Podcast 001 – Welcome to the Vegan Body Coach Podcast

Welcome to the Vegan Body Coach podcast, where every couple of weeks I will interview experts from around the country to bring you the latest and most up to date vegan nutrition and exercise news. If you are confused about how to build muscle or lose fat on a vegan diet, or where to get your protein from, then tune in to discover new tips, important information and life changing discussions.

This week I discuss my history with diet, weight loss and veganism.

 

Build Muscle Without Getting Fat

the-right-way-to-bulk

Bulking season is upon us. The time of year when you throw caution to the wind and devour anything and everything in sight in hopes of adding some lean muscle to your frame. A relic of the early years of bodybuilding, bulking is yet another dogmatic strategy that is at best — ineffective. Nowadays, we know better. There are more effective ways to build lean mass without rapidly expanding your waistline and those pudgy cheeks at the same time.

The Traditional Bulk

The logic behind a traditional bulk is to add as much muscle mass as possible by any means necessary. Instead of counting calories, macros, or trying to optimize the diet for muscle gain, you are instructed to consume everything in sight. Pizza, ice cream, sushi, burritos, nothing is off limits. This goes on and on, almost indefinitely, until you either get so fat that you can’t bear the sight of your own reflection, or it comes time to prep for a show, summer, event, etc.

This strategy is based on the simple fact that you need to be in a calorie surplus to gain weight — but while this is true, it is not the whole picture. There are a whole host of factors — like hormones, nutrients, and macros — that determine whether the weight you gain is actually muscle, fat, or just water.

And the worst part about bulking is the aftermath. Traditional bulking usually comes with excessive fat gain, and natural or not, it is a monumental task to get rid of it all. While bulking is all fun, games, cheat foods, and happy days, the cut is miserable, long, and ends in negligible gains and metabolic damage.

Is there a limit to a bulk?

Even if we concede to brutish methods and forgo calorie counting and macro management in favor of plain and simple excess, the traditional bulk can only get us so far. You see, the fat you gain during a bulk has a direct negative impact on your general health and anabolic hormones. Creep over 15% BF, and your body will start to fight against you.

Your heart works overtime, your blood pressure rises, your estrogen goes through the roof, and you become insulin resistant, all of which result in more fat and less muscle. You lose motivation, you feel tired throughout the day, your mood suffers, you lose your sex drive…Your body goes completely out of whack, and basically, stops supporting the muscle building process.

The bottom line is that the higher your body fat is, the less likely you are to gain muscle.

What is the right way to bulk?

Your body likes balance. It does not want to be higher than 15% Body Fat (males) / 25% Body Fat (females) and it does not want your body fat to be too low (single digits) — your body wants the Goldilocks scenario, everything just right. When you start to stray from this comfort zone, your body will fight to bring you back to baseline. So why fight it?

Instead of putting yourself through the turmoil of an off season bulk, where body fat routinely blows past 15%, try cyclical bulking to keep your hormones in check and smash through plateaus. So what is cyclical bulking, you ask?

The Cyclical Bulk

In one sentence, cyclical bulking is a strategy whereby you switch between brief periods of cutting and bulking in order to maximize your capacity to gain muscle and lose fat. That’s the synopsis — now let’s dive into the details, because there is a bit more to it than that.

The ABCs of a Cyclical Bulk

If you are over 15% body fat, then it’s time to cut before even considering a bulking phase. If you are already at 15% or less, then it’s time to bulk. That is your baseline.

From there, you pick a number that is 5% over your current weight. This is your target for the bulk.

e.g. 200lb male X 5% = 10lbs

Your aim is to manipulate food intake to add about one to two pounds a week until you reach your goal. So our example 200lb male will bulk for between 5 and 10 weeks, depending on how much he gains every week. You will have to make adjustments every week based on your progress. Gain more than a pound or two, cut back on the food…didn’t gain enough, time to add some meals. Simple.

Once you reach your goal weight, regardless of how long that takes, you immediately go into a cutting phase to lose two thirds (66%) of the weight you just added. So our sample 200 lb male, who just gained 10 pounds, will aim to lose 2/3 of that. A little bit of math (.66 x 10 = 6.6) and presto! He knows he needs to lose about 6 pounds.

By the end of the cut, our bodybuilder has gained 4 pounds* of real muscle.

That would be one whole cycle. Basically, you repeat this process for as long as you want — until you are as big as your heart desires.

*Now I know you’re probably thinking that 4 pounds on a 200lb bodybuilder doesn’t sound like much, but  remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed that in his best year he managed just 15lbs! And that’s Arnold we’re talking about! So if you can manage 4lbs every every 3-6 months, you are not very far from Arnold’s best.

The Magic of  A Cyclical Bulk

What makes the cyclical bulk so great is that it works with your body instead of against it. You feed your body when it is primed for growth, and you cut the fat when it is ready to shred. Here’s how the magic happens:

  1. It is really easy to gain weight immediately after a cut
  2. It is really easy to lose fat immediately after a bulk
  3. Growth and fat loss, both occur in spurts

After a cut, your body is extremely sensitive to nutrients. It has been deprived of food, and in response, has unregulated many processes which allow it to absorb nutrients and build muscle efficiently. The opposite happens after a bulk — your metabolism is through the roof from the extra food you have been consuming and the muscle you have just gained. Minor manipulations to your diet, and the fat melts off. The last point is perhaps the most important. Growth and fat loss occur in spurts, neither is consistent. You may not see any changes for weeks, and then BOOM, a few pounds come or go practically overnight. The cyclical bulk takes advantage of this. Instead of idling, waiting around for progress to happen, you force it to happen by forcing you body into rapid growth and fat loss cycles.

How To Structure Your Cyclical Bulk

Structuring a cyclical bulk is pretty simple. If you are above 15% body fat, start by cutting. If you are below 15% body fat, start bulking. Measure progress weekly, and if the scales are not moving every week, then increase/decrease your kcal by 10-15%, and weigh yourself again in 1 week. Always maintain a high level of protein in your diet , and look to increase this when cutting to keep hold of all your lean gains in a kcal deficit. And as far as food choices go, be flexible, eat healthy most of the time, but enjoy some “cheat” foods too, i’m a big fan of flexible dieting to ensure you adhere to a lifestyle instead of a “diet”. I recommend 80-90% of your diet is nutrient dense food that will have a good impact on your health and goals, but 10-20% of your diet can be treats, cheats…basically whatever you want. This way, you not only optimize nutrition to maximize progress, but you stay happy and sane throughout the entire process..everything in moderation 😉

Bulking Must Die

Everyone that’s bulking cant wait to get shredded, and everyone whose shredded can’t wait to eat and grow.

Old school mentality would have us bulk up, adding lbs of muscle..and fat in the process, only to be followed by a long and arduous cut to reveal a few measly pounds of muscle.

Cyclical bulking is the intelligent way to gain muscle, look good year round, and achieve greater gains in the long run.

Vegan Diet Plan – Cardio & Conditioning

vegan-runner-dietEvery Sunday I will be answering questions I receive on Facebook in a blog post to share with everyone.

This week I was asked how to setup a diet and exercise plan for someone that is training for a half marathon but wants to build muscle and get stronger at the same time.

They are currently running 5 times a week, eating 2,500kcal a day with a macro split of 80% carbs, 10-15% protein and 5-10% fat and have no access to a gym.

The unfortunate reality is that it is incredibly unlikely you will build any muscle whilst training for an endurance event. Endurance training such as long distance running is catabolic by its very nature and will limit if not regress your ability to build muscle. With this in mind I therefore recommend that one does all they can to maintain all their current muscle mass whilst dieting and/or training for such an event, and then focus on building muscle afterwards, when you are in a calorie surplus.

Let’s take a moment to consider the people in the world that put on the most muscle..bodybuilders. Their whole focus in life is building muscle, which is why you will see them go through periods of “bulking” and then “cutting”.

In periods of a calorie surplus, with the right training, your body will grow. Depending on how accurate you are with your calories..and dedicated with your training, you will gain different amounts of muscle and fat.

Then when you start the cutting process it is vital to maintain your hard earned muscle and train/diet in a way that predominantly focuses on fat loss.

The end result over these cycles of “bulking” and “cutting” is a toned, lean physique with good muscle definition and low body fat.

Training for an endurance event will likely put your body in a catabolic environment whereby it uses carbohydrates, fats and protein (your muscle) as fuel.

So my advice would be..

Focus on the task at hand, train as you are for the marathon, but adjust your macronutrient split to give your body the best chance of preserving as much muscle mass as possible.

Then once the event is over you can focus your attention on your secondary goal of building muscle and getting stronger.

At that time you can add in more calories, join a gym and grow.

Similar to a bodybuilder “bulking” up, by eating an excess of calories will put your body in an anabolic environment. I’m not suggesting by any means to gain 50lbs in 3 months or binge on cakes, chocolate and pizza. But small increments in your calories each week as you get stronger in the gym.

You could spend several months in the gym getting stronger and leaner, and then several months training for your next marathon.

If nutrition is correct, you will gain muscle and some fat in the bulk stage, then lose the fat and maintain your muscle in the cardio/endurance training stage…end result? stronger and leaner..boom!

How do we maintain muscle mass in a calorie deficit?

There are 2 simple ways to maintain muscle mass in a calorie deficit

  1. Diet
  2. How you train

1. Diet

It is vital in a calorie deficit or when training for an endurance event to increase your protein intake to preserve as much muscle as possible. When dieting I would aim for at least 3g protein per KG of bodyweight. I recommend you take a look at my previous article here The Best Diet For Vegans

You will also want to ensure that your body has ample amounts of glycogen stores (carbohydrates) to fuel your training.

In my opinion most people eat way too many carbs, especially those that are sedentary at any other time than the gym. In the basic terms think of carbs as your fuel source. If you are sitting on your ass all day you don’t really need them! Which is why I favour carbohydrates in and around your workout/training window.

At times your body needs it we provide carbohydrates and protein.

Then for the rest of the day we focus on fats and protein for recovery and repair.

Lets say you train at 5pm in the evening. Here is how I would setup your food for the day.

  • 9am Protein and fat meal
  • 12pm Protein and fat meal
  • 3pm Low GI carb, something like oats, sweet potato and protein
  • 5pm Intra workout carb drink, 20-50g carbs, with BCAA
  • Post training – large carb meal, high GI, rice etc with protein
  • Pre Bed – Protein and fat meal or maybe low GI depending on how your body responds.

The macro split would be 40/40/20

(40g protein, 40g carbs, 20g fat)

In my opinion this type of setup would give you plenty of fuel when you need it and enough protein (providing calories are accurate) to give you the best chance of preserving muscle.

2. How You Train

You may read and hear about people lowering the amount of weight they use and doing higher reps to “tone up”. You know the broscience; heavy weights and low reps to build muscle, high reps and low weight to tone up.

This is complete utter nonsense. The only way you are going to preserve your muscle mass when dieting is to finish your diet as strong as when you started!

If you can squat 100kg now, then you better make damn sure you can squat 100kg at the end of your diet.

This is the ONLY way to train if you are serious about maintaining your muscle when dieting.

Just take a moment to think about it…at a time when your body is in a calorie deficit, why on earth would it hold on to excess muscle mass if you did not give it a reason to. If you suddenly drop the weights and blasting reps out, that’s a sure fire way to kiss goodbye to all your hard work.

Instead give your body no excuse but to keep that muscle. Take a log book with you into the gym and make sure that no matter what you are at least maintaining your strength in the gym.

Conclusion

  • Focus on one goal at a time, either endurance, cutting, dieting etc or get stronger, adding muscle etc.
  • When dieting, consume at least 3g protein per kg of bodyweight.
  • Schedule your carbs at times you need them, in and around your training.
  • Train heavy (safely of course), to maintain you strength when in a calorie deficit.
  • For more information about the best diet setup for vegans please visit my previous post; The Best Diet For Vegans

Scared of Soy

soy gyno

There seems to be a BIG misconception about the consumption of soy and possible negative side effects this can cause on your hormones. I have to say that even I fell into this trap in the beginning. You see, people argue that soy has estrogenic properties and potentially can be detrimental to the health of both men and women.

A quick search online will have men concerned that if they consume too much soy, they will get Gyno (moobs), lose their hair, gain fat and become an emotional wreck.

So whats this all about?

The confusion comes with the phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogen is a plant estrogen, a naturally occurring nonsteroidal plant compound.

People hear that word “Estrogen” and panic sets in, they immediately think about estrogen created by the endocrine system and assume it’s the same, however that’s not exactly true.

Although phytoestrogen has a similar structure to our natural estrogen there is little to no evidence to suggest that when consumed this exactly mimics estrogen in the body. Some studies say because of the similar structure it will actually bind to our estrogen receptors and block negative effects from our own natural production..which could be a good thing. And other studies say it raises our estrogen levels and could cause an issue.

When science sits on the fence as to whether something is good or bad, all we can do is look at the evidence in front of us and make a logical conclusion.

How can I be sure that soy will not give you moobs? or estrogen related issues?

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!

But what about the man who had boobs?

Meat eaters will be quick to point out this 1 case study, of an elderly man who consumed 3/4 gallon of soy milk a day and developed gynecomastia, he stopped and the symptoms disappeared.

Before jumping to any wild conclusions, lets think about this..

Out of the MILLIONS of people who eat soy every day, 1 person..yes just 1, developed gynemastia, not to mention the fact that he was elderly, so his natural testosterone production would be low, estrogen would be high anyway. Don’t you think that if estrogen was really an issue, there would be hundreds if not thousands of cases like this?

Soy makes up at least 75% of the protein I consume on a daily basis, it is one of the most complete proteins that vegans can consume in their efforts to build muscle.

Benefits of Soy

  • 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.

In 1995, a meta-analysis of 38 controlled clinical studies8 concluded that substituting soy protein for animal protein significantly lowered total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides without affecting HDL cholesterol. These effects were greater in subjects with higher baseline cholesterol values. Daily soy protein consumption resulted in a 9.3% decrease in total serum cholesterol, a 12.9% decrease in LDL cholesterol, and a 10.5% decrease in triglycerides.8 The cholesterol-lowering effect of soy was in addition to the effect seen with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol (NCEP [National Cholesterol Education Program] Step I diet).

GMO Soy

in the US over 95% of their Soy is genetically modified and covered in pesticides. I would be more concerned about the health consequences of pesticides and GMO than I would about anything else.

Although deemed “safe” for consumption, I ask why on earth would you want to eat something that has been sprayed in chemicals? I will write a new article soon regarding GMO and organic food.

Where ever possible for ALL food I recommend non GMO and organic only.

Who Should Really Be Worried About Estrogen?

Meat eaters! yes, you know the ones, trying to persuade you that soy is going to mess up your estrogen.. Oh really, please tell me about how that milk your are drinking with blood, igf-1 hormones, puss and steroids are not effecting your health?!

ALL cow’s milk (regular and ‘organic’) has 59 active hormones, scores of allergens, fat and cholesterol.

Most cow’s milk has measurable quantities of herbicides, pesticides, dioxins (up to 200 times the safe levels), up to 52 powerful antibiotics (perhaps 53, with LS-50), blood, pus, feces, bacteria and viruses.

Yet surely its Soy…a natural protein source, that screws up your hormones..

come on guys, get real. :p

References
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-soya

http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/102/20/2555.1

https://www.womentowomen.com/nutrition/the-health-benefits-of-soy/

http://www.rense.com/general26/truth.htm

This for That – Vegan Substitutes

You realise that the world is mad, something just clicked in your head, whether it was cruelty, global warming, sustainability or all 3 and you start to wonder why the hell you didn’t go vegan sooner?!

vegan-diet-hardBut then something happens, you start to think…it’s actually bloody hard to be vegan, can I do this? it takes time, thought and a lot of effort. Not to mentioned all the comments and remarks you will get from the uneducated/ignorant humans on the planet.

“I could never go Vegan, I couldnt give up cheese! steak! Bacon!”

Translates to – I just dont give a shit!

Your first week…super tough, you quickly learn that there is egg or dairy in everything! and it starts to look like your limited to just a handful of food choices. Heck I even went to purchase some guacamole to discover it has milk in it! Now I just make my own.

You even learn that Vitamin D3 and other nutrients such as Calcium that are added to foods as preservatives or to further increase nutrient density, in many cases come from animal sources.

Take Vitamin D3 as an example, 1 of the top deficiencies in the UK, this vitamin has been added to almost every cereal you can imagine, but where do they get it from?

sheep

It actually comes from Lanolin, a waxy substance that is secreted by glands found in a sheep’s skin.

By the end of the first week you’re exhausted, but determined more than ever to make a difference and stand up for what you believe in, so you push forward and guess what…it starts to get easier..much easier, the more you learn about foods and what you can/can’t eat, the easier it becomes. Once you have a strong core group of substitutes for things you use to eat there is no stopping you!

..And the great news is that we live in a world of technological advances and ever growing Vegan population, meaning new food substitutes are either here or just a round the corner.

eric-schmidt-vegan

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has named the number one “game-changing” trend of the future as the consumption of plant-based proteins instead of meat.

I truly believe that there is simply no need on ANY level or reasoning to consume ANY product that has come from another life, whether that be cow, sheep or kangaroo! There is no excuse, the only reason people aren’t vegan is down to habit. Their parents weren’t vegan, their grandparents weren’t vegan and they have years of commercial and social brainwashing to justify (in their eyes), why they eat meat. Sadly through years of conditioning and the HUGE disconnect between whats on a supermarket shelf and how it go there, people will forever choose to turn a blind eye if it makes their life more difficult 🙁

HABITS ARE NOT NEEDS

For all you incredible vegans out there, here are some of my favourite substitutes I have found over the last year, it took me nearly 6 months to create a pizza lol, trialing different dough, cheese and toppings every Saturday! But it was worth it! I hope there are a couple of gems here for you. If you think I have missed anything, please just comment and I will add.

Cheese -> Yeast Flakes, Nut Cheese, Coconut Cheese

vegan-cheese
nutcrafter.co.uk

I soon realised with cheese that there is not a universal cheese that you can use for every purpose. Instead you must be selective of the right cheese for the right occasion.

For pizza you need something like Mozzarisella, available at veggiestuff.com, this is the cheese that ZiZi are now using on their vegan pizza’s.

Or you can do as I did and create your own, using a combination of nutritional yeast flakes, almond milk and oil, you can create a great tasting cheese sauce for pasta or pizza.

nutcrafter.co.uk delicious cheese (one of my favourites) from cashew nuts.

Vegusto.co.uk has a good selection of hard cheeses.

Meat -> Wheat Gluten, Jack Fruit, Tofu, Mycoprotein

Meat has only recently come on my radar, I subscribed to the fact that as far as meat goes I would be disappointed to pursue an alternative.

Tofu is great as a protein substitute, but does’t really resemble that of meat.

I am yet to try JackFruit, but some of the recent recipes I have seen make it top of my list!

Mycoprotein, better known as Quorn, is o…k… a little bland on it’s own, but if you are using the chicken style pieces in a sauce or curry then its much better. The Vegan Quorn spicy burgers…LOVE them!

And then came Wheat Gluten…all hail Seitan!

www.baked-in.com
www.baked-in.com

Wheat Gluten opened up a whole new world for me, I would never use it as my primary protein source (the bio-availability sucks!) but as part of my daily diet, hell yes! Because of its texture, wheat gluten can really fill that void where you once had meat. Again Veggiestuff.com is my go to source, the “ribs” are delicious.

Dairy -> Almond/Soy/Oat Milk

It seems a new variant of Dairy is coming out every month now, Almond, Soy, Oat, Coconut, the list goes on..spoilt for choice!

Egg -> Tofu, Egg substitutes

Sgaia's Vegan Meats
Sgaia’s Vegan Meats

There is actually a Vegan egg substitute now, promising to be the same as eggs in consistency and taste..but vegan. It even comes in an egg box and imaginativily called VeganEgg.

Another gem I recently found was https://www.instagram.com/sgaiafoods/ (see pic)

Other than that, if eggs on their own is what you want, then puree Tofu is a great alternative for a similar texture.

Chocolate -> so many choices!

green-blacks-veganWhen it comes to chocolate there is an overwhelming choice! My absolute favourite is Green & Blacks mint chocolate, I eat at least half a bar a day, I cant get enough of it.

I recently discovered dairyfreetoffee.com, after reading some rave reviews on Instagram, I’m going to put my order in!

Yoghurts -> Alpro soy yoghurt

Alpro do a wide range of soy yoghurts with fruit and even chocolate like mousse. Of recent there are a number of new coconut based yoghurts also turning up.

Ice Cream -> Cashews

booja-booja-veganNow i’m sure that there are other ice creams out there, but in my opinion only 1 can reign supreme of the vegan ice creams and that my friend is…drum roll please…Booja Booja Hunky Punky Chocolate, not only is it dairy and egg free, it has just 4 ingredients! Try it, I promise you won’t be dissapointed!

Struggling for Snacks? why not try..

  • Popcorn
  • Rice cakes
  • Flapjacks
  • Bagels with peanut butter

If you think I missed anything please comment below, Facebook or message me and I will add to the list. Thanks 🙂

The Best Diet for Vegans

vegan-diet-choiceWhen I started my vegan journey, I soon realised that there is a lot of confusion around dieting as a vegan. The 80/10/10 diet, intermittent fasting, raw vegan, keto vegan, etc, etc. With such an overwhelming choice, how do you know what diet to follow?

The absolute best diet, without a shadow of a doubt, is the one YOU can adhere to, not the one Tom, Dick or Harry is following. You see the very definition of the word diet is to;

restrict oneself to small amounts or special kinds of food in order to lose weight.

it’s this word “restrict” that causes most people to either bomb out of their diet with a binge OR lose weight, go back to how you were eating before and gain all the weight back!

This mindset of “dieting” and “restriction” will make you miserable, as someone who has battled with bulimia and obesity I know first hand that it’s a rabbit hole you can quickly get lost down.

What happens if I say to you “whatever you do, don’t think about an elephant”?..

elephant

..you’re going to start thinking about an elephant. The same goes for food, if someone tells you that you can no longer eat carbs, cake, chocolate, avacados, whatever it may be, guess what, eventually it’s all you will think about, you will crave it…obsess about it…beat yourself up and the BOOM the diet is over..failure 🙁

Unless you plan to step on a stage one day to compete in a physique competition, then no one should ever feel so restricted that it has a detrimental effect on your mind…and body.

How do I choose the best diet for me?

First, take a moment to consider your end goal, why is it you want to “diet” in the first place?

  • Are you unhappy with the way you look?
  • Do you feel tired and miserable and get sick often?
  • Perhaps, like me, you want to gain muscle and sculpt your physique?

Everyone wants to diet for a different reason, we are all individuals and it should only be our goal that determines the path we take to get there. Don’t prescribe to the idea that there is only 1 solution out there, a one size fits all. You can have your cake and eat it!

Someone looking to build muscle will require a different diet setup to someone that wants to run a marathon or just fit in the jeans from 2 years ago that are now gathering dust at the back of a wardrobe.

Whatever it is, decide what your destination looks like, in 1 years time, how do you want to look and feel about yourself? Visualise it, how will you feel when you reach that goal?

I encourage you to write it down, and stick it on your fridge! or make a note in your phone and save it as your background.

Once you have that goal and know what you want to achieve, you’re now ready to look at the different diet options to get you to your goal.

You can’t start a journey if you don’t know the destination.

The Basics

There are a few universal basics that should be considered with every diet.

  1. 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]
  2. If you are at maintenance calories or surplus, then there is no benefit to eating more than 1.4-2g protein per kg of body weight, save your calories for something else. [2]
  3. Fats should make up no less than 10-15% of your diet, a single digit fat % of macros can inhibit Lipolysis (the breakdown of fats) and cause serious hormonal issues for women. [3]
  4. Carbs don’t make you fat…the ONLY thing that makes you fat is too many calories!
  5. Aim to get at least 25g fiber per day for gut health, cholesterol, glucose management.
  6. Spread your protein over at least 3 meals per day for maximum protein snythesis. I typically eat 4 times a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner and a mid afternoon snack.

Now you have the basics it should be fairly easy to work out your macro nutrients for the day. It does not matter if you eat high carb or low carb, the only thing that matters is covering the basics and hitting your total calorie intake.

Let’s run through an example.

First, work out your basic metabolic rate (BMR), this is the amount of calories you typically burn in a day without exercise.

Then add how active you are over a week, to determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

I could give you the long winded calculations for this, but it’s much easier to use an online calculator that does everything for you. Check out https://www.grenade-fit.com/tdee-calculator/ or https://tdeecalculator.net/ and enter your details.

tdee-calculator-vegan

The GrenadeFIT calculator will actually then do everything for you, but I’m going to run through how it works in more detail..

My TDEE is 2,666 and right now I am trying to reduce body fat, therefore I will aim for a calorie intake of 2,400, giving me a 10% deficit. I always recommend starting with a small deficit, this gives you room to remove calories when fat loss stalls.

Now all you need to do is workout your protein, fats and carbs. First up is protein..

88kg x 3g (remember, higher protein intake when dieting) = 264g protein

Protein has 4 kcal per gram, 264g protein = 1,056 kcal

I know my fat must be at least 15% of my diet, TDEE x 15% = 360 kcal

Fat has 9 kcal per gram, 360 kcal / 9 = 40g fat

That’s carbs and fat done, and so far I have used up 1,416 calories, leaving me with 984 kcal for carbohydrates. Like protein, carbs have 4 kcal per gram, 984 / 4 = 246g carbs.

There we have it

2,400kcal = 264g Protein | 246g Carbs | 40g Fat

I like to have 2 different days of macronutrients, so that I am never restricted in my food choices. I train every other day, so on training days I will have high carbs to help recovery and performance, as per the above.

..And for non training days I will have high fat and low carb…hey, who doesn’t like eating half a jar of peanut butter for no reason at all!

My macros for a non training day will be more like;

2,400kcal = 264g Protein | 111g Carbs | 100g Fat

By eating this way, I NEVER feel restricted in what I can have. On training days I can eat lots of delicious carbs to help fuel my workouts.

Fruit, oats, popcorn, pizza!

and non training days, lots of delicious fats like..

Avacado, peanut butter, houmus, dark chocolate! I love Green & Blacks Mint dark chocolate!

green-blacks-vegan

There is really no food off limits in this way of eating. Try it for yourself, write a list of all the favourite meals and food you enjoy, work out the macros for your high carb (training day) and low carb day (rest day), and then fit ANY foods you like within each day.

The less restriction you place on yourself, the easier it will be to adhere to a “diet”, and soon enough you will have everything running like clockwork, that it won’t ever feel like a “diet”, it will just be the way you naturally eat as part of your vegan lifestyle, for the rest of your life.

References

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19927027
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4022420/
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11171592

Do Vegans Need BCAA Supplements?

You may have heard people claim that those who don’t eat meat, won’t be able to get all the required protein they need to build muscle.

They normally go on to express that plant based protein sources are not complete proteins and do not contain a full amino acid profile, which can be misleading.

In fact all plant protein sources are complete and do contain a full amino acid profile. The confusion I believe people come across is that although, yes, plant protein sources are complete proteins, most are deficient in at least one of the 9 essential amino acids and therefore are considered incomplete.

vegan leucineWhat’s an amino acid? 

Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of it. When you digest protein, your body will break this down into amino acids to make proteins to help the body:

  • Break down food
  • Grow
  • Repair body tissue
  • Perform many other body functions

What is an essential amino acid?

Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body on it’s own and as such must come from food.

There are 9 essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Of all the amino acids, there is 1 that is considered king when it comes to building muscle, Leucine. Before we dive into the benefits of leucine in muscle growth, first lets cover some basics.

When you lift weights, your body enters a catabolic state, whereby skeletal muscle protein degradation is increased, the overall effect is a negative net protein balance.

Post workout when you consume protein, this flips the switch to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and begins the process of repairing and building new muscle.

Why is Leucine king?

It is the rise in blood concentrations of amino acids and particularly the level of Leucine in your blood that stimulates protein synthesis.

Leucine is the most abundant of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in muscles (the other two are isoleucine and valine) and has a unique ability to stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis and activate major components of the muscle building pathway.

How much Leucine do you need to stimulate protein synthesis?

The ideal amount of Leucine is up for debate, but in studies using single doses, just 2.5g of Leucine stimulated protein snythesis. In long-term studies, the recommended outcome is to consume 8 or more grams of Leucine per day in divided doses of at least 2.5mg at each meal.

and THIS is where I believe the “complete” amino acid profile of plant based protein sources comes into question.

Most plant based protein sources are deficient in the no1 vital amino acid to trigger protein synthesis. It’s not to say that protein synthesis wont occur with plant based sources, but it’s probably not the most optimal if your goal is to build muscle.

Check out the Leucine content of these popular vegan protein sources, remember you likely need at least 2.5g of Leucine for the best results.

  • Mycoprotein (QUORN) 0.95g of Leucine per 100g
  • Chickpeas 0.63g of Leucine per 100g
  • Lentils 0.62g of Leucine per 100g
  • Quinoa 0.33g of Leucine per 100g
  • Tofu 0.73g of Leucine per 100g

Should you supplement with BCAA or Leucine?

Depending on how often you eat, it’s quite possible that over the course of a day you will hit the required 8g of Leucine, which is why there are many vegans out there who don’t supplement with BCAA that have great physiques, however you will unlikely be hitting the minimum requirement of Leucine per single dose (each meal), to maximally stimulate protein synthesis.

Personally, I do supplement, first and foremost I focus on whole foods across the day, but alongside each meal I will supplement with either 10g BCAA or 5g Leucine to ensure that I am exceeding that threshold and increasing my chances of building lean tissue.

Vegan Leucine Supplements

Be careful when choosing your BCAA or Leucine supplements, most that you will see come from animal sources. Instead look for “fermented” BCAA and if in doubt always contact the vendor.

My go to is MyProtein.com (use code MARKFOX10 at checkout for a discount) Fermented BCAA 4:1:1 or Fermented Leucine..whatever you do, DO NOT get the unflavoured Leucine, you will cringe and shudder every time you try to drink it.

NOTE: supplementing with just Leucine alone will not result in optimal effects if the your diet is low in protein. This is because other BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) will be preferentially oxidized and lead to a BCAA imbalance that compromises anabolism. Therefore, if total protein intake is low, supplement with all three BCAAs.

Have something to add or say about this article? comment below 🙂

References

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm

http://www.nutritionexpress.com/article+index/protein/showarticle.aspx?id=807

https://www.healthaliciousness.com

Organic Vegan Protein Brownies

organic vegan protein brownies

Wow wa wee woo! This batch of organic protein brownies will be ready and cooked in under 20 minutes!

Best of all? there is only 4 ingredients!

Delicious, warm, gooey chocolate brownies….mmmmm….brownies.

Print Recipe
Organic Vegan Protein Brownies Yum
organic vegan protein brownies
Course Desert, Snack
Cuisine Cheat
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Brownies
Ingredients
Course Desert, Snack
Cuisine Cheat
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings
Brownies
Ingredients
organic vegan protein brownies
Instructions
  1. Mix everything in a bowl, place in a lined baking tray and cook for 15min at 190...done!
Recipe Notes

Total batch

687 Kcal | 65g Protein | 65g Carbs | 17g Fiber | 18g Fat

Per Brownie

86 Kcal | 8g Protein | 8g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 2g Fat

*Net carbs (actual carbs minus fiber carbs)

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Vegan Low Carb Pizza Recipe

Vegan? I hear you say… AND low carb? Get the…out of here!

Yes believe it or not…after months of trial and error, I finally figured out a way to recreate pizza…a low carb, vegan pizza…da da da daaaaa!

(if you don’t want low carb, just use normal flour)

Look, firstly I have to say something…Vegan cheese sucks! there. Over the last year, I have tried rice cheese, nut cheese, coconut cheese, soy cheese and wheat gluten cheese, to no avail!

The trouble with Vegan cheese?

It looks like cheese..

sort of smells like cheese..

BUT, tastes like plastic..

and melts like…well, most don’t actually melt at all! and those that do generally end up looking like a teenagers face going through puberty, seeping oil all over the place.

What if there is a way to create that melted like texture to begin with, like a thick cheese sauce? and then smear it all over the top of the pizza…after all, cheese is suppose to melt anyway, so it’s all about the flavour and consistency to recreate that effect.

As for the flour, I use a flour substitute called Carbalose. Carbalose flour is a combination of enzyme enhanced wheat and wheat protein, vital wheat gluten, wheat fiber, high protein wheat flour, vegetable fiber, canola oil and salt.

Let’s Get This Pizza Party Started!

Print Recipe
Low Carb Vegan Pizza Yum
vegan-pizza-slice
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, Pizza
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Passive Time 60 Minutes
Servings
Slices
Ingredients
Pizza Base
Pizza Sauce
Cheese
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, Pizza
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Passive Time 60 Minutes
Servings
Slices
Ingredients
Pizza Base
Pizza Sauce
Cheese
vegan-pizza-slice
Instructions
Pizza Base
  1. Pre-heat your oven…this isn’t an exact science, we just want to create a warm environment for the yeast to do it’s thang. I turn mine up to 130 degrees, keep it on for 5-10 min and then switch off. Add flour to bowl (save tbsp for later) Add salt and mix through flour
  1. In a mug put 2 tsp of yeast into 1/2 cup of warm water (not to hot or it will kill the yeast) Add the sugar to the yeast…like a fat kid with cake, yeast LOVES sugar, it gets it all excited and starts to activate Stir thoroughly and leave for 5 minutes (you will see a froth appear on top of the yeast)
  2. Pour yeast mixture into flour gradually…take your time and check the consistency of the dough Mix all together When you have a dough like texture, remove the dough from the bowl, sprinkle the tbsp of flour you saved on to a work surface and start kneading for 5-10 min
  3. Place in a glass bowl and cover with cling film Place into the previously heated oven (should be warm, not hot) and leave for an hour
Pizza Sauce
  1. vegan-sauce Put the passata in a saucepan and begin to heat Add Oregano, garlic and black pepper Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. We want to thicken it up by reducing the water.
    vegan-sauce-300x297
Cheese Sauce
  1. Add oil and flour to new saucepan on a low heat, and stir until it forms a paste Gradually stir in Almond milk The sauce will start to thicken Add paprika & mustard
    vegan-cheese
  2. Continue stirring throughout, make sure that there are no lumps Add the yeast flakes Stir until you have a yogurt like consistency
Put it all together
  1. Remove the dough from the oven (turn oven up to 180-200 degrees) Lightly grease (1kcal spray oil) a pizza tray
  2. Roll out dough and put your pizza base onto the tray (sometimes I have a little dough left over and make some tiny garlic dough balls)
    pizza-base
  3. Add passata Add cheese sauce Spread the cheese sauce with a back of a spoon over the top of the passata
    vegan-pizza-sauce
  4. Add toppings (I used a Wheat Gluten Salami, high in protein, low fat, low carb, tastes great!)
    vegan-pizza-toppings
  5. Chuck it in the oven for 15-20 min
    vegan-pizza
Recipe Notes

Per Pizza

1,415 Kcal | 144g Protein | 87g* Carbs | 58g Fat

Per Slice

176 Kcal | 18g Protein | 11g* Carbs | 7g Fat

*Net carbs (actual carbs minus fiber carbs)

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Micronutrients

Micronutrients

You may second glance and think that I have spelt the word wrong, but no..I want to talk to you about something you may have never considered, your daily micronutrients not macronutrients for once.

What’s the difference?

micronutrientsMacronutrients you will likely be familiar with and these comprise of protein, fats and carbs, whereas micronutrients are the incredible vitamins and minerals found in everything and anything you eat and drink. Micronutrients are involved in every single process in your body and are essential for the normal growth and development of all living organisms.

Have you ever heard someone claim that a calorie is just a calorie? No such thing as clean or dirty carbs?

Well, i’m calling BS on that my friend. In an obvious sense, yes of course a calorie is a calorie and ultimately a surplus or deficit will determine your body composition, BUT all is not equal when you consider the nutrient density of that calorie; 100 calories from CocaCola vs 100 calories from an avocado, has a big difference in the micronutrients your body will utilise.

Coca cola has zero micronutrients, whereas an avocado will give you a host of B-Complex vitamins, vitamin C, E, K and minerals such as potassium, Zinc, Magnesium (one of the most common deficiencies in the UK) and many more!

For the most part if you are getting your calories from whole, organic produce, then you probably have nothing to worry about, however if you subscribe to a particular way of eating that eliminates specific food groups, then chances are you should be supplementing your diet to give your body everything it needs to work the way you want it to.

Ever feel sluggish, mood swings? Bad hair, skin? Trouble sleeping?

Have you stopped to consider the micronutrients you consume on a daily basis?

diet-restrictionI think the very nature of a “diet”, which by definition is to restrict yourself, puts most people in this mindset where they feel so bound by the constraints of their eating, that they use IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and other obscure nutrition practices to justify eating junk food, without consideration for the positive or negative effects that food has on your body. By cheating ourselves and our body with these “empty” calories, you are possibly missing out on the vital micronutrients your body needs to keep everything in check.

Your mum was right all those years ago, it’s what’s on the inside that counts 😉

It’s important to understand that food has the power to do 2 things;

  1. Impact your body in a positive way
  2. Impact your body in a negative way

Don’t just opt for a physique that has you looking good on the outside, put as much effort into the micronutrients and look after your body, focusing on long term health. After all that’s what being FIT is all about right? It’s not all protein shakes and six packs…bottom line we want to live longer, be healthy and feel good about ourselves.

Every time you make a choice of what to eat, you have the power to decide what the outcome will be.

food-choices

Top 4 micronutrient deficiencies in the UK

Calcium

Why you need it?

To develop and maintain strong bones and teeth, to develop normal muscle and nerve function, and to maintain healthy blood pressure.

How to get it?

Not cows milk! To overturn a common myth, cows milk actually causes inflammation in the body and puts you at greater risk of osteoporosis, the more you drink, the more your body excretes calcium in urine..not what we want…we want to keep it in our body…Instead look to those delicious leafy, green vegetables; Spinach, Broccoli and Kale to name a few.

Vitamin D

Why you need it?

Vitamin D works in harmony with Calcium, without Vitamin D your body can not store Calcium.

How to get it?

Your body can actually produce Vitamin D on it’s own, all you need to do is sit out in the sun for 20min each day…easier said than done in the UK!

Magnesium

Why you need it?

Similar to Calcium, Magnesium helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, it plays a vital role in muscle relaxation, facilitates communication between nerves and muscles, activates hundreds of enzymes with numerous functions, and helps with metabolism.

How to get it?

Spinach, potato with skin on, Brazil nuts, Almonds, Cashews

Iron

Why you need it?

Your body needs iron to produce haemoglobin, a protein which carries oxygen in your blood to organs and tissue.

How to get it?

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds. Cashews & pine nuts and then your good old leafy greens like Spinach.

References

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00297291#page-1

http://www.water-for-health.co.uk/our-blog/2015/10/the-four-most-common-uk-nutritional-deficiencies/