Naama Barak
January 18, Updated January 19

For Maayan Eliasi, the seemingly unusual combination of being a bodybuilder and an ardent vegan makes perfect sense and stems from the exact same place: compassion.

“I’ve been through all sorts of things in life: attempted rape, a violent relationship, a road accident,” she explains.

“I’m very sensitive, and I kept finding that I was stuck and full of aggressions and fears. I couldn’t find anything that enabled me to move forward.”

She decided to take up bodybuilding to boost her confidence, and soon it became a way for her to love herself better.

“I understood that my choice to lift weights and build is a choice that came from a place of aggression – if I’m so aggressive, then no one will come near me and that’s how I’ll protect myself. It served me for a while, until it didn’t. You also want to have a soft side,” she tells ISRAEL21c.

“That’s when bodybuilding began answering this issue of creating. For me, it wasn’t only sports, it also became an issue of compassion which I really related to as a woman,” she adds.

“I keep on creating myself anew and that’s one of the things that draws people to me. In this process, you have moments where you say, ‘let’s look at me,’ there’s love toward yourself, you take care of your own happiness.”

Making muscle

“As a woman, I felt that this was a safe place for me to grow and develop, without giving up this place of compassion and protection,” Eliasi says.

“It gave me a sense of belonging and it made me feel strong. I now combine it with dancing and with acting,” she adds.

“I don’t need to prove anything. I’m allowed to just be a 40-year-old-woman without kids who’s making muscle.”

The vegan bodybuilder finding compassion in her sport
Maayan Eliasi says bodybuilding was a safe place for her to grow and develop. Photo by Better Aesthetics

Eliasi only began lifting some five years ago and has already made it big. Earlier this winter, she reached the top five in the Los Angeles World Natural Bodybuilding Federation World Championships, and has her sights set on going even higher.

“I want to be a world champion,” she says. “It’s scary to say that, but I really, really want it.”

Coaching and baking

In the meantime, she is coaching other bodybuilders and also runs the TLV Protein Bakery Shop where she caters to athletes who, like her, are looking for high-quality vegan protein sources.

“It’s not common, although in the last competition in the United States we were three vegan athletes among 300 contestants,” she notes.

“The real issue isn’t about mass or lack of protein — there is absolutely no harm done and the body can still get all the amino acids it needs,” she says.

The vegan bodybuilder finding compassion in her sport
Maayan Eliasi, second from left, proves that building muscles doesn’t come at the expense of being vegan. Photo by Aviv Mamo

Instead, she explains, the difficulty athletes can encounter is in getting high-quality lean protein that’s low in carbs. Whereas non-vegan athletes can find that in readily available chicken breasts, for example, she relies on limited amounts of tofu, combined pea protein and gluten, and protein derived from lupine plants.

Not a big deal

And yet, Eliasi notes, even the non-vegan athletes she coaches are increasingly open to vegan sources of protein.

“The quality of the animal industry is something that’s under discussion, and you see sometimes that it’s not particularly high. When you’re a non-vegan bodybuilder who needs to consume vast amounts of proteins, you could end up wondering if you’re supposed to eat so much animal-based protein,” she says.

“I don’t know if all humans need to be vegan; that doesn’t interest me. I only know that you can be vegan and a bodybuilder. Each person should take a look and see what they can do. I, as a person who underwent attempted rape and violence at the hands of a partner, know that I can’t give a hand to violence against animals,” she says.

“I’m just there to say to people that if they want to be both vegan and athletes then it’s possible. It’s not a big deal, it’s not expensive, and nothing bad will happen. You just need to stay on top of things.”

Eliasi is creating a plan to get her approach across to more people “and make them happier in body and soul.”

To see Maayan Eliasi’s Instagram page, click here.

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