Buff Liam smashes vegan stereotype
"VEGAN beefcake" may no longer be a contradiction in terms if this picture of actor Luke Hemsworth can be considered proof. The 30-year-old star of The Hunger Games movies was recently photographed after a gym workout in Los Angeles, sporting the kind of muscularity we've come to associate with his older brother Chris.
But while the Thor star makes no secret of his omnivorous diet, Liam has been vegan since at least 2016, telling interviewers he was motivated to make the switch by a desire to feel healthier, as well as concerns about the environment and animal welfare.
While the vegan stereotypes of yesteryear were of skinny sorts who lacked energy, more and more people seem to be realising that a plant-based diet is not incompatible with looking buff.
According to Roy Morgan research, nearly one in eight Australians (12.1 per cent) now follow a vegetarian or mainly vegetarian diet, up from one in nine people (11.2 per cent) in 2014. Other research suggests about one per cent of Australians are strictly vegan.
And it's not just woke Hollywood types like Joaquin Phoenix - who spruiked animal rights during his acceptance speech for the Best Actor Oscar on Monday - who have adopted a vegan diet.
AFL footballers Chris Mayne and Erin Phillips, NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler and former Dragon Mitchell Allgood are just some of the sporting names who have revealed they too have foregone meat.
Last year's Netflix hit The Game Changers made bold claims that veganism actually enhanced athletic performance, although critics savaged the James Cameron-produced documentary for factual inaccuracies and bias.
But for many, the proof is in the eating.
Sydney-based personal trainer Levi Darby tried a vegan diet for "Veganuary" last year - and 12 months on, he's not turning back.
"I decided to do Veganuary just to see how my body reacted to it," the 28 year old said. "For the first week I was craving meat. I used to have steak for lunch, sausages for breakfast, eggs and bacon … that was my normal diet.
"I leaned up like crazy, but I actually felt better within myself by the end of the month, so I just stuck with it."
Twelve months on, he's gone from around 96 to 84kgs, but he's confident that his weight has stabilised.
"If I maintain my training schedule, training three or four times per week, I'll maintain that muscle mass that I've got," he said.
"The hardest challenge for me has been maintaining my calorie intake, and keeping it high and finding the foods that are convenient to eat on the go."
Asked what advice he would give people who wanted to pursue a vegan diet, he said being prepared was key.
"You've got to prepare for your day when you go out. Make sure you have meals ready or you know what you can eat that day before you leave the house. That's one thing I've found, otherwise you'll spend a fortune as well, because vegan cafes are not cheap."
He acknowledged that living and working in Sydney's east - where vegan eateries are not uncommon - made following the diet much more feasible.
But Darby says he has no regrets.
"For me, going vegan was very much an ethical standpoint - and once you make that choice, it's very hard to go back," he said.