Interview | Vegan Jiu Jitsu’s Leon Jackson

Interview | Vegan Jiu Jitsu’s Leon Jackson

You don’t need to eat meat to be the man to beat!

This weeks interview is with the 24 year old blue belt out of Ricardo Almeida BJJ in New Jersey who is also the man behind Vegan Jiu Jitsu. I had the pleasure competing against Leon back at the NY Spring Open in the no-gi finals, I lost by points as per usual, but speaking of usual occurrences…I could sit here and try and tell you all about someone but I will not be able to do them justice so take it away Leon!

My name is Leon Jackson, I’m 24 years old, and I train out of Ricardo Almeida Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Robbinsville New Jersey. I joined the United States Air Force after I graduated High School and I’m proud to say that I’ve served honorable for the past five years. My biggest accomplishment was creating a network, which shares Vegan Jiu Jitsu Practitioners from all over the world. You can check us out on Instagram (@Vegan_Jiu_Jitsu), Twitter (@Vegan_jiu_jitsu) or on Facebook (/VeganJiuJitsu). For more information visit www.VeganJiuJitsu.com!

I felt the power but luckily not in the same way that this guy is.
I felt the power but luckily not in the same way that this guy is.

First off, thank you for your service! Speaking of service, can you expand a bit more on your network? (VJJ) Have you connected with Marcelo’s funny guy Jamie Kilstein?

Thank you; it’s an honor to able to serve my country. Vegan Jiu Jitsu is a community that is meant to serve other Vegan BJJ practitioners from all aspects of life. My goal is to share the stories behind the members of our community while debunking all the myths you may hear about both Veganism and Jiu Jitsu. I haven’t had the opportunity to connect with Jamie Kilstein, but if he’s a Vegan Jiu Jitsu practitioner, I would love to learn about him.

Time for the nitty-gritty. What is your average everyday diet like?

My everyday diet consists of 5-7 meals a day. It depends on whether I make it to the gym in the morning or not. My body requires a little more energy on those days; so for example, I’ll eat a quick meal before my 5 am gym session and then a post meal after that. So on certain days, meals one and two are considered breakfast opposed to lunch on other days. I honestly don’t track my macros anymore, I just eat consciously and based off of how I feel.

How long have you been vegan?

I have been for over two years now. I made the switch to veganism at the same time I started training Jiu Jitsu.

The only meat Leon needs is the kind use to get a grip on.
Leon doesn’t only have a grip on his nutrition.

What made you make the switch to veganism? Was there a connection with Jiu Jitsu and the switch or was the timing just right?

It was more a timing thing. I just came home from a deployment where I spent a ton of time lifting heavy weights and getting into what I thought was the best shape of my life. All though I was stronger than I have ever been in my life, I felt that I truly wasn’t in the greatest shape and ironically, my body felt like it was falling apart. I was suffering from tendonitis everyday doing the easiest task, so I began to do some research on ways to overcome that issue. Long story short, I discovered that my diet was causing my suffering and my lack of green vegetables wasn’t helping the issue. I also knew that I wanted to start training BJJ when I got back home since its always was something that I put off. I guess everything just fell into place on my 22nd birthday and hear we are today!

I personally am a breakfast nut. What is your favorite breakfast?

My favorite meal for breakfast is a So Delicious dairy free coconut yogurt. I make a bowl out of it and add in raw cacao nibs, peanut butter granola, chia seeds, coconut shreds and sliced bananas! It’s pretty awesome! You should give it a try!

Thanks Leon for the great match in the Finals!
Thanks Leon for the great match in the Finals!

What meal do you feel the most if you miss it?

I guess pizza is something that I really miss, partially because of cheese cravings. When you go vegan, giving up cheese is very difficult because your brain craves it due to the amount of fat it contains. But I ate a ton a pizza before I went vegan *laughs,* I can’t go to all those pizza places that I frequently went to in my previous life. But there’s a ton of amazing Vegan pizza places that I visit, one of which is Black Bird Pizzeria. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a long ways away from me which makes ordering takeout difficult.

What is your pre-training and post-training intake like?

Again this all depends on the day and my schedule. Sometimes I have to drive directly to practice after work so I’m not able to have my preferred meal. But I love making green smoothies with either wheat grass or kale before practice. I feel like it gives me a ton of energy and focus before I train. It’s not too heavy, so I’m not sluggish while I train and green smoothies will help fight hunger and cravings while helping the pounds melt off easier.

What part of your diet do you feel is the most important and why?

I think the most important part of diet would be the research that goes into it. A ton of people feel that vegans lack the proper nutrition required to live a sustainable lifestyle. And they are partially right. However every day faces the same issue. You won’t be healthy if you diet is mostly junk food. So I took the time out to research the areas deprived within the vegan diet like vitamin B-12 for example. It turns out that I was doing the right things when it comes to that area but I took advantage of the information I learned to enhance my knowledge.

Research, its more than just studying your take downs.
Research, its more than just studying your take downs.

What are the biggest challenges you find within your diet?

The biggest challenge is the lack of vegan friendly restaurants. It is sometimes difficult to go out and find items to eat other than French fries. I believe this is a problem due to the lack of awareness/ popularity of veganism.

air force
With the lack of options readily available what kind of snacks do you have on hand if any in case you miss a meal or know you will be in some back wood areas that won’t have anything besides fried foods?

I always have a few protein bars handy but I love fruit, so I’ll have something of that sort with me. I’ll also keep almonds or cashews around as well.

I am not a vegan yet I still think these are the best cookies on the market.
I am not a vegan yet I still think these are the best cookies on the market.

The week out of competition how do you eat?

I don’t cut weight and my diet helps me to maintain the proper weight required to compete. I often find myself eating more pancakes and cookies during the week of competition however.

What do you eat the night before, day of and post competition?

The night before competition, I’m mostly focused on hydration and calories from carbs. The day of is a pretty light day. I’ll have a smoothie and fruit for energy. And my meal post competition is usually a dinner out with the team.

Do you have any pre-competition eating rituals, good luck foods or anything along those lines?

Pancakes! Chocolate chip banana pancakes! I’ll make any excuse to have that meal so it’s not really a ritual.

Dude I am with you on the pancake route, any excuse to have PB/Chocolate & banana pancakes I take it.

I hear that PB/Chocolate & banana French toast is pretty amazing! I’ll have to give it a try before a comp next time haha.

Overall what do you think is the most common meal you find yourself eating? Supplements aside.

Brown rice is pretty much the staple of my diet. I often make half a cup with most of my meals.

Do you usually just have plain brown rice with every meal or do you get creative with it?

I’ll make a Spanish brown rice every now and then to spice it up, but for the most part its plain old boring rice haha.

Leon's signature Acai bowl with sliced bananas, raw cacao nibs, peanut butter granola, coconut shreds and chia seeds!
Leon’s signature Acai bowl with sliced bananas, raw cacao nibs, peanut butter granola, coconut shreds and chia seeds!

What are your top 5 favorite ingredients/foods?

I’m all about the flavor of food and I love garlic flavored and spicy food. But if I had to choose, my five favorite foods would be sweet potatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Acai, goji berries and pineapples.
If there were any cooking skills you wish you had or wanted to learn, what would they be?

I wish I was better at plating my food. I think everyone appreciate a nice presentation. I actually just wish I had the skill to pull stuff out of pictures and on to my plate. Life would be a lot easier that way my friend.

Do you take any supplements? If so what does your plan look like?

The only supplement I take at the moment is multivitamins. I have never really been a fan of mixing protein powder; it’s too tedious of a task in my opinion. I’ll eat protein bars but that’s really all I do. Food is the best supplement and medicine in my opinion.

You don't have to be winning to be loving jiu jitsu.
You don’t have to be winning to be loving jiu jitsu.

If there were any cooking skills you wish you had or wanted to learn, what would they be?

I wish I was better at plating my food. I think everyone appreciate a nice presentation. I actually just wish I had the skill to pull stuff out of pictures and on to my plate. Life would be a lot easier that way my friend.

If today was your last day on earth what would you final meal be and what song would be playing as your munch it down?

My finial meal would be a huge vegan ice cream cake with an acai bowl on the side. I won’t have to worry about my figure anymore, so I might as well indulge! I think the song would be “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men *laughs*. It just seems to be appropriate and it’s a bit of a tradition at this point, I feel like that’s the song for every one of my graduation ceremonies.

Everyone's dream.
Everyone’s dream.

I would like to thank Leon for not only the interview but giving me a tough match last time and giving me somethings to work on. If you are a vegan or are interested in the vegan lifestyle make sure to swing over to Vegan Jiu Jitsu. If you are also in the mood for some new training gear use grapplergourmet at Inverted Gear for 10% off your order. The same applies for supplements at the awesome Q5 Sports Nutrition by using GOURMET10. For a all hemp bag that is anti-microbial and will keep your stinky gear safe use gg-5 at Datsusara! Remember to sign up below for the Grappler Gourmet Weekly Newsletter and too always eat well, train hard. OSS
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