The Superfood Grocer’s Ralph Go is interviewed by Lakapati Basa on being an athlete that thrives on a plant-based diet, his reasons for switching and how it can benefit anyone.
Ralph is an international Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter, the first Filipino plant-based athlete who has ever medaled 1st or 2nd in some of the world’s most prestigious Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions, including the World Championship, Brazilian Nationals, the Asian Championship, and the European Championship. He thrives on a 100% plant-based diet, advocating its superior health benefits and the moral thrusts this lifestyle represents.
Ralph is passionate about his family’s health and how people should not suffer unnecessarily from lifestyle diseases out of a lack of education on what food really does to us. He believes that we all have the power to choose to live and that we can actively bullet-proof ourselves from diseases. “I then decided if I could just help one person realize that they have the choice to live a life disease-free with vibrant energy then I would commit to this.”
>> Read on.
I started out doing Jiu-Jitsu at the end of my first year in college, I was intrigued by the art of it as I saw its applications where the weak can defeat the strong. What I loved the most is the creativity involved, it is like a human chess match with endless moves and transitions. I started training a few times a week, but I was very passionate about learning and I wanted to be the best I can be so it ended up bringing me to compete all over the world, from Southeast Asia to Japan to Europe to Brazil and to the USA. I ended up training with the very best in the world.
As an athlete, what are the 3 most important things in life (in reference to what you do)?
As an athlete, I think it is very important to be dedicated 100%, to work hard and to have an open mind. The people I see who succeed in the sport and in life are 100% dedicated. They take a leap of faith based on a burning desire in their hearts regardless of social implications.
What inspired you to follow a vegan diet? How did it affect your overall performance?
I first heard about this lifestyle when I watched a UFC match on television where a fighter named John Fitch started talking about how he used it extremely well in his preparation. He recommended books to read such as “The Skinny Bastard” and “The China Study”. After reading these books, I was upset how the meat/dairy industry has been destroying our health and our planet, how this industry contributes to poverty, and how they torture billions of animals a day.
All I could think about was my family’s health and how so many other people are suffering from diseases that should never happen because of this myth that we have to consume animals. The emotional stress this has caused is insurmountable: children losing their parents, people getting sick and this being deemed normal by society because they are just “getting old”.
“Basically, I learned that we can take control of our lives, that we have the power to choose to live, we can bullet-proof ourselves from all these diseases.
“I then decided if I could just help one person realize that they have the choice to live a life disease-free with vibrant energy then I would commit to this.“
Aside from this, I also learned the implications of a meat diet on the rest of the world, each grain fed to animals to satisfy our cravings “because we like the taste” could have been fed to a hungry child. Arable land which is being used for raising animals to keep up with world consumption could be used to build homes or plant crops to feed more people. We definitely have enough food in the world to feed everyone, but people are still going hungry. There is something seriously wrong with this picture here. We have one planet to feed everyone but it’s not enough to feed everyone’s hunger. This industry and lifestyle are not sustainable and I can never support it ever again.
At first, I was still eating fish and taking whey protein when I started out trying to be a vegetarian. A lot of my training coaches and partners said that it would be dangerous to take away these two or to go completely vegan. However, I was inspired by people such as Brendan Brazier and his book Thrive which particularly explains how eating a whole food plant-based diet can boost athletic performance. I would say this diet won’t make you a stronger or faster athlete, but it will make your recovery much faster, thus, being able to train much more than others. YOU ALSO WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT GETTING SICK EVER, I used to get sick for a week just eating a few slices of pizza. I was sick every month. I had to take so many vitamins, around 20-25 pills a day, to maintain my health when I am training with high volume. But when I learned what makes people sick, I dropped all those expensive vitamins and haven’t been sick ever since. I’ve never skipped a day of training because I haven’t been sick since I have started my vegan diet.
I understand you’re also trying out raw vegan food. Did this enhance your performance more than the standard vegan diet?
Yes, I incorporate raw foods in my diet whenever I can. I take at least one green smoothie and a salad daily. I definitely agree that raw food is extremely beneficial to athletic performance. One of the reasons is because we don’t need to expend our energy to digest the food. This energy could be used to repairing our muscles, thus recovering faster.
Did your co-athletes question/made fun of your eating habits? What do you normally say when they do?
Yes, a lot of co-athletes questioned me as it is definitely against the norm. I try to explain the benefits and some are more eager to listen and some are not. I just try to train hard because actions speak louder than words.
In your experience as an athlete, what would be the most rewarding thing that ever occurred to you?
As an athlete, it would be traveling all the over the world, meeting new friends, experiencing different cultures, and training with the best. Also seeing that somehow my efforts could inspire the younger generation. Being able to prove that there can be world champions here in the Philippines and that we can compete with the finest athletes. Lastly, that the knowledge available here is at par with the standards of the very best in the world.
What are your favorite vegan dishes?
My favorite vegan dishes are definitely anything with chickpeas, lentils, and beans. I like Brazilian-style beans or Indian-style cooked chickpeas. I also like raw vegan desserts like cakes and ice cream that are so delicious yet very healthy for you.
Any guilty pleasures? Do you miss anything that is not vegan (food-wise)?
No, not really. I guess if you turn vegan you need to have an underlying reason. If your reason is shallow then it will be hard to stick by it. When I see something that has caused so much pain and suffering on my plate, I prefer not to have it if I have the choice.
Also, a lot of people believe that they can’t kick the taste out. For example, we “just need to have a steak”. I’ve been there, too. It’s basically the microbes in our digestive tract wanting that. 80% of our body is actually not our own. 1 trillion human cells are outnumbered by 9 trillion healthy bacteria in our body. If we continue to feed it junk or meat, it will want junk food or meat. But when we start feeding it healthy food then that’s what they will crave. It is important to note though that we don’t push for deprivation, we encourage with empowerment and knowledge. This journey takes time. Sometimes you may think you can never do this, but in time, you will also gradually find yourself adding more “good” food and less of the “bad”.
Also, the taste and creativity involved in vegan food are amazing! More than 90% of the food on the planet are from plants and less than 10% are from animals. As I have mentioned, eating a plant-based diet is about empowerment and not deprivation, and just to give an idea to everyone, you can enjoy pizza, ice cream and burgers all made with whole food plant-based ingredients. These foods can boost athletic performance and can combat diseases at the same time. Amazing, right?!
Who/what was your support system in keeping yourself on track in the veggie caravan? I understand you travel a lot whenever you are training and competing, how do you make being vegan possible?
I did not have anyone to support me or tell me what I was doing was right in the beginning. I was committed to an idea and when people saw how I was committed, they take consideration especially whenever we eat out. Carmela, who is my partner in sharing the advocacy with others through The Superfood Grocer, also supports me a lot. We have basically eaten in all the vegan restaurants here and make vegan food at home. Other than that, I love fruits and there are fruits basically everywhere.
Yes, I travel a lot but basically, you can find veg options everywhere you go anyway. Some are healthier, some are not. I try to get a specific amount of food daily depending on my goals like I sometimes need to gain 5 kilos or sometimes I need to lose 8 kilos. Getting quality food in a specific desired quantity is challenging sometimes. I think that there are more vegan options and restaurants overseas so that makes it a lot easier.I did not have anyone to support me or tell me what I was doing was right in the beginning. I was committed to an idea and when people saw how committed I was, they take consideration whenever we eat out, like if there was a veg-friendly option.
Do you bring any vegan must-haves in your bag whenever traveling? If yes, what are the three to five things you never leave home without?
Yes. Right now I can’t leave home without a blender. I like to always have some Maca Power with me. I love maca, it helps me recover faster from training and sleep so much better. I also like having some Superforce Plant Protein, Dates, and a lot of bananas if I can’t find anything good to eat where I’m going, especially after working out.
What is your message to aspiring athletes who would like to follow your footsteps?
“Dedicate 100%, take a leap of faith and follow your dreams. If you love what you do and you work hard, you will be successful no matter what. Question why things are done and if it is for the good of all. I wish someone would have told me that when I was younger.”
Interviewed by Lakapati Basa of Kusina ni Lakapati
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