Plant Based Bodybuilding Transformation

Month 4

Starting Point 

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. 

Major Changes During Month 4

Multiple changes cropped up during Mont 4 (January) specifically around diet and workout plans. 

Diet

Coming off Month 3, I ended the month on a 1,900 calorie a day diet, all while working to get in 180 grams of protein. I still didn’t measure carbohydrates or fat, but keeping protein levels that high, while being a calorie deficit, essentially forces the other macronutrients to be where they need to be. 

Entering Month 4, I cut my calories down to 1,800 calories per day, while still consuming 180 grams of plant based protein.

After working my way through the minefields of cutting weight during the Holiday season, I felt energized and ready to re-commit to cutting calories. 

One way to force compliance was to move my weight in day of the week from Friday to Monday. I always feel best on Friday, after a full 4 days of prepared super healthy, plant based foods. However, if I was to slip up, it would come on the weekends. So moving my weight in day from Friday to Monday helped keep me accountable to myself. 

Below is a snap shot of the types of foods I consumed during month 4 of my plant based body building transformation: 

Challenges

The biggest challenge I faced came upon the conclusion of my business trip to Barcelona. I was so concerned about getting on track with my cut that I ended up being in a severe calorie deficit all week and didn’t come close to obtaining my 1,800 calorie per day goal. 

The main source of plant based food I had access to on my trip were my protein bars. The bars contain approximately 290 calories and 20 grams of protein. I would consume 1 bar and a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast – approximately 450 calories, which is fine. However, lunch and dinner were a nightmare. 

My lunch was another protein bar with a plate full of lettuce and spinach – approximately 350 calories and dinner was essentially the same meal. Those three meals only contributed to approximately 1,150 calories per day, which is well below my 1,800 calorie per day goal. 

Upon arriving home in Boston on a Friday night, I was completely exhausted. Jetlagged and hungry, my dinner was a meal centered around a vegan burger and French Fries that exceeded 1,000 calories. I was fine with this ramp up, as I finally felt full and thought my body would be ready to go back to my normal routine the following day. 

I was wrong. My body was calling on me to eat food, all the food. Over the course of that Saturday and Sunday I gorged on everything that was in my site. Vegan burgers, plant based ice cream, potato chips, peanut butter sandwiches, popcorn, vegan meat substitute meals – everything. 

At the end of the weekend, I felt like complete garbage. This binge was due to my under-eating throughout the week (although stress and lack of sleep also may have contributed). It was a good lesson to learn so early in my upcoming busy travel year and one that I won’t soon forget.  

Workouts

Early in Month 4 of my plant based bodybuilding transformation, I tweaked my left hip during one of my lower body workouts. Since my job requires me to be staring at a computer screen, sitting in the car driving to see customers, or cramped in a plane on route to a customer meeting, I spend a lot of time sitting on my butt. Sitting for this amount of time definitely isn’t optimal for the human body and has caused my hip flexors to be overly tightened. 

I spent the first week ignoring the pain and working through my lower exercises, while working to stretch out my hip flexors. However, after the nagging pain continued to grow, and at the advice of my fitness coach, I decided to revamp my entire workout routine. 

Since the Physique bodybuilding category (think beach body) requires its athletes to pose in board shorts, building mass in my lower half isn’t my primary goal. 

With this in mind, my fitness coach helped me redevelop a plan that prioritized upper body and core exercises, while still incorporating lower body exercises that wouldn’t cause my hip to flare up.

The lower body exercises mainly consist of hamstring curls and quad extensions, and have completely eliminated squat and deadlift type movements. Below is a snapshot of what one of my new workouts looks like:

Cardio

Cardio continued to be a brisk 10-minute walk on the treadmill to start the workout and another 10 minutes on the treadmill to cool down. Stretching is now focused on unknotting my hip flexors via self myofascial release (foam rolling) and developing more active stretching exercises for my upper body. 

Travel

Month 4 was a heavy travel month for me. I spent the second week in January traveling to and from Barcelona (with a night in Lisbon) to attend all day meetings and presentations. During this time, I would have limited control on what foods were served, more on this in the Challenge section of the article, and the type of equipment I would have at my disposal. 

For those who don’t travel for work, they may find the idea of jet setting across the globe as romantic. However, for those of us who do it, it is anything but romantic. I spend countless hours at airports, having flights being delayed, cancelled, or re-routed due to weather. Upon arriving at the destination, my schedule is packed with all day meetings, which are fueled by bad coffee. The days are incredibly long, as the meetings always start at 8:00am and close at 5:00pm, with team building activities starting at 6:00 and usually lasting into the early hours of the morning. 

I researched the hotels I was to stay at and both hotels had pictures of what they classify as gyms. The gyms were meager, but putting in a little pre-work ended up being hugely beneficial. I worked with my coach to customize a workout plan that still allowed me to gain a pump and hit the major body parts, even when traveling. 

Upon arriving home from the Barcelona trip, I had the weekend to spend time with my family, catch up on the 6-hour time zone difference, and sleep deprivation before, leaving again on Monday for another week long business trip. For this trip, however, I was staying in the States and had access to a vehicle for the entirety of my stay. 

Knowing that I would have car at my disposal for the entirety of my trip, I mapped out gyms close to the hotel and called all to ask if they offered a daily pass. I ended up finding a gym that was 2 miles from where I was staying that offered a daily, $15 pass. With doing a little research, I was able to keep my normal workout routine and didn’t have to adapt to whatever space and equipment the hotel tried to pass off as a gym 

Recovery

My sleep was, and usually is, terrible when I travel. The six hour flights to Western Europe, coupled with the 6-hour time zone difference is tough for the body to adapt to – especially when traveling for work and with no down time mixed in. 

With that, my sleep is still solid on the nights that I’m not traveling, as you can see by the snapshot below.  

Metrics

I decided to stop tracking my naval, biceps and quad measurements throughout the vegan cutting process. I wasn’t tracking substantial changes, and I am more focused on what the scale and mirror have to say.  

Even with my binge eating weekend, I was still able to cut weight. As you will see with my first weigh in in the month of February, I essentially cut a little over 6 pounds in January. What’s exciting about the cut is weight, is the strength that I continue to put on in the gym. 

For next month, I’ll show some common exercise progression over the cut phase. 

Key Learnings

I think it’s safe to say that my biggest learning was eating enough – even when traveling. My concerns were so focused around leaning out, that I wasn’t looking even a week into the future. I was fortunate to come out of my binge eating weekend and get right back on track with my diet and workouts on the following Monday. However, with a lot more travel scheduled for this year, I will need to continue to ensure my caloric and nutritional needs are being met while on the road. 

The other key learning is more of a positive. Think outside the box. Just because you’re stuck at a hotel that has a cut rate version of a gym, you may still have the ability to get in a decent workout – in that gym or a real gym that’s close by. 

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

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