'Vegan Badass' muscle man pumps iron, smashes stereotypes

Story highlights

  • Strongman Patrik Baboumian is a vegan
  • German holds weightlifting world records
  • Baboumian a vocal supporter of veganism

Going Green celebrates our planet's green champions -- the individuals making a difference in their efforts to protect the planet. Join Going Green for a special half-hour show presented by @NickiShields on Friday July 8 -- 09:30, 15.30; Saturday July 9 -- 13.30, 19.30; Sunday July 10 -- 00.30 (All times GMT)

(CNN)If you ever assumed vegans all come in one size -- skinny -- think again.

Meet Patrik Baboumian, a German bodybuilder who is smashing soy-based stereotypes.
    "I'm probably the most unthinkable vegan on the planet for several reasons," says Baboumian, who's built like Popeye and has broken several powerlifting world records.
    His passion for bodybuilding stems from a childhood spent in Iran during the 1980s with the backdrop of war with neighboring Iraq.
    "I always had that desire of being strong and being able to protect myself, being able to protect others," he recalls.

    Plant power

    His family moved to Germany when he was seven years old and it was here that he would begin his journey to weightlifting success.
    By the time the gentle giant became "Germany's Strongest Man" in 2011 he was already a vegetarian. But he really started going from strength to strength when he chose the vegan lifestyle, which meant refusing to eat any food that came from animals.
    The muscle man powered by plants
    The muscle man powered by plants

      JUST WATCHED

      The muscle man powered by plants

    MUST WATCH

    The muscle man powered by plants 02:57
    "I got heavier, I got stronger, I won the European championship title in powerlifting, I broke three world records so everything was going perfect ... my blood pressure went down, and my recovery time was so much faster so I could train more."
    How to eat well on the road if you are a vegetarian
    How to eat well on the road if you are a vegetarian

      JUST WATCHED

      How to eat well on the road if you are a vegetarian

    MUST WATCH

    How to eat well on the road if you are a vegetarian 03:28
    The lean green lifting machine decided to use his success to raise awareness about veganism, and how it could help save the planet's environment.
    "We have areas in the world where there is not enough food for people and I think it's obscene to use all these resources we have to produce something your body doesn't actually need," says Baboumian.

    'Huge impact'

    According to the United Nations' World Food Program there are almost 800 million people going hungry in the world today, yet livestock alone are given enough grain to feed 3.5 billion people.
    It's not just grains that are going to animals, they also place a huge burden on water resources. 15,500 liters of water is needed to produce just one kilo of beef, whereas one kilo of potatoes uses 250 liters.
    Deforestation is another issue -- the World Bank estimating that animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of the Amazon's destruction.
    "I'm not saying everyone should go vegan in just a few days but I'm saying we should reduce the amount of animal products that we use dramatically ... If everyone would do that they would already have a huge impact."

    'Just try it!'

    Whilst environmental arguments seem like a good reason to go vegan, there are many who find it hard to commit to not eating meat or dairy -- a dilemma Baboumian also wrestled with.
    He was previously a dairy addict, drinking 10 liters of milk a day -- but when he became vegan he happily switched to soy milk, a nutritious alternative which he says is kinder to the environment.
    Can a plant-based patty really satisfy a burger lover?
    cheeseburger veggie

      JUST WATCHED

      Can a plant-based patty really satisfy a burger lover?

    MUST WATCH

    Can a plant-based patty really satisfy a burger lover? 02:37
    "Just try it for four weeks ... nine out of 10 people just stick to it automatically because they feel so much better. It's such a small thing and it has a huge impact on the planet," says Baboumian.
    "Most people think if you are vegan you eat just green stuff, you just eat salad and lettuce and veggies the whole day ... I'm eating beans, legumes, lentils and peas and rice and potatoes and a lot of things that have calories to give me the energy to do what I do."
    Whether you want to help the environment, feel healthier, or become a record breaking bodybuilder, veganism could be the diet for you.
    Look out for environmental news and features this July during International Desk (14.30 GMT) and The World Right Now (19:00 GMT) or visit our Going Green web pages