Month 5 – February
You can read the full reason for why I am doing and documenting my vegan bodybuilding transformation HERE, 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.
If you you want to get fully caught up, click the links below
Major Changes During Month 5
It took 3 months of being in a constant calorie deficit (with quite a few cheat days in-between), but this month marked the point where I am seeing some nice changes to my body. My abs have started to pop out a little, which has helped to provided me with additional motivation to keep on this journey.
Month 5 (February) was another busy month of travel. This month, however, I was able to a vacation with the family which was very nice.
I learned my lessons from my trip to Barcelona in January – I need to eat when traveling. February marked another week long sales meeting trip for work. This trip was to Florida.
Traveling within the US is absolutely much easier than traveling overseas.
For starters, sleep is much better. When traveling overseas, I have at least one, if not two, 24 hour days that week. Traveling on the East Coast doesn’t change my time zone or sleep schedule so I am able to maintain my normal sleep patterns.
Another advantage in traveling domestically is food choices. All the menus are in English and I can fairly accurate guesstimate the amount of calories and protein I am consuming. I am able to eat the same exact breakfast that I have at my house (oatmeal is everywhere!) and doing so helps me launch a healthy start to the day.
And the obvious, less time in airports and on airplanes. My flight from Boston to Jacksonville was less than 2.5 hours and I spent less than 1 hour at the airport. Spending the least amount of time possible at airports and on planes is always a good thing.
However, there are still pitfalls to be had. This sales meetings was 2 full days of pre-planned events from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM and day 3 was a 8:00 AM until Noon half day. With the my schedule predetermined, I had to be diligent with performing workouts and getting in my steps.
I’m an early riser by nature, so I was able to knock out the gym at 5:00 AM and still leave me plenty of time to get ready for the day. I researched the hotel’s website to understand the type of equipment that would be at my disposal and came up with a workout routine that would put me in the best position to build lean tissue.. Snapshot below:
Step count was an initial area of concern. However, the hotel complex where the sales meeting was being held was vast. I was pretty much able to get in 10,000 steps without really having to think about it. However, I still made time to walk outside everyday to enjoy the Florida weather and help disconnect from technology.
Upon the conclusion of the sales meeting, I extended my stay in Florida an additional 6 days and met my family at the beach.
These 6 days were a great break for me. I didn’t track calories during any of the days; however, I can say that I was likely consuming approximately 2,000 calories per day, while walking 20,000+ steps per day.
Those 20,000 steps came in the form of chasing my 4 and 1 year olds around on the beach. Staying in a downtown AirBnB allowed us to to walk everywhere. Although we had a car, we would only use the car for trips to the grocery store.
While on vacation, I visited a gym close to where I was staying twice. The gym visits came on the last two days of vacation, so it put me in good position for my return home.
Overall the vacation was a great time to relax with family. I recorded two nights where I slept for 9+ hours – that hasn’t happened since before my 4-year-old was born! We took full advantage of the February weather in FL by being outside and exercising together (walking the town, battling the waves at the beach, swinging on the monkey bars at the playground, etc.).
My plant based bodybuilding diet has stayed consistent through February. I started on 1,800 calories per day and maintained that amount through the month.
The major change came in in the form of protein. Prior to this month, I was working in 180 grams of plant based protein to my daily intake. This, however, proved to be a daunting task and I felt I was overloading on too many vegan supplements. February marks the month that I cut down to below 150 grams of protein per day. Doing so hasn’t yielded any negative results!
I also cut down on my alcohol intake this month. I’m still approximately 6 months out from being on stage, so prior to this month, I would enjoy a glass of whiskey on a Friday night to help me wind down.
Since my wife isn’t a drinker (she’ll have maybe 4 drinks the entire year!), this glass of whiskey is had alone. This month I made a decision that I would only consume alcohol if my wife was drinking, or if we had friends over for dinner.
This was actually much easier than I originally anticipated. I simply switched out alcohol for a cup of chamomile tea. It’s just another drink to help me wind down after a long week of work.
Another change this month was weigh ins. Entering the month, I was weighing in every Monday morning. Since I don’t measure how much water I consume (as long as I’m drinking at least 4 liters of water per day) and definitely do not measure how much goes to waste, once per week weigh ins aren’t a true representation of one’s weight.
I now weigh in every day and take the average weight for the week as my weekly weight. This tactic allows for your body to naturally go through it’s cycles and provides a more accurate body weight measure for the week.
With my hip still not feeling 100%, I’ve continued to steer clear from the major hip hinge movements like squat, deadlift and leg press. It’s been a bit disappointing because these are generally fun lifts were I’m able to stack on the weight. However, these lifts are not crucial for my plant based plant based bodybuilding transformation.
I’ve started to see some nice growth in my log for bench during this month. Prior to 3 months ago, I hadn’t performed a bench press in over 4 years. I’ve had 3 shoulder surgeries for a torn labrum and every time a started adding on more and more weight, my shoulder became weaker and weaker.
Since the bench press is an important exercise for the Men’s Physique category, I decided to start performing a modified version of the exercise 3 months ago. My modification has been limiting the range of motion on the movement. As you’re all aware, the bench press is lowered to your chest in the eccentric phase. Well, instead of lower the bar all the way and touching my chest, I stop about 4-6 inches before the bar touches my chest and that is the lowest point of the lift for me.
Reducing the range of motion allows for the exercise to focus on the primary movers – chest, while not engaging the assisting muscles of the delts. This reduced range of motion actually is a better chest exercise and is more challenging than a traditional bench press.
I started slow. After the first two weeks of performing the modified bench press, I could only perform 185lb for 6 reps. After 3 months, I am performing 225lb for 8 reps.
Since benching the highest amount of weight isn’t a goal of mine, I haven’t maxed out at any stage during my plant based journey. However, for those of you interested, according the bodybuilding.com bench press calculator, my 1 rep max has increased from 218 to 281 in a period of less than 4 months. This is all while losing 10+ pounds of body weight.
I must throw a caveat into this bench press weight progression. Prior to stopping the bench press exercise 4+ years ago, my max bench was 335lb. Even without performing this exercise in years, I was still able to tap into some of the muscle memory I had with this lift.
I am qualifying this example because a 63lb 1 rep max increase, while being in a calorie deficit, may not be the norm 🙂
Cardio hasn’t changed month over month. I continue to start my workout with a 10-minute walk on the treadmill and end my workout with a 10-minute walk on the treadmill. I usually take this time to catch up on podcasts or an Amazon Audio book.
It was nice doing my cardio outdoors when I was on vacation in Florida. I will look to incorporate outdoor cardio once the weather starts getting nicer in the Boston area
As I’ve stated in the above, my sleep was much better this month than in the month prior. Not spending hours on airplanes, and not having to deal with jet lag makes a huge difference.
It was also great to have some much needed down time with the family and being able to relax definitely aided my recovery this month.
February was my most consistent month as far as nutrition is concerned. Even though I was traveling nearly half of the month, I was still able to cut nearly 5 pounds from the scale.
It’s important to note that the scale shouldn’t be the only metric that you track. I track every single rep during my workouts and I also take a weekly photo to see how my body is progressing. However, I also know that I need to lean down to 170 before I can start adding in more calories again. So the scale is just one, of many, tools used to track progress.
As you can see from the chart below, and my bench press example above, I continue to lose body fat and increase strength during the plant based cutting process.
February was the most positive month that I’ve had throughout this journey.
I believe recovery, and increased daily step count had a lot to do with the positive results my body has seen. Of course, I can’t plan on sleeping 9 hours per night, or walking 20,000+ steps per day, but I can use this as an example of leveraging time spent outdoors with family as a method to help my body relax while getting in ample NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis)
In looking forward, March will be another busy month of travel, with a planned trip to Western Europe, coupled with my wife and daughter’s birthdays. However, still looking forward to delivery a quality March.
I’ll keep everyone informed of my vegan bodybuilding transformation on a monthly basis! Please feel free to reach out to me with any specific questions or comments!