I am grateful to be in a community that is constantly learning and growing alongside me. Meeting more and more newly transitioned plant-based friends along the way sends out a message that this lifestyle is what will define more and more of our future. One such friend is Prabha. I met him last year as a fitness facilitator at one of the Plant-Based Health Alliance’s program sessions (which you’re not aware of yet, has been changing the lives of hundreds of Malaysians as we speak!). I was struck by his confidence, can-do attitude and above all, his SIZE. Seeing someone like him maintaining his incredible physique as a vegan is something ALL Malaysians need to see! I’m thankful for him agreeing to this interview.
Prabhaharan Nair is a Physique Transformation Specialist, has been vegan since 2020 and aspires to become Malaysia’s 1st vegan competitive bodybuilder. He is the seventh featured profile in the ‘Vegan Vantage’ series on this blog, celebrating how the plant-based lifestyle has transformed Malaysians in positive ways. If you know of anyone who has or is experiencing an amazing shift in health, emotions and mindset through a shift in their diet, please send them my way as I would love to share their stories too! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prabha, could you share with us what was your health and outlook on life was like before going vegan?
Going back to when I was 5 years old or so, I witnessed a goat being beheaded at a temple ritual for food. I was deeply traumatised, as I watched the goat’s headless body thrashing around with what little life that was left. I also witnessed chicken throats being slit and their suffering in their last moments in wet markets, when I accompanied my mom over the weekends when I was growing up.
Doing what most adults do best, I brushed it all aside, claimed ignorance & continued my non-vegan lifestyle. To be honest, there was always a sense of guilt haunting me, especially as a competitive bodybuilder winning numerous state & national level competitions. I had very bad skin all over my body and face from the over-consumption of meat, dairy & eggs. I fell for the still-common myth that one needs to eat meat or other animal products to be muscular, strong & possess a healthy sexual libido. I found the opposite to be true after going vegan.
What was the strongest motivation for you to try out a plant-based diet, and the breakthrough moment when you realized it was the right decision?
By 2017, I had won all the bodybuilding titles I had set out to win since I was a kid. In 2019, I decided to hang up my posing trunks and give up meat by becoming a vegetarian. I figured that I would no longer need that much of muscle mass as a regular Joe. However, being a fitness trainer and someone who has been weight training since 10 years old, I continued training the same way I did as a competitive bodybuilder. I was ready to lose all the hard-earned muscle & strength that I had built over the years. I believed, like many out there, do that being a vegetarian will make one weak & less muscular. Oh boy, was I wrong! I got leaner, more muscular and my performance in the gym skyrocketed! And as an added bonus I no longer had the bad acne I once had.
Another advantage I found was that I didn’t require the wide range of supplements that I was consuming before. This was because the vegetables I was eating was supplying me with adequate micronutrients and protein. To my relief, I learned through watching the documentary The Game Changers that all protein comes from plants anyway! So I was on track and enjoyed every bit of my journey.
Then I realized that there was one more step I needed to make to make my lifestyle completely cruelty-free: Drop the eggs & dairy completely from my diet. This was inspired by The Game Changers. And guess what?! I improved even further! Now I share my journey on social media to raise awareness of how a vegan lifestyle, mainly the nutrition portion of it, can actually help us improve our health, performance & also be kind to the animals.
As one of very few plant-based bodybuilders in Malaysia, you must be setting quite a different standard in the industry! How have your peers taken to your diet choices, and do you have any memorable experiences so far of it being a positive influence to the bodybuilding community?
There were many doubters at the beginning. But upon seeing my progress, some of my peers have actually incorporated more plant-based nutrition into their diets as well. Now they understand that one can still be a vegan AND a bodybuilder. The only obstacle they have, is that they have grown too accustomed to their lifestyle. I do my best to guide them, encouraging them to take small steps along their journey and to not be judgmental. The most memorable experience would be with my little nephew, aged 3 in Singapore. He is inspired by me, and has since been on a majority vegan diet. He also tries to copy my trainings with his toys!
I’m glad to know someone who not only looks as strong as an Ox, but eats like one too! What does an ideal Pre-training, Post-training, and Recovery meal look like to you?
I do not have a set pre, post & recovery meal regime. I love eating throughout the day. Being a vegan allows me to eat more frequently, since vegetables, compared to meat, contain far less calories gram for gram. I eat plenty of beans and nuts for my protein. My daily staple is tofu and tempeh. I eat lots of different vegetables with my rice too, like broccoli and bean sprouts. I do my best to avoid mock meat, which is heavily processed food and not as nutritious as whole foods. The common myth, especially among men, is that soy protein has a negative side effect that raises estrogen levels. This is not true. Soy products contain phythoestrogens. It is a plant-derived estrogen that barely affects hormones as much as human estrogen does. This is where the confusion lies. So guys out there, don’t be afraid of consuming soy products. I’m living proof that you won’t grow a pair of breasts all of a sudden from eating soy!
What’s a vital tip you would share with someone who aspires to undergo a body transformation experience?
My most important tip for body transformation is Patience. Time is needed for the body to adapt to new training regimes, nutrition, recovery etc. Most people give up way too soon before they can see results. Another good way to go about this is to to hire a professional: one who has not only achieved their own transformation, but has helped others to experience their own too. Having an experienced coach to guide one along their transformation will shorten the learning curve, and provide a stable support system to navigate one through the ups and downs in their journey. Those seeking such guidance can get in touch with me via my Instagram account or Facebook profile.