Today we are pleased to feature an interview with vegan athlete Mac Danzig. An accomplished Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competitor, Danzig talks about what inspires him, his decision to go vegan and how it impacted his athletic career, and he even gives us a recipe for his favorite post-workout smoothie. Can you guess the most common question he gets asked from non-vegans about being a vegan athlete?
VP: How did you first find out about animal cruelty and did anything in particular solidify your decision to go vegan?
MD: I am not certain when I came into a full understanding of the animal cruelty problem, but I recall always knowing that this sort of thing was happening worldwide, even at a very young age. When I was first shown the painful footage in exposés like “Meet Your Meat,” I was a teenager. But I really didn’t need those images to solidify my feelings about the situation. Knowing that these things were happening was more than enough for me, so shocking myself with those videos wasn’t really necessary, in the same way that a normal human should not require holocaust footage to reassure them that hurting other people is bad. My decision was finally solidified when I realized that everything I had learned about the supposed necessity of meat in the human diet was wrong, and that not only was a vegan diet feasible for an athlete, but it was also healthier than the alternative, if done correctly.
VP: How did going vegan improve your level of fitness?
MD: The main thing I notice is that I recover quicker between workouts than I did when I still ate some animal products. I feel like my body runs on a much more powerful, more efficient fuel now.
VP: Is your daughter vegan as well?
MD: Yes. Born and raised. Now that she’s five, she has my blessing to try whatever she likes. Yet, I am proud to say that it is her own personal choice to continue eating a vegan diet.
VP: What inspires you as an athlete and as an artist?
MD: I am always inspired by nature- the natural places and the living things that inhabit them. And I see the direct influence of nature coming through on people who have overcome seemingly impossible odds. What I mean by that is that not only is nature itself supremely inspiring to me when experienced directly at the source, like the feeling of standing in an old-growth rain forest or studying the waves of an ocean, but the process of nature itself is inspiring to me regardless of how it is channeled. I feel that the best is often brought out in human beings when they are able to strip away the stain of modern culture and truly be in the moment, without thought, emotion or cultural conditioning clouding their perception. I believe that when man is living this way and experiencing this, even if only momentarily, he is a truly realized part of nature again. That’s pretty inspiring to me. I suppose the trick is to understand how to achieve this state, among all of the superficial distractions and mechanics in our modern, overpopulated society.
VP: What’s the most common question you get from non-vegans about being a vegan athlete?
MD: “Where do you get your protein?” It’s the most ridiculous question, yet so many people have been brainwashed into thinking that the protein requirements of a human are extremely high and that a plant-based diet cannot provide adequate protein. Both notions are wrong.
VP: What are your favorite plant foods? Do you have a favorite vegan recipe or treat?
MD: There isn’t anything much better than fresh, ripe fruit, in my opinion.
One of my favorite smoothie recipes works well as a post-workout drink, or just a treat:
16 oz frozen mangos
2 ripe bananas
4 large kale leaves (de-stemmed)
16oz filtered water
VP: What is your favorite book?
MD: I can’t say that I have one absolute favorite book, but I am certainly enjoying “Prometheus Rising” by Robert Anton Wilson at the moment.
Mac has won numerous world titles in smaller organizations on his way to the UFC and is not only a fighter, but also a teacher of mixed martial arts in his current home of Hollywood California. A vegan, naturalist, animal lover and serious photographer, Danzig transcends the typical stereotype of a combat athlete.