I caught up with aspiring bodybuilder Alexander Kosztowny to talk fitness, food, and life as a vegan body-builder.
Were you into sports at school?
No. Growing up, I was a heavy-set kid, and not very active at all. In school, I was very academic, and focused mainly on my studies rather than athletics. I didn’t dread gym class, and always worked hard and enjoyed certain sports like tennis and volleyball, but the lack of variety of activities in gym class limited my view on the variety of types of activities out there. If I’d tried a weight lifting class, or yoga, or karate, my attitude may have changed earlier in life. My sister was always active, but I come from a family who are not very big on physical activity or sports. Of course, like most, I wish I’d started earlier, but better late than never.
Can you remember what your first experience of a gym was?
I lost a lot of weight in high school with the onset of puberty, and with the gaining knowledge of nutrition, portion control, and cardiovascular activity. When I went to college, I found myself putting a lot of the weight back on, and knew I had to prevent that. I joined a gym, and hired a personal trainer for the first time to help me get back on track.
I absolutely fell in love with pumping iron. I was able to coordinate working out into being a part of my schedule, as opposed to limiting it only to ‘when I have time’ and having a trainer not only motivated me and taught me technique, but also kept me accountable for my actions. He helped me with adding strength while paying attention to form, and meal planning, The excess weight fell off, and I became addicted.
Now I’m in the gym every day, pushing my body and transforming both my health, my appearance, and my outlook.
When did you decide to get serious about your fitness and bodybuilding?
About four years ago. But I’ve only been super-serious for about a year, and I’ve only been extremely strict in terms of diet for about six months. I’m still a beginner.
What’s your aspiration as a bodybuilder?
To get huge. That’s it.
As someone who’s plant-based, I’d also like to show others what’s possible on a non-traditional diet. That there are other forms of nutrition and protein, and you can build muscle, look great, and have tons of energy without harm.
What’s the difference between your body as it is now and the way that you want your body to look?
I’d still call my self thick or chubby-muscular. The interesting thing about bodybuilding is that there never really is an end goal. You just lift and grow bigger and you’re never quite big or strong enough. I’m just trying to push myself as far as I possibly can. It’s exciting to see the changes you can make that way.
What’s your work-out regime like?
I’m in the gym six or seven times a week. This seems excessive to some people, and I know others who only go three or four times a week, and that works for them. For me, the gym is therapeutic and a stress reliever, as well as a hobby.
I usually spend about one hour doing weight lifting — machines and free weights — and then I wrap up with about 35 minutes of cardio. I focus on one body part per day. It’s a traditional bodybuilding split, so muscles have a chance to rest. This routine works for me — I know some people have luck doing high-intensity, full body workouts, but I like the focus of working each muscle group in isolation.
Do you have a work-out buddy?
Not currently, but I’ve always enjoyed it when I do. It really is vital for really heavy spotting, and the dependability is nice if they’re as motivated as you. If anyone is in Los Angeles and wants to train with me, hit me up!
How important is controlling your diet?
Controlling diet is extremely important. It makes or breaks your progress in the gym. if you lift but don’t eat right, you won’t get anywhere. I’ve seen this happen both for myself and others. When I finally got on the right meal plan, the results happened in no time at all — abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.
I eat about five times a day, and I’m plant-based, just like Tom Brady. My diet consists of lots of legumes, lentils, tofu, peas, broccoli, peanut butter, protein shakes, and other natural, nutrient-rich foods that contain protein without resorting to animal products.
Besides the ethical and environmental sides of going vegan, I find I have more energy, need less time to recover, and am less sore, as well as having clearer skin. I count my macros — calories, carbs, proteins, and fats — and eat the same foods every day to stay on track. I’ve pretty much eliminated bread, gluten, alcohol, refined sugars, and beverages besides water from my diet, except for special occasions. I’m super-strict, but do let myself enjoy food.
Are your friends and family supportive of your bodybuilding aspirations?
For the most part. They’re always impressed at my progress and dedication, but I need a lot of willpower when I have a family who loves to cook, bake, and tempt me with treats. That’s why having a partner or workout buddy who is on a similar plan is helpful, if you’re lucky enough to find one. It keeps you on track.
Are you competing?
Nope, and no plans to either. But that may change as I grow bigger.
What are some of your priorities for the remainder of 2018?
I’m currently in the best shape I’ve ever been in, so I want to just keep on progressing. It’s a slow process, and takes a lot of time, so you have to be patient. I just finished my summer cut, and am excited about putting on some serious mass during my next bulk.
We want to hear your opinion
Friday Fitness Freak
What do gay men eat for breakfast?
We recently did a survey on the breakfast habits of gay men around the world — one of the clear results is the high proportion of men who start their day by eating breakfast cereal (48%).
What’s wrong with cereal?
Quick and easy to eat, and often quite tasty, it’s not difficult to understand why breakfast cereal is such a popular choice.
The problem with breakfast cereal is that is even if you opt for something that is low in sugar and high in fibre, you’re subjecting your body to a big intake of gluten.
The paleo diet
There’s obviously quite a bit of debate and conflicting research among nutritionists, but most guys who are super-serious about their diet and fitness, tend to lean towards the “paleo” approach which advocates limiting the intake of gluten in favour of a high protein and vegetable diet.
Eat like a caveman
In simplistic terms, you’re trying to replicate the diet of your genetic ancestors — the thinking is that when a “caveman” started the day, they either snacked on some of the left-overs from the night before — lean wild meat — or they grabbed some nearby nuts and berries until they were able to hunt for some more meat or fish.
What’s wrong with gluten?
As it’s a relatively new introduction to the human diet, in evolutionary terms, there is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that gluten can be difficult for the body to digest and process and may result in gluten sensitivity.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include bloating, abdominal discomfort, pain or diarrhoea, or it may present with a variety of extra-intestinal symptoms including headaches and migraines, lethargy and tiredness, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity, schizophrenia, muscular disturbances as well as bone and joint pain.
What should you eat for breakfast?
- If you’ve got time — fry up some eggs or a small steak with some spinach on the side.
- If you’re in a rush — grab a handful of nuts and some berries and stop for something more substantial when you get to work.
- It’s time to look beyond breakfast cereal.
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