John Oberg
How I Became a Vegan Powerlifter to Break Stereotypes That Vegans Are Weak and Skinny


We talked with John Oberg in October, 2019. Follow John on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
Country:
United States
Age:
32 years
Weight:
86 kg
(190 lbs)
Height:
178 cm
(5 '10)


Instagram, @johnoberg

Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

Hey Bulk Hackers! I’m John Oberg, a 32 year old American living just outside Washington, D.C.

I am a full-time animal advocate, working every day to inspire compassion and to create a kinder world for animals. I work independently and have a Patreon account that people can support my work though.

I alsoI own my own social media consulting business.

I started lifting at the end of 2016. After years of thinking about doing it, I finally decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did. At 32, I’m in the best shape of my life. Stronger than ever.

I work out 3-4 days per week, focusing primarily on powerlifting. I work on my physical fitness because I want to break stereotypes that vegans are weak and skinny.

My favorite part of a workout is when someone sees me deadlifting 500 pounds of squatting over 400 pounds and then they find out I’m vegan. They just can’t believe it.


Instagram, @johnoberg

Describe a typical day of training


Most days I work out I bench and squat.

I work out 3-4 days per week. I started out using the Stronglifts 5×5 program. Eventually, most of my lifts became too advanced so I had to switch to Madcow.

Now, I go by programs that my friend and lifting expert, Andrew Hogan, puts together for me. He’s a genius.

I focus primarily on powerlifting with a little accessory work thrown in for good measure.

Most days I work out I bench and squat. Deadlifting, overhead press, rows, and variations on these exercises are also something I throw into my routine.

I want to get stronger bit by bit, so I even carry around micro plates down to ½ a pound. I keep pretty meticulous track of my workouts so it’s nice to see my strength increasing all the time.

My workouts usually last about two hours each.

I workout at a local gym that I don’t love that much, but will soon be moving to Richmond, Virginia where they have a nice couple of gym options. I’m excited.

I also play soccer 1-2 nights per week and have been for the past 24 years (since I was 8). That’s the extent of the cardio work that I do. I hate treadmills.


Instagram, @johnoberg

How do you keep going and push harder?

It’s fairly rare that I’m excited to go to the gym. I still usually end up going, and once I’m there, I really enjoy it. So I have to always remind myself of that joy when I’m considering whether or not to go.

When I’m at the gym, even if I have to push myself really hard, I focus on the results.

Getting bigger and stronger is more easily helping me break the stereotypes that vegans face.

I want to bust myths that say you have to eat animals to be strong. That couldn’t be more false.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?


In 3 years, I’ve gone from 160 pounds to 190, with most of the 30 pounds being muscle.

My goal is to constantly get stronger and bigger, while minimizing body fat.

Andrew Hogan’s programs are really helping me on this path and I feel really confident about my ability to get there. In 3 years, I’ve gone from 160 pounds to 190, with most of the 30 pounds being muscle.

The only thing that I would change in my workouts is if I could’ve started earlier! I wish I would’ve started in my late teens or early 20’s. I look back at pictures of me when and laugh at how skinny I was.


Instagram, @johnoberg

How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?

I try my best to avoid injuries because I recognize that getting bigger and stronger is a marathon, not a sprint.

If I do get an injury, I still go hard, but minimize how much I use that particular area of my body.

I hurt my knee about a year ago and my squats really suffered as a result. It was a big setback, both physically and emotionally, so because of that, I work as hard as I can to minimize risk of injury.

I don’t use any recovery tools because I find most of them to be bogus, but one thing I do like is foam rolling.

I try to foam roll a few days a week, especially before working my legs.

I recognize that sleep is important, but I don’t prioritize it as much as I should. I usually get 6-7 hours per night, but I know I should shoot for 8.


Instagram, @johnoberg - photo by Ashley Jeanne

How is your diet and what supplements do you use?


People are so disconnected from the animals they eat and the suffering they endure.

I am vegan. I’ve been vegan for over 10 years.

I feel great physically not putting all that heavy meat and dairy into my body. I also feel better mentally and emotionally knowing that I’m not paying people to do things to farm animals that I would never do myself.

People are so disconnected from the animals they eat and the suffering they endure.

I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to see people walking around with big tubs of whey protein or tupperware containers full of chicken.

So much cruelty went into that and it’s time people took a step back and thought about the consequences of the foods they’re choosing to eat. Both on their own body and also how it affects animals.

All of my protein sources come directly from plants. Some of my favorite sources include plant-based protein powders (usually from True Nutrition because it’s so cheap, but there are tons of options), tofu, tempeh, seitan, plant-based meats (like gardein, Tofurky, Field Roast, Beyond Meat, Impossible, etc.), and even beans, lentils, and veggies.

It’s practically impossible to be protein-deficient. I want to break this myth.

I try to eat a lot, especially of protein-packed foods, but I don’t focus on bulking, cutting, counting calories, or anything like that.

When I have such a focus and prioritization on the work I’m doing for animals, I don’t feel I have the bandwidth to make such a commitment to the absolute maximum potential, but maybe one day that will change.

For now, I want to give it everything I can, within reason.


Instagram, @johnoberg

What has inspired and motivated you?


I want to mainstream plant-based eating.

The biggest inspiration and motivation for me is thinking about the suffering that farm animals endure.

They live lives of misery only to wind up on someone’s plate. And unfortunately, because of The Protein Myth, many animals are consumed by well-intentioned individuals.

They don’t understand that they can get their protein and other nutrients from plant-based sources rather than animal-based ones.

I want to mainstream plant-based eating. Getting people to understand that vegans are strong — both physically and mentally — is a great way of doing this.

Every time I’m lifting heavy, this is something I think about. My bit of suffering while lifting is nothing compared to the suffering they’re enduring.


Instagram, @johnoberg

Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?

If you only have so many hours to dedicate to fitness, I recommend powerlifting.

A small number of complex movements/exercises will do a lot more good for much of your body than just focusing on isolated muscles. This has been my experience.

For anyone new to powerlifting, I really recommend starting out with the Stronglifts 5×5 program. It’s free and easy to use. The app is great. I used it for a couple of years until I grew out of it.

First, learn how to do each lift, preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing.

The videos they provide are useful, too. Then go for it. It’s fun to see the progress you make, little by little.

Additionally, I recommend getting your protein (and other nutrients) from plants rather than animals. It’s healthier for you and kinder to animals.

Are you taking on clients right now?

No, I am not a personal trainer.

Where can we learn more about you?

My website is JohnOberg.org. My Patreon account is Patreon.com/JohnOberg.

My social media profiles are:
Instagram @JohnOberg
Twitter @JohnOberg
Facebook @JohnObergOfficial

I don’t post too much about lifting, but it is something that I focus a lot of my energy on any given week and a useful tool in combating vegan stereotypes and breaking down myths people have about plant-based eating.


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I’m Mads Phikamphon, founder of Bulk Hackers.

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