Hey, everyone! I recently had the opportunity to chat with Mike Knight from Vegan Tourguide about my IFBB journey and some of my upcoming adventures. As you may or may not know, I will be competing soon. I’m so excited to share this experience with you all via weekly podcasts like this one over the next week. Keep scrolling to read about why I compete, how I train, what I’m eating, and lots more.
If you like what you see, please remember to join my Facebook Group, Vegan IFBB Figure Pro Danielle Reutter’s Journey Back to the Stage: https://www.facebook.com/groups/912901625479590/?fref=nf. Hope to see you there!
Mike: Hey! What’s going on?
Danielle: Not much! Got my cardio in this morning, and came home and had oats and dates and –
Mike: Wait, stop, you’re giving away the show already! That’s what we’re going to talk about. No, it’s awesome. I’m looking forward to this.
Mike: Alright, so I’m going to jump in and let’s just have some fun with it.
Danielle: Yeah, sounds good!
Mike: Everybody, welcome to the show. It’s me and Danielle, rockstar. To give you a little bit of background, some of you are going to come to this show knowing me, Mike Knight, Vegan Tourguide, and some of the stuff I’ve done on my podcast website, and some are going to come knowing Danielle. We’re going to put this out to all of our friends, all of our followers, everybody like that. Danielle and I met through two mutual buds of ours, Jason and Brook Rash. They put together something that’s pretty cool called a social circle. Danielle and I are both on there, and we really enjoy it. They connect people like this, and Danielle and I connected on there and started talking, and she started talking about her background, which she’s going to talk about in a minute here, but as far as competitions and all like that… And then we said, you know what, let’s follow your journey. So why don’t you, if you don’t mind Danielle, tell them what we’re talking about as far as the journey you’re going on, where you’ve been, and kind of what we want to do here.
Danielle: Alright, well, right now, I am on a journey back to the figure stage. I haven’t competed since 2010 and this is really exciting for a number of reasons. I got into competing in figure after I had my first son, and I did really well really fast. I won, I won my pro card, it was just crazy. Then a number of life events – I’m going to get into that a little bit later. At any rate, now here we are. I’m now vegan, and my dieting is so much better now. I won my IFBB Pro Card in 2010, and-
Mike: What does that stand for?
Danielle: The International Federation of Body Building.
Mike: Sweet! Ok, cool.
Danielle: So I’m considered a professional body builder in the division of figure, so right now I’m getting ready for the New York Pro, which is May 20, so that’s six weeks from tomorrow. And this is so… It’s like doing it all over again because it’s been so long, and because I’m dieting differently, so it’s been really cool. Since I competed last, I’ve had another child, so I have two boys. My youngest is three. Since I’ve had him, I’ve had to obviously lose the pregnancy weight and all that and get healthy – I was already healthy, but you know, lose the weight and get into good shape after that. The second time around, I did it much slower. I recovered from the pregnancy and I lost the weight more slowly than I did the first time around, and I’ve really been able to maintain a much leaner physique, especially now that I’m eating vegan. So yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at right now.
Mike: So what opened the vegan door? I’m kind of curious about a little bit of your journey, if you don’t mind, on that. What led to that?
Danielle: Well… Prior to that, I got into health and fitness in 2006 when I went to a personal trainer and a nutritionist while my husband was on his first deployment of our marriage, because I was really unhealthy. I had gained all this weight, and I wanted to lose weight and get healthy and that was my journey in a positive direction after partying and just all sorts of things that I went through when I was younger. So, when you first get into the health and fitness industry, there’s just the general school of thought as far as nutrition goes and what you’re supposed to eat, so I followed that and felt okay, but when I got into competing, my diet went from your average healthy eating to very, very restrictive and really high protein and very low carbohydrates. I did not feel good at all, and as a personal trainer at the time, I felt kind of like a hypocrite because I was doing these things that I was taught were good, but I was feeling awful, and it was kind of like, what’s wrong with me? Because I was feeling so bad. I know now, I was just eating way too much protein. So with having my first son and getting into competing and all that, my body was just wrecked. You start learning about all these different dieting methods, and I’ve tried most of them and most of them are not so great. I got to veganism a couple years ago, and I did the master cleanse for five days because I really felt like I needed to do a cleanse, and that actually… I had chronic pain from a fall, and on day four, the pain was gone. My body was able to heal that.
Danielle: So after that, I really wanted to eat vegan and it just seemed right, but all of the training I’d had about how you’re supposed to eat was so ingrained in me that – I ate raw vegan for about six weeks or so, and I ate vegan for a little bit longer – but all of that training was so ingrained in me that I slipped back into your typical healthy eating habits. You know, like what most of the industry tells you you should be eating. I always felt better eating that way and I always liked eating that way, but you know, all this protein, protein. I always wanted to get back to it, and it was October – not this past October, the October before – it was just like, I want to eat this way. I feel better, and even just the whole idea of eating animals, and how it’s just better for the environment and your health. I found lots of support online with different groups and I was like, “Okay, there’s lots of people eating this way, and they’re really healthy, and it just makes sense.” So yeah, it’s been about a year and a half now that I’ve been vegan for good.
Mike: That’s very cool, and it’s cool you bring up the recovery stuff, and also your shoulder and everything, because you know I’ve been interviewing people – you and I have talked about this offline – that’s a common theme I hear from a lot of people. When I interviewed David Carter with 300 Pound Vegan, he talked about stuff he had since college, and of course he played in the NFL and went vegan, and he said it was amazing. He goes, “Once I went to this vegan diet when I was NFL, boom, like that.” Same thing, inflammation was gone. Another buddy of mine that’s an ultra marathon runner, same thing. He actually over trained because he felt so well when he switched it up to a plant-based vegan diet. It’s cool you bring that up.
Mike: Okay, so we now have gotten to where you’ve done it before, and you and I talked about it, we’re going to put photos up before, and we’re going to do this weekly. For the next six weeks, we’re going to have this and everyone can chronicle your journey. I’ve been saying, you and I were talking about how this could be cool, everyone just gets the real you. We’ve talked about how, even when you’ve had a good day, a bad day, whatever, talk about it, so we’ll get to see that. I know some of your photos from the past, you obviously went pro, you were shredded, I mean the photos look great, so I’ll post some of that. What do you think now, heading into this? To get there, what are you doing differently? Maybe let’s start with the food aspect. Like you said, I imagine obviously there’s foods that you’ll stage in, I imagine, in different parts of your training. What’s getting swapped out? Maybe in the past, what was like lean chicken or something that now is getting swapped?
Danielle: Right, well, you can’t really… It’s not an equal swap, it’s not going to be equal. When you think about the macros, when I was dieting before, I actually plugged everything in to see what I was eating, I was eating like 70% protein.
Danielle: You know, very little fats and carbohydrates, and that’s so hard on your body. Now, I’m about 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein…15% fat? Does that equal…?
Danielle: So that’s where I’m at right now, and I feel so much better. Obviously my meals are going to look a lot different because I’m not eating six ounces of chicken with nine pieces of asparagus and six almonds. I get to eat oats and fruit and dates – that’s my favorite meal of the day. I do do some protein powder, some vegan plant-based, but not a lot. I’m eating rice and beans and quinoa and tofu and vegetables and fruit… so pretty much how I was eating before, but in different proportions and lower fat than what I was eating before. Prior to competition, as a vegan. I feel so much better. This is the kind of diet that you could eat all the time anyway and where before, a competition diet was like, “Nobody could sustain this longterm.” You just can’t eat like that.
Mike: That’s what I was wondering. Great segway. Again, this is my ignorance for never having done bodybuilding or anything. I had a few friends in the past and I’d overhear things, so this is where I get dangerous with my trying to remember stuff, but do you ever “ramp up” maybe, at this part of the six weeks, if you will, and then “chisel” or, did you do that in the past and maybe it’s different now? Because I know a vegan plant-base is going to naturally keep you leaner anyway in life, so does that help? I’m curious to kind of what the strategy is.
Danielle: Umm… Really, it’s kind of like, see what happens. Another thing, being vegan, because I’m eating high-carb, I’m not going to be depleting yourself like you typically do. A lot of bodybuilders will do a depleting of carbohydrates and then filling up of the carbohydrates to your muscles prior to the show, but I’m not doing that because I’m eating a high amount of carbohydrates. But because I’m eating more carbohydrates, I have way more energy in the gym … The recovery is just much faster and easier and really, as I go into this, my calories are having a good deficit so that I can lose fat. I don’t have a ton to lose, but I do have some. So this is really just watching how I change and seeing what we need to tweak along the way, but it’s not like I’ve done six weeks of bulking and now I’m cutting. I’m just kind of starting from where I was and increasing my training and being on a specific meal plan.
Mike: That is cool. Is that similar to what you did last time? Prior competitions and all that?
Danielle: The training part?
Danielle: Yeah, the training is very similar. Each time – I did four shows – each time, the training was a little bit different. This is a situation where I can’t really take credit because I have crazy genetics and some people have a harder time putting on muscle than others. For me, I can put on muscle fairly easily, so I don’t have to go doing crazy things to try to put on muscle. I’ve naturally been fairly proportioned, so when I started exercising, as long as I was hitting my whole body, things just seemed to develop nicely. So yeah, before I was training and just kind of doing my thing in the gym, and now I’m doing five days split. This time, I’m doing a push-pull – I haven’t really done that before. Super settings exercises, which is what I was doing before. Doing some cardio, like one HIIT training a week right now, but…
Mike: Talk about the cardio.
Danielle: I’m not doing as much cardio as I did before.
Mike: What’s push-pull, if you’ll describe that for people listening?
Danielle: So like push ups would be a pushing motion. Pulling –
Mike: Oh, ok. Motions, gotcha.
Danielle: Yeah, so like one day would be more of a push. Another day would be more of a pull.
Mike: Nice. So what is – I know when we first started talking, you’d already knocked out cardio – so what does a normal day look like now? You kind of hit cardio maybe in the morning or whatever? And then maybe hitting some weights or something like that later in the afternoon, evening?
Danielle: Yeah, I’m still playing around with my schedule because I have two boys. Sometimes, there’s snow like there was a couple weeks ago. But yeah, I’m either doing weights and cardio at the same time in the evening. Some days for my cardio, I’m just walking for an hour, like a brisk walk, so doing that earlier in the day and then doing – but I’m only doing that three days a week, I’m not doing that every day. Then, after my workout, I’ll do like 20 to 30 minutes of cardio. So yeah, that’s kind of what my days look like right now.
Mike: Alright, so we’ve started, and you’re going through it. What have you noticed this time with plant-based vegan, what has maybe been a shock for you? What’s something that you say hey, I thought maybe this would be easier plant-based vegan, but to be honest, it’s a little tougher. Is there anything like that? I’m just kind of curious what the initial actions have been with your body and all.
Danielle: Right, well, it’s been so much easier. Honestly, coming into this, I had a lot of fears because of what I went through before. That’s why I hired Chrissy to help me with my dieting, because I’ve obviously done a ton of research about vegan eating, and it’s like, I know what I’m supposed to do, but without having that professional on the outside looking in, saying, “Yes, let’s start here,” and kind of verifying that what I’ve learned is correct… But yeah, I had a lot of fears going in because we went through a really difficult time in our lives when I competed before, and I felt really awful, and I didn’t want to experience that again, but I’ve always known and I’ve always felt like we’re supposed to be in great shape, and when you’re eating as you should be eating, you’re going to have energy and exercising and taking great care of ourselves. That shouldn’t make you feel awful. You should be feeling good. But just the whole competition fear was, coming into it, because of what happened before. But I feel really good, and once I started the plant that she gave me, it was like, “Okay, yeah.” This is kind of what I’ve been eating like anyway, it’s just a little more specific on the portions.
Mike: I think that’s so cool. I think that’s a cool sidebar. Note, everyone listening, just kind of like a life lesson, that even though you’ve been through it before and you’ve got great knowledge, you still reached out and have someone coaching you. I think that’s cool to remind people, because a lot of times in life, we forget that. We ough to think about doing that. Even if we’ve been to the level, I mean, pro… Still, we just let egos get in our own way, so I think it’s so cool that you’re like, “You know what, I’m still going to step away even though I know how to do this.” I think it’s pretty cool.
Danielle: Yeah, and I think – I know most pros have coaches. You have people that are helping you, and for me – or really for anyone that wants to lose weight – having someone else telling you what to do relieves your mind of having to constantly think about it. For me, all this knowledge I have, it could be very easy to kind of spin in circles and say, “Oh, I could do this, or I could this, or maybe I could it that way.” But just having someone else say, “Eat this,” and then, okay, I don’t need to think about it anymore.
Mike: I love it. If you remember, when we had our first talk, I told you that when I first went plant-based vegan… I’m the same way. I love working out, always worked out all my life, always doing different things, and I wanted to find a plant-based vegan person trainer. That was my goal. And I found him here in North Carolina, I found one, same thing. I went to him and he kind of said the same thing. “Look, you’re obviously in shape. What do you want?” I said, “Look, I’m turning my brain off. I literally want you to say, ‘Go there, do twenty of this, go there…’ and then eating, same thing.” He made it all, his name’s Shabaka, I actually interviewed him in an earlier podcast, and that’s what I loved. He was like, “Let’s do this for your eating.” His big thing was, he loved sweet potatoes. He was like, “After you get a good workout in, you get some sweet potatoes in you.” So yeah, I’m totally with you. A lot of times it’s great to have that, because among other things, we’ve got so much going on. I’m like you, I’ve got two little boys as well, we’ve got enough going on in life to think about on a daily basis. If I can just walk in and have someone go, “Go here. Go there. Do this.” It’s awesome.
Danielle: Yeah, it saves so much mental energy, and even with exercising too. Obviously I can walk into a gym and put myself through an awesome workout, but even that, having somebody else say, “Just do this,” then I don’t need to worry about it. I just do it.
Mike: Yeah, that’s awesome. I’m always curious because you know, in life, you always hear about hours and hours of working out. Some people go like, minimal time. What does that look like for you? Like sets, reps, maybe even time, just for people listening. For a lot of people here, it’s going to be your journey, but also maybe they’re going to want to get back in the gym. What are you doing? What does that look like a little bit? How many times maybe are we working thighs? Are we working two exercises, different range of movements, three?
Danielle: How to start that… I’m training. I am in and out of the gym in like an hour and a half, hour and twenty, and that’s including like walking to the car, all of that stuff, and I’m doing three brisk walks per week. But for my training, there’s the bigger compound movements, like your squats and things like that. Pull-ups. But then more isolated movements like curls. And it’s really just a good combination of everything. I’m doing some super sets, so like, you’ll do lat pull down and then bicep curls. I mean, it’s kind of a little bit of everything, and super setting things that just make sense. Like the bicep curls and the lat pulldowns, they compliment eachother.
Mike: Very cool. I was just wondering because you always hear the different stories. You’ll get some people you listen to on TV or something, and it’s almost like sometimes they let their ego get in the way. They want to talk about being in the gym for four hours, five hours. I’m like, what? Oh my gosh.
Danielle: No, no, that’s plenty. She has me doing dropsets, which I have avoided because they are not fun. But they’re good.
Mike: Dropsets, everyone, is where when you’re done, you want to drop because you are continuously just… crank it, crank it, drop, next weight, crank it, crank it, until finally you’re sitting there like, “Oh my gosh, I do not know how I will open the car door when I go out there. How will I do this?” Alright, well one thing.. The motivation this time. I’m curious. What kind of relit the spark, if you will? What’s the burning that’s maybe pushing you on? It’s obviously a sacrifice.
Danielle: Ever since I competed before, it was something I wanted to do again. I wanted to do it the right way. I wanted to do it better and have a better experience. I think the whole process of dieting down and committing a certain amount of time to eating really clean, it’s kind of like a fast in a way because when you’re eating really, really clean, and your body is cleaning out because you’re naturally going to be detoxing… As you burn through fat, there’s toxins in there, so it is a cleansing process. I’ve noticed that I am more, my senses are more heightened, and I’m even able to hear God more clearly. That’s kind of what I bring – not kind of. That’s what I bring into my coaching practice. So shifting the perspective of looking at it like, “I want to get shredded so I can look awesome and that’s going to make me feel better,” that’s not really the point. For me, going through this, it is kind of committing a certain amount of time to personal growth. Not just what’s going on on the outside, but what’s going on on the inside. Getting up on stage – it would be awesome if I won or if I came in at the top, but for me, just getting up there again and looking like I belong with the pros. That’s my goal. I think when you compete, you can get really jumbled up in comparing yourself to other people, but it’s a subjective sport. It’s not like you run a race and there’s clearly a winner because of the time. You get up on stage and they’re looking at you, and they’re judging you based on your appearance. So for me, it’s… You can’t get wrapped up in comparing yourself to other people. You have to just be like, “Ok, I’m going to do my best,” and then I always win. It’s a much larger experience, and I think people can forget about what’s going on on the inside when you’re so focused on what’s going on on the outside. Even when I was working as a personal trainer… we’ve got memories and all sorts of things stored in our bodies. I’ve had clients who, they would start exercising and like, memories would come up and they would have emotions and be like, “What’s going on?” You’re moving your body, you’re getting stuff out. I think it’s kind of a spiritual and therapeutic experiece as well.
Mike: Very cool. I’m curious too – again, this is me not knowing. As we get closer, how many days… Is the show like one day, or it a two day thing? I’m just curious about that stuff.
Danielle: Right. So typically, how it works is, prejudging is really early in the morning. It’s really neat, like the last couple of days, you manipulate things to make things look just right. So typically, prejudging is first thing in the morning, like sometime around 9:00, and then as soon as pre-judging is over… They make their decisions during pre-judging, but then it’s not until the final show where they actually hand out the trophies and awards and things like that. So yeah, you have prejudging in the morning. You’re done with that by late morning, early afternoon, and then you have to wait until like 7:00 at night to do the final show, and that’s when you see the results. During pre-judging, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where you stand because of where they call you out in the process.Whe I did the Arnold Amateur, that was my second show, prejudging was one day and finals was the next day, so that was… You kind of had to hold your physique longer than usual. Other than that, it’s been the same day.
Mike: Very cool. So now, for this next week, what kind of maybe little goals in this week? I’m sure we’ve got a plan. It’s six weeks. Off the top of your head, you’re like, “Alright, my goals for this next six weeks are X, Y, Z.”
Danielle: Really, time management is my focus with this. Because I work at home, it’s really easy to just say, “Oh I can just go make my lunch because the kitchen’s right over there.” But I need to prep ahead of time. I have things ready, but preparing more ahead of time so I can just grab it rather than assembling it at lunch time. That’s really what I want to focus on this week. Every week’s a little different, so you have to start and say, “Ok, what’s this week looking like?” And try to plan accordingly and of course correct along the way as things happen.
Mike: Alright, so for all of us listening, who at least in our own little worlds want to be mini bodybuilders, what are some of the things you’re eating? If we want to be mini-Danielle’s…
Danielle: I should start taking pictures of my food.
Mike: Yes! Yes. We’ve got to start doing that.
Danielle: I’ll put that up in the facebook group that I started.
Danielle: So that’s kind of the purpose of that, because I know everyone on Facebook doesn’t want to see everything I’m eating and all that. If you want to follow along, I’ll putting that up.
Mike: Yeah, tell everybody really quick now, what’s the Facebook Group name?
Danielle: Vegan IFBB Figure Pro Danielle Reutter, I think is what I called it. You have the link, so we’ll make sure…
Mike: Yeah, we’ll make sure to get it out there.
Danielle: People can join if they want to follow along. But yeah, my breakfast is my favorite meal. I have oats and dates and strawberries and almond milk and a little bit of protein powder. I have quinoa and lentils usually for lunch, with vegetables. Rice cakes and peanut butter 2, the PB2. Fruits. Rice, tofu, asparagus, and that sort of thing at dinner time. I do get one – she calls it a love meal – it’s a cheat meal, every week I’m getting one of those. But it’s not a full binge meal. Eating healthy, but just kind of enjoying with your family if you want to go out to eat or something.
Mike: You just had me – you talk about emotions coming up and stuff – you just brought them up in me as a flashback when you said rice cakes. You and I’ve talked, and the people listening on my podcast know I’m a meathead wrestler growing up, so cutting weight was something I did a lot. So rice cakes were my staple. I almost said friend but I don’t think I can even stomach saying that because I ate them so much. You start eating rice cakes and you’re like, “There’s nothing here but air. This is like nature’s cruel trick.” Yeah, I used to eat rice cakes. You mentioned quinoa. I love quinoa. Such a superfood. I love it.
Danielle: Yeah, and quinoa is nice because you can cook a lot of it and keep it in the fridge, where rice gets hard. It’s easy to prepare that ahead of time, and I found some really great sprouted lentils that, they cook really fast, and the quinoa I have is also sprouted, so that’s something that’s easy and quick to make.
Mike: We’ll bring a lot of that up next week, next show. Alright, anything else you’ve got before we get out of here?
Danielle: I don’t think so! Thanks for having me.
Mike: Nah, like I said, this is you and me both doing this. You’re going to put it out to everybody, so I appreciate you coming on. You and I started talking about it and just, I knew we’d have fun just telling your story. That’s what I love doing so I think it’s going to be so much fun. Alright, Danielle, you have a great week, and you and I will touch back later on next week.
Danielle: Sounds good! You, too. Bye!