Where to Start?

I had a couple of messages this week about how to get results on a vegan diet. Seeing the pictures I post of cakes etc yet staying lean, what’s that about.

Spoiler alert, I don’t eat cake all day, every day, in fact most days I don’t have any cake at all, you see cake is a treat… sure it’s tasty AF but it’s crap, does nothing good for you apart from make your taste buds feel good and brain light up like a Christmas tree.. saying it does nothing good for you might be a bit extreme, a balanced diet is about the long term sustainability, if a bit of cake now and again keeps you on track then it’s totally good for you!

..anyway, the thing is, I don’t count calories anymore, am I as lean as I use to be…not really, here is a current pic of me today, this is pretty much my maintenance body weight/fat

..but I now have zero stress with anxiety of food and timings. I can actually go out for date night with my wife and enjoy it, I am strong AF in the gym, my workouts are awesome and if I want a piece of cake now and again, guess what? i’m going to have it?!

So how did I get to this point? of not counting calories? What if I told you that 99% of all diets fail, think about it, how many people do you know that are on a diet? how many of those people have been fat..then thin..then fat..thin…fat..thin, in this endless cycle of dieting. What about you? are you where you want to be now… if the answer is NO yet you have done a diet before, guess what..it didn’t work. A diet is a short term fix to a life long problem. Instead of treating your physique and health goals as 12 week plan where you cut out lots of food you love, do loads of cardio/exercise (that you begin to resent), drop your calories to a point where nothing you seem to do now works and ultimately end up miserable….only to put all the weight back on over the next few months/years. Why not focus on eating a whole foods, plant based diet 90% of the time and give yourself a treat now and again to keep you from going insane?

Thats part 1 of the battle, learning to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime, than quick fixes and/or gimmicks that get you in a yoyo diet scenario.

Part 2 of not having to track your food is to be active. Aim for at least 90min of low intensity exercise a day or 40min of high intensity.

If you are looking for a “toned” physique… meaning you want to reduce body fat and add muscle, then please for the love of god, don’t spend hours doing air kick backs, body weight squats or running on a teadmill, If you are someone that does this, let me ask you… Has your physique changed in the last year? are you where you want to be?… then why are you still doing it?!

For a toned physique, and this applies to women as well as men, you MUST strength train, i’m not talking about tank tops and nipples hanging out, grunting in the gym as you push up 8-12 shitty reps and try to alpha everyone at the gym. I mean, you must get strong on the big movements. For 99% of people reading this, you will obtain the physique you imagine by strength training with either a full body workout 3 times a week or upper/lower split 3-4 times a week.

I’m talking about movements like Squat, Bench Press, Overhead press, Dips, Weighted chin ups, Deadlift, Leg press, Barbell row. Working in a low rep range to build strength for 3 sets. NOT a 30 set pump and flex bodybuilding workout… if you want to be a bodybuilder then you MIGHT need that, but for 99% of people who just want to feel good about the way they look, I promise if you train to get strong with these movements focusing on multiple muscle groups, your body will look VERY different and you will get to where you want to be.

Think about this if you want good glutes, if you can squat 10kg now, but in a year you can squat 80kg, do you think your legs and bum would look different?

High intensity training, working the full body with heavy lifts goes hand in hand with a whole foods diet. If you eat a whole foods plant based diet AND train your ass off, it is very unlikely you will get fat.

Here are some basic habbits “rules” I try must best to stick to each day;

  1. Eat a whole foods diet 90% of the time
  2. Eat/drink plant protein every 3-4 hours
  3. Consume at least 50g fiber a day
  4. Consume at least 20g of healthy fats per day
  5. Eat less than 10g sat fat a day
  6. Track ALL exercises in your workout, you MUST get stronger
  7. Do at least 40min intense exercise or 90min low intensity each day

That’s pretty much it. If I had to guess, I would say my macronutrients are around 150g Protein a day, 500g Carbs, 35g Fat

A Typical Day Eating

Pre Workout

  • Pea protein
  • Organic beetroot juice
  • Greens powder
  • 10ml UDO’s Oil
  • Banana

Intra Workout

  • 10g BCAA

Post Workout

  • Huge bowl of oats with whole punnet of berries & agave
  • Pea protein
  • Dates
  • Banana

Mid Afternoon

  • Cous cous
  • Veg
  • Gosh butternut squash bites
  • Brazil nuts
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Pea protein

Dinner

  • Butternut squash
  • Lentils
  • Veg
  • Strawberries

Bed

  • Banana nice cream
  • 3 Bananas
  • Pea protein

Workout Example 3 Days a Week

Workout 1

  • Deadlift
  • Dumbbell incline bench press
  • Leg Press
  • Overhead press

Workout 2

  • Seated hamstring curl
  • Front squat
  • Unerarm weighted chin up
  • Close grip bench press

Workout 3

  • Hack squat
  • Single leg leg press
  • Barbell row
  • Weighted dips

The whole workout should take you 1 hour, For each exercise do as many warm up sets as you need, then start with your max weight for 4-6 reps, rest 2-3 minutes, reduce the weight by 10-15% and do a 2nd set for 7-9 reps, repeat this 1 last time… 2-3 minutes rest, reduce weight and do a set for 10-12 reps. ALL sets to failure.

Each time you do the workout aim to beat the previous week, if week 1 you deadlift 100kg for 4 reps, stick with the weight, when you get to 6 reps increase by 2.5kg, keep going week on week, increasing the weight and the reps.

Every 8-10 weeks (or as you feel you need), take a 1 week deload where you still train for 3 days but not to failure, stop each set a few reps short of failure.

That’s it in a nutshell, no magic tricks, no gimmicks, no 6 week booty blaster or superfood/supplement to change your body, it’s actually very simple.

  1. Eat a whole foods plant based diet
  2. Get strong AF week in week out

I know we have all been lead to believe that there is more to it than that, but really…that’s it.

Get yourself a log book for the gym and start this today! Within a few weeks you will start to notice in how you look and how you feel.

Just Because it’s Vegan..

Spoiler Alert: Just because it’s vegan does not mean it’s good (or even better) for you!

One of the big misconceptions I find across social media and in general conversation is the idea that just because something is Vegan people assume that it is good for you.

Posting pics of cheeseburgers with Vegan meat replacements and Vegan cheese or dairy free ice cream on a hot day declaring that it is “healthy” and “good for you”

I am by no means condoning eating animals or their byproducts, however I just want to make you aware and give you a couple of comparisons for consideration if you are someone that has decided to go Vegan for the health benefits.

Vegan Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Non Dairy Chunky Monkey (per 100ml)

  • Calories: 261kcal
  • Protein: 2.4g
  • Fat: 14g
  • Saturated Fat: 8.2g
  • Carbs: 31g
  • of which sugar 26g

Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (per 100ml)

  • Calories: 270kcal
  • Protein: 4.2g
  • Fat: 12g
  • Saturated Fat: 8g
  • Carbs: 36g
  • of which sugar 28g

These 2 products have practically the same amount of sugar and saturated fat. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years you will hopefully know by now that refined sugar and/or saturated fat are the leading causes for heart disease.

Just because one of the products is vegan does not make it better for you! When you body breaks down the individual macro nutrients each of these products is equally as harmful to your body. Of course the danger is in the dose, 1/2 a tub now and again will unlikely do any long term damage, but consuming a high saturated fat diet with processed/refined carbs on a daily basis is the main reason we give meat eaters so much shit about the health effects of eating meat.

Instead of this, why not create your own “Nice Cream”?

  • Chop up 2-3 bananas and place in a freezer bag overnight
  • Blend bananas with a splash of soy milk and a tsp of peanut butter
  • Top with fruit or nuts, you can even add a protein powder to flavour your ice cream!

Vegan Cheese

Next up is Cheese, there are actually real cheese products much healthier for you that the Vegan cheese you get at the supermarket.

Violife Vegan Cheese (per 100g)

  • Calories: 270kcal
  • Protein: 0g
  • Fat: 21g
  • Saturated Fat: 19g
  • Carbs: 21g

EatLean Protein Cheese (per 100g)

  • Calories: 169kcal
  • Protein: 37g
  • Fat: 3g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.3g
  • Carbs: 0g

It’s easy to see from a health perspective the winner in this round, the fat in Vegan cheese is almost entirely saturated!

…yes I looked for a specific dairy cheese to prove a point, but even easily accessible lighter versions of your supermarket cheese are still “healthier” than the vegan option.

Asda 50% Less Fat Cheese (per 100g)

  • Calories: 287kcal
  • Protein: 33g
  • Fat: 17g
  • Saturated Fat: 11g
  • Carbs: 0g

If you are someone that has moved to a Vegan diet for the health benefits then I recommend you avoid the supermarket and popular Vegan cheese at all costs.

As an alternative look for nut based Vegan cheese, you can either make your own at home, or purchase from somewhere like https://www.nutcrafter.co.uk

A nut based cheese will be packed full of healthy fats and micronutrients.

I will update this list with more as and when I find them 🙂

Again, I stress that I am not condoning eating animals or dairy, I just want to make you aware that Vegan products can be as bad for you as their animal based counterparts.

Everyday Vegan Substitutes

Following a holiday with me droning on about the health benefits of a plant based diet (I feel sorry for anyone that spends that much time with me😂), my amazing sister in law is giving it a go for the next couple of weeks.

In an effort to make life easier I put together this brief list of some of the frequent foods I will choose as substitutes to general day to day foods that a non vegan might already eat.

I will continue to add to this list as time goes on. I still need to find a decent mince meat alternative amongst other things.

 

Cheese

I find that different cheese is better for different meals.

My favourites for pizza (melting) are

For sandwiches, burgers or other dishes I generally use the Sainsbury’s free from cheese, to date it is the best one I have found.

Dominos pizza in Israel did a consumer taste test for their vegan pizza (only available in Israel) and after many focus groups the winner was Vbites Cheezly, I have never tried it but could be worth a go.

https://www.veggiestuff.com/dairy-free-cheese/cheese-block/vbites-cheezly-vegan-cheese-mozzarella-190g

I believe that ZiZi and AskItalian also use Mozzarisella on their vegan pizza.

 

Chocolate

Most vegan milk alternative chocolate taste like cheap advent calendar chocolate, I personally like dark chocolate so it’s never an issue for me. Green & Blacks range with assorted flavours like mint are really good or if you prefer something not as bitter then you could even go with Bournville. There are also some incredible home made vegan chocolates available from people like https://www.facebook.com/TrufflePigVegan/

 

Burgers

There is so much choice for burgers, my absolute favourite is LindaMcCartney pulled pork burger.

https://groceries.asda.com/product/vegetarian-meals/linda-mccartney-meat-free-2-pulled-pork-14lb-burgers/910002376279

 

Followed by

Linda McCartney 1/4 lb burger

http://www.waitrose.com/shop/DisplayProductFlyout?productId=493130&source=sho_&utm_source=google%2Bshopping&utm_medium=organic%2Bgs&utm_campaign=google%2Bshopping&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0dP85PGU1QIVpLvtCh1MrgoZEAQYASABEgKuffD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CIOHl-fxlNUCFQ0W0wodH8AALA

 

And

Sainsbury Meat Free Burger

http://www.sainsburys.co.uk/shop/gb/groceries/sainsburys-meat-free-burgers-x8-454g

 

And

Resembling a spicy chicken burger, I really like these Quorn spicy burgers

https://groceries.asda.com/product/vegetarian-meals/quorn-meat-free-vegan-4-hot-spicy-burgers/910002112311

 

Most rolls are vegan friendly, there are a few weirdo companies that add milk, but the majority of Asda bakery and other supermarket rolls are vegan friendly.

 

Generally I get the Warburtons https://groceries.asda.com/product/bread-rolls-buns/warburtons-white-sliced-rolls/36474

 

The size is really good for burgers and the buns are like that of a fast food restaurant.

 

Sausages

Linda McCartney does it again

https://groceries.asda.com/product/vegetarian-meals/linda-mccartney-meat-free-6-vegetarian-sausage/1000000479435

 

I remember a visit to Alton Towers last year when I asked for the vegan sausages, I had never tried these and when I took one bite I spat it out into a napkin and demanding to speak to the manager because I was FURIOUS that they had given me a meat sausage, much to my embarrassment he brought out the box and WOW!

 

Quorn Sausages

https://groceries.asda.com/product/vegetarian-meals/quorn-meat-free-6-low-fat-sausages/910001174619

These are not vegan as they have egg white in them, but I am told they are a v good substitute.

 

Chicken

Chicken Nugget from Quorn, a guilty pleasure!

https://groceries.asda.com/product/vegetarian-meals/quorn-vegan-nuggets/910002653183

 

Linda McCartney Pulled Chicken

Perfect for fajitas etc

https://groceries.asda.com/product/vegetarian-meals/linda-mccartney-vegetarian-pulled-chicken/910002634751

The Quorn chicken is just ok… I would highly recommend that if you use it that you add it to a curry or other dish with sauce to mask the taste and just focus on the texture.

Tofu is a good replacement for chicken in curry etc, again it gives a texture of meat when in a sauce.

 

Milk

After lots of taste testing, my favourite is this Soya milk light

https://groceries.asda.com/product/milk-spreads-cream/alpro-soya-milk-light/11746541

 

Ice Cream

Hands down my go to treat is Booja Booja, with just a handful of ingredients, its bloody amazing!

http://www.waitrose.com/shop/DisplayProductFlyout?productId=336438

 

A close 2nd is Alpro

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=293751320

 

Yoghurts

Alpro do a range of yoghurts

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/search/default.aspx?searchBox=alpro+yoghurts&newSort=true&search=Search

 

I have not tried any of the above, I personally like chocolate desserts and highly rate the dark chocolate soya dessert. They also do a smooth chocolate one.

https://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=262697292

 

Protein Bars

D’s Naturals No Cow Bars

I warn you, only buy 1 or you will eat the whole box haha.

http://tidd.ly/ebfdc297

 

Lenny Larry Complete Cookie

Birthday cake is my favourite flavour

http://tidd.ly/de15f4fe

 

Protein Powder

I am a big fan of The Protein Works vegan range and use their Soy Isolate for overnight oats etc because of the amazing flavours they do.

http://tidd.ly/4f64be4a

 

For general post workout shakes etc I use Psycho Pea Protein which you can find on eBay. The reason I use this around a workout is to do with the absorption rate and how quickly the protein will digest.

 

Other

Vbites do a range of foods that are fantastic substitutes for anyone making the transition to a plant based lifestyle, I have eaten at their cafe in Brighton and the foods was great http://www.vbitesfoods.com/ you can purchase most of their food from Holland & Barrett.

 

Eating Out

ZiZis and ASKItalian offer vegan pizza, sides, starter, salad and dessert.

Pizza Express have a new vegan pizza with their own vegan cheese.

The Harvester has several surprisingly good vegan dishes and unlimited salad!

 

Recipes

For recipe ideas my favourite pages right now are

https://www.facebook.com/bosh.tv/

https://www.facebook.com/thebigmansworld/

When Did Eating Get so Complicated?

I just returned from a fantastic holiday in Greece (check out the hotel on my Facebook page if you want a great Vegan friendly hotel to visit) and one of the things that took me by surprise is the confusion and upset people still go through every day with their diet.

If you take a look at my profile pic on Facebook, this was taken a couple of weeks before holiday, I am by no means arrogant or think that my body is anything special, however I am realistic enough to know that having a lower body fat and a little bit of muscle does draw attention from some people and they would come and talk to me about what they eat. Ignoring the vegan lifestyle for now, which seemed to blow peoples minds that I had any muscle definition without eating meat, the biggest confusion appeared to be around the very basics of how to lose weight without wanting to bash your head against a brick wall!…so I wanted to just write this brief post to hopefully give you some peace of mind or take some of the stress away if you are someone that is struggling with a weight loss goal.

I believe that the biggest thing stopping you from losing weight is all the crap you are sold on a daily basis, it could be the latest diet trend on TV, sponsored ads on social media, the latest guru that lost weight eating just coconut oil all day or even your friends and family that swear by a certain diet that worked for them low carb, high fat, high carb, low fat, intermittent fasting etc etc it’s confusing AF!

We have to differentiate correlation and causation, just because your friend or the guru in the magazine lost weight not eating carbs does not mean that it was carbs that were the problem, by removing carbs likely restricted their food choices which meant that they ate less. Same with things like intermittent fasting, its not that you are intermittent fasting that magically makes you lose weight, its because you are spending less time eating and missing whole meals out that you eat less.

In the most simplistic form, the only factor you need to worry about if you are trying to lose weight is calories. I’m going to tell you exactly how you do it in just a few steps, however because media has shoved this and that diet down your throat for so long, complicating the shit out of everything you will think I am bonkers and that something this simple won’t work, here goes..

1) Tomorrow morning step on the scales and take note of your weight.

2) For 1 week don’t change anything you are doing with diet or activity, log all the foods you eat on a daily basis on an app like MyFitnessPal, its really easy and takes seconds to log food, you can even scan barcodes directly in the app to log all the calories.

3) At the end of 1 week step on the scales and then take a look in the app to see what your average daily calorie intake was for the last week.

If your weight has stayed the same or increased and your goal is to lose weight then we need to decrease the daily average calories you are consuming until you start to lose weight.

It’s important to not make any knee jerk reactions, we don’t want to cut 50% of your food, remove chocolate, cake, chips etc etc (if thats what you like eating), just small changes with your calories week on week until the scales start to move in your favour.

Let’s say that on average you are eating 2,500 kcal a day and in the week you put on 1lb. I would suggest that for the next week you drop your daily calories to 2,350 for a whole week and see where you end up in a weeks time. If in a week your weight doesn’t change then nudge it down again for the next week 2,200 a day until your weight starts to drop.

For the average person looking to lose just a few lbs, I recommend a weight loss of 0.5lbs a week. It doesn’t sound like much I know but in 14 weeks thats half a stone…whilst eating all the foods you do now, no restrictions on what you can eat, only on the amount of food.

All you need to do is stick to the calories you have set yourself every day and weigh in each week at the same day/time…and because its your daily average across the week that we want to control, if you go over by a couple of hundred calories one day for a wedding or social occasion, then just eat a couple of hundred calories less the next day.

When you reach a weight you are happy with then just do the same in reverse until you stop losing weight. Nudge your calories up each week until your weight stays the same and hey presto, you are no longer dieting, its a lifestyle where you eat what you want and don’t gain weight. Just stick to the numbers.

You might also be wondering about meal timings, for someone who just wants to lose a few lbs or maintain their weight it really makes no difference if you eat 2 meals a day or 8 meals a day, the most important thing is what you enjoy and gives you the less stress in your daily life. The myth about eating more often to increase metabolism has been well and truly busted time and time again, don’t buy into the B.S. Pick a meal timing that suits your lifestyle.

So there you have it, 2 very simple things you can do to lose weight.
1) Eat when you want
2) Eat what you want

All you need to do is stick to your calories.

Please note that the above is for a typical person who perhaps does a couple of cardio session or is fairly active and just wants to maintain a healthy body or lose a little weight, if your goal is specifically to build as much muscle as possible or “tone up” I put “tone up” in speech marks because toning up basically means adding or maintaining muscle whilst reducing body fat to leave you with a toned look, then it requires a very small amount of additional effort which I will cover in another article v soon.

Any questions or comments please post below or feel free to drop me a message

Thanks

Mark

 

 

Which is The Best Workout

Recently I have received a few messages asking about how I train, specifically things like whats the best setup to build muscle, tone or lose weight.

IMO your workout should be focused on 1 thing only…MUSCLE. Whatever your goal, whether it be to lose body fat, tone up, gain muscle, etc, your workout needs to focus on continually forcing your body to adapt and either build or maintain your hard earned muscle. Unless of course you are just in the gym for a jolly good time, in that case keep doing what you’re doing and hat off to you 😉

Women… don’t worry, you won’t end up looking like the hulk training this way, your hormones won’t allow you to get “bulky” and the image in your head of women with muscles are those that take performance enhancing drugs.

Men.. also don’t worry, you won’t get “too big”, at something like 5ft 10, the biggest you could ever get without performance enhancing drugs is around 210lbs at an OK body fat, visible abs, or absolutely shredded you would prob get to around 190lbs ish.

Our genetics put a limit on how fast and big we can grow, I assure you that 95% of the people you see in the fitness industry posting pictures of themselves on Facebook or Instagram are taking things they shouldn’t be. The truth is that if you train your ass off, eat right and remain consistent the end result will be a lean, toned, shaped physique. Think lean and toned beach body instead of big and bulky bodybuilder.

Each area of your fitness should focus on a specific outcome
Diet (either calorie surplus to build muscle or calorie deficit to lose fat)
Cardio (health and/or fat loss)
Weights (build or maintain muscle)

I wouldn’t recommend cardio to build muscle or weights to lose fat. We want to use each of these tools in the most optimal way to transform our physique and reach our goal.

As mentioned, whether my goal is losing body fat or gaining muscle, my weights sessions stay exactly the same, focused around progressive overload (more on that in a minute).

I then adjust my cardio and diet to determine the outcome of my body composition week on week.

More calories and/or less cardio (I always keep at least 30 min a day in place for health) = bulking.

Less calories and/or more cardio = losing body fat.

Why don’t I change the weights sessions?

Imagine if you are trying to lose body fat for a period of 12 weeks.
Throughout this time you maintain your strength in the gym or maybe even get stronger BUT your body weight is going down as you diet.

Logic would suggest to me that if you are maintaining your strength then your body is holding on to all the muscle you have.

Now lets say that instead of focusing on strength you decide to use your weights workout to burn fat. You use lighter weights for more reps and get weaker.

Logic would suggest to me that you are losing your hard earned muscle.

It takes SO much effort and precision to build muscle, why would you want to throw it away like that?!

Your no1 focus week in week out in the weights area should be progressive overload…what the hell is that? I hear you ask.

Progressive Overload

To put simply, this means that week in and week out you progressively overload your muscles.

Lets say week 1 you do 3 sets of bicep curls for 10 reps.
week 2 you do 4 sets for 10 reps.

this is progressive overload, you are applying a progressively higher stimulus to your muscles..

NOW..

The issue here is that you can’t keep adding volume (number of sets and reps) within a few months you would be doing 20 sets for this an 40 sets for that. Instead I highly recommend that you invest in a log book to use in the gym and focus on increasing the amount of reps and/or weight you lift. Small increments in strength week in, week out with a variety of rep ranges and exercises to progressively overload the muscles.

How Many Reps?

You may have heard something like 3-5 reps builds strength, 8-12 reps builds muscle and 15+ reps builds endurance.

I’m not going to go into the science behind it all for this specific post, maybe we can cover that later. The truth is that more and more evidence is showing that you can build muscle in any rep range providing you take the muscle to failure (Failure is the point at which you can no longer move the weight with good form), however lower reps do seem to lend themselves better to building strength and higher reps do seem to increase the metabolic damage caused, all of these points are factors in building muscle.

The bottom line?

We want to get stronger in a variety of rep ranges to ensure that we are hitting the predominant factors for muscle hypertrophy (growth)

  • Muscle Damage
  • Metabolic Stress
  • Muscle Tension

By utilising a variety of rep ranges we can cover all of our basis for building muscle and give our body the best chance possible of growing.

I like to warm up with a weight hitting about 20 reps, this is my recruitment set where I really take time to think about the target muscle, make sure I am activating it throughout and can feel it working. I then check my log book and go for my max weight I can handle for 6-9 reps. I then rest and reduce the weight enough that this time I can get 9-12 and finally, 1 last set not to failure, where my goal it to “pump” the muscle and I aim for 15 reps.

When to Increase Weight?

I like to have rep ranges instead of set numbers. I will do 2 working sets per exercise 6-9 and 9-12.

Once I hit 9 reps with my max weight I increase the weight.

Once I hit 12 reps with my next set I increase the weight.

Body Part Split – How and What to Train

You may have read various different prescriptions for workouts, anything from the bodybuilder “bro” training split of something like; Monday- chest, Tuesday – back, Wednesday – Legs, etc..

..to a full body workout 2-3 times a week.

Which is best?

With all things being equal (volume and exercises), it has been shown that splitting your workout across the week and training muscles more often is more favourable to muscle growth than smashing the body part once per week. By this I mean that if you usually train Chest on a Monday for 30 sets of 12 reps, you would likely see better results if you split that into 3 chest sessions of 10 sets across the week.

What Would I do?

High frequency training combined with progressive overload AND the right diet is a formula for success.

How often you train will depend on how much time you have and how quickly you can recover.

Your logbook will be the key indicator as to whether you are recovering. If you don’t beat your numbers, your diet is not adequate or you are not resting enough between sessions.

Ideally you want 2-3 variations of each session for your log book, using legs as an example..

Week 1 Session 1 (LEGS a1)

Week 1 Session 2 (LEGS b1)

Week 2 Session 1 (LEGS a2)

Week 2 Session 2 (LEGS b2)

Week 3 Session 1 (REPEAT WEEK 1, a1)

etc this gives you a good rotation through exercises so that you do not stall on lifts and enough variety that over 3 or 4 months you are not bored.

LEGS a1 could be something like Squats, Leg press, Walking lunge, Leg extension, Barbell stiff leg deadlift, Seated hamstring curl, Calves.

Then LEGS b1 would be a variation Front squats, Feet wide and high leg press, Bulgarian split squats, Sissy squats, DB stiff leg deadlift, Laying hamstring curl, Calves.

You would create 2 more variants, a2 and b2, which means that it will be 2 full weeks before you repeat any one session. When you do, thats the time to either hit more reps with the same weight OR increase the weight a little and hit the same amount of reps.

Depending on how many days you can train and how quickly you recover I would recommend the following splits..

3 Days a Week

  • Mon – UPPER
  • Tues – OFF
  • Wed – LOWER & ARMS
  • Thurs –  OFF
  • Fri – UPPER
  • Sat – OFF
  • Sun – OFF

The following Monday I would then continue with a LOWER workout and so on. You could also do a full body workout 3 days a week if you were a beginner.

4 Days a Week

  • Mon – OFF
  • Tues – UPPER
  • Wed – OFF
  • Thurs –  LOWER & ARMS
  • Fri – OFF
  • Sat – UPPER
  • Sun – LOWER & ARMS

5 Days a Week

  • Mon – OFF
  • Tues – PUSH
  • Wed – PULL
  • Thurs –  LEGS
  • Fri – OFF
  • Sat – UPPER
  • Sun – LOWER & ARMS

6 Days a Week Recommended

  • Mon – PUSH
  • Tues – PULL
  • Wed – LEGS
  • Thurs –  PUSH
  • Fri – PULL
  • Sat – LEGS
  • Sun – OFF

6 Days a Week Overreaching (used for short periods of approx 4 weeks before a deload)

  • Mon – CHEST/BACK/SHOULDERS
  • Tues – LEGS/ARMS/ABS/CALVES
  • Wed – CHEST/BACK/SHOULDERS
  • Thurs –  LEGS/ARMS/ABS/CALVES
  • Fri – CHEST/BACK/SHOULDERS
  • Sat – LEGS
  • Sun – OFF

With the exception of 3 days a week training all the volume for the other splits would be exactly the same. Same amount of sets and exercises regardless of how often you are training.

Which Exercises to Choose?

The focus should be on compound movements, I would say that something like 70-80% of your workout should be compound movements unless you are extremely advanced in muscular development and/or have weaknesses that need attention.

PLEASE NOTE:

The above is a generic setup for anyone looking to build muscle. Obviously some people have functional goals in stead of muscle building OR they have weak legs or shoulders etc that require more attention. The routines and methods outlined above are specific to me with the goal of building as much muscle as possible. Any questions or if you want to tailor this to you, please dont hesitate to DM me on social.

 

 

 

 

 

Body Sculpting Blueprint

“How do you build muscle on a vegan diet?”

“I’m worried now i’m vegan carbs will make me fat”

“How can I lose weight and tone up on a vegan diet”

“Where do I get my protein from?”

“What do I eat to recover from a workout?”

These are just a handful of the questions I get asked on a daily basis through my Facebook page so I decided to come up with a really cheesy title (Body Sculpting Blueprint) and put together some of the fundamentals for body composition, diet and training.

First up, STOP LOOKING FOR THE MAGIC ANSWER, whether its a program or diet PLEASE JUST STOP. Look, if you really want to spend money to “feel” like you are accountable and have THE answer, then just donate £100 of your hard earned cash to a vegan charity of your choice and then simply read this post. At least that way your cash is helping the world rather than lining the pockets of someone who convinced you that carbs are the devil or it only takes THESE 5 exercises to sculpt your abs and tone your ass. haha

Phew, now thats out the way, I am going to tell you exactly what you need to do to reach your goal…and here is the big secret, that everyone cant figure out, once you know what to do, the ONLY way to get results is consistency and commitment. There I said it. I swear, hands down, that if you follow what I am about to tell you, then you will achieve your goal. Depending on how much you adhere to everything, depends on what your end result will look like. So here goes..

No.1 It’s the Calories That Matter

Calories will determine if you lose weight or gain weight…not carbohydrates, not fat, not protein but calories. If you burn (through metabolism & activity) more calories than you eat then your body must make up for this energy deficit by releasing stored energy and using it for fuel, the end result is you lose weight.

If you eat more calories that you burn (through metabolism and activity) then your body will store this energy and you will gain weight.

If my daily energy expenditure was 2,500 kcal a day and I ate 2,000 kcal of Oreos every day for 3 weeks I would lose weight or if I ate 2,000 kcal of peanut butter for 3 weeks or 2,000 kcal of bananas…it’s the calories, not the specific macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) that determine if you gain or lose weight.

2. Losing or Gaining the Right Kind of Weight

Now you know how to lose or gain weight, is there a way that we can shift the odds in our favour in terms of what kind of weight we gain or lose.

What I mean by this is, when dieting we dont just want to lose weight, we want to safeguard our muscle and lose just the fat and likewise when bulking we dont want to add 5lbs of fat for every 1lb of muscle. We want to tip the scales in our favour, after all, if you weighed 150lbs dieted for 8 weeks and lost 10lbs but 8lbs was muscle and 2lbs was fat, you could find that you actually have a worse body composition after your diet than you did before…your overall body fat % may have gone up even if you lost weight!

The good news is that yes..we can tip the scales in our favour either way.

When Dieting

We want to safeguard our muscle, to do this studies have shown that an increase in protein consumption during calorie restriction can prevent muscle loss and therefore, as long as your weight loss is steady and not drastic, will mean that you mostly lose body fat during your diet and not your hard earned muscle. Aim for 2-3g protein per kg of bodyweight.

When bulking

There is likely no benefit to eating more than 1.4-2g protein per kg of bodyweight, so don’t waste calories on unnecessary amounts of protein. Instead, consume a sensible amount of fat 10-20% of total calories (from good fat source, not saturated) and use the rest of your calories for carbs, particularly around your workout to fuel your intensity and recover quickly.

Whether bulking or cutting you typically want to aim for 0.5-1lb change in bodyweight each week. If your macros are correct then you should be transforming your physique, sculpting it to your desired goal.

“But 0.5lbs sounds too slow”

I hear you…but listen, if your calories and macros are on point, along with the right training plan then that number means F.A. Why?! It is possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, you dont have to go through big ups and downs with your body fat level. What if over the next 4 weeks you lost 3lbs of fat but gained 2.5lbs of muscle…well that means that you have only dropped 0.5lbs on the scale, but guess what…you look bad ass now, toned and tighter, everything coming together. Dont focus on the number, focus on how you look!

3. How Many Meals

Don’t beleive the nonsense that you have to eat every few hours to stoke the metabolic fireplace and keep your metabolism high, research shows that whether you eat all your food in one go or spread across the day, the energy expended from eating is the same. HOWEVER…

There is a reason I favour splitting your meals up, which is protein synthesis. You see, to build muscle or maintain muscle we want to keep our body in a positive state of anabolism, meaning that our body is trying to build muscle and repair instead of catabolic where it is breaking down muscle. Truth is your body goes through this process of anabolic and catabolic all day, but we want to tip the scales in our favour, just like we do with macros. By eating every 3-4 hours and splitting our protein up to set portions across the day we can maximally stimulate protein synthesis across the day and give us the best chance of achieving our goals.

4. Micronutrients

On a vegan diet there is no reason why you should not be getting 20+ of your “5 a day”, your diet should be packed with vegetables, salad, fruit, nuts, legumes, seeds, grains and beans. Think of every food that you eat like a medicine for your body, everything serves a purpose. Why would you want to eat cookies if blackberries have powerful antioxidants to fight cancer and starve off diabetes. Everything you eat is amazing and can either heal your body and help you reach your goal or fight you and cause inflammation, constipation, wild fluctuations in blood sugar and a whole host of other issues.

I highly recommend purchasing “How Not to Die” on Amazon, it will give you a great insight into some of the powerful benefits of a plant based diet and specific foods you may want to include…or just confirm how awesome you are and justify everything you eat already 😉

4. Training

Calories (tick)

Which macronutrients to have (tick)

Micronutrients (tick)

Your body now has everything it needs, the right calories and macros combined with a nutrient dense diet (I will give you my diet plan below) to get you to your goal. Now all you need to do is spark the fire that will put all this nutrition to use and set you on your way to the changes you want.

First up is Cardio

I recommend that everyone (unless you have a v active job), whether you are bulking or dieting includes 35-45min of “cardio” a day, getting your heart rate above 130BPM and sweating. Not at a level where you cant breath, but just a comfortable pace for general cardiovascular health.

Next is weight lifting

Whether you are a woman who wants to look good in a bikini or a man who wants to step on a body building stage, the method of gaining muscle is exactly the same!

This DOES NOT mean that women will gain ripped bulging biceps! also it DOES NOT mean that mean will get big quickly..the amount of people that say to me “I want to get big but not too big”…c’mon! I have been training day in day out, meticiulous with my diet for years and I’m not too big haha…

for your body to build muscle it takes hard work and consistency, your body does not want muscle, in terms of evolution and survival, too much muscle was a handicap. Your body would rather be lean and nimble, not have lbs of additional lean mass to worry about.

so to actually build muscle we must force our body to change and we do this through

mixing up the exercises and confusing the muscle (JOKING, rolls eyes)…

PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD

We want to apply an increasing load (stimulus) to our body over a period of time to force an adaptation.

Imagine a guy in the gym doing squats or bench press with 60kg

Now imagine a woman in the gym doing db shoulder press with 20kg

1 year goes by, you walk back in the gym and that same guy and girl are using the exact same weights for the same exact amount of reps.

Do you think that their body changed?….NO

this is why you see people in the gym month after month, year after year with little to no change.

Because their magazine or app or whatever it was said do 4 sets of this for 12 reps thats what they did…for a year!

So whats the answer?

FORCE YOUR BODY TO CHANGE

Imagine now that same guy and girl, you walk back in the gym a year later and he is bench pressing 120kg and she is db shoulder pressing 40kg, now do you think their body would have changed?… exactly.

Dont focus on “fluff” going for the burn or aimlessly following a routine. Have a goal! a purpose and progress your lifts week on week to force an adaptation.

Lets see an example..

Set a time scale of 3-4 months and focus on building your strength each week for specific exercises.

I recommend training body parts twice per week with 2 variations of workouts.

Using legs as an example..

  • Week 1 Session 1 (LEGS a1)
  • Week 1 Session 2 (LEGS b1)
  • Week 2 Session 1 (LEGS a2)
  • Week 2 Session 2 (LEGS b2)
  • Week 3 Session 1 (REPEAT WEEK 1, a1)

etc

this gives you a good rotation through exercises so that you do not stall on lifts and enough variety that over 3 or 4 months you are not bored.

LEGS a1 could be something like

  • Squats
  • Leg press
  • Walking lunge
  • Leg extension
  • Barbell stiff leg deadlift
  • Seated hamstring curl
  • Calves

Then LEGS b1 would be a variation

  • Front squats
  • Feet wide and high leg press
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Sissy squats
  • DB stiff leg deadlift
  • Laying hamstring curl
  • Calves

you would create 2 more variants, a2 and b2

All exercises would be in the 8-15 rep range, with the exception of the isolation exercises e.g. leg extensions, for these you can go up to 20 (just a personal preference).

Do enough warm up sets that you are ready to lift and then go for your absolute max weight for 8 reps. e.g.

  • Squat (warm up/not failure) 60 x 10
  • Squat (warm up/not failure) 80 x 8
  • Squat (warm up/not failure) 90 x 3
  • Squat (1st working set) 100 x 8
  • Reduce weight by approx 10%
  • Squat (2nd working set) 90 x 11
  • Reduce weight by approx 10%
  • Squat (3rd working set) 80 x 14

Log the 3 working sets, next time round (in 2 weeks) your goal is to beat these numbers. IF you beat the numbers on every exercise, every set, every 2 weeks AND you are eating enough food then you will grow, no doubt about it!

Diet Example

Breakfast – Oats, protein smoothie (kale, spinach, protein powder, cinnamon) , berries.

Pre Workout – Beetroot juice, banana, fermented BCAA

Intra Workout – Carb powder, fermented BCAA

Post Workout – Protein smoothie (as above), beans, sweet potato, dates.

Lunch – Chickpea salad (Apple, lettuce, tomato, pepper, spinach), protein smoothie (as above), blackberries

Mid afternoon – protein smoothie (as above), popcorn

Dinner – tofu, lentils, avacado, broccoli, cauliflower, protein smoothie (as above)

Bed – Brazil nuts, walnuts, protein smoothie (as above plus flaxeed)

 

Right.. thats it in a nutshell, ping me on Facebook if you have any questions and thanks for reading!

Where Do Vegan’s Get Their Protein?

Various vegetarian products, raw tofu, marinated tofu, ground and ball soy protein.
Various vegetarian products, raw tofu, marinated tofu, ground and ball soy protein.

Within 1 week of going vegan you will already be exhausted of this question, friends and family will look at you puzzled and ask “you’re vegan?!”…”but I thought you need protein to build muscle?!”

The immediate assumption is made that because you are vegan you won’t be getting enough protein to build muscle.

SPOILER ALERT: Protein is abundant in every plant based food on the planet 😉

Before we get into the various different protein sources for vegans, it’s important to consider that just because you are vegan, this doesn’t mean that the laws of biology suddenly change for you. I commonly witness people go vegan and jump on the 80/10/10 bandwagon, where 80% of your food is from carbs, 10% from protein and 10% from fats.

There is nothing wrong with this diet setup if general health and well being are your goal, the abundance of carbs from plant sources will ensure that you are getting more than your recommended 5 portions of fruit and/or veg per day and the protein/fat ratios will be enough to serve your body’s minimum requirements to function..

..HOWEVER..

..I am sure you frequent my page because you want to add some lean mass and build muscle right? You don’t just want to “get by” with the bare minimum, you want to give your body the best possible chance of packing on some lean mass and/or losing body fat.

Whilst the 80/10/10 diet is fine for the average Joe, i’m guessing you don’t want to be average and therefore we have to look at the real data to determine what it takes to actually build muscle?

How Much Protein do Vegans Need?

First it depends on your goal

If you’re in a calorie deficit then you should increase your protein intake to reduce the amount of muscle loss. Remember, we never just want to lose weight…we want to lose and target FAT. An increase in protein during a calorie deficit has been shown to prevent muscle loss, aim for 2-3g protein per kg of body weight. [1]

If you are at maintenance calories or surplus, then there is likely no benefit to eating more than 1.4-2g protein per kg of body weight, save your calories for something else. [2]

Protein Timing

Regardless of whether you are vegan or not, if we keep our body in an anabolic environment by maximally stimulating muscle protein synthesis across the day we will build muscle and prevent muscle protein breakdown. Your body goes through a cycle of anabolic (build up) and catabolic (breakdown) of muscle tissue many times throughout the day, what we want to do is tip the scales in our favour.

Research shows that eating a protein rich meal at least every 4-5 hours is probably enough to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis. This puts the ideal amount of meals per day at 3-4, something like

  • 8am
  • Noon
  • 4pm
  • 8pm

When you eat enough protein containing the king of amino acid’s Leucine, your body flips the switch to start the anabolic process.

This will last for 2-4 hours (depending on what you ate), your body then returns to baseline at which point we want to hit it again with more Leucine rich protein to push protein synthesis up again.

Leucine is a key component to trigger muscle protein synthesis, therefore my choices of protein are based on their amino acid profile, ensuring that we provide our body with all the essential amino acids to build muscle.

Protein Sources For Vegans

My No1 protein source is Soy; Beans/Tofu/Shakes

Despite the misconception that Soy may give you moobs (look out for another article on this soon), Soy is one of the only plant based proteins that people would consider complete, meaning it has full amino acid profile, making it a great choice in your pursuit of building muscle.

  • Whole soy foods are also an excellent source of B vitamins, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • High quality protein with sufficient amounts of Leucine for muscle protein synthesis.
  • Low in saturated fat.
  • High in fiber.
  • There is increasing evidence that consumption of soy protein in place of animal protein lowers blood cholesterol levels and may provide other cardiovascular benefits.

The World Health Organization (WHO) calculated the countries where people live to full health the longest and Japan came out on top with 74.5 years.

Much of this is due to diet, they are the largest consumer of fish in the world and of whole soy!

That’s right, the healthiest people in the world eat soy..lots and lots of soy!

A typical serving of 200g of tofu provides 16g of protein, pair this up with some lentils or chickpeas (see below) and you have a nutrient dense, protein packed meal.

Quorn

Also known as Mycoprotein, Quorn is actually a protein-rich food made from an edible fungus. Similar to Soy, Quorn has a full amino acid profile, is used for many meat substitutes and if that doesn’t sound good enough…has almost enough fiber in 1 sitting to hit your entire recommended daily allowance!

1 bag of vegan Quorn pieces has 45g of protein.

Lentils

Lentils contain high levels of soluble fiber which has been shown to lower cholesterol, aid digestive health and stabalise blood sugar. They are also a great source of magnesium and folate which are good contributors to heart health.

A 240g serving of lentils has 10g protein, great to pair up with other protein sources like Tofu.

Chickpeas

Similar to lentils and soybeans, chickpeas are legumes, as such they contain similar benefits. High in soluble fiber, magnesium and folate, chickpeas also contain a much higher ratio of protein compared to lentils.

200g of chickpeas packs a whopping 38g of protein, perfect for a chickpea curry. Personally I find that the health benefits and protein content of chickpeas more than justifies my addiction to houmus 😉

These are just a few of my favourite protein sources for vegans, truth is, protein can be found in every plant based food there is, I recommend to mix and match your protein sources at each meal and rotate them across the week. This will give you a full amino acid profile at every meal and a delicious variety of combinations.

References

[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927027

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4022420/

Podcast 005 Conscious Muscle Round 2

podcast005Due to overwhelming demand, this week Jordan David, Conscious Muscle, joins me for the second time with a BIG podcast where we discuss workouts, bulking, body dysmorphia, food disorders, recovery, performance enhancing drugs and bringing up kids on a vegan diet.

To have your questions answered comment below or contact us direct on social.

How’s Your Lymphatic System? (it’s important)

Until the other day I had only heard of the Lymphatic System in serious conditions and  not given much thought to the role it plays in our body and how an efficient Lymphatic System can help increase your recovery and overall health.

What is the Lymphatic System?

Your Lymphatic System removes waste from every cell in your body and regulates your immune system, its function is to move a clear liquid called Lymph, containing white blood cells around your body to clear out waste and toxins. You have almost twice as much Lymph in your body than you do blood! the network is HUGE! Throughout the Lymph network are small structures called Lymph Nodes, in times of attack/inflammation/harmful organisms your lymph nodes go into overdrive to product antibodies and often can become sensitive or tender.

This is part of the reason I started to read up on the Lymphatic System, a few months ago I detached my Adductor and burst several blood vessels in my leg resulting in blood pooling, my leg filled with blood and became severely bruised, over the next few weeks I could feel tender areas around my groin and swelling, researching online it suggested that my Lymph Nodes could be in overdrive and even congested, preventing a speedy recovery. As I was sitting on the couch on my ass all day unable to move my leg…good times!…I started researching and reading about the incredible role your Lymphatic System plays in the body.

Interestingly your Lymphatic System does not have a pump, like your heart, to move Lymph around your body, instead it requires your movement/muscle contraction and help to get around, one of the best ways of course is exercise!

This is where it gets tricky with a busted leg, being sat on my backside all day, certainly was not helping in Lymph drainage and recovery of my injury. I wanted to find out further symptoms of a sluggish Lymphatic System and to see if there were any supplements or dietary changes I could make to improve the overall well being of my system, reaching the conclusion that an optimal and efficient Lymphatic System would not only assist in the recovery of my injury, but now armed with this information meant that keeping a healthy system at the top of my priority list will help long term with training, recovery and health!

Let’s imagine you’re injured or have toxins in your body, but you sit on the couch or lay in bed not moving, this can lead to a pooling effect of toxins, and in severe cases create a blockage in your Lymphatic System.

What are some of the symptoms of a sluggish Lymphatic System?

As I researched this, I started to realize that perhaps my Lymphatic System needed help a long time ago!…

  • Dry skin
  • Feeling tired
  • Bloating
  • Trouble sleeping/staying asleep
  • Holding on to water in trouble areas (lower back for me)
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Migrains
  • Loss of appetite
  • GI Issues
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Acne
  • Cellulite

Just to name a few! have you ever had a day where you feel sluggish and mental fog? again these could be symptoms of a poor Lymphatic System.

For me sleep was big thing, I often wake in the night and find it hard to get back to sleep, in the afternoons I feel an overwhelming fatigue and as the day goes on I find water retention increases and bloating becomes an issue.

So how can we maintain a healthy Lymphatic System or even repair it?

  1. Clean up your diet, stop eating processed crap, meat, dairy, gluten and reduce sugar/refined carbohydrates.
  2. Supplement with liver and kidney enzymes/support/supplements
  3. Take an intolerance test to foods or allergies test that may be putting added stress on your body.
  4. Drink at least 2 liters of filtered or purified water a day
  5. Exercise regularly – skipping or jumping on a trampoline can be one of the best ways to increase efficiency in less that 10min a day!
  6. Try not to sit/be inactive for extended periods of time
  7. There are specialist lymphatic massage experts that can stimulate lymphatic drainage
  8. De-stress – take time for yourself, reduce general stress around you

As I already take part in most of the above! I decided to seek out some additional supplements and a tiger roller! to support my Lymphatic System.

Supplements I found were…

  • Swanson Condition Specific Kidney Essentials
  • Swanson Ultra Diosvein Diosmin/Hesperidein
  • Swanson Condition Lymph Essentials with Yellow Clover Extract
  • Liv-52
  • Milk Thistle

As for the Tiger Roller, this thing is amazing, it is a massage roller that I have been using all week on my leg and feels like it makes a huge impact!

It is very early to tell with the supplements as this is only day 3, but last night I had the highest quality night sleep I have had in about 6 weeks and woke up today looking drier than normal. Time will tell, but I am positive about the assistance these supplements can give me and will keep the health of my Lymphatic System at the top of my list for overall body efficiency and well being.