Why Bother with a Plant Based Bodybuilding Transformation
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.
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. My kids are still young (4 and 1) and if I am going to propose a plant based lifestyle on them then I want to ensure I am not holding them back from any physical gains they want to make as they get older. 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
Major Changes During Month 2
This biggest change I’ve experienced in Month 2 was with getting outside support with my goals. It is much easier reaching out to someone else who has been through this experience before, and can help support and guide you through the process – especially when life seems to get in the way. With that, I’ve hired a coach out of the UK to help me get into Physique level shape by April, 2020. The first thing the coach did was push back on that timeline, as it is relatively short amount of time to lean out, build muscle and then lean out again. However, I am going to hold myself, and my coach, to this timeline and
A couple of key changes to the program when working with the coach have been:
My original plan was to spend the first 10 weeks of the program bulking – and working to get as strong as possible. However, my coach has instructed me to get as lean as possible over the next couple months to get a better understand of where I am muscle mass wise. So instead of consuming over 3,000 calories a day, I’m now down to 2,600 calories on workout days and 2,300 calories on off days. After about a week of my body getting used to the caloric difference, I no longer experience the hunger pangs as I did in week 1. Being a vegan athlete is very beneficial during a calorie deficit – as I am able to focus on high volume, nutrient rich foods that are low in calories such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and peas. My plate is completely full for each meal and I’m able to easily stay within the calorie guidelines.
Another major change was around macro consumption – specifically protein. I am now consuming 180g of protein, daily, to help ensure my body has enough protein to help rebuilt my soft tissues. 180g of protein is a lot, especially on weeks where I travel for week. To help ensure I receive enough protein, I have started taking a vegan protein powder supplement. I have taken protein powders dating back to the days that I wasn’t vegan, but this is the first time I have consumed a protein powder in years. I’ve had issues with stomach cramping on the non-vegan sources, but I haven’t experienced any issues with the vegan blend. Ideally I would want to obtain all my protein from plant based sources, but again, it is just easier at times to have a protein shake.
The only other supplement additions I made are a creatine pre-workout drink and BCAA supplement. Both have come at the recommendation of my coach and I will continue to implement into my vegan meal planning.
Regarding the other major macro’s – carbs and fats. I am not currently tracking these. Consuming 180g of protein per day equates to 720 calories and, for now, as long as I am going over total calorie limit for the day, there’s no need to track carbs and fats.
Below is a snapshot of how my calories have been tracking and also included is a snapshot of vegan meal planning.
Cardio – The main change was the removal of high volume cardio. I still perform cardio on a daily basis, but my cardio now looks like a flat, steady walk on the treadmill. I will limit cardio to no more than 15 minutes per day, as this cardio is mainly to help me achieve my non-exercise activity for the day.
Stretching – I am still performing the same type of stretches, but included shoulder stability stretches, too. I’ve had three shoulder surgeries to repair a ever-tearing labrum and as a result, have terrible shoulder mobility. I’ve added in a few body weight shoulder mobility stretches / exercises on my lower body days (2x per week)
Weights – The weight portion of my training is still dedicated to upper and lower body days, but changes to how the days have structured have changes. First, all exercises are performed as drop sets. With drop sets, I’ll perform a light warm up set and then immediately add heavy enough weight to only perform the exercise for 8-10 reps for 2 sets. My third set will then be the “drop set”, where I’ll drop the weight to light enough to perform 15 reps for 1 set.
The other major changes regarding the weight lifting portion is the tempo and muscle concentration. For all my non-compound (deadlift, bench, etc.) lifts, I’ll focus on moving the weight slowly during the eccentric part of the lift and controlling the weight thru the concentric part of the lift. Doing so has forced me to hone in on the primary muscle groups in play – i.e. when performing the Single Arm Plate Pull am concentrating on pulling the weight with my lats, not using my arm, hand or any other body part to complete the lift. Doing so allows for better work of the primary muscle group.
Below is a snapshot of my vegan bodybuilding Day 1 Upper Push
Recovery has also been something may coach has asked me track more closely. This is something I’ve never really thought of because I always sleep so well – on days that I’m not traveling anyway. With that, I’ve started checking how my sleep has been via a Fitbit and a snapshot of what my current sleep looks like is below.
Below is an updated snapshot thru month 2 of how I am trending. I will now start measuring the months as a whole month, just to make things easier for me to track – i.e. month 3 will incorporate all of December. As you can see, I had some inactivity during week 5 and a slip up during week 10. Week 5 involved me being on multiple planes and in multiple hotels. Since I was in a bucking phase, I do believe I was able to hit my calorie goals for the week. The slip up in week 10 was a combination of a couple things. First, week 10 fell on Thanksgiving and my birthday. Originally I thought the plant based diet would save me here, but I still had numerous cheat meals that stalled my calorie deficit goals. I’m happy to say that I’m back on track in week 11 and will continue to drop my weight below 193 by weeks’ end.
I probably should have looked into coaching before starting this journey. I likely would have had a better start to reach my goal with a coach. My starting weight was already higher than normal, due to the vacation eating, and it would have been prudent to start with a cut phase, not bulk. However, the strategies implemented during the bulk phase will be re-implemented once I need to get back to bulk portion training again.
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!