“The best exercise for fat loss is the one you love” - Luke Tan
Luke Tan is an athlete, an entrepreneur, a published author, a health and wellness advocate, a husband and a father who wakes up every day at 5am to train, work, and repeat. Behind his impressive achievements and goals, Luke is also a leading voice in the plant-based and vegan athlete community. I was immediately impressed by his high energy and clear focus, so I thought I’d share his pearls of wisdom with PurelyB in 7 questions.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey.
My story started around 8 years ago when I was living in Australia, my lifestyle was one of partying and binge drinking. I was just unhappy. I was caught in depression that led me to the lowest point of my life. When I hit rock bottom, I realised I had to re-assess where I was and what I wanted in life, so I started making changes. The first thing was to end a less than perfect relationship that I was in. We were just not right for each other. What I’ve learned is, if you are unhappy with where you are, you have to identify the key issue and change it.
I had a new beginning and became a personal trainer. Shortly after, I was mentored into training to compete in the world of bodybuilding. I figured that it was a good way to channel my energy. So in 2010, I competed and placed 3rd in my class. I also won 'best routine' and 'poser' (laughs). I met my wife Emilie then, who is also an athlete and she is the one who got me interested in a plant-based lifestyle.
At that time I was eating a kilo of meat a day and following a high animal protein diet. Emilie was following the same diet but she was having huge digestive issues, so she started doing some research and switched to a plant-based diet.
2. What is the biggest difference you have noticed when you changed the way you eat?
I was intrigued by what Emilie was doing. I read the Food Revolution by John Robbins, and l also learned about vegan bodybuilding through Robert Cheeke. But what really made me change was watching Earthlings (a documentary that exposes the abuse of animals across industries). Emilie and I watched it, and instantaneously, I decided I couldn’t be part of the abuse to animals. So I went vegan overnight and haven't looked back ever since.
The biggest changes I feel are my energy levels: my recovery is off the charts, I dropped a lot of body fat naturally and I’m lean all year round. I have a lot less inflammation and no more joint issues. I have pretty long days, I get up at 5am to train and I sleep 4 to 5 hours a night and although it would be great to sleep more I still perform optimally.
I now have great mental clarity and everything feels much better overall. Everything!
3. There are so many diets that claim to be the best out there - keto, paleo, low carb, what are your views on that?
I don’t like the word diet at all, it really needs to be a lifestyle shift. There are a lot of diets out there that promise to make you lose body fat, but the real question is, does it support health in the long term?
We need to focus on health on an individual level but also at large, take into account how what we eat affects the environment.
Diets like paleo and ketogenic are predominantly high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates. If more people want to adopt these diets, we will need to rely on the factory farm model which clearly creates environmental and animal welfare issues. This way of eating is just not sustainable.
On a health level, on one hand a whole foods plant-based diet has been researched thoroughly and is shown to prevent and reverse chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. On the other hand, I have yet to see reliable and peer reviewed studies that prove eating a diet high in animal products, reverses diabetes, heart disease and promotes longevity.
4. What is the biggest mistake you see people make in their fitness journey?
I think the biggest mistake people make is to be fixated on superficial results and on the outcome, rather than the process. Because of that, people do stuff they do not like, for instance they’ll go on the treadmill with the mindset to burn x amount of calories, or go on a diet. People ask all the time “What is the best exercise for fat loss?” The best exercise for fat loss, is the one you love! It makes you consistent. It can be boxing, hiking, running, tennis or doing yoga. Do what you love, focus on the process and you will stick to it.
5. How can people be more health conscious in South East Asia where culture is so important?
In the Asian context, people tend to value status, having nice things. Now rather than focusing on material wealth, it would be great if people looked at their health the same way. For instance, if you viewed every calorie you eat like a dollar you spend, how do you want your investment to look like? High return on investment with strong interests, or be in debt? Eating a whole foods plant-based diet means eating nutrient dense foods that support health, longevity and contributes to a positive impact on the environment. That’s a great investment to make.
6. A lot of my girlfriends struggle to get their husbands/boyfriends to eat healthy and exercise, what is your advice to them?
It’s important to have these conversations. I believe that couples who train together stay together. You can find an activity you both enjoy, but if you have different interests that is ok as well. You don't have to be physically together in the same gym. For example, my wife is an ultra-endurance runner while I Crossfit and do gymnastics.
You’ve probably heard before “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” so cooking a nice dinner is a great way to invite him into your world. You can also get your partner a gift in the form of a fitness experience. For example, a ticket to a Spartan Race somewhere. The last resort though, you can always stir the male ego by commenting casually on the type of physique you like on a guy, that can work (laughs).
7. What do you think the future holds for health and fitness in Asia? (also share your plans).
It’s definitely growing in Asia, but we’re still a few years behind compared to many western countries. I hope we’re going to see a few good role models stepping away from the aesthetic trend and more into a process-loving, performance focused and holistic approach. In that respect, the vegan health and fitness movement is ahead and looking great.
Luke is also the co-founder and co-host of the upcoming Plant Fit Summit starting on September 1st. This online event comprises of 40 game-changing doctors, record-setting athletes, nutritionists, personal trainers and people who have overcome adversity. Together these experts have faced cancer, obesity, heart disease, eating disorders, drug and food addiction. They are now redefining what it means to be healthy. More info here: https://plantfitsummit.com