A vegan heavyweight champions story
Some say vegans aren’t strong. Well you try telling this guy!
Weighing 19 stone in his early twenties, Aundre Groce tried his hand at Muay Thai; his first ever session leaving him gasping for air. Since then, he has transferred his skills into the K-1 arena, working his way up the ranks to become British heavyweight champion.
His nutritional journey is also an interesting one, gradually making the switch from pescatarian to vegan.
For those of you who are interested in the life of super fit athletes – how they train, prepare, eat and live – you will love this interview.
A huge thank you to Aundre Groce for letting us delve into his training and personal life. He is a role model for any young athlete looking to improve, from both a performance and personal perspective.
Check out the full interview here:
Shaun: We’re back after just being smashed by Dre with the pads.
Gaz: Yes [laugh’s].
Shaun: Gaz is in trauma.
Gaz: I feel like Frodo Baggins at the moment.
Shaun: He was quite scared that his head was going to go through the ceiling at one point. We’ve got our friend Dre, as we introduced him before. We’re here at Firewalker Gym in Wolverhampton, where, you train out of?
Shaun: And also coach.
Dre: Yeah, and fight.
Shaun: And fight out of! He trains me personally and I couldn’t big him up any more. Dre, you’re the star in this. How did you get into K-1 fighting?
Dre: I started off Thai boxing. I came here in 2010. A friend of mine introduced me to the gym. I did a few classes, Thai boxing classes, and came here about 19 stone, 18, 19 stone. I did three minutes of a class and I was on the floor.
Shaun: On the floor?
Dre: I thought something’s got to change because all I used to do prior to that was weights, the standard bench press, big arms, you know. You try to impress girls.
Gaz: How old were you at this point?
Shaun: You started at 20?
Dre: I think 20, 21.
Shaun: Muay Thai was your first training session?
Shaun: Then how did that transform into K-1?
Dre: K1. The Muay Thai scene’s bigger in England than the K-1 scene, but K-1’s got more money in it.
Shaun: Oh right?
Dre: Yeah. You rarely get paid as much in Muay Thai as you do in K-1.
Shaun: The dollar signs were in your eyes.
Dre: Hey, you got to.
Shaun: Especially in what you’re doing because you’re going to get knocked around at some point. Is it like MMA in the fact that you expect to lose some?
Dre: That’s why I prefer K-1 because you rarely get fights where you’re going into a fight knowing you’re going to go at this guy. It’s fair. It’s a good test of your ability. That’s why you’ve got to prepare your skill set, it’s kind of like gladiators, you know.
Shaun: Like The Gladiator! At 20, you got into Muay Thai. That evolved into K-1, and how long was the process there?
Dre: Going Muay Thai to K-1?
Dre: Actually, I fought my first fight at K-1 rules, but I was training Muay Thai, so I was used to the clench.
Shaun: That must have been a bit awkward for you.
Dre: I think it was K-1 rules. Muay Thai you score more with kicks and clenching. K-1 you could just box and still win the fight. It’s based on basically how much you work kind of thing. If you’re the dominant fighter. Muay Thai, if you’re throwing more roundhouses or knees or elbows you score more.
Shaun: Oh yeah, so striking and inflicting damage on your opponent is more highly scored in that one.
Shaun: All right, okay.
Gaz: Why is there no reason for the clench? Is that to keep the fight going?
Dre: Yes to keep the action going.
Dre: Because I’ve had Muay Thai fights myself where the fight’s been clench, eh, oh, eh, eh, and you’re watching two, three minutes of that and obviously from spectators’ perspective it’s not the most interesting thing to watch unless you appreciate the art.
Gaz: Because I know that in Thailand they actually bet on it, you know, the amount of knees.
Shaun: They bet on a whole lot of things out there in the Far East. It’s a big gambling society. Muay Thai, K-1, and then when did you become British champion?
Dre: Yeah. Three, four years ago, Midland’s title and then … 2015 British Champion.
Shaun: Three or four years ago.
Dre: I got Midlands title first, just like area title, area belt, area champion at heavy weight. That was probably about 2013 probably.
Shaun: Three years in.
Dre: Yeah. Three, four years in, Midland’s title, and then … 2015 British Champion.
Shaun: Then what’s the progress from there? What are you looking to do now?
Dre: Hopefully getting a world title.
Dre: Well, I’ve had internationals already. I went for a world title fight. Unfortunately I lost it on a decision in America.
Shaun: Yeah. Where was that?
Dre: Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Shaun: Is there a big K-1 scene out there in America?
Dre: Well it’s not as big obviously as MMA and the boxing, but there’s a scene out there. There’s money out there for it. It’s more Europe and Asia that has the money. At the moment China’s doing some incredible things with K-1. Japan! That’s where the birth place of K1 is, Japan. That was kind of like a dream of mine, to fight in Japan and win the fight in Japan has always been a dream.
Shaun: Yeah. Who holds the world championship at the moment?
Dre: Obviously, like boxing, different sanctioning bodies, so I could say Glory is the biggest one. Glory is like the K-1 UFC. There’s actually a Glory show coming to Birmingham.
Shaun: Yeah, I know. Yeah, I’ll try and go to that.
Dre: Because there is a champion fighting on that as well. Rico Verhoeven, He’s Dutch. Usually the Dutch K-1 [fighters] are serious.
Shaun: Yeah, you’ve mentioned this to me before.
Shaun: Because you were looking at training over there-
Dre: Yeah, I’ve trained out there twice so far. I go out there to get battered because obviously you learn a lot more against people that are better than yourself.
Shaun: Always testing yourself. We were talking about this last week, weren’t we?
Gaz: Not just in the gym, but also outside.
Dre: In life, in life, in life, it does.
Gaz: Yeah, I know.
Shaun: From your career, just moving into your personal life because we know that you’re vegan.
Shaun: How long have you been vegan now?
Dre: Three years.
Shaun: Three years.
Dre: I was vegetarian before that, for six or seven years. As I started training, I made the transition to going [vegetarian], just because of losing weight.
Shaun: That was the reason?
Dre: The reason, firstly I went vegetarian just for weight loss and then the ethical side came in – thinking about it, doing research, seeing what happens to animals and then I thought I don’t really want that. I’m not one of those who wants to push veganism or pressure people into veganism. Everyone has their own choices. It’s just my choice that I don’t want something to have to suffer for me to eat. I probably would [eat meat] if we were hunter gatherers and it was that time we had to eat to survive but because we’ve got more options I don’t feel like I need to.
Shaun: Totally understand that now from an ethical perspective.
Gaz: Yeah, I’ve actually got a weird question. What are your stances then – because we know that factory farming is not sustainable – [on foods] such as insect proteins that are being developed, would you do that?
Dre: Not at all. It’s a living thing. It’s still-
Gaz: You still class it as a living thing.
Gaz: Although it’s an insect. Yeah.
Gaz: I know that’s a weird question, but-
Dre: No, no.
Gaz: I mean you can get cricket protein bars now.
Dre: Yeah you can.
Shaun: Can you really?
Gaz: Yeah, cricket protein bars.
Dre: Well in Asia they’ve been eating insects for how long?
Gaz: You see that as a living thing that’s not to be eaten?
Dre: Yeah. That’s the trouble with it.
Shaun: You don’t struggle to find anything?
Dre: No. At first. Lack of knowledge of what to eat, what sorts of proteins and that stuff. Me and my girlfriend, who’s vegan, she was vegan before me, she introduced me to a lot of different foods.
Shaun: She already had that-
Dre: She already had the knowledge and then she told me, “You can just do this, do this,” and I’m like “Oh, that’s simple. All right.”
Shaun: You still owe me a recipe actually.
Dre: I know I do.
Shaun: A barbecue recipe.
Dre: Yeah, I do! And I didn’t even take a picture of it!
Shaun: No picture, no recipe.
Dre: I’m sorry.
Shaun: I’m not going to argue.
Dre: I’ll do you one better because my girlfriend’s got a café, I’ll get a meal made for you.
Shaun: Awesome, we’re on. That’s caught on camera there. That is proof that Dre owes me a meal.
Shaun: I might turn vegan myself. Be round Dre’s cafe all the time [laugh’s]. So you don’t struggle at all?
Dre: No. Not at all.
Shaun: Because I have a friend who’s been vegetarian for a while. He tried to go vegan the start of this year, but he struggled to find things [to eat] which must just be an education thing.
Dre: Education. You’ve got to set the time out to research what you can mix, what recipes are about and what things you can use to whip up something really easy. A lot of vegan dishes take 20 minutes to make, half an hour maybe to make a full meal.
Gaz: I think sometimes people actually make a decision like “I’m going to go vegetarian, vegan, whatever, keto, and I’m going to do it now.”
Dre: Yeah. Has to be a steady process.
Dre: Transition. That’s me. I was more pescatarian first before I went vegetarian. I was vegetarian for six years. Then I was like “Oh. Can I?”
Shaun: After six years.
Dre: After six years, I’m like “Can I do vegan?” Then obviously my girlfriend showed me. The only thing holding me back was cheese.
Dre: I love cheese. Cheese on toast. Pizza, macaroni and cheese, lasagne, all the stuff with cheese, but then obviously there’s vegan cheese now. Soy based, coconut based, cashew cheese.
Shaun: Cashew cheese?
Shaun: [You] just wouldn’t realise if you don’t look for it.
Dre: You wouldn’t know unless you’re out there researching it.
Shaun: So now you’re obviously maintaining a decent weight. How heavy are you now?
Dre: I think I’m going back to about 100 kilos. I fight at like 95. I walk around about 100 kilos. I’ve got down to 93 kilos before, which I find the weight cut pretty easy.
Shaun: What’s the process for the weight cut for fighters?
Dre: Oh, I can’t speak on anybody else, but for me, portion control, watching calorie intake and not eating after 8[pm] and plenty of water.
Shaun: Plenty of water.
Dre: I drink probably about six litres of water in a day.
Shaun: Because there’s a big thing in the fighting world about dehydration, isn’t there?
Gaz: Do you weigh the day before?
Dre: Yeah. Then rehydrate.
Gaz: Rehydrate again.
Dre: I’ve got 24 hours of eating, stacking up before, I can put another two stone on.
Shaun: Right, so you dehydrate before the weigh in and then after the weigh in.
Dre: Get it all down, yeah.
Shaun: Get it in you. What sort of percentages do you have carb, your fats, your proteins, do you keep track of that or is it all calorie based?
Dre: I don’t, it’s calorie based. Yeah, when it comes to fighting.
Shaun: When it comes to fighting, yeah.
Dre: It would be portion size or percentage. It would be percentage. I thought you meant just normally. Normally, I don’t track.
Shaun: Normally you don’t track anything.
Dre: Because I eat kind of cool, I just eat healthy, clean, I just eat what I want. Until my body says that’s enough. But obviously when I’m in fight training, I would have like a cup of quinoa, chickpea curry, kale salad, and that would be it. I’d eat like an apple for desert or something like that.
Shaun: Right. In normal life, you eat pretty clean anyway.
Dre: Eat pretty clean, I’ll have a snack or two. My girlfriend’s got a cake business. I’ll come home every night and there’s brownies, there’s cakes, there’s cookies. It’ll all be vegan, but am I tempted.
Gaz: Do you find it that eating healthy all the time makes the weight cut easier and the fight easier than opposed to eating crap and then saying “Oh, I’ve got a fight now in eight weeks” and then-
Shaun: Doing a Ricky Hatton on it.
Dre: Yeah. 100%, 110%. I do eat … I eat cakes and stuff as well. Once I’ve cut that out my diet [it’s easy]. So if I’ve got a fight I say “Oh, I can’t eat this.” It’s good that I only eat cakes really. It’s easy to say no more cakes and then the weight just falls off me.
Shaun: Yeah, you’re training all the time anyway, aren’t you?
Dre: Six days a week.
Shaun: Six days a week. What do you do every day?
Dre: Varies each day. On Mondays I’ll train twice, Tuesdays twice, Wednesday once, but I also train with clients as well. Like if we’ve got a spin class I’ll do it with them. If we do a circuit class I’ll do it with them.
Shaun: Ye you jump in with us.
Dre: Just to keep them motivated.
Gaz: Are you technical training over the six days or do you do technical-
Dre: It’s all specific, you mean each day specifically a certain thing. Like I’ll do sprints, three days a week I’ll do sprints. Monday, Wednesday night, and Friday. I’ll do pads on a Tuesday, Wednesday … Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, I’ll do pads. As well as [that] I’ll do strength on a Tuesday and a Thursday, and probably a Sunday as well. Then I’ll do yoga wherever I can fit it in.
Shaun: It’d be interesting to understand how you train for strength because you’re a big advocate of training light, aren’t you? You don’t bother with this fancy equipment-
Dre: I’m all functional.
Shaun: All functional. Body weight training.
Dre: Body weight training, plyometrics, most weight I’ll do is kettle bells.
Shaun: Kettle bells?
Shaun: What, if any, equipment other than kettle bells do you use?
Dre: Probably an Olympic bar and do some like Olympic lifts like a clean and jerk but not too heavy.
Shaun: If I was, for instance, developing a gym in my garage, which I am, I’d need a kettle bell and a bar.
Shaun: That would be good enough?
Dre: I wouldn’t even say kettle bell and a bar, I’d say kettle bell and resistance bands.
Shaun: Kettle bell and resistance bands.
Dre: Yeah probably like TRX bands.
Gaz: Yeah, that’s how I train.
Dre: That’s all you need.
Shaun: That’s interesting.
Gaz: I can say to the people out there, one on the vegan diet, a lot of people say “vegans aren’t very strong or they haven’t got complete protein,” I can just say I was holding those pads with all my strength, yeah, there’s some strength there.
Dre: There’s all compassion in those legs, no suffering!
Gaz: And again, what you just said, you don’t need to be lifting these massive weights all the time for strength and power-
Shaun: That’s just proof.
Shaun: One other thing that I wanted to touch on, which we were speaking about just a minute ago, before we came, is sleep. Do you sleep during the day? Do you have-
Dre: I have naps.
Shaun: You have naps.
Dre: I have naps. Depends what day because some days I’ll work for 14 hours. Other days I’ll work in the morning, nap in the afternoon then work until probably about 10 at night, half nine, 10. It varies. The days where I have a gap in the middle, I’ll probably get about an hour nap in and then good to go. I try to get up at … I try to get six [to] eight hours every night.
Shaun: It’s not regimented as such then, it’s not-
Dre: No, no, I just go with the flow. I listen to my body. When my body says I’m tired, I need to nap.
Shaun: Key, absolutely key.
Dre: It’s an easy indicator. Same with eating. If your stomach’s like “Oh, I’m full.” Don’t have no more!
Shaun: Exactly. I’m writing an article. Listen to your body.
Gaz: Do you use any fitness trackers?
Dre: No. I did … I used to note down everything I did. That was about it. Rep ranges, time it takes me to do a mile, stuff like that, sprint, how many sprints I can get in in 15 minutes, done. 60 meters or something. That’s about it. That’s about as much-
Gaz: You still do that now?
Shaun: See, you can go overboard with this, can’t you?
Dre: Yeah, that’s why I stopped.
Shaun: It becomes stressful.
Dre: It become stressful when I wasn’t reaching PB’s and it just gets demoralising. After a while you defeat yourself … it affects your training. It affects your mindset.
Shaun: I agree with that. It’s discipline over a period of time. But if you’re tracking it every day. It can become demoralising.
Gaz: I did this. I became OCD. I even used to write weather conditions. If I was outside, like humidity.
Shaun: When you were training?
Gaz: Am I better training when the air’s dry or colder, and like you say-
Dre: You probably restrict yourself, you’d say: “Oh, not today because the weather’s not too good.”
Gaz: Exactly. It gets too much.
Shaun: Yeah, [it] can do.
Gaz: Linking to that, have you got any kind of periodisation to your training? Do you say like “I’ve got a fight in 16 weeks,” and do you sort of peak or do you just train?
Dre: I try to peak.
Gaz: Try to peak?
Dre: At the right time. You could say like an eight week time period to the fight, I’d train good for three weeks, train a week steady and then train good for another three or four weeks. Three weeks, and then I’ll rest the week before the fight, take it steady, taper it down.
Gaz: What would you do that week, just technical stuff?
Dre: Technical stuff, bit of pads, that’s about it. Wouldn’t do no sparring, obviously avoid injuries. Sprint work. You’re not going to get that much fitter in a week, so it’d just be a steady jog, if that. A bit more yoga, stretching.
Gaz: If you’re not ready a week out from the fight you’re never going to be ready!
Dre: That’s it.
Shaun: I was listening to a good story about Michael Phelps actually. He trains at altitude, but he trains at altitude, months in advance so he gets his body ready for the altitude and then when he’s leading up to an event, he comes lower so he can operate more efficiently. He builds up to that peak. Interesting. He trains at altitude way before, to get his body prepared, and then when he comes down he can operate so much better but he gets used to the conditions that he’s going to compete in. It’s really interesting.
Shaun: Right, I know you’ve got to get off. You’ve got some training to do haven’t you? Thanks a lot.
Shaun: Appreciate it. Thank you.
Gaz: Thank you.
Dre: Thank you.
Shaun: The Black Country Buddhas! You can catch us on www.myhomevitality.com. Obviously if you’re watching this on YouTube, we’re on YouTube and we’ll also be on podcast sites around the internet. Aundre Groce is the man to catch if you want to watch any K-1 fighting or if you need training, he’s in Wolverhampton at Firewalker Gym. Thanks guys, I’ll see you soon. We salute you.
K-1 Technique by Aundre Groce
If you want to see the man in action and also learn proper K-1 fighting techniques, check out our initial training video with Dre below…