CANCER SURVIVOR VALUES PLANT-BASED FITNESS
“I believe childhood cancer has taught and inspired me that through proper individualized nutrition, moving one’s body, and keeping a positive, self-familiar mindset, anyone can overcome anything.”
Name: Garren “GARRENteed” Rimondi
Occupation: Professional Personal Fitness Trainer, Fitness Model, and Professional Artist
Location: Bonita Springs, Florida, USA
Age: 28 years
Type of Competing: Bodybuilding
Weight: 165lbs. first competition weight (8/28/2015) – 172lbs. current weight
Q: Tell us about your journey as a childhood leukemia cancer survivor (details, details, details).
I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in 1990 at the age of four years old and went through ongoing treatment until I was eight years old.
In 1994, I was successfully cured of cancer at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida.
In order to be cured, I underwent chemo therapy, and I remember a few hundred medical injections during the four-year time period. Now I have been in remission for almost 21 years. This childhood experience has a major influence toward my passionate pursuit of personal health optimization for myself and those I lead.
“The journey at a young age has especially influenced my diet and what I put into my body today. I was always aware of my difference at a young age, but not the severity of the illness. Since childhood, I also knew to be forever grateful for my survival.”
I’m thankful I was diagnosed at a young age for the reason that if I were to go through the treatment later in life or today, the far too common universal adulthood skepticism may have gotten the best of me – though I am a very positive person and my patience and resilience would have pushed me though, as anyone who is undergoing hardship must have the will to do.
I believe childhood cancer has taught and inspired me that through proper individualized nutrition, moving one’s body, and keeping a positive, self-familiar mindset, anyone can overcome anything.
Two of the first major contributing factors that shifted me toward leading a plant-based fitness lifestyle occurred in May 2014, during a vacation while traveling from my home in Florida to Spain and France.
The first thing that shifted my perspective was reading the book, “WHOLE,” written by Dr. T. Colin Campbell.
This book explained to me the science behind the evidence accumulated in his previously written book, called “The China Study,” which at the time, I had not yet read.
The book made me reevaluate my eating habits as it showed me how most of the knowledge we have of nutrition is all wrong.
I was ready to make the change to live a life of optimum health.
Simultaneously, while visiting Paris and before I made the educated decision to stop consuming meat, I was enjoying a beef tartar.
The difference between a beef tartar in the U.S. and a beef tartar in Paris was the portion served. The plate was huge, and the table was only occupied by my fiancée and me. I actually asked her to marry me at that exact dinner experience in Paris.
Fortunately, it happened before the following incident took place, and she did say yes. But the point is, I indulged, and then I paid the price. After that evening, the next five days were not as fun for me as I ended up becoming ill due to a bacterial infection.
In the next four days, I endured horrible symptoms from numerous trips to the bathroom, headaches, fever, and the inability to get out of bed for any reason – except to use the restroom – and I lost 16 pounds.
“Since then, I have not eaten red meat. That created momentum for me, a paradigm shift, and since that incident, I have weaned myself away from consuming every animal-based food with the exception of egg and honey.”
In the past three years, I have been asked many times about my thoughts on competing in the bodybuilding world. Since 2013, I have been a personal trainer working for myself, and since then, for the purpose of personal marketing and business development, I have also put together a small portfolio as a fitness model.
I know that I have built a muscular and athletic physique due to the intense training I regularly participate in. So, after slowly becoming more familiar with local competitors and large production statewide bodybuilding competitions, I finally decided that I would like to step on the stage and show everyone what all-natural, plant-based fitness looks like.
At the beginning of 2015, I became aware that Naples, Florida was going to host its First Annual Naples Sports Festival, which included an IFBB Bikini and NPC bodybuilding, bikini, figure, and physique competition, which would take place 25 minutes away from my home. That was the point in which I set a new goal for myself.
The commitment was made, and the drive, discipline and determination preceded for months after. After making the decision to participate in the show, because my legs are well-built, I committed to the category of men’s bodybuilding. The competition took place on August 29th, 2015 and every workout, every sprint, every meal, every hour of sleep, and every day counted toward achieving my goal of showcasing my work. I conquered a new goal.
Q: What was your experience like with competing?
In 2015, I really enjoyed the new endeavor of training as an athlete in competitive bodybuilding. I went into every day knowing that every training session, every rep, and every bit of food I consumed could make the difference in my physique.
“Although I finished the competition placing second, the experience in its entirety was extremely rewarding.”
I am aware of how my body looks, I know my strengths, my weaknesses, how hard I work, and that I am an all-natural, very health-conscious athlete. Competition in this sport is about showcasing the discipline and hard work you dedicate yourself to and taking the stage as a group alongside other like-minded athletes.
For me, the positivity within the community was the most unexpected and valued experience within the competitive bodybuilding journey. Of all the different aspects, including my own personal growth that occurred, meeting other individuals with similar fitness and health interests was the greatest.
“Some of the dieting methods, dehydration methods, and chemicals used are the unhealthy aspects of competitive bodybuilding.”
Healthy approaches are able to be taken in order to step into competitive bodybuilding, and that is the direction and method I practice.
Q: Describe what you normally eat in a day.
Monday through Friday:
- I wake up at 3:45 a.m. in order to begin training with my first athlete at 5 a.m. I immediately drink about 30 ounces of water upon waking.
- I then brew an eight to 10 ounce cup of hot organic black coffee, and I add a tablespoon of organic coconut oil. Besides water, coffee, and coconut oil, I start training without consuming any foods, and while I workout, I continue to drink 30 to 45 more ounces of water.
- When I do begin to eat, around 7 a.m., my consumption of protein ranges from 28 to 45 grams of per meal. The fat and carbohydrate content that each meal contains varies based on the timing of the day.
- Within a 20- to 30-minute window after my 5 a.m. workout, I eat something high in carbohydrates, high in protein, and low in fat. This allows for optimal protein synthesis and glycogen restoration. Ranging from oats, rice, quinoa, and plant-based protein powder, to fruit, vegetables and tempeh. Regardless of the food, the first meal is low in fat.
- In about three hours, around 9 or 9:30 a.m., I will prepare a meal higher in fat and protein, but lower in carbohydrates. I will then lift again, and my third meal of the day is a high-carb, high-protein, low-fat post-workout meal.
- I will then consume two to three more meals, diminishing fat as the day comes to an end, and raising the levels of carbohydrate intake, aiming for high-carb pre-bedtime. The food that I consume ranges from a wide variety of leafy greens, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, and some fruits.
- I will consume at least one scoop of Sunwarrior or Vega brand protein powder, as well.
- I am for the consumption of a different leafy green every day and at least five types of vegetables every day. Chard, collards, kale, and spinach are some of the different leafy greens I eat regularly, and carrots, beets, a variety of potatoes, broccoli and green peas are other vegetables that are included in my daily diet.
- Also, the implementation of black beans, navy beans, and lentils are included daily.
Since transitioning into a plant-based diet, the variety and amount of food I am eating has enhanced so much. I love it. I will never eat another animal again.
“I also never count calories. I am aware of them, but I do not model my nutrition program after calories. It is a macronutrient-based plan.”
Q: Describe your training splits.
I would describe my training as what most would call “over-training”. I train at least two times a day.
I have designed, followed, and coached a year-round training program that varies month to month and focuses on muscular strength, endurance, speed, plyometric training, and flexibility at different times throughout each year.
Every month, I change up the outcome goal. Every week, my workouts are different.
Every day, the goal is different.
I believe that the only way to continue growing naturally is to over-train, stressing the body in ways that it has no choice but to adapt and change its form.
I do implement vital rest time, for that is extremely important for growth in all areas of one’s life.
- Monday is shoulder day.
- Tuesday is back day.
- Wednesday is leg day.
- Thursday is chest day.
- Friday is arm and/or back day again.
- Saturday is usually a one workout day, usually legs and another lagging body part, or full recovery day where I practice yoga, bike ride, foam roll, and allow time for proper healing.
- Sunday is usually another chest day, and often times, a high-intensity interval training day. The HIIT would consist of sprints, extra plyometric work, and so on.
- EVERY DAY, I perform at least one leg exercise. I implement calf training every other day.
I also jump rope, jump squat, or perform any type of strength and endurance, heart rate-elevating type training in between my daily weight training. I usually do not go a day without implementing an arm exercise as well. I do at least 100 chin ups/pull ups every day, too.
Q: What does your eight-week competition prep look like (diet, supplements, and training)?
My preparation for stepping on the stage was not that much different in comparison to my year-round diet and training methods. If anything changed, it was the slight adjustment in timing of nutrition and excluding a few unnecessary, yet still healthy foods that are in my diet.
Fresh ground peanut butter and local honey were missed during the last few weeks of preparing for the show. That is my go-to snack … and probably the worst food I am consuming year-round, which I am proud to say because in moderation, they are not bad foods at all.
“I maintained the pattern of eating five to six times a day, about every three to four hours, and with each meal containing nutrient-dense, plant-based foods. I consumed about 150 ounces of water a day for three months prior to the competition, and the week of, I diminished water intake by 20 ounces each day.”
The Sunday prior to the Saturday competition, my food intake was high-carb, and I consumed about 200 ounces of water. By the time registration and weigh-ins took place, I was still drinking 100 ounces for the day, almost a gallon. So dehydration was a non-issue, which is the healthy approach in regards to water intake and competitive bodybuilding.
The volume of my training was raised within four weeks of the competition date. Posing in itself is also a challenging and rewarding aspect of enhancing body composition and strengthening the mind-body connection vital for seeing optimal results.
Aside from a daily scoop or two of plant-based protein powder, I would occasionally supplement with Universal Nutrition’s Animal Pump, which contains a daily dose of creatine and also a mild stimulant intended for a pre-workout burst of energy.
Q: What are your top three sources for bodybuilding tips (websites, books, etc.)?
There are a few online sources I find myself consistently referring to when I am seeking new information in regards to bodybuilding. The information I gather is usually found online, unless I find myself a book that correlates directly with a particular topic I am interested in obtaining more knowledge of.
Source 1: One of the most informative and educated people I like to follow and keep up with their latest research is Dr. Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., CSCS*D. He is a professor and director of the skeletal muscle and sports nutrition laboratory in the department of health sciences and human performance at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Florida. Publications of Dr. Wilson and his team’s research on human performance, muscle, nutrition, and supplementation are consistently being released to the public. If you are looking for science-based answers to some of your bodybuilding questions, Dr. Wilson’s work is something you should get familiar with.
Source 2: Another great source for bodybuilding information that I regularly reference is the social media pages of IFBB Professional Bodybuilder, Ben Pakulski. He is always a great source for information on movement science in regards to lifting technique, nutrition, and supplementation. Ben Pakulski briefly explains exercise movement techniques in a simple, yet scientific way that allows anyone who reads it to achieve a greater understanding of exercise execution through mind-muscle connection.
Source 3: When it comes to nutrition, I really enjoy gathering information from Michael Greger, M.D. at his website, NutritionFacts.org, and also another source, a YouTube channel titled, “SuperfoodEvolution.”
The more familiar I get with the fitness industry, unfortunately, the more I see performance-enhancing drug use. To me, and as many others can see, this approach contradicts the health and fitness lifestyle that leaders and models such as myself need to practice. This is a big, ongoing trend, and I do not see it fading away anytime in the near future. PEDs and supplementation are major contributors to the world of “fitness,” and new products and product use are always trending.
As far as diet trends, I see the paleo diet and the ketogenic diet trending high right now. I have experimented personally with the semi-trendy method of dieting known as intermittent fasting, and I practiced this for about six months. I sustained well by eating within an eight-hour “feeding window” and a 16-hour fasted window. Now, as an ovo-vegetarian transitioning into a vegan way of living, I think other, healthier routes are available as a means to achieve one’s personal goals. It’s great to see the fitness family growing.
Overall health awareness and action seems to be taking place among the masses, which is very inspiring. With the many different online social media platforms that have a large following, I believe the trend of sharing workouts, nutrition, and selfies is at an all-time high.
Q: How do you relax and refocus?
“I have many ways of staying centered. I practice breathing techniques for about 10 to 20 minutes as often as possible.”
I also take the time to stretch every muscle group multiple times throughout the day, while practicing controlled breathing. I sit and stretch in a sauna for 10-15 minutes, usually three times a week immediately after training.
I take Epsom salt baths every three to four weeks. I also love to sleep.
“On a regular basis, I take a 45-minute to an hour and a half nap mid-day. This is always a great way to charge up mentally and enhance the recovery process of broken down muscles.”
I am for six to eight hours of sleep every night. I do allow for the occasional five-hour nights, because I know that a nap will take place after a morning of intense training. Also, the enlightenment I achieve when reading new information: any type of personal growth material usually stimulates an inspiring energy within.
Q: What are the next big goals you have for yourself?
As a person who constantly strives for more, I will always have personal goals, both short- and long-term, that will be accomplished.
I do plan on participating in competitive bodybuilding within the NPC again, but I also would like to participate in a natural, tested federation.
I am big into cooking and sharing the diverse methods one can practice through implementing a variety of macronutrient-balanced plant-based meals.
We all have to eat to thrive, so I always put my heart and soul into preparation of meals.
I share these meals via social networking, and I do plan on taking my business to the next level by creating recipes that will be available for download.
I have also recently looked into the food truck concept.
I have investors ready, and I would love to spend a portion of my days offering fresh vegan and vegetarian, macronutrient-based foods with a customized look and feel … from a food truck.
Fitness modeling is also a reoccurring theme in my life. Inspiring people through visual stimuli is something I can achieve through the modeling aspect of fitness and health. Aside from achieving all of the above, I want to educate as many as I can in regards to plant-based living. IT IS possible to thrive … and see … the GAINS!
Chris Willitts (creator of V3), is the founder and owner of Vegetarian Bodybuilding.
V3 Vegetarian Bodybuilding System is a mixture of science and author’s advice, providing users with optimal diet and exercise. This system is designed for vegans and vegetarians only.
A lot of research has been put in this program. Furthermore, a lot of professional bodybuilders and athletes tried and tested the program, praising its progressiveness and efficiency.
The program is about taking control of your own body and health according to your potential and needs. And worry not; you’ll get plenty of proteins with this system. It will boost you with energy, and you’ll feel just a strong as any carnivore would (perhaps even stronger, depending on how much you invest in your exercise). It avoids vitamins deficiency and provides you with a lot of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Instead of saying things like “I think a plant-based diet is good for athletes and bodybuilders,” the V3 Vegetarian Bodybuilding System claims “I know a plant-based diet is good for athletes and bodybuilders, and I have results to prove it.”
To find out more, visit the website at V3 Bodybuilding – NPC Bodybuilding Competition Tips