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Robbie's Universe clippings 06

Observer Magazine 12 November 2006

Front Page Western Daily Press 22 November 2006 (below the inside article)

Text of the article below

Taking on best in the Universe

West-based muscleman Robbie Hazeley talks to Susie Weldon about his mission - to prove a 51-year-old vegan can win in the bodybuilding world

A BODYBUILDER who is a vegan seems a bit of a contradiction in terms. After all, piling on the muscle is all about packing in the protein - and how on Earth can a weedy, seeds-and-lentils muncher do that?
Vegans - especially men - tend to find themselves the butt of such stereotypes from the moment they stop eating foods from animal sources.
But you only have to glance at vegan bodybuilder Robbie Hazeley to appreciate the obvious - he's no weed. In fact, Robbie finished sixth in the Mr World competition in June and has just come third in the Mr Britain contest held three days ago.
And with the British Open Championships coming up this Sunday, and the all-important Mr Universe contest in Germany the following weekend, he says he's never been in better shape.
"I'm feeling great and next week I'll drop another two pounds so I'll look even tighter," he says. "It can only get better."
Welcome to the weird, wacky and rather obsessive world of bodybuilding, where diet, posing and presentation play as big a part in success as actual weight training.
Just take Robbie's latest achievement in the Mr Britain contest on Sunday. While his third-place title might seem disappointing given that he came second in the same contest last year, it seems he only just missed out on a higher rank - and not because of a lack of muscles, but because he wasn't wearing quite enough fake tan.
"One of the judges told me it was really close and I could have been any of the top three but said, 'I just want to say one word - pale'," Robbie says.
"The lad who always tans me up backstage couldn't make it so I didn't get a top-up and I wasn't dark enough. I can understand the problem - it's all about presentation," he adds philosophically.
The need to make a good presentation is something Robbie knows all too well. He's been bodybuilding for more than three decades.
Indeed it’s fare to say that the 51-year-old, who lives in Paignton, Devon, and trains at the Fitness First gym in Exeter, is one of the leading lights in the British bodybuilding world.
And it's all thanks to his vegan, mainly raw, diet and, in particular, to the organic hemp protein powder supplied by the Bristol-based firm, Yaoh.
"I turned vegan nearly 17 years ago and before that I used to compete and did quite well but I never got up to the bigger competitions," he says.
"Since turning vegan, I've done so much better. All the blocks for building a massive physique are there in a vegan diet, it just takes a little knowledge."
That knowledge includes where to find protein, which is essential for muscle growth.
Most people immediately assume that protein means meat. But proteins are also found in pulses, beans and green leafy vegetables; the problem for vegan bodybuilders is how to consume enough.
The average adult needs about 70 grams of protein a day; Robbie likes to eat more than four times that amount as he's preparing for competitions.
Soya protein powder is a mainstay of vegan bodybuilder diets, but one of the downsides is its taste. Hemp, on the other hand, has only about a 50 per cent protein content, compared to soya's 90 per cent, but tastes a whole lot better.
`Yaoh's organic hemp seed protein powder is an
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Vegan diet is muscleman's secret for competition

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absolutely fantastic nutritional supplement," says Yaoh manager Tim Barford. "It contains all the essential amino acids to make a complete protein.
"Robbie's in the shape of his life and is a fantastic advertisement for the vegan lifestyle.  "I think he's got a real chance of finishing in the top three in Germany - and remember, this is against the best in the universe."
Robbie, who trains other people as a sports co-ordinator and advises on nutrition when he's not taking part in bodybuilding contests, originally went vegan for health reasons.
In 1990, he was competing as a 16st meat, fish, egg and dairy-eating bodybuilder. But then he tore some ligaments while coaching tennis, endured six operations over the next four years and was left with chronic arthritis and knee problems.
It was his mentor Dave Howe, a vegan gym owner, who convinced him that giving up meat would alleviate his health problems. Robbie became a vegetarian and, six weeks later, a vegan. Soon he was off painkillers and his arthritis and knee problems had dramatically improved.
Best of all, he found that on a vegan diet he was able to put on muscle without putting on fat. "This year I've put on more muscle than I have done for years, just by changing my diet around a bit," he says.
Robbie, who eats eight times a day and weighs a little over 13st when he's not competing, aims to get down to 12st 8lbs during contests thanks to a rigorous 12-week diet. The idea is to strip away all fat so that the muscles are defined more sharply.
"You want just four per cent body fat for contests. A lot of people can't do it - they look great in the gym but they just can't diet," he says.
You might think that Robbie has to spend all day in the gym to achieve his impressive physique but that's not so: "I actually train only three times a week for 45 minutes a time. The training is intensive, though."
Even so, he admits that for dedicated, hard-core bodybuilders such as himself, training and competing often end up taking over their lives. "A lot of relationships break up," admits Robbie, who is single again.
"But I love competing - I could stay on stage all day. Sometimes I get told off because my music stops and I'm still posing!"

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