If you go
TNA IMPACT Wrestling
When: 7:30 p.m. April 21
Where: Germain Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero
Tickets: $18 to $48, plus fees; meet and greet 5:30 p.m. plus ticket, $50
Where to buy: www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000
Something else: Meet some of the wrestlers at Direct Auto Insurance from 1 to 3 p.m. April 21 at 5100 S. Cleveland Ave. (U.S. 41), Fort Myers
Professional wrestlers are trained athletes who also bring quite a bit of showmanship as well as muscle into the ring. It is a sport that has created world-renowned celebrities such as Hulk Hogan, Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle — and also a vegan named Austin Aries.
Aries wrestles for TNA IMPACT Wrestling and is the current reigning X Division Champion. He bills himself as“the greatest man that ever lived.”
Audiences will be able to see live for themselves if he lives up to his title. during the TNA IMPACT Wrestling World Tour at 7:30 p.m. April 21 at Germain Arena.
He’s also on TV along with his colleagues at 9 p.m. on Thursdays on SPIKE TV.
Aries is from Milwaukee, attended Winona State University in Minnesota and resides in Largo. His finishing move is called the “brainbuster,” which proves being a vegan hasn’t hindered him in life or his sport.
How can he keep up with his training and not eat red meat? And how hard is it to keep to his strict diet while traveling so much? Aries answered questions from the Naples Daily News with a great sense of humor and even sent a favorite recipe for everyone to try at home.
Naples Daily News: How did you get interested in wrestling?
Austin Aries: Pro wrestling grabbed my imagination at a very young age, and the passion for it grew as I grew older. It had entertainment and athletics all rolled into one and I loved it!
NDN: When did you realize this was the career path you were going to take? Is it something you always wanted to do or was there a moment when you realized this was it?
AA: The moment I saw my trainer’s ring set up in the garage. I had just left college trying to find myself and what to do with my life. My best friend, whom I hadn’t spoken to for a while, called and told me he was training to be a wrestler. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea how or where you could do that. So I drove up to Minneapolis to check it out.
The moment I saw the ring I knew I had found what I was supposed to do. I scrounged together whatever cash I could, moved up onto his couch a week later, began training, and never looked back.
NDN: When did you become a vegetarian and why?
AA: In 2000 I had cut out all red meat and pork and only ate chicken. By 2001 I became a complete vegetarian. At the core, I just don’t find the idea of eating other living creatures to be appetizing. Chicken, fish, cat, cow, horse, pig, monkey, dog etc. I think it was always the case, but as a kid you just eat what you are told you should.
Originally, I cut out the red meat and pork mainly for health reasons. But as I road-tripped around the country, post college and pre wrestling career, I came across large corporate slaughterhouses that opened my eyes to the conditions and the truth of corporate farming. As I thought about that, along with my health and my overall core feelings, I just made the decision to stop eating all animals.
NDN: How has your change of diet helped you?
AA: Well, I immediately lost about 15 pounds of “bad weight”. I really slimmed down and was then able to start rebuilding my body with lean muscle mass. I also think it forced me to educate myself about how to eat right and that has really just helped my overall health. As I started to dig and do more research, I realized that the majority of animal products that come from corporate farms are just not very good for you. Between the living conditions, the diet and the methods they use to make the animal more profitable — because remember that corporations’ only concern is to make profits, not your or the animals’ well-being — the quality of whatever it is they produce is compromised I’m no longer subject to the saturated animal fats, the hormones, steroids, adrenaline and other chemicals that are found in meats. Spiritually, I think it has also helped me. As I try to respect other living creatures’ lives, the planet, and my own well-being, I find it keeps me balanced and at peace with who I am and the example I try to lead by.
NDN: How hard is it to be a vegan when you are traveling?
AA: This can be tricky because I think there is still somewhat of a societal ignorance to not eating meat. It can be difficult to find vegetarian friendly places in some parts of the country, and sometimes just looks of confusion when trying to explain it. I’ve learned the best way to make it easy is to travel with certain foods and supplements, mostly proteins — it’s not hard to find carbs on the road — to make sure I always have access to them. And for the most part, my colleagues have always been mindful of my diet when it comes to finding a place to eat, which I really appreciate and makes things easier as well.
NDN: Do you enjoy cooking vegan dishes or do you eat out?
AA: I really enjoy cooking and make my own food as much as possible so that I know exactly what I’m putting into my body. That being said, there are a lot of very good vegetarian and eco-friendly places I enjoy going out to eat at, on occasion.
NDN: What is your favorite dish?
AA: Hmmm, I don’t know if I have just one. I love all sorts of food. My weak spot is pizza and I’ve had fun coming up with some healthier alternative pizza crusts (brown rice, quinoa,) and toppings. A good Tex-Mex spinach salad with beans, rice, avocado and homemade salsa vinaigrette sounds good right about now, too I’m also a big fan of Indian food.
NDN: What is your go-to-food or snack?
AA: Organic fruits like bananas, oranges and apples. Almonds and walnuts. And protein powders — I like to mix the chocolate with coffee!
NDN: What was your favorite childhood dish?
NDN: Do you get cravings for anything that you don’t eat any more?
AA: Not really, because they make so many good mock versions of everything I used to eat as a carnivore. I just had delicious Quorn “chicken” nuggets with hot wing sauce the other day. Yum!
NDN: If this was your last meal what would you order?
AA: Wow, I don’t really know. But whatever it is would be in an all-I-can-eat buffet style so that the last meal would never have to end!
NDN: Who are your heroes and if you could tell us why?
AA: Never really had any heroes. Just people I admire and respect.
NDN: Do you ever miss having a juicy burger?
AA: Nope! Again, they make plenty of vegetarian options of all kinds of foods. I actually just made a tasty vegetarian bacon cheeseburger the other day. Contrary to popular belief, us vegetarians AREN’T missing out when it comes to eating tasty food. I eat a lot more than just lettuce and carrots. After all, I’m not a rabbit. I’m the “Spectacular Vascular Vegetarian,” Austin Aries!
HERE IS ONE OF AUSTIN ARIES’ FAVORITE RECIPES:
BANANA WALNUT MOCHA OATMEAL
¼ cup steel cut oats
1 cup coffee
1 banana, cut up
1½ scoop chocolate protein powder (I prefer Muscle Milk Natural chocolate)
¹/8 cup chopped walnuts
1 Prepare the oatmeal according to the directions on the package but substitute ¾ cup of the coffee for the water or milk.
2 Stir in the banana while cooking the oatmeal until it is blended in.
3 Add the protein powder and ¼ cup of coffee after the oatmeal and banana is cooked.
4 Top with chopped walnuts and enjoy.