Austin Aries' inquisitive nature led him to veganism and wrestling success

Austin Aries' new book promotes food education and discusses veganism and wrestling, but its greater message goes beyond those topics. Lee South

The everyday life of a WWE superstar is chaotic, stressful and occasionally downright brutal. Between the demands of wrestling almost every day, keeping in peak physical condition and all of the other ancillary events and appearances every week -- to say nothing of all the travel -- it's remarkable they can stay in as good a shape as they do.

Maintaining a strict diet is difficult enough as it is in these types of circumstances, but when you introduce a vegan lifestyle while trying to keep all of those plates in the air spinning, you're really upping the difficulty.

But when it comes to Austin Aries, one of the most recognizable stars of 205 Live and the WWE's cruiserweight division, life is rarely about doing what's simple. In his new book, "Food Fight: My Plant Powered Journey from the Bingo Halls to the Big Time," Aries describes what that kind of life approach is like.

"I'm kind of a skeptic at heart," Aries said during a recent interview with ESPN.com. "Even information that maybe backs the things I like to think are true, I still want to make sure that I'm not being blind to that. We live in a world with fake news being put out there. You don't really know what to trust, and it's a real danger to society."

A healthy skepticism is what initially drove Aries, born Daniel Healy Solowold Jr., to question the kinds of food he was putting into his body. For much of his life, Aries was all too happy to enjoy the diet of a Milwaukee-born Midwesterner. During his time working for companies such as Ring of Honor and TNA (now IMPACT Wrestling), Aries spent plenty of time riding the roads of America, and that left plenty of time for discussions that would ultimately change his life.

"It really started off as simple as a guy that I was traveling with just saying, 'Hey, red meat and pork is really not good for you.' That simple," Aries said. "I started asking questions. It just came a point in my life where I was trying to figure out who I was. I was inquisitive learning about the world, kind of exploring, and seeds were planted that kind of just took bloom.

"I think that once I started connecting dots of where my food was coming from and the reality of that, as opposed to maybe what you think it is as a little kid, and the realities of how my food was getting to my plate and what the real effects of that are. When I started connecting those dots, I couldn't disconnect them. I couldn't put my head back in the sand, and I wanted to know more."

Arie has spent more than a decade as a vegetarian and the past six years as a full-blown vegan. Outside of Daniel Bryan, notably a vegan through much of his time in WWE (though a soy intolerance altered that approach at various points in his career), Aries' approach to his diet and his life is unique in his line of work.

It tends to raise a lot of questions, and it's a big part of why he started working on the book a few years ago.

"Yeah, well I think part of it was that, with my plant based journey or having a different type of diet, when people are exposed to that, there's a lot of questions," said Aries. "They tend to be a lot of the same questions that everyone tends to have.

"I think part of it was, here's an opportunity to get people a little bit of a background on how I went from being a cheese-eating, brat-eating kid in Wisconsin to an advocate of a plant-based diet," continued Aries, "And really just more of a food advocate of being aware of what we're putting in our body."

Before joining the WWE, Aries reached out to author Mike Tully, through Josh Eldridge, who now works for the UFC doing media and PR. Aries wanted to see whether Tully was interested in helping to tell his story. Tully, who had previously worked on a pair of books with skateboarder and MMA fighter Jason Ellis, jumped at the chance to tell a story as unique as Aries'.

Aries' career path has dramatically changed directions several times since he decided to take on this project. In 2016, he signed with WWE and joined their NXT brand to a tremendous reaction. After suffering a facial fracture, he joined the commentary team of 205 Live and eventually became one of the cruiserweight division's top competitors.

With that opportunity came an even more demanding schedule and more pressure on almost every aspect of his life. Being a vegan while on the road as a WWE superstar is challenging, but Aries is able to manage his diet through preparation and discipline.

"I think it's just about trying to be mindful of your diet," Aries said. "In reality, any aspect can be challenging, because most of the choices that are around us probably aren't the things we're really aiming for, if we're really trying to stick to true diets."

To have the look one typically requires as a WWE superstar, the process of working out requires high levels of protein to create and maintain muscle mass. It's often pointed to as one of the hardest parts of maintaining a vegetarian or vegan diet.

"As far as the protein thing, I think this is really for any of the boys or the ladies on the road, is that it's always about being prepared, because our schedule is so crazy," Aries said. "A lot of times our choices at midnight or one in the morning aren't going to be good no matter what you eat. They make plant-based protein powders, no different than the stuff they make out of whey protein.

"I'm also a big fan of lentils. You can get precooked packages of lentils -- I think the ones I have contain over 40 grams of protein. It's just having those in case you're in a pinch and you can't find a good café or a Whole Foods or a place where you can get the food that you need. Always have something -- protein bars, some snacks and always plenty of bananas."

There are no hard and fast rules, though. One of the most important elements in making sure to stick to a system that works is giving yourself the occasional treat, just to keep yourself sane.

"For me, it's all about making informed decisions and being cognizant about it," Aries said. "[Sometimes it's even like], 'Hey, I know this isn't good for me, but I'm going to enjoy it,' and that's cool. I can. It's my life."

The most important step for anyone trying to get informed and begin his own path is to find the right balance for himself and adjust as necessary along the way.

As Aries sees it, lifestyle, personality and approach aren't just things that fall from the sky -- they're developed over time, and the more effort you put in, the more you get out of it. It's all working out right now, but Aries says it's a constant battle, and inertia isn't an option.

"Well, I think the cool thing about it is, once you take an interest to or once it's something you're cognizant of and you put it on your priority plate of things that you feel are important, it's always evolving," he said. "There's no end game. There's no [moment where it's] like, 'OK, now I know the perfect diet.' There's always new information, and some of the old contradicts new information, and constantly having to sift through that.

"We all have to make compromises. There's no end game. I think how that parlays into wrestling, it's the same. You always have to keep evolving. You're always trying to improve. If you're at a standstill, you're falling behind."