refueled by these documentaries, I signed up for a vegan fest in January of 2018 in Tulum, Mexico. This was my 'aha' moment. I decided to become the change I wanted to see in the world and dedicate my time and career to promoting a vegan diet, for the people, the planet, and the animals. My first step in the journey? My 90-day health and fitness transformation."
Making a start
To visualize what he wanted to achieve, Raue wrote down his purpose, goals, and what he wanted to accomplish after the 90 days. He also got support - a critical step he says, as it 'gave me clear direction and took the guesswork out of my diet and fitness goals'.
Raue made some major dietary changes as part of his 90-day plan, going from eating processed vegan foods ('pizza, chocolate bars, a lot of Thai food, Indian food, chips and guac') to a whole foods plant-based diet.
He adds: "In addition, I became a bit of a smoothie junkie and I still am today. This allowed me to get in a ton of fruit, veggies, and my protein powder.
"I only ate out in restaurants maybe two or three times the entire 90 days. I counted my calories very closely for the first time in my life and that made a huge difference. I kept my calories often between 2000 and 2500."
As well as making dietary changes, Raue changed his workout routine, which he says evolved over the 90 days.
"For the first month, I worked out on weights about an hour a day, five-six days a week. I worked on each muscle group two days per week: chest, shoulders, triceps one day," he said.
"The next day: back and biceps. Then a leg day. I incorporated abs three-four times per week. I repeated this pattern each week with a day off (or just cardio) in-between.
"In regards to cardio, I started at 20 minutes of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) three-five days per week and moved closer to 30-40 minutes towards the end of the month."
By month three, he was working out for between 60-90 minutes per day in the gym on weights, and six days a week, doing 45 minutes of steady-state cardio, which he admits is 'beyond what most trainers would recommend', but says left him feeling 'energized and feeling on top of the world'.
Raue experienced some major physical changes throughout the program, slashing his body fat from 18 percent down to 10 percent. Since finishing the 90-days, he has been able to maintain a body fat percent at the age of between eight and nine percent.
He told Plant Based News: "And I’ve been able to do this eating about 60 to 70 percent carbohydrates. This often includes four to six bananas a day, as well as one to two cups of strawberries and often up to four cups of blueberries.
"So in essence, on a high carb low fat diet with about 20 to 25 percent protein, it’s allowed me to be very successful at continuing to lose body fat and maintain it. What I have found with carbohydrates is when you’re eating the right types of carbs, including lots of fruit, beans, and grains, you stay fuller longer, and you don’t have the sugar spikes that processed carbs create. Switching from process vegan foods to whole foods has been a huge game-changer for me."
For Raue, the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been finding activities he enjoys doing - namely, calisthenics (a type of exercise where you workout using your own bodyweight), which he says has 'turned workout time into playtime'.
He added: "Every day I look forward working on my calisthenics progress. They say if you have a career that you love you never work a day in your life. I feel the same principles apply to exercise in finding a sport or activity that you enjoy.
"I believe one thing that’s helped me to keep a positive attitude and focus is that I compare myself to my own personal progress and not comparing myself to others. If you keep this attitude it doesn’t matter from which point you start."
Ben Raue is a plant-based personal trainer who offers online coaching. You can find Raue on Instagram @plantbasedben and find out more about his services here. He offers customizable vegan meal plans here