Meet Barny and Josie: The Dynamic Duo!
VHF: When and why did you get started bodybuilding?
Barny: I had a troublesome time as a teenager. I was mixing with a bad crowd. I had no discipline or direction and I was spiraling out of control. Then I found bodybuilding— or it found me. I was 17. I was at a friend’s house. He’d been given a few vinyl weights and a bench for his birthday. I hadn’t a clue what was what but something about it all seemed really appealing. I picked up a dumbbell and said to my mate, “I’m going to be Mr. Universe one day—by the time I’m 40.” He laughed and said, “Why not?” And sure enough, I did it.
I actually turned 40 two days before, but close enough. Ha ha.
I always admired muscular and powerful physiques. After watching films like “Commando,” “Predator” and “Pumping Iron,” I was obsessed. I wanted to be like Arnie. Arnold Schwarzenegger was the essence of what I wanted to be like. I wanted to become the greatest, like Arnold.
Josie: I was working in London in a high-powered job (production engineering) at age 30, earning good money for my age, but stuck in the rat race, very unhappy and obese. One morning, I woke up and just couldn’t recognize myself. I think I actually went through a mini breakdown, but I decided it wasn’t too late— and enough was enough. I was embarrassed by my weight and how disgusting I felt, so I started powerwalking outside with my dog (a retired greyhound from Wimbledon stadium).
I decided to learn about nutrition to help with my journey. The weight started to drop, so I joined a gym and trained at 6:30 am every weekday before work. I started weight training for the first time at 31. It became part of my life, and the journey progressed. I then decided to give up my amazing job, go traveling, and get educated in fitness and nutrition. I moved to Bristol to work for a big corporate health club in the finance department, as well as to go to college.
I got into bodybuilding in a big way. I changed the shape of my body, creating a toned figure, which revealed itself as the fat came off. I trained with weights twice a day so I would have a better chance of bumping into Barny in the gym—even better for my transformation!
After Barny and I got together, the joint energy was amazing, and we both just got better and better, me helping him and him helping me—pushing in the same direction together.
We trained at a gym where Strong Man training took place, so I decided to give it a try, and I loved it. I eventually came in second at the Britain’s Strongest Woman Competition. I then won the UK’s Strongest Woman title a month or so after that. It was an awesome experience.
But, I decided I wanted to be more girlie and get in my bikini on stage. We learned as we went along about what worked for me and what didn’t. At the same time Barny was winning shows around the world and striving for the big Mr. Universe win!
A few years later, I came second in England in NABBA Ladies Trained Figure and then placed 10th in the NAC Universe in Hamburg. I have now been in 10 shows, getting better results. I did, however, have to work a lot harder and diet harder than other people. I realised it was due to side effects from silicon poisoning from a ruptured breast implant over a period of three years (pins and needles, poor eye sight, temperature intolerance, coeliac getting worse, became lactose intolerant, hard to lose fat due to metabolic damage, loss of hair, brittle nails, loss of grip). I was set to compete last year, but in April I had to have an emergency operation to get the ruptured breast implant removed. Well, both were removed.
I then had to do a major detox during recovery for the six months following. Throughout this time, I was educating myself on herbal remedies as I went along.
VHF: What is your favorite thing about competing?
Barny: Becoming a master of my body. Creating a physical living, breathing sculpture that is a work of art. Achieving the delicate balance of all things—mass, proportion, symmetry and peak condition all coming together successfully on a particular day that was a goal that I set four-to-five months previously. Winning just makes sense of all the pain and sacrifice. It is the just reward for all our efforts.
Being a good bodybuilder takes a team effort, pulling together and helping each other to be our best. This is very important for our success. It certainly can be stressful to our relationship, but it ultimately makes us stronger. Competing and winning makes us smile and is a confirmation to our knowledge and work. I like to be feared too. It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re the man to beat. -Barny
Josie: I love to push myself and achieve in every way I can, physically, mentally, emotionally—in my vocation as well as my bodybuilding. I love to help my darling Barny achieve his dreams too, actually this is more important to me in life.
I also love to fight for a cause and prove a point to others— like that fat girls can get fit and compete, and now that vegans make champions!
VHF: When and why did you go vegan?
Barny: Josie wanted to go vegan a couple of years earlier, but I wasn’t ready. However, the seed of change was planted. The bodybuilding industry, unfortunately, is so meat and dairy dependent it is ridiculous. Bodybuilders are totally brainwashed. They gorge themselves on death and suffering without giving a damn. There’s no thought for anything other than their vanity and ego. The fact is, they don’t actually need to be eating meat and dairy at all. It’s insane.
Many reasons came together at once really. I have a couple of hernias that were causing me increasing discomfort over the years due to the acidity of my meat-based diet. It was becoming unbearable.
I watched the documentary “GMO OMG” and it really opened my eyes. There was no way we were going to give another penny to the industries we don’t believe in. Josie was becoming increasingly sensitive to dairy products, so they were almost out of our diet anyway. I was becoming aware of the mass industrialized farming methods that are now standard practice and there is no way I could support that. I was aware now of the large amount of animal products I relied on, and I was disgusted with myself as well as the bodybuilding and fitness industry. I was living as a hypocrite. I love animals. I wouldn’t kill a butterfly, let alone a cow, sheep, or a pig. So, why did I think it was okay to pay someone else to do it?
All these things were playing on my mind for ages, but it wasn’t until a brief conversation with a local vegan coach named Paul Kurton, a.k.a. “The Hench Herbivore.” The penny really dropped. It was time to change my entire life. That evening I mentioned the idea to Josie thinking she would be resistant. But, she was relieved and said, “Of course, let’s do this. I’ve only been waiting two years.” We’ve never looked back.
That was the best decision we’ve ever made. We should have done it years ago. We are finally taking responsibility and accountability for ourselves and our choices nowadays.
Josie: I’ve always been a great animal lover, with a great passion for helping them. We never had much meat growing up as kids, as it was a luxury. While at university, I lived on beans, lentils and fish. When I started body-building, I ate chicken and turkey– changing to fish near a show. I also ate egg whites. That was what I was advised to eat. That was considered lean protein. But, I could barely stomach it – I think all along my body wanted to be vegan.
I love animals more than people and just could not do it anymore. However the real change was when we became enlightened on the horrific atrocities of the farming industries--- the manufacturing of animals to be murdered and processed for consumption. When we realised what actually happens, the pain, the fear, the sadness and terror that these poor animals go through for gluttony and greed of humans. It makes me sick! We were also appalled at the impact these industries have on the environment, so our change was to help save the world too. We see the health benefits as a bonus. So from that day, we have never touched animal products ever again. We eliminated them from our clothing, toiletries, and cleaning products too.
Barny and I can proudly say we have been vegan for over a year. Our Veganaversary was the 1st of April. I do believe that the journey to being a vegan was parallel with my spiritual development. I realized that to be a true animal lover, you have to be vegan. Why eat who you love?!
VHF: What benefits have you noticed since going vegan?
Barny: It’s incredible really. I feel emotionally more balanced, certainly more sensitive. I am genuinely happier in myself. It’s like a dark cloud has been lifted. Plus, living with the knowledge that nothing is suffering, being exploited, or murdered for my existence is a good feeling. All our food is GMO-free and organic when possible, and other products we purchase these days are ethical trade and with the environment in mind, plus of no animal origin. We’ve even decided to boycott buying products from China as their animal rights are non existent, and what they do to animals is totally disgusting and unforgivable. So, we are clearer in our minds and the same thing with our bodies.
Think about it, GMO-free, organic, vegan. Food that is seriously healthy and good for us in abundance.
Our bodies thrive. My energy is always good. I ache less after workouts. My strength and muscle is as good as it was on a meat-based diet, but far healthier. I eat a lot more. I need to in order to keep my gains, but I only get leaner since the food is so healthy. The body uses everything, as it should. Nothing is stored as fat. By only putting the best, healthiest nutrition on the planet into my body I feel amazing, and I am at my best. I have also noticed that my body is far more responsive. Little adjustments are registered almost instantly rather than a dulled response. I wasn’t expecting any particular changes in my health and physical ability, but the results are profound. So I eat more, get leaner, get healthier, train less and get better gains. No brainer! -Barny
Josie: I think vegans have a distinct advantage over meat-eaters in fitness. This is due to the many health benefits that veganism provides. Eating vegan also means you’re exposed to an awesome array of nutrient-rich healthy foods, and you feel great knowing that you’re helping the environment and animals. People in the fitness industry often forget that one’s mental health is vital for being physically healthy.
Following a vegan diet can give you increased energy and younger looking skin, which is amazing. Plant-based foods are also low in saturated fat, high in fibre and rich in antioxidants – fantastic for your health.
I am a very spiritual person. I am an energy healer, crystal healer, and holistic therapist. Veganism has helped me to develop myself even further. I have fallen deeper in love with our beautiful world and all the amazing creatures on it. I will do everything in my power to help protect them and our environment!
I feel much cleaner being vegan. My health has never been better. I have many intolerances that are now under control, which is actually amazing for me. My recovery from training is better. My sleep is of much better quality, which helps my training also.
VHF: How does it benefit you to have a partner that shares your passions for bodybuilding and veganism?
The power of two positive forces working in the same direction, with the same passion and drive, helping each other be the best we can be is remarkable. We know that whatever we put our minds and hearts to we will achieve when we focus our energies together. I can’t imagine life without Josie. We like to share everything, all our life experiences. Being vegan bodybuilders together is a great feeling. We’re the most muscular vegan couple on Earth. -Barny
Josie: Working toward the same dreams in life adds more energy to the process and it becomes more powerful and easier. We understand each other’s needs, limitations, desires and driving force. Together we are unstoppable.
VHF: Do you have a story to share about working out together or supporting each other in your endeavors that stands out in your mind?
Barny: Getting ready for shows, everything becomes quite intense and surreal, especially when we take it right up to the wire. One show stands out more than the rest for obvious reasons. There was monumental effort, energy and focus given to the Mr. Universe show. We pulled out all the stops and both pushed it to our absolute limits. We were literally all in, nothing was held in reserve. The effort paid off and we won the Mr. Universe Overall Champion title. Another event that stands out for us is when Josie won UK’s Strongest Woman. This was another great team effort where we both put max effort toward the win.
VHF: What advice do you have for body-builders who would like to achieve greatness? Is there anything you wish you would have known a while back or anything you wish you’d learned sooner?
Barny: I wish I’d have stuck to being a vegetarian, and turned vegan years ago. If I’d known then what I know now, I would be equally as good as I am now, but healthier and guilt-free. Plus a much better example of the virtues of veganism, so there would be no one saying,
“Yeah, but he built his muscles on a meat-based diet.” This is unfortunately true, but it makes no difference for others who want to grow muscle. If I’d known the real facts back then, I’d have made equal gains free of all animal products.
My advice is— your body, the animals and the planet will love you for being vegan. Ethically, environmentally, and physically it’s the best thing you could ever do. Just make sure you eat enough, and a wide variety, of high-protein plants. Train smarter not harder. Train to stimulate, but do not over do it. You’ll just take longer to recover. You won’t make quicker progress. Eat 1,000-to-2,000 more calories than you would on a normal meat-based diet to make the same gains.
Make sure you get a wide variety of plant-based high protein foods in your diet to ensure that plenty of amino acids are supplied to your body. Supplements I take include creatine and Vivo (brown rice and yellow pea) plant-based protein powder. (www.vivoactive.com.au)
To be the best at anything never settle for less than what you really want. Be fussy and don’t compromise your standards. If you settle for second best, that is what you will get. You have to love what you are doing to put in the extra effort that’s required. Become obsessed. Live, breathe and sh*t bodybuilding. If you put half measures in, you’ll get back just the same. When you think you’ve reached the end, or have had enough, go further. The further you go into the dark abyss, the better you will be. This is the zone where many fear to tread. Make this dark place your home. This is where champions are made and many drop away.
Josie: I wish that we had turned vegan sooner and saved many, many more animals from torture and murder and for that I am truly sorry.
VHF: Please tell us about your business, Powers of the Universe.
Josie: We are due to emigrate to Malta at the end of 2016. Our new business will be incorporating all of the healing powers that the universe provides our five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. I will be offering my professional services in the fields of nutrition, holistic health, aromatherapy, flower remedies, kinesiology, colour therapy, energy therapy, crystal healing, healing through sound, art therapy, as well as selling my handmade-to-order talismans, crystal jewellery and resin jewellery.
Barny is carrying out a tattoo apprenticeship at the moment and will be an amazing tattoo artist when we move.
VHF: What are your favorite sources of vegan protein?
Barny: Whole food protein staples are lentils, beans, rice, and oats. Added seeds and vegetables crank up my protein intake a little more. Vivo fitness Perform raw vegan protein blend with added BCAAs is a fantastic product, we really love this stuff. A company called Fitex UK makes an awesome range of vegan, gluten-free protein bars that we also enjoy in our diet.
Josie: I eat what Barny eats, but due to my intolerances my body can only cope with basic nutrition. My body’s favourite protein source is hemp protein powder or seeds.
VHF: Can you share a typical daily diet so our readers can see exactly what sorts of foods you eat daily?
My maintenance off-season nutrition looks like this:
- Protein 300g
- Carbs 700g
- Fats 130g
- Calories 5120
Pre workout 7am- strong espresso, BCAAs, coconut oil, beetroot juice Post workout - creatine, Vivo vegan protein (perform), 1 banana Breakfast - rice and quinoa mix, seeds
Lunch - rice and quinoa mix, lentils, vegetables
Mid afternoon - rice and quinoa mix, lentils, vegetables
Dinner- oats, seeds, and vegan protein powder in a porridge
All thanks to my special cooking fairy Josie! She buys, weighs, measures, and cooks all my food. I’m a very lucky chappy.
Josie: I actually handle all the nutrition for both of us, along with all the shopping and prepping of all of the food for us. I’m a Virgo, which explains a lot. I love to be organised and prepared. He is a lucky man! However, we are both fully-qualified in nutrition and training.
Everything we eat is weighed and measured to the gram, every day, for every meal. We eat approximately every three hours. Our off-season calories are different from our on-season competition preparation calories. Typically Barny will eat around 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day off-season and 4,000 to 4,500 calories a day pre-competition. I will typically eat 2,200 calories a day off-season and 1,800 calories a day pre-competition diet.
We don’t eat or wear any animal or animal-derived products whatsoever---no milk, eggs, honey, wool, silk, etc.
Our competition prep nutrition is from the following foods:
- Vegan Protein Blend
- Rice protein
- Hemp protein
- Mixed seeds
- Apples, bananas, dates, berries Basmati rice
- Rice flakes
- Brown and red lentils Chickpeas
- Wide variety/lots of veggies
Barny: We vowed when we became vegan to do the right thing and not spend our money on foods, products and industries that exploit animals and humans. We make a conscious, responsible and informed decision on everything we eat, buy and do these days. We vote with our money. We choose to help the animals and the planet, and we actively boycott industries that are unethical, unhealthy and environmentally devastating. We are serious in our crusade to save the Earth, the animals, ourselves and our dignity as a species.
Also, Josie’s cooking is really tasty and amazing in variety. Better than any restaurant!
VHF: What is your weekly workout routine?
Josie: I have female-specific training to sculpt my physique, so we end up going to the gym together then getting on with our own thing. I also train in a different way with less rest than him. I also have to do more fat-burning cardio after weights than him.
A typical training split for me would be:
- Monday: glutes and hamstrings
- Tuesday: shoulders and calves
- Wednesday: back
- Thursday: quads
- Friday: chest
- Saturday: bis and tris
I do abs or oblique work every day, plus two to three 30 to 45 minutes fat-burning cardio sessions a day on a bike, stepper--- or my favourite, a stairmill. This is in addition to walking our dogs two times a day with a weighted rucksack on my back. You have to enjoy the training, and we do! We also know what specific training to do for the goals we need.
Barny: Right now I’m off season, so this is what I’m doing.
Off-season training is just training three or four times a week, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. I train two-to-four exercises per muscle group, four-to-five sets per exercise, 10-to-15 reps per set. It takes approximately one and a half hours to complete. Same rules apply for sets and reps, etc.
- Monday: typically chest, biceps, abs
- Wednesday: back, triceps.
- Friday: quads, hams, calves.
- Saturday: Shoulders, traps, abs.
Off-season cardio is walking two-to-four times a day, every day. That includes dog walks, and to-and-from work – each walk is about 30 mins (two hours total a day).
On-season cardio is the same, but with added gym cardio, such as 40 minutes on a bike, stepper or stairmill six days-a-week for the final two months before shows.
The on-season training split is higher volume and really gets the machine (my body) tuned up:
- Monday: chest, abs
- Tuesday: back, traps
- Wednesday: arms
- Thursday: shoulders, abs, obliques
- Friday: hams, calves, forearms
- Sunday: quads
Typically, my training looks like this, but I do have many different training systems, techniques, and tricks up my sleeve if I ever feel it is time to use them. However, normally it’s five sets of 15 reps on three-to-four exercises per muscle group, covering all angles, helping to sculpt a 3-D physique that really pops out.
VHF: What can you add about your philosophy of training to get huge? Are there certain rules of thumb that you train by?
Barny: You need to train with intent--- with clear direction and focus toward the goals set. Take baby-steps steadily forward to each target and towards bigger goals. You need consistent applied effort. You can’t sprint a marathon. Training harder and harder won’t make you grow faster. Stimulate don’t annihilate. Do enough to create a response, but don’t cause too much damage, you’ll just take longer to heal and won’t make better gains. If anything, you’ll slip backwards. Be the tortoise, not the hare.
VHF: Please add anything you’d like.
We are Vegan Warriors, a phrase we use— much like Henchman for the Animals, Defenders of the Realm, Vegan Muscle Mafia, Mother Nature’s Bodyguards, and Earth’s Protectors. We’re on a lifelong crusade to protect our Earth and save the animals.
We truly believe that the only way we can survive as a species on this planet is to adopt a gentler, healthier, less selfish approach to our existence, and that means adopting a vegan lifestyle. Being “Vegan Warriors” is a state of mind, an ethos, and a way of living. We’re making a stand and fighting for the animals and the planet. For us, veganism is a deliberate, educated, informed, responsible, selfless choice to help build a better future for everything and everyone, starting with what we put on our plate. Go vegan for victory!