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City Weekend

Hong Kong bodybuilding champ Len Chui out to prove the mighty don’t need meat

  • Fresh off his victory at the International Natural Bodybuilding Association’s Natural Olympia in Las Vegas, Chui says strength and well-being don’t have to come at the expense of the environment
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 11:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 December, 2018, 11:00am

Len Chui Hin-chun would not be caught dead chowing down on chicken: the 22-year-old Hong Kong bodybuilder is completely plant-powered, and proud.

Last month Chui won the men’s physique category at the International Natural Bodybuilding Association’s Natural Olympia in Las Vegas. It was a career-defining victory that enables him to compete alongside professional bodybuilders in future shows.

“It was surreal,” he says. “I’m glad that I’m able to show people that you can become muscular and strong without sacrificing animals or our environment in the process.”

But eating animal products was exactly how Chui’s bodybuilding journey began, before it went terribly wrong. When he first hit the gym at just 16 years old, he was eating up to 40 egg whites a day, and downing litres of blended meat as shakes. Within six months, Chui gained 10kg, and a range of health problems.

“I developed eczema and nasal allergies, and had a body fat percentage in the high 20s,” he recalls.

Men who work out generally have less than 20 per cent body fat.

At the advice of his Chinese medicine practitioner, he began reducing his intake of animal products, and consuming more soy. His body fat plummeted, but so did his muscle mass.

“Information on healthy vegan diets just wasn’t that widely available in Hong Kong,” says Chui, who now feasts on a variety of whole grains, nuts and legumes to ensure he gets all the muscle-building nutrients he needs.

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Having been fully vegan for three years, Chui’s eczema and allergies have completely vanished, and he says he feels stronger and more energised than ever, requiring just six hours of sleep to recover from an intense workout.

Over the course of his vegan bodybuilding journey, the strapping personal trainer also developed a soft spot for animals: “I believe humans are inherently compassionate. Why should our compassion be limited to each other?”

And compassion was not the only attribute Chui rediscovered. Through bodybuilding, he also found what he calls “the right path”. Chui admits he never knew how to live with purpose until he began the sport.

“Initially, I was inspired by Nick Cheung Ka-fai’s physique in the movie Unbeatable, and I wanted to look cool, just like him,” Chui says of the famous Hong Kong actor.

“Now, it’s not about looking cool, but challenging people’s perceptions that vegans are weak and scrawny.”

Instead of chasing size, Chui says he is all about achieving the perfect balance using the most natural means possible.

“We are all born with unique physical characteristics. Bodybuilding, to me, is about achieving the best version of myself without artificial intervention, such as steroids.”

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Chui says he believes being vegan has enabled him to maintain a lean physique and peak performance all year round.

“I’m never tempted to go back to eating meat because the pros of being vegan definitely outweigh the cons, both in terms of my own well-being and the environment’s. It’s important to remind ourselves that the Earth doesn’t need us, but we need it.”

Since competing in his first show at 18, Chui has placed first in numerous contests across the globe, including in the United States, Australia and the Netherlands. His goal is to make the best use of his resources to compete, and win, in every corner of the world.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you make, you can’t take it with you when you die. I’d rather spend it all on doing what I love while I’m still able, and alive.”