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Not so long ago, veganism and professional bodybuilding were almost considered the total opposites.
Some of the prejudice still exists today, but luckily, there are more and more pro athletes and bodybuilders who not only prove that it’s possible, but are converting meat-eaters and making them consider cruelty-free and vegan lifestyles.
Nimai Delgado is a 28-year-old U.S born professional bodybuilder, vegan, health coach, and a vegan activist.
Nimai is an athlete setting the example of a healthy plant-based diet and a successful bodybuilding career.
He appeared on the cover of Muscle and Fitness magazine, and he’s won several overalls so far in the INBA and NPC leagues.
Nimai Delgado came under the spotlight of the fitness community in 2016 as a Pro Card Earner when he won first place in the Men’s Physique Classic.
Born in Mississippi to parents devoted to the Hindu religion, Delgado had been a vegetarian since birth, later turning to a fully vegan lifestyle. He’s one of the few vegetarians on the list of IFBB pro members and the only one who has never eaten meat in his life.
A Mechanical engineer by profession, Delgado is also successful in engineering his muscles through bodybuilding practice and vegan diet.
Early in his teens, Nimai turned to fitness to escape the trap of unhealthy ways to spend free time in a small-town Mississippi where he grew up.
Working out and going to the gym was a way for teenage Delgado to let off steam and feel good about himself.
Over time, this vegetarian athlete and mechanical engineer managed to build an impressive physique and inspire others to consider a vegan lifestyle as a possible choice.
His decision to abandon all animal products, including dairy products, cheese, and eggs - which were considered essential protein sources, came later when he learned about unethical practices and cruelty in the dairy industry.
Considering that he has never eaten meat in his entire life, Nimai didn’t have to make drastic changes in his diet. Eliminating milk and other animal products came naturally, in 2015, after being a vegetarian since he was born.
"Eating unhealthy food is like buying everything on a credit card: You'll have to pay for it one day.”
- Nimai Delgado
Delgado admits that the question he gets asked most often is how does he manage to build and maintain such impressive muscle mass without animal-sourced protein?
Being the nice guy he is, Nimai Delgado answers this question repeatedly with patience and confidence, proving that protein and essential amino acids can be obtained from a plant-based diet only.
Delgado says that he turns to lentils, beans, oats, chickpeas, and soy for his macros and proteins.
The way he puts it, a common misconception is that “vegans only eat lettuce.” Nimai is always happy to share his knowledge and advice on how to make your plan-based diet more versatile.
But keeping your energy levels on a vegan diet can be a challenge since fruit and veggies are low in calories, but it’s not unattainable. Nimai relies on nuts, dried fruits, rice, olive oil, avocados, and smoothies as the sources of carbs and calories.
Take a look at what he eats in a day to get some inspiration.
When he sets a goal of cutting his body fat for a contest, Nimai follows a specific diet. He then eats six meals a day, with each meal consisting of:
As long as his total daily intake is in sync with his goals, Nimai claims that it’s okay if he goes a few grams beyond or below his targeted macro range per meal.
For example, this is one of his usual meals:
Nimai’s favorite vegan breakfast is a toast with some fresh avocado spread, which is rich in fats and carbohydrates that provide the energy to start his day.
If you need some motivation to get started with your vegan workout diet, check out his Instagram account to get some vegan food prep ideas.
Nimai Delgado is also known for debunking myths about soy protein and stressing its benefits for people who do fitness on a plant-based diet:
‘’Soy is totally harmless for male hormones,’’ he says, adding that ‘’soy actually decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancer in men.’’
According to Nimai, he has never relied on steroids to build such impressive muscles and physique.
He also claims that he keeps his supplements pretty basic because he mostly relies on his diet for nutrients.
However, Nimai doesn’t deny the convenience of supplements:
‘’I do take some multivitamin powder to meet my daily recommended intake of vitamins, BCAAs for pre/post workouts, Maca powder for energy, and protein powder for growth and repair,’’
he says. Needless to say, all of the supplements he takes are organic and vegan-friendly.
Nimai also stresses the importance of hydration for a healthy body and big muscles.
Being an IFBB pro, Nimai Delgado’s workout routine has evolved over time and he tends to focus not only on weight-lifting but also on mobility and agility workouts. He’s more focused on the form rather than the amount of weight he pushes.
When training for size, Nimai focuses on adding more volume. He believes that heavy weight loads combined with many reps and sets contribute to a high level of muscle hypertrophy.
He also tends to avoid long periods of rest during a workout, ‘’I try to finish my session within 45 minutes,’’ says Delgado.
Nimai’s workout routine slightly changes when trying for a contest. During that time, he decreases workout volume and goes lighter on weight. This strategy keeps him safe from muscle injury, which is more likely to occur with low levels of fat in the body.
Each day of the week is dedicated to different muscle groups, while once a week he takes rest.
When it comes to his arm workout, Nimai trains to gain size by following the principle of combining a high amount of volume with lifting heavy weights, ‘’I do four sets of each exercise and my rep ranges are 12/10/10/8 with increasing weight each set’’ he says.
The exercises consist of:
Being a vegan bodybuilder, Nimai Delgado has many competitions under his belt.
Two years in a row, in 2016 and 2015, he won Fresno Classic NPC Men’s Physique Class C, and the second place in the Grand Prix Championships NPC Men’s Physique Class B, just to name a few.
As he puts it, not only perfect physique and the amount of muscle, but also your mindset and your overall lifestyle can determine your success in the world of fitness.
Combining healthy living and exercise with a quality balanced diet that contains all of those nutrients that make you feel great and confident is what keeps him motivated to continue competing and achieving big results. His next goal is to qualify for the Olympia.
‘’If I were to be the first one to make it to the Olympia as a vegan and step onstage as one of the top 30 guys in the world, that would be kind of like being the first astronaut to walk on the moon’’,
With such a strong mind and determination, but also with an impressive physique, there’s no doubt that we’ll see him in many bodybuilding competitions to come.
After abandoning a vegetarian diet, Nimai had to come up with a way to keep his protein intake sufficient without relying on eggs, milk, and cheese to maintain his muscle.
However, healthy eating and plant-based foods were not the only challenges.
In the world of bodybuilding, there are still some prejudices, difficulties, and myths that are hard to overcome, but Nimai is one of those athletes who is paving the way for a different approach.
His workout routine, training, dedication, and love for a healthy lifestyle demonstrate that vegans and vegetarians can be equally successful in building big and strong muscles and succeed in professional competitions.
Being one of few vegan members of IFBB, Nimai Delgado changes the traditional mindset and testifies that veganism and fitness can go hand in hand.
Debunking the myth of ‘’musculine’’ diet in the world of bodybuilding was not an easy challenge for Nimai Delgado. As he puts it, ‘’eating with compassion should not be viewed as emasculating, but quite the opposite.’’
Although he is vegan, he keeps breaking strength records along with some other bodybuilders who adopted a plant-based lifestyle, like, Torre Washington, Vanessa Espinoza, Dominik Thompson, and Bianca Taylor.