Most body builders pack in copious amounts of red meat and chicken to build muscle, but Lee Ah Yen Faatoia has to do things a little differently as a vegan.

The 34-year-old's lifestyle change two years ago has worked for the graphic designer, who has lost 36kg on the scales but gained muscle.

The Auckland man said seeing five of his relatives die from diet-related diseases, all under the age of 60, gave him and his family a wake up call.

Since Faatoia became vegan in 2015, six of his relatives have followed suit after observing the impressive results.


Faatoia, who has Chinese and Samoan heritage, wants the Polynesian community to be exposed to more examples of healthy eating.

"I grew tired of seeing my relatives die from heart attacks, diabetes and cancer.

"Most Polynesians are always concerned that they'll lose strength and size if they become vegan. This is my way to contribute to my community, by explaining and showing them you can be big without meat."

The #evolution of my change. #weightloss. Be a better me. I have a lot of self belief. In the end of 2016 and beginning...

Posted by Lee Ah Yen Faatoia on Thursday, 21 September 2017

When Faatoia began seriously training at the beginning of this year his 6ft2 frame dropped from 127kg to 91kg and he packed on the muscle.

He intends to enter his first bodybuilding competition in 2019. He can't bulk up earlier as he has to maintain his current size for an American TV series he's acting in at the end of the year.

He guzzles up to 4000 calories a day without eating meat. This includes a 1000 calorie 1L smoothie of four bananas, mango, raspberries, passionfruit and water every morning.

When he's bulking up (putting on muscle) this balloons to 5000 calories and when he's shredding (losing fat and water weight) he'll eat as few as 1000 calories a day.

"I get protein from broccoli, cauliflower, chickpeas, a lot of beans and lentils, quinoa. There's actually quite a lot in them," Faatoia told the Herald.

"I really love eating my vegetables, lucky for me I love my broccoli."

Since the beginning of the year, when Faatoia became vegan, he's lost 37kg. Photo / Michael Craig
Since the beginning of the year, when Faatoia became vegan, he's lost 37kg. Photo / Michael Craig

Currently, Faatoia exercises for three hours a day, six days a week. Often getting up at 4am to squeeze in his intense work outs. He always makes sure he includes boxing and martial arts in his training as he doesn't want to be "big for nothing".

The training has paid off as Faatoia feels younger and more energetic than he has since his teen years.

"It's quite funny because I'm 35 this year. I still play basketball with some younger guys and my stamina is way stronger than theirs.

"It's great, I feel like I'm younger. Not mentally, just my body."

A key part of his philosophy Faatoia wanted to emphasis was this quote he holds dear - "It's nice to be important but it's important to be nice". He said that message underpinned the fundamentals of veganism as not using animal products was the kindest thing you could do for all creatures.

"That's the whole point of veganism, it's important to be kind and nice to everyone."