“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.
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.
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.
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 😉
Which macronutrients to have (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)…
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)
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
- Leg press
- Walking lunge
- Leg extension
- Barbell stiff leg deadlift
- Seated hamstring curl
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
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!
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!