Plant Based Bodybuilding Transformation – Month 1

Why

You can read the full reason for why I am doing and documenting my vegan bodybuilding transformation here, http://mcfitdad.com/about-us/, but part of the reason is to challenge myself. I’ve been lifting weights consistently now for nearly 20 years and would like to see if my body has what it takes to compete. Also, with the adaptation of a plant based life style, I would like to ensure that one can still put on lean muscle. This is an argument that has been well proven over the years, but I need to test it on myself – especially with incorporating the plant based lifestyle into my family. Plant based bodybuilding is an extreme path – I will be eating extreme, lifting extreme and performing cardio at the extreme end of the spectrum and this is not for everyone. However, I want to show that even a married dad of two, who works 40+ hours per week and travels internationally for his job in corporate American can build extreme levels of fitness with a solid plan.  

Goal

To be competitive for an April, 2020 WNBF Physique show competition. I write “be competitive” because anyone can join the amateur division and compete, but I want to be in a position where I am not too far behind the other competitors. 

In order to complete this, I will bulk for 10 weeks, up to 200lb, and then cut down to 170lb over the course of the following 20 weeks. The bulk requirement will force me to gain at least .7lb of weight over the course of 10 weeks and then cut 1.5lb of weight over the course of 20 weeks. Overall health is important, which is why I am allotting so much time to be “stage ready”. 

The Physique division is essentially an athletic look and competitors in this division are tasked with getting in “summer” shape. A full write-up on the Physique division can be found here: https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/mens-physique-contests-prep-advice-from-3-competitors.html

Timeline

Over the 30 weeks, I am planning on clean bulking for the first 10 weeks, or until I hit 200lb, whichever comes first. When I say clean bulking, I am referring to eating mainly a plant based whole food diet that will be 100% vegan. I don’t want my calories coming from vegan junk food. With that, I’ll need to gain at least .7lb per week over the course of 10 weeks. 

When it comes to the clean vegan cutting, I will allot 20 weeks to allow myself to go from 200lb down to 170lb. That would be a cut of 1.5lb per week. Not only will I be in a calorie deficit over the course of 20 weeks (I write deficit, but it should be getting back to a normal calorie intake over the first couple months), but I will also be altering my weight lifting routine as well as increasing my cardio expenditure to help assist with the weight loss.  

Overall health is important, which is why I am allotting 30 weeks to get “stage ready”. 

Metrics 

OK, where was I starting out? My everyday weight should be right around 185lb so I am starting this vegan fitness process about 6lb too heavy. This makes sense to me as coming off the summer and traveling a for fun and work have left me making some poor choices around diet. Below is a snapshot of Month 1 and how my measurements stack up. 

For the clean bulking portion of the program, I am hoping to make some additional gains to by biceps and quads while keeping the naval measurement the same. 

Workouts 

Over the first 10 weeks, I will continue vegan workouts 6 days per week. 5 sessions will be focused on weightlifting and 3 sessions will be focused on cardio. The warm-up, stretching and actual weightlifting typically last about an hour. I focus on the compound lifts at the start of the session, but will be flexible with the arrangement of the other exercises. With the weight training portion of the workouts, I implemented 2 upper half days and 2 lower half days. This is in contrast to typical bodybuilding programs where the program will focus on engaging specific muscle groups over the course of a workout. Depending on my results, I may go to the more traditional approach, but will keep my current course for now. I incorporated at least one core focus exercise to every workout and will have 3 days where I up the core exercises to four. 

Below is a snapshot of what a typical upper body workout looks like for me (OAN = only as needed & Red indicated a superset):

I will continue to track my weight, add sets, add reps and add additional exercises as the program evolves. 

Prior to engaging in this program, my gym focused cardio was non-existent – I still got in cardio by going on bike rides, walks with my wife and chasing my 4 and 1 year olds around, but not a focused, set duration. During the bulking portion of the program, the cardio will strictly be steady state cardio, with HIIT being incorporated towards then end of the clean cut. 

Food

With the first month focusing on a clean bulk, I needed to be in a calorie surplus for the entire month. My goal was to make small, incremental increases to the amount of calories I was eating week over week. You can see my weekly calorie and macro averages below. 

*calories to be adjusted to ensure 0.7 lb / week gain

As you can see, I increased my calorie intake from 2,700 all the way up to 3,100 (a 15% increase) over the course of the first month and only had 2lb increase to my overall weight. If I want to increase my weight by 7lb over the course of 10 weeks, I’ll need to up the weight gain in Month 2. 

To start out, I’m not too concerned about the amount of carbs or protein I am consuming. I will take a more focused approach on macro’s once I start getting to the clean cut stage of the program. 

If you’re curious about what I eat for to optimize my vegan fitness levels, below is a daily snapshot of what I consumed during week 1.

Breakfast: Steel cut oats mix (banana, blueberries, and hemp seeds) with a slice of wheat bread and peanut butter 

Lunch: Tofu stir-fry with peanut butter sauce (tofu, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, sweet corn, sweet peas, soy sauce and peanut butter) over jasmine ric e

Snack: Green smoothie (spinach, broccoli, sweet peas, dates, banana, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and white beans) with 2 slices of wheat bread and peanut butter 

Dinner: Coconut Moroccan Stew (chickpeas, potatoes, sweet peas, sweet corn, and light coconut milk) over jasmine rice and hummus 

Key Learnings 

I had no idea that it would be this difficult to gain weight! I figured with a 15% increase to my calorie intake, I would cruise to my 200lb goal in no time. For Month 2, I will have a greater increase to my calorie intake over the first couple weeks of the month to see how that impacts weight gain. 

I will likely need to add an additional protein source. I want to keep this transformation as close to plant based as possible, but I recognize the potential need to add in a plant based protein powder as an additional supplement. This will also be tested out in Month 2. 

I’ll keep everyone informed of vegan bodybuilding transformation on a monthly basis! Please feel free to reach out to me with any specific comments or questions!

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