Vegan Bodybuilding: The Definite Guide

Interested in how to build a lean and muscular vegan body?

Well, you've come to the right place.

This evidence-based guide to vegan bodybuilding will teach you EXACTLY how to ​make those vegan gains.

Now some would say that​ improving your physique, being healthy and feeling great requires animal products.

This is nothing but pure horse shit.

When you apply the correct principles of vegan nutrition that ​encourage optimal muscle g​rowth, follow a solid vegan diet plan together with an effective workout (and sprinkle in some hard work)...

... the only possible outcome is that you will build an awesome plant-based body.

If you're ready, then let's go ahead and dive right in! 

(For a brief summary of the post check the infographic below)

Chapter 1

Should You Bulk or Cut?


To maximize the rate at which you build vegan muscle and lose fat you ​should alternate between bulking ​(mass gaining) ​​​​and cutting (fat loss) phases.

If you're not sure completely sure what these terms mean, or which one you should be doing based on your current ​body and fitness goals, this chapter will ​explain all ​you need to know!

So you're ready to embark on the journey towards a leaner, more muscular and healthier vegan body.

Awesome 🙂

Now, if you want to gain vegan muscle and shred fat efficiently...

... you first need to establish your primary fitness goal.

In the context of improving body composition, or bodybuilding, you need to decide if you are either bulking or cutting.

You see, cycling between these two phases allows you to reach your physique goals as fast as possible​.

On the flip side, if you choose to skip this part and have no fitness goal to align your training and nutrition with - you might end up spinning your wheels perpetually.

Basically ending up as the guy or girl at the gym that looks the exact same year after year after year.

...Don't be this person.

So why is it that this method of bulking and cutting works so well?

The Basics of Building a Great Body

plastic strongman

To get that lean and muscular body that I assume most people are aiming for - two things need to happen.

A. Put​ting on muscle on your body frame.

B. Shredding off fat and revealing ​the muscle mass.

​These two goals actually work against each other in many ways. Meaning that if you try and pursuit both at the same - there's a risk you'll progress at a very slow pace, or not make any progress at all.

It's ​sort of a "c​hase two rabbits at once and you will not catch either one" scenario.

A​ccomplishing both of these two goals is most effectively done by alternating between phases of what is known in gym-speak as bulking ​and cutting:

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    Bulking - a phase focused on building muscle where you eat above caloric needs. This promotes an optimal anabolic environment ​which allows for the fastest rate of muscle gain. 
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    Cutting - a phase focused on fat loss where you eat below caloric needs​. This makes the body tap into fat storages to meet energy needs which causes fat loss.

The general idea here is to alternate between cycles of ​muscle building, ​where you maximize the rate of muscle ​growth (while allowing a small amount of fat gain)...

... and ​fat-loss where you shred the body fat ​to reveal the muscle ​​​(​while making sure not to lose any muscle you built).

​Net result ​being more muscle and less fat, which is what we indeed are after.

Then you rinse and repeat this formula of bulking followed by cutting until you've achieved your desired physique.

​Which is Correct in Your Situation?

​Now you're probably wondering:

"Wh​ich one should I be doing?"

The simplest way of determining what is appropriate in your situation is to take a good hard look at the reflection in the mirror. 

​Do you have a couple too many pounds? Cut.

Are you underweight with your ribs sticking out? Bulk.

If you're not at either extreme side of the skinny-fat spectrum, there's another and perhaps better way of determining whether to bulk or cut.

First estimate your current body fat percentage. 

There's no need to ​get an exact measurement of your body fat using a DEXA scan or calipers. All we need is a ballpark estimate.

If you look at the chart below you should be able to roughly determine your own body fat percentage, and depending on this number there's a couple of options.

men women fat percentage

For men 

If your body fat is at ~15% or above start by cutting down until you're at ~10%.

At this point you can begin a bulking phase until you hit a bodyfat of around ~15% again.

Start over the process by cutting. Rinse and repeat.

'So what do I do if I'm currently at 12.428 % bodyfat?'

Well I would still suggest that you start by cutting down to 10% and then on to bulking... but if you really feel like bulking go ahead.

For women 

Same rules apply but using different numbers. 

From wherever you're starting, cut down until you're at about  ~19% body fat. 

At this point begin bulking until you hit a bodyfat of approximately 27%. Rinse and repeat.

Body Recomposition

​'Cant I just work towards both of these goals at the same i.e. gain muscle and lose fat ​simultaneously?'

It's a very good question and it would certainly make things a lot easier.

This is also known as body recomposition and it can actually work rather well for some people and under certain circumstances.

1. Complete beginners. Someone that have never set a foot in the gym before will reap the benefits of the so-called "newbie-gains" and will gain muscle mass pretty much regardless of what their diet looks like. 

2. Detrained athletes. Individuals that for whatever reason had to take a break (for weeks or months) from training can take advantage of their muscle memory and regain in a caloric deficit.

3. Overweight individuals. The excess body fat provides the calories required to build muscle mass while still losing fat. 

4. Steroids. Because well... steroids (don't do them).

Now... it's not completely impossible for body recomposition to happen in leaner and more experienced ​athletes. 

However for the vast majority of people past the novice phase, recomping is ​just not a particularly effective or time-efficient strategy.

​Cycling through periods of bulking and cutting will result in far superior gains and ​help you reach your goals the quickest.

Chapter 2

Work Out Your Maintanence Calories (TDEE)


​With a clear goal established, be it muscle building or losing fat, we can venture further. 

​Next up is working out your maintanence calories (TDEE).

​The calories you consume is arguably the ​most important factor determining what your body looks like. 

So get used to the principle of calories in and calories out - it's going to be quite handy for building a muscular and jacked physique. 

​Getting Your Calories Right

Your body uses a certain amount of energy, or calories per day, to sustain vital body functions as well as other ​activities you partake in such as going to the gym and lifting weights.

​Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) ​is a measure of how much energy you ​burn per day wh​en exercise is taken into account. ​​​​​​

​As calories in, and calories out dictates weight gain and weight loss - it's absolutely crucial to know your TDEE​​​.

scale

When consuming just enough calories to meet your TDEE you'll neither gain or lose weight​, and your​ weight stays the same.

This is referred to as your maintanence calories.

If you tip the scale to one side and eat more calories than your TDEE, known as a caloric surplus, you'll gain weight.

And if you tip the scale to the other side it produces caloric deficit, meaning you'll lose weight

This helps explain why it's possible to lose 56 pounds in 6 months eating nothing but McDonald’s. 

You can eat as much junk food or vegan ice cream you want and still maintain a nice looking body...

...assuming you don't consume more energy than you burn.

The key factor that determines weight loss, or weight gain, is how many calories you consume... regardless of where these calories come from. 

Reason why I'm stressing this point is because so many people are utterly confused by weight loss. ​There's this misconception that there are healthy foods and unhealthy foods - and by eating the right 'clean' foods you'll see results.

​That's not how this works. In reality calories are king for manipulating body composition.

Eat less and get lean. Eat more and put on pounds.

It's real simple.

​​How Do I Know How Many Calories To Eat?

​Estimating your caloric needs, or TDEE, is pretty easy. 

Simply head over to a TDEE calculator such as this one and plug in your stats. 

This should give you a ballpark of your maintanence calories, where energy needs meets energy supply. 

You then increase or reduce this number depending on what you're body composition goal is:

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    ​If you're bulking up increase your TDEE by 10%. 

Men should aim for a weight gain of about 1-2 kg, or 2-4 pounds, per month. For women you would be looking at about half those numbers.

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    ​If you're ​cutting​ down reduce your TDEE by 20%.

This should equate to a weight loss of about 2-3kg, or 4-6 pounds, per month.

While this'll suffice for you to start building muscle and lose fat - there's actually quite a bit more to the art of bulking and cutting than simply reducing or increasing calories.

​For more in-depth information about bulking check this article out...

​... and for cutting check this article out.

​Anyways, let's look at an example of how to get your calories right.

​A 80 kg, or 176 pound​, active vegan lifter plugs in his or her stats into ​the TDEE calculator and has a TDEE of ​2800 calories.

​For bulking the calories would be set at 2800 * 1.10 = ​3080 kcal

​For cutting the calories would be set at 2800 * 0.80 = 2​240 kcal.

Chapter 3

Get Your Macros Right


The next step is to calculate your macronutrient intake ​​or proteins, fats and carbs - the stuff that your calories​ and foods are made up out of. 

Here's the gist of how this works:

​Establish the correct vegan macros​ tailored to your specific goal whether that be building muscle or shredding fat. 

Eat whatever you ​want in order to hit ​​your calorie and macronutrient targets at the end of the day... combine that with a good training regimen and vegan gains will​ ensue.

​This is also referred to as ​flexible dieting, or IIFYM (if it fits your macros) as you ​get to have more leeway with the foods you consume versus the traditional method of 'clean' eating.

​What makes this method so great is that you can manipulate your body composition​ ​while still enjoying a sustainable and effective vegan diet with tons of tasty food.​​​

What Are Macros?

“Macros” is an abbreviation for the word ​macronutrients​​, which refers to the three ​basic nutrient groups proteins, fats and carbohydrate.

All of the calories you consume come from either one of these nutrients:

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    ​​1 gram of protein = 4 calo​​​​ries
  • 2
    ​​​1 gram of ​carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 3
    ​​​​1 gram of ​fat = 9 calories

​And every food has their own particular ratio of these macronutrients. 

For example 100 grams of oatmeal provides 379 kcal as well as 13.1 grams of protein, 69.0 grams of carbohydrate and 6.5 grams of fat. If you would do the math the macronutrients would​ approximately add up to 379 kcal.

High-protein foods simply means that there's a large percentage of calories coming from protein. Same goes for high-fat, low-carbohydrate etc.

The Basics of Flexible Dieting

french fries

​The traditional strategy to getting jacked is to ​base your diet around ​'clean' foods that are high in protein and low-er in calories.

​Perfectly demonstrated as the bodybuilder's meal of lean chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli. 

​Essentially all the foods that are the exact opposite of the french fries shown above.

While this has undoubtedly worked quite well for ​many individuals... there are ​a couple of flaws to this method of dieting.

​Namely:

  • ​Many find 'clean eating' overly ​restrictive (myself included) - what's the fun if all the foods you ​love to eat are forbidden? As such this way of eating is often not the greatest for long-term adherence and sustainability.  
  • ​My main gripe is that it's also completely unnecessary. ​​​​​You can absolutely build a great vegan body without any of these arbitrary food rules or demonization of certain foods and macronutrients.  ​​​

​So rather than focusing on strange rules that forbid you from eating pancakes and the occasional "naughty foods", flexible dieting ​is all about eating ​the food you love while still ​improving your body.​​​

​The catch? 

You ​must eat the right amount of ​protein, fats and carbohydrate.

​Here's the basic method of how "if it fits your macros" work:

​​​1. Calculate the optimal macros for your goal, whether that is to gain muscle or shed fat.

​2. Eat the foods you want to eat and make sure to hit your macronutrient targets.

3. Make vegan gains.

​Get Your Protein Right

legumes

​This is arguably the macronutrient that differs the most ​​​​between vegan and omnivorous diets. ​​​

​It's not that hard figuring out why. Despite the flaws of animal products, they generally speaking do contain a ​lot of​ protein. 

Cutting out all animal products ​without adding in high-protein plant foods will lead to an overall reduced protein intake...

​... which ​might lower the potential for muscle gain as protein is a key player​ for assisting the body in repairing and building new muscle tissue.

​A higher protein intake than the current RDA has been proven over and over again to enhance gains in muscle strength and fat free mass... and also provide other benefits ​such as:

So How Many Grams of Proteins Do I Need?

​There's the vegans saying 30 bananas is enough for meeting protein needs...

... and then there​ are muscle magazines preaching astronomical amounts​ of protein for effective muscle building.

​Well here's what the current body of ​literature suggests:

Around 1.3-1.8 g protein per kg, or 0.59-0.82 g/lbs, seems to be the optimal range for us that are interested in ​maximizing muscle protein synthesis (according to this, and this, and this, and this review of protein needs for athletes).

Now ​a very recent meta-analysis on protein supplementation from 2017 looked at data from 49 studies with 1863 participants. The key takeaway was:

​Protein supplementation beyond total protein intakes of 1.62 g/kg/day resulted in no further RET-induced gains in FFM.

​Meaning that there's no evidence that a protein intake beyond 1.6 g ​protein per kg, or 0.73 g protein per lbs, ​​will produce ​any further gains for the average person.

​But here's the kicker:

​Plant protein typically is less anabolic than animal-based protein due to not being digested as well, and also being slightly lower in the essential amino acids​.

​​Now don't get me wrong: I'm not preaching the old dogma of plant protein being 'incomplete' and that it's worthless compared to animal protein.

The notion that you have to combine proteins for a complete profile has been proven wrong since many decades ago.

What I'm referring to is the essential amino acid content which ​typically is lower in plant protein. As you can see in the diagram below the soy protein is about 10% lower in the EAAs compared to the egg protein:

​And also taking into account the lower digestability of plant protein - my recommendation for ​vegan athletes is to err on the side of caution and shoot for the higher end of the range at 1.8 g protein per kg, or 0.82 g per lbs ​(or higher if you'd like).​​​​​​

That's not to say you can't make tremendous gains eating less protein, you absolutely can.

But eating more ​of this nutrient certainly won't hurt and will only benefit your body composition - especially during a fat loss phase ​where extra protein will aid with preserving muscle mass.

​So for instance a 80 kg, or 176 pound, ​plant-eater would thus need to eat 176*0.82 = 144 g of protein​.

​Getting Your Fats Right

walnuts

​Fat is an essential nutrient required for sustaining healthy hormonal status, manufacturing of healthy cell membranes, satiety, cognitive function, nutrient absorption amongst other things. 

And it makes food taste damn good. That too.

​From a survival standpoint, all you need is to get enough essential fatty acids which is​ about 1.6 g of omega-3 and 17 g of omega-6 (even less for women.)

​So roughly 20 grams of fat per day, which is not a whole lot and probably quite a bit lower than the usual recommendations for fat you encounter.

​​​However, ​the amount required ​to avoid death is not the​ same as what you need to be healthy - I know I would go insane if I had to restrict myself to 20 grams of fat per day.

Beyond hitting the needs for the essential fatty acids... there's really no clear-cut answer. ​

Some people find they do better on a low-fat diet while others thrive on a higher fat diet.

​It just wouldn't make much sense ​for me to​ dogmatically prescribe a low-fat diet to everybody. What if more fat is what makes you feel satiated, improves your quality of life and overall well-being, helps you sleep better, recover and consequently perform optimally in the gym?

Hence why I prefer giving a range for fat intake, so you get to have some personal input and adjust accordingly based on the feedback you get from your body.  

A good place to start with fat intake is within the range of 0.5-1 g of fat per kg, or 0.25-0.5 g of per lbs. 

For our plant-based lifter weighing 1​76 pounds that would ​equal to approximately 40-80 grams of fat.

​Getting Your Carbs Right

sweet potato

​There's no reason to fear carbohydrate ​whether you're dieting down or bulking up. Carbs are great - especially so for any athlete or bodybuilder.

They aid athletic performance and will help you recover between sessions, build muscle during bulking, and retain as much muscle as possible during cutting.

Here's how:

During high-intensity exercise your muscles utilize the glycogen stores as an immediate source of fuel...

... and keeping these glycogen stores replenished with carbohydrate ​enhances workout performance.

On the other hand, an inadequate carbohydrate intake impairs strength training performance and contributes to reduced muscular endurance in athletes on a calorie deficit.

How Many Grams of Carbs Should You Eat?

​A recent review on nutrition guidelines for strength sports, provides recommended carbohydrate intakes for bodybuilding be between 4–7 g/kg.

That should give you some idea ​for optimal carbohydrate intake.

​However here's how I prefer setting up your carb target:

We've already established how many calories, protein and fat to eat.

Again using the example of our 80kg, 176 pound gym-goer with a TDEE of 2800 kcal, ​a protein intake of 144 g and a fat intake of 40-80 gram (for the sake of making the math easier let's assume 60 grams of fat.)

As we established a gram of each macronutrient contains:

1 gram protein = 4 kcal

1 gram carb = 4 kcal

1 gram fat = 9 kcal

​So for this individual we're looking at 144*4 = 576 kcal from protein and 60*9 = ​540 kcal from fat.

In order to reach the 2800 calorie mark for the day he would then fill out the rest of his calories with carbohydrate. 

That leaves us with 1​684 kcal from carbs, converted into grams 1684/4 = ​421 g carbs.

​Tracking Macros and Adjusting Accordingly

calculator and pen

Maintanence calories sorted. Check.

​Vegan macros sorted. Check. ​​​ 

Now ​how do you actually keep track of all of these numbers?

A very convenient way of doing this is to use the app MyFitnessPal on your phone.

Usually when signing up you have to calculate your fitness goals and the app will come up with a set of macros for you.

Don't pay attention to ​the macro targets the app wants you to have, it's wrong​. Just follow the guidelines as laid out here.

​Using MyFitnessPal is pretty ​intuitive.

​You simply add the amount of foods you eat and then MyFitnessPal will calculate how many calories, proteins, fats and carbs you're at. The goal ​being to reach your macronutrient targets at the end of each day.

Looks like this:

myfitnesspal

Not my account in case you were wondering about the yoghurt and eggs.

At a first glance it might seem like a bit of a hassle of having to do this over and over again. But you'll find that after a while of doing this it does become like second nature - it literally takes a couple of seconds for me to enter the information into the app.

​Another alternative for tracking macros is the browser-based www.cronometer.com.

Cron-O-Meter might not be quite as handy but it does provide more comprehensive information on nutrition.

Making Adjustments To Your Macros As Needed

Now before you set off on your merry way counting macros, it's important to realize that your TDEE estimation might not be perfectly accurate out-of-the-box.

In fact it very rarely is. 

This is because there are so many variables that influence your energy needs:

Individual differences in metabolic rate, exercise or movement that you didn't account for, perhaps your job burns a hell of a lot more calories than assumed and so on and so forth.

An online calculator will have a hard time factoring in all of these variables.

Don't despair, this can be easily fixed.

By tracking your macros, as well as your daily weight​, you can adjust your calories until you find the sweet spot for weight gain or fat loss.

​Depending on what you're trying to achieve either increase or reduce your calories by 5% and see what happens.

​If ​this ​has no ​effect on your weight, go for another​ 5% ​bump in calories and measure the impact over the next weeks. And so on.

Chapter 4

Designing a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Plan


​​To hit your calories and macro targets on a daily basis, and get an adequate amount of nutrients, you need a solid plant-based diet pla​n.

​This might be the most difficult part for many transitioning to a vegan diet. 

I know I was clueless when I made the switch from a diet of chicken and rice to eating exclusively plants.

I couldn't seem to figure out how balance my macros at all - not enough calories, too much carbohydrate, too little protein, no clue about my fats at all and so on.

​In this chapter we'll look at how to ​formulate a nutrient-dense vegan diet that​ will help you hit your macros (and micros)​ ​so you can be as healthy as possible, whilst putting on tons of muscle and losing fat fast. 

Hitting Your Macros and Micros

kale

​Flexible dieting and tracking your macros (IIFYM) is an incredibly useful tool for sculpting your physique...

... but it's not necessarily the be-all and end-all solution for overall health.

Yes, ​as we've established ​​​eating at McDonald's exclusively and maintaining a caloric deficit can induce weight loss and even improve markers of health.

But if we look past the caloric deficit, is it a healthy way of eating?

​Hell no.

​You should use ​flexible dieting intelligently ​- not as an excuse to eat as much junk food and protein powders as you can get away with.

​Macros are important, but it's ​also important to keep an eye on your micronutrients:

Calcium, zinc​, iron, iodine, vitamin B12, other vitamins & minerals, omega-3s, fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, phenols, carotenoids, anthocyanins, beneficial compounds found in broccoli such as sulphorophane and the list goes on and on.

Now I can hear what you're thinking:

"That's a veritable shitload of things to keep track of, I don't even know what half of those are!"

​​Fortunately there's no need to go to university and become ​a full-fledged ​nutrionist to get adequate nutrition. ​

All one needs to do is make the right food choices.

​Eat Mostly (80%) Nutrient Density Whole Food

Simply put nutrient density of a food is the ratio of nutrients per calorie

For instance, the standard American diet has a total nutritional density of about zero.

Highly processed and refined foods such as ice cream, candy, cakes, cookies, pizza, burgers and junk food provides tons of energy but negligible amounts of vitamins and minerals.

On the opposite side of the spectrum we're looking at whole and unprocessed plant foods:

​Starches, root vegetables, whole grains, legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. ​Basically all plant foods as close as possible to 'as grown in nature'.

These are incredibly ​nutritious and contains loads of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

daily dozen

Dr. Greger's daily dozen is a very helpful visualization of what a healthy plant-based diet should include.

If you base your diet pre-dominantly around these kind of foods the total nutritional density will be exceptionally high and you'll ​prevent any nutrient deficiencies.  

My recommendation is to make sure that your diet consists of at least 80% whole plant foods, with the remaining 20% allowed to come from less nutrient-dense and more processed food sources.

This way you'll both reap the benefits of a whole food plant based diet and also being able to treat yourself with ​some pasta, breads, cake, cookies, cereals, muffins, vegan ice cream or whatever you like.

So when designing your vegan diet plan think 80/20 for hitting the sweet spot between macros and nutrient needs.

​Eat a Variety of Plant Foods

​Another key principle ​of a healthy plant-based diet is variety.

​Eating a diet consisting of nothing but oatmeal, ​vegan protein powder and peanuts might actually work to hit your macro targets...

... but your ​most certainly not getting all the ​nutrients your body needs in order to thrive and prosper.

​By eating an assortment of many different plant foods ​you'll ensure your body is getting the entire spectrum of nutrients. 

​We'll now look at the four major food groups in a plant-based diet. Make sure to include foods from each and everyone of them.

And why not start with addressing the question that has haunted every vegan since the dawn of mankind:

"Where do you get your protein from?"

​Legumes - Protein

vegan meal

You'd be surprised by just how much protein is found in plants traditionally viewed as 'sources of carbohydrate'.

Whole grains and vegetables can rack up quite a few protonz at the end of the day.

As an example 400 grams of broccoli is more than 10 grams of protein and 100 g of oatmeal provides 17 grams of protein!

However the most protein-dense plant group is legumes​: chickpeas, lentils, peas and beanstofu and tempeh and so on and so forth.

For anyone struggling with getting adequate protein on a vegan diet - look no further.

These are absolutely packed with protein and furthermore they also contain plenty of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which ​are all-important important for muscle growth.

Below is a list of some of my favorite high-protein plant foods most of which are some type of legume. Do feel free to eat all of these in copious quanitites:

  • Red, green and brown lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
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    Kidney beans
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    Edamame
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    Tofu
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    Tempeh
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    Seitan (faux meat made from wheat-gluten)
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    Vegan protein powder
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    Oatmeal
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    Quinoa
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    High-protein vegetables such as green peas, broccoli, spinach and mushrooms

Nuts & Seeds - Fat

nuts and seeds

The best source of healthy fats on a vegan diet are nuts and seeds.

These provide valuable micronutrients and the essential fats our bodies require to thrive.

Now it's important to be aware that these foods are also quite high in calories as a gram of fat contains 9 calories compared to a gram of carbohydrate or protein at 4 calories.

So naturally if you need to put on weight then nuts and seeds are fantastic foods.

However for the purpose of losing weight even an innocent handful of nuts might push your intake out of a calorie deficit. So just try and keep that in mind when balancing your diet. 

While I ​recommend everyone to eat whatever foods ​they within ​their macros, there's one recommendation I'd suggest everyone take to heart: 

That is to include one tablespoon of ground flax seeds per day (also the opinion ofthe esteemed plant-based doctor ​Michael Greger).

These are just to good to pass up on... they are insanely nutrient-dense with one tablespoon providing 1.6 grams of omega-3 as well ​as compounds called lignans which has been proposed to have anti-cancer properties.

Here are some alternatives when it comes to healthy vegan fat sources:

  • Flax seeds (eat them)
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    Chia seeds
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    Cashew nuts
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    Brazil nuts
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    Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Avocado
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    Macadamia nuts
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    Walnuts
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    Tahini (sesame seed paste)
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    Chickpeas
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    And all other obscure nuts and seeds that I failed to mention

​Starches - Carbohydrate

You would have to try pretty damn hard to avoid ingesting carbohydrates on a vegan diet.

Carbs are pretty much found in all plant foods (even nuts and seeds contain small amounts of carbs).

A good place to start though is complex carbohydrates or starchy foods.

Complex carbs are a good choice because they are high in fiber and other nutrients which means they digest slowly, without causing any blood sugar spikes.

The fiber content also makes them more satiating which helps with weight control.

More refined carbs such as pasta, bread and flour-based foods are also fine in moderate amounts.

Even processed carbs such as cakes, cookies, sugary foods can also be included in a healthy diet if you don't overdo it and stay within your macros.

Here's a couple of options for foods that you can base your carbohydrate intake around:

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    Sweet potatoes and yams
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    White potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
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    Oatmeal
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    Whole-wheat pasta & bread
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    Legumes i.e lentils and beans
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    All kind of vegetables, broccoli, peppers, carrots etc.
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    Fruits such as apples, bananas, plums, pineapple etc.

Fruits & Vegetables - Nutrient Powerhouses

broccoli and carrots

While​​​ fruits and vegetables ​doesn't belong to any particular macronutrient per say, it's a huge mistake neglecting these foods.

Why?

Well for one thing, total intake of fruit and vegetable is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality.

Basically getting your greens and reds and yellows shouldn't be an afterthought.

Besides providing crucial micronutrients, vitamins and minerals - fruits and vegetables also contain a variety of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds.

There's the flavonoid anthocyanin that can help protect againt cardiovascular disease - found only in certain vegetables such as red cabbage and blueberries.

Then we have the incredibly powerful antioxidant sulforaphane which is suggested to have anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.

Hence it's highly advisable to try and eat the rainbow, as it were, to cover as many as possible of these nutrients.

As a rule of thumb vegetables are very low in calories and are perfect for adding lots of food volume with a negligible amount of calories. 

So a tip is that if you want to lose weight, make sure to fill up your plate with veggies.

There's almost an endless list of fruits and veggies but here are a couple to consider.

Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers of all colors
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    Red cabbage
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    Cauliflower
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    Green peas
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    Kale, spinach and dark leafy greens
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    Tomatoes
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    Mushrooms
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    Herbs i.e coriander or cilantro (?) parsley, sage, dill

Fruits

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
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    Mangos
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    Pineapple
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    Blueberries
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    Cherries
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    Kiwis
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    ​Durian (if you have a brave soul)

​What About Fake Meat and Cheeses?

One question I get asked a lot is if it's a good idea to base your protein and calorie intake on vegan meat substitutes and similiar products, and if they are healthy or not.

​The answer ​is maybe and perhaps.

​You see it depends a lot on what the rest of your diet looks like.

If you are getting all of the various nutrients your body needs through veggies and fruits, then sure, a packet of vegan chicken strips is not a bad choice for a quick protein boost.

​As with any food you have to view it in the context of the rest of your diet and the total nutritional value.

​But as a rule of thumb, refinement tends to strip foods of some of their nutrients, and/or add oils and other not-so-​healthy stuff, ​hence why these products tend to lack some of the healthy attributes of whole plant foods.

​Just try to keep your vegan diet balanced and remember the 80/20 rule.

The Vegan Athlete Plate Model

vegan plate model

If you think this picture is made in Paint you're wrong.

Anyways.

​With the vegan macros ​sorted out and the food groups detailed above, we can piece together a pretty solid whole food plant-based die​t.

What this usually looks like is something along the lines of:

1/3 each of starchy carbohydrate, high-protein legumes and vegetables, with a side of fruit as well as some nuts and seeds​. ​Illustrated beautifully in the picture above.

Keep in mind that this plate model, which I didn't design in paint, is a model.

It doesn't take into account individual needs or preferences and should be viewed only as a guideline for structuring your diet.

You can hit your macros whatever way you see fit, but do make sure to load up on the all-important veggies​ and fruits.

​Right then, let's have a look at two vegan meal plans with two separate goals.​

Sample Vegan Bodybuilding Bulking Diet Plan

​Our ​80 kg, or 176 pound, vegan ​gym-goer has decided to pack on some muscle mass.

He or she calculates the right vegan macros which in this case looks like:

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    ​TDEE of 2800 kcal = for bulking 2800 * 1,1 = 3080 kcal
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    ​Protein intake at 144 grams
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    ​Fat somewhere in the 40-80 gram range
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    ​Rest of the calories from carbs.

Breakfast - ​Tofu Scramble ​with Sourdough Bread

  • ​Tofu - 200 g
  • ​Sourdough Bread - large slice (96 g)
  • ​Red pepper -  ​164 g
  • Kale - ​100 g

=​547.4 kcal: ​37.9 g protein, ​14.3 g fat, ​72.9 g carbs


Lunch - ​ Beans​, Sweet Potato, Broccoli and​ Avocado

  • ​Black beans -  ​170 g
  • ​Sweet potato - 400 g
  • ​Broccoli - 300 g
  • ​Avocado - 100 g
  • Calorie-free spices, herbs and condiments

​=8​​56.8 kcal: ​29.5 g protein, ​17.9 g fat, ​155.5 g carbs


​Pre/Post Workout Snack - Protein Smoothie

  • ​​Bananas - 2 medium sized (236 g)
  • ​Frozen berries - 200 g
  • ​Ground flax seeds - 2 tbsp (14 g)
  • ​Soy milk - 300 ml
  • Pea protein powder - 28 g

​=​663.2 kcal: ​43.4 g protein, ​16.8 g fat, ​92.4 g carbs.


Dinner - Butternut​ Lentil Curry ​​​with ​Quinoa

  • ​Red lentils - 100 g (dry uncooked weight)
  • ​Quinoa - 100 g (dry uncooked weight)
  • ​Butternut squash - 300 g
  • ​Cashew nuts - 30 g

​1​011.9 kcal: 46.2 g protein, 21.7 g fat, ​167.8 g carbs.


Grand total of:

3079 kcal with ​157.0 g protein, ​​70.7 g fat, 488.5 g carbs.

Or 18 % protein, 20% fat and 62 % carbs.


​As you can see we are hitting​ both total calories as well as the macronutrient targets.

Out of curiosity I also added all the foods to cron-o-meter to see what the full nutritional profile would look like.

And it's not looking bad at all:

​(Concerned about the lack of B12 and vitamin D? I'll elaborate on these two nutrients in the supplement ​section)

Sample Vegan Bodybuilding Cutting Diet Plan

​Our same ​80 kg, or 176 pound, vegan ​gym-goer has decided to ​shred some fat.

He or she calculates the right vegan macros which in this case looks like:

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    ​TDEE of 2800 kcal = for ​cutting 2800 * 0.8 = ​2240 kcal
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    ​Protein intake at 144 grams
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    ​Fat somewhere in the 40-80 gram range
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    ​Rest of the calories from carbs.

Breakfast - ​Protein Oatmeal

  • ​​Oatmeal - ​80 g
  • ​Apple - 150 g
  • ​Frozen mixed berries - 100 g​
  • ​Pea protein powder -  30 g
  • Ground flax seeds - 2 tbsp (14 g)

​=​629.7 kcal: ​39.7 g protein, ​13.2 g fat, ​93.3 g carbs


Lunch - Roasted ​Chickpea & Butternut Squash Salad

  • ​Chickpeas - 200 g
  • ​Butternut - 300 g
  • ​Broccoli - 200 g
  • ​Carrot - 60 g
  • Red cabbage - 100 g
  • Onion - 70 g
  • Tahini - 1 tbsp (15 g)

​=​6​37.1 kcal: ​27.0 g protein, ​14.2 g fat, ​​114.5 g carbs


Pre/Post Workout Snack - Protein Smoothie

  • ​Banana - ​118 g
  • ​Frozen blueberries - 100 g
  • ​​Soy milk - 250 g
  • ​Pea protein powder - 30 g

=​​403.9 kcal: ​​37.7 g protein, ​​9.8 g fat, ​​​45.5 g carbs


​Dinner - Lentil ​Veggie Stew

  • ​​​Red lentils - 100 g (uncooked weight)
  • ​Green peas - 200 g
  • ​Mushrooms - 100 g
  • ​Spinach -  200 g
  • Calorie-free spices, herbs and condiments

=​​​582.0 kcal: ​​​43.0 g protein, ​​3.8 g fat, ​​​102.1 g carbs


Grand total of:

​2253 kcal with 147.4 g protein, 41.1 g fat, ​355.5 g carbs.

Or 23 % protein, 16% fat and 61 % carbs.


​And for good measure I'll include the micronutrients as well:

​Hopefully that should give you some ideas of how to structure things for both muscle gain, and fat loss.

What you might've noticed scanning through these is that you have to be a bit more strict with your food choices during a cut.

Basically when you have less calories to play with, you need to make sure that those calories are put to good use towards hitting your macros and micros.

For this reason, during cutting you often have to devote most of your calories to high-protein foods such as lentils, tofu and vegan protein powders.

And to ensure your diet provides all the micronutrients definitely throw in some large salads with lots of dark leafy greens. ​Another perk ​of giant salads ​is that they are very low in calorie density and will fill you up with few calories.

If you manage things very intelligently you might even fit in some vegan ice cream into a fat loss plan. Remember total calories and macros is what determines fat loss, not if a food is 'good' or 'bad'

How Many Times to Eat Per Day?

monkey eating watermelon

The old-school approach to meal frequency is to eat multiple small meals throughout the day.

It's thought to 'stoke the metabolic fire' and burn more fat.

Well the truth is that this is not a very accurate model of how the body works.

Getting your calories from 2 meals versus 6 meals doesn't seem to have any impact on changes in body fat. 

Hence, how many meals you choose to eat should be determined by personal preference and needs.

Struggling with getting enough calories in during a bulk?

Perhaps get a nice big breakfast in and space out your food over 6 meals so you don't have to stuff yourself every meal. 

Having difficulties maintaining a caloric deficit?

You could try intermittent fasting where you only eat during a 6-8 hour window, which equates to about ~2-3 meals per day. 

Again, for weight loss or weight gain it all boils down to a negative or positive energy balance.

But I don't Know How to Cook Plant-Based Food!

Becoming the Gordon Ramsay of plant-based food isn't something that happens overnight.

It happens over time as you discover plants that taste good, palatable combinations of flavors, meals that you customize and so forth and so on. 

As with any drastic diet change it takes a bit of time and practice to learn a couple of go-to meals...

...but after a while you should have built up your own repertoire of delicious, high-protein and macro-friendly meals. 

One advice for beginners that are getting started is to veganize your previous omnivorous meals.

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    ​Swap out the ground beef in spaghetti bolognese with red lentils or texturized soy protein.
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    ​Make your chili con carne a chili sin carne, putting emphasis on the beans instead.
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    ​Lentil meatballs, burgers, falafels etc.
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    ​Create scrambled eggs using tofu (as shown below)
tofu scramble with sweet potato

One of my favorite breakfasts, tofu scramble. 

Another method is to come up with any iteration of the legume/starchy carb/vegetable combo. This is a ​great way to come up with nutritious and easy-to-make vegan meals:

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    ​Tofu with brown rice and veggies.
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    ​Black beans with sweet potato and broccoli.
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    ​Chickpea salad with quinoa and red cabbage.
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    Vegan protein powder with oatmeal and berries.

​​​And so on... I think you get the general idea.

Personally when I'm lacking inspiration, Google or Youtube usually succeeds in conjuring up some tasty plant-based recipes.

​Go to your fridge and cupboards and take stock of what ingredients ​are there. ​

Then take those exact ingredients and put them in google with 'vegan recipe'.​ Might look something like 'sweet potato chickpea pepper vegan recipe' and then you pick the result that seems the most appetizing.

If you need more help in this regard check out the article "How to Cook Simple & Nutritious Vegan Meals to Fuel Your Body" or download our free recipe e-book with 8 lentil recipes below:

Chapter 5

S​upplement Intelligently


​Calories, macros and a vegan bodybuilding diet plan are now all in place.

All in all, that's a great ​foundation for some ​awesome vegan gains to be made.

Next ​up is ​supplementing your plant-based diet ​with the right nutrients and performance-enhancing compounds.

And by supplementing intelligently I mean filling in nutritional gaps and taking a few scientifically backed up supplements. Not bombarding your system with a bunch of research chemicals or taking placebo pills.

​For instance it's essential to take a vitamin B12 supplement ​as there's no reliable plant source of this nutrient.

Then there are compounds such as creatine found in meats but not in the vegan diet - which can aid both athletic performance and lean mass gain.

vegan supplements

My barebones stack of creatine, vegan protein powder, algae-based omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine.

​Before you start popping pills keep in mind that whole plant foods should provide your body with the large bulk of nutrients required. 

​Dietary supplements only serve to:

A. Fill in any nutritional gaps in your vegan diet and 

B. Give a slight edge when it comes to improving performance and lean body mass gains.

​With that out of the way it seems appropriate to ​start by addressing the most urgent need:

Vitamin B12

vitamin b12

It is vitally important to take a B12 supplement.

There are no reliable natural sources of B12 on a vegan diet and it must be 'artificially' supplied in some manner - either in the form of fortified foods or as a sublingual or oral supplement.

And this isn't my personal opinion on the matter, any serious plant-based doctor will tell you the same thing: 

Get your B12 folks - either through fortified foods or as an oral or sublingual pill (1000 mcg) every few days.

Vitamin D

vitamin d

Vitamin D​ has hormone-like properties and is produced by the skin through sun exposure, hence why it's sometimes referred to as the 'sunshine vitamin'.

There are no reliable plant sources of the more bioactive form of vitamin D. 

So that leaves us with one option, sunbathing.

The problem with this method is that you can't sunbathe all year around in some places around the globe. ​

There are a number of health benefits associated with high levels of vitamin D, perhaps the most compelling one being a moderate reduction in mortality.

Personally I take 5000 IU from a vegan vitamin D3 supplement everyday to make sure I get enough to maintain optimal vitamin D status.

Algae-Based Omega-3

Algae-based omega-3

The omega-3 fatty acids are essential to our health and survival.

A plant-based diet does provide omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) - found in plant foods such as chia, flax and hemp seeds as well as nuts such as walnuts and macadamia nuts.

Then what's the need for an algae-based omega-3 supplement?

Well there are also two other long-chain omega-3 fatty acids called EPA & DHA which have been suggested to help protect against heart disease, enhance brain health and mitigate cognitive decline, reduce inflammation and much more.

EPA & DHA is found in fatty fish, however a viable option for vegans is to take an algae-based omega-3 supplement (100% plant-based).

Vegans have been shown to have low baseline levels of EPA & DHA which is why I choose to err on the side of caution and take an algae-based omega-3 supplement every day.

If you don't want to take a vegan EPA & DHA supplement, the next best option is to make sure you get ALA from either flax or chia seeds.

Iodine

iodine supplement

Iodine is one essential nutrient that many vegans neglect entirely. 

An adequate intake of this trace element is required for healthy thyroid function and a deficiency might result in thyroid dysfunction or hypothyroidism.

Here's the problem for us plant-eaters:

Iodine is only found inconsistently in plant foods depending on the iodine content of the soil. As such there are no reliable plants sources of vegan iodine.

Basically you have two options which is to either A. rely on iodized salt or B. take a vegan iodine supplement. Both of which are viable strategies, though if you limit salt consumption then obviously a supplement is better. 

(Nope seaweed is not a good source as it may actually contain toxic amounts of iodine)

Supplements for Enhancing Performance and Muscle Gains

Some dietary supplements such as BCAAs have been hyped up as a 'must-have' for the vegan bodybuilder.

How much truth is there actually to this?

Not a whole lot. It's mostly smoke and mirrors, lies and marketing. Marketing above all. 

As it turns out BCAAs are most likely a waste of money, here's what a couple recent reviews have to say on the matter:

"we find shockingly little evidence for their efficacy in promoting MPS or lean mass gains"

"We conclude that the claim that consumption of dietary BCAAs stimulates muscle protein synthesis or produces an anabolic response in human subjects is unwarranted."

Anyways:

There are actually a few tried-and-tested supplements that are proven to aid muscle mass gain and augment performance in the gym.

A good place to start is with creatine, protein powder and caffeine - an effective, bare-bones vegan bodybuilding supplement stack proven to work.

Creatine 

creatine

Creatine is perhaps the best-known and well researched nutritional supplement.

Here's the brief summary of this gym supplement staple:

It is a molecule produced in the body that basically acts as an energy storage for the cells.

When you take creatine you effectively fill up these storages which then helps aid cellular function during lifting.

This effect translates into:

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    Increased anaerobic working capacity i.e repeated high intensity efforts such as strength training with high reps (10-15)
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    An average +8% and +14% more performance on 1RM strength and endurance strength
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    And a small yet significant increase in lean mass gains by 0.36%.
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    Awesome pumps in the gym from increased cell swelling

Now if that didn't convince you here's why I highly recommend any plant-based athlete to supplement with creatine:

Creatine is only found naturally in animal foods such as meat, eggs, and fish. So there are no vegan dietary source of creatine. 

Measured creatine levels in vegetarians are also lower compared to the omnivores... 

...and when vegans supplement with creatine they also see more drastic increase in muscle concentrations of creatine.

Which means we reap even further benefits from creatine supplementation.

For me the decision is simple, creatine just works and there's no reason to think it's harmful.

I take 5 grams of a good vegan creatine supplement every day.

Vegan protein powder 

brown rice protein

​A vegan protein powder is as much a supplement as it is food in powder form.

A high-qualiy plant-based protein powder provides an extremely convenient way of making sure you get enough protein per day.

There are a number of different types of protein sources. Pea protein, rice protein, hemp protein, soy protein, a vegan blend of different proteins and so forth and so on.

For the vegan athlete I'd recommend a pea protein as it's often cheaper than other alternatives and contains plenty of muscle-building BCAA.

For a more in-depth look at vegan protein powder check out this article.

I know I definitely wouldn't be able to hit my macros during cutting without a pea protein powder. Thus I consider it a staple in my supplement stack.

Caffeine

two coffee cups

Caffeine is central nervous system stimulant, and is the world's most widely consumed physoactive drug in the form of coffee.

​Consume a heaping cup of black coffee as a pre-workout and you'll notice you have tons more energy to throw barbells around (without hurting others ideally).

​Besides being a stimulant, there's evidence suggesting that caffeine can increase strength and performance and has a thermogenic effect that increases metabolic rate (which means fat loss becomes easier).

​Furthermore, a recent study from 2018 found that coffee increased hypertrophy and upregulated pathways that stimulate protein synthesis. ​However as this was a rat study​ we'll have to wait for further studies to see if this effects also translates to humans. 

Still, more coffee never hurt anybody. 

So do whatever it takes to get that caffeine in you. Tea, coffee, pills. If you absolutely abhor the taste of coffee you could go for either a pre-workout supplement or fat burner that contains caffeine. 

For further information about supplements, check out the comprehensive hub on vegan supplements.

Chapter 6

Follow an Effective ​Training Routine


​With ​a vegan diet and supplement regimen optimized for muscle building and burning fat, we can finally ​head to the gym and start ​packing on that vegan muscle.

​There's a myriad of different workout routines that you can find online, most of which are pretty stupid to be honest. 

​A sensible and effective training regimen ​has to balance frequency, intensity, the training split, volume, exercise selection ​and other factors. And most importantly it should ​encourage progressive overload.

​So without further ado, let's have a look at how to do this.

The Key to Building Muscle: Progressive Overload

plane lifting

​Working out and ​getting ​results might seem like a mystery, so let's keep this as simple and actionable as possible.

​There's one thing you have to understand, and embrace, in order to ​reach the desired levels of muscular development​:

P​rogressive overload.

​Basically what this means is that you have to continually challenge, or overload, your muscles.

To become bigger and stronger you can not be doing the same thing over and over in the gym and expect your muscles to grow.

It makes a lot of sense when you think about it.

If you don't force your muscles to do more than what they're accustomed to, then there's no incentive for them to make any further adaptations. 

​The guy doing a 135 pound bench press for 3 sets of 10 reps year after year will ​not grow - despite how ​much protein ingested or how clean his diet is.

The most common method of progressive overload is by adding weight. 

So if you did 3 sets of 10 reps at 110 lbs on the bench press, you should aim for 3 sets of 10 reps at 115 lbs the next workout.

Voila, you've got overloaded the muscles.

Worth pointing out is that form should not ​be compromised by progressive overload. ​​​​Adding 10 pounds ​at the expense of your technique is not a good strategy due to the increased risk of injury and also looking stupid.

Other viable strategies are:

Adding reps. Using the previous example of 3x10 (sets x reps) at 110 lbs on the bench press, instead of adding weight next workout you do 3x11 at 110 lbs. 

Adding sets. 3x10 at 110 lbs --> next workout do 4x10 at 110 lbs.

Reducing rest time. If you perform 3x10 at 110 lbs resting 3 minutes between sets - the next workout reduce rest time to 2.5 minutes and perform 3x10 at 110 lbs.

Making the exercise more difficult. Slowing down the rep tempo, pausing the reps at the bottom, using a more challenging technique and so on and so forth.

Creating a Vegan Muscle-Building Routine

​Below are the essentials of designing an effective workout routine (information ​distilled from this article):

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    Train each muscle group about 2 times per week. 
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    Pick a balanced training split that fits your weekly schedule.
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    Intensity should fall in the range of 60-85% or about 5-20 reps (most of the time doing 6-12 reps).
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    For volume shoot for 30-60 reps per muscle group per session and/or 5 to 10+ hard sets per muscle group per week.
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    Base your routine on compound lifts with supplemental isolation movements.
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    You have to make sure to progressively overload your muscles.

​​Obviously it's damn near impossible to create a routine that is tailored to everyone's specific needs, different schedules, goals, genetics, amount of bananas eaten per day ​and ​21 other factors.

Hence why I designed ​the sample routine below to be as effective for as many individuals as possible:

A. Takes only about 3-4 hours per week and fits easily into a busy schedule 

B. Moderate frequency and volume ensures that you'll stay both motivated and fresh whilst making long-term vegan gains.

C. Good balance of different exercises that will build a well-proportioned physique

D. Suitable for both beginners and intermediate lifters

Something along the lines of this is going to be very effective for putting on mass in a bulking phase (or retain muscle during cutting):

Workout A1: Chest, Back, Shoulders & Triceps​

1. Incline Bench Press

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets


2. Barbell Row​

3 sets of 6-8 reps

~3 min rest between sets


3. Dips​

​3 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


4. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

​3 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


5. Side Lateral Raise

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets


6. Face Pulls

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets


7. Tricep Pressdown

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Workout B1: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs & Biceps

1. Squat or Front Squat

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets


2. Split Squat

3 sets of 10-12 reps

~2 min rest between sets


3. Leg Curl

​3 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


4. Standing Calf Raise

~2 sets of 10-12 reps 

2 min rest between sets


5. Barbell Curl

~2 sets of 12-15 reps

1.5 min rest between sets


6. Abs

Couple sets of ~15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Workout A2: Chest, Back, Shoulders & Triceps

1. Overhead Barbell Press

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets


2. Chin-ups

3 sets of 6-8 reps

~3 min rest between sets


3. Dumbbell Bench Press

​3 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


4. Dumbbell or Chest-Supported Rows

​3 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


5. Chest Flyes

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets


6. Reverse Flyes

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets


7. Lying Tricep Extension

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Workout B2: Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Abs & Biceps

1. Deadlifts

3 sets of 4-6 reps 

~3 min rest between sets


2. Leg Press

3 sets of 10-12 reps

~2 min rest between sets


3. Leg Curl

​3 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


4. Sitting Calf Raise

2 sets of 10-12 reps 

~2 min rest between sets


5. Alternating Dumbbell Curl

2 sets of 12-15 reps

~1.5 min rest between sets


6. Abs

Couple sets of ~15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

On a weekly basis this will look like:

Monday: Workout A1

Tuesday: off

Wednesday: Workout B1

Thursday: off

Friday: Workout A2

Saturday: off

Sunday: off

And the next week:

Monday: Workout B2

Tuesday: off

Wednesday: Workout A1

Thursday: off

Friday: Workout B1

Saturday: off

Sunday: off

And then keeps on rotating through the workouts in this manner.

Another alternative if you've got the extra time is to perform all four workouts in one week (note that this is completely optional):

Monday: Workout A1

Tuesday: off

Wednesday: ​Workout B1

Thursday: off

Friday: Workout A2

Saturday: ​Workout B2

Sunday: off

What about cardio?

Along with your muscle building efforts in the gym, it's also important to work the cardiovascular system.

So on the days where you're not lifting weights, you should engage in some sort of physical activity.

It could be whatever you fancy: yoga, a brisk walk, a session on the stationary bike, boxing, GPP work, dragging a sled around, circuits of body weight movements, shoveling wet and heavy snow (it's brutal work)... ​

... basically just make sure that you move your body for 20-60 minutes every day.

There's no need to go super hard every session. If you're feeling run down from the gym/work/school/life go for a short walk.

Or if you're jumping up and down with energy you could do a 20 minute HIIT bike blast.

During cutting you should shift your cardio towards high intensity interval training (HIIT) as it's highly effective for burning fat whilst also preserving muscle mass.

How do I progress?

Say you perform 3x10-12 on the leg press with 200 lbs and your sets look like:

Set 1: 12 reps

Set 2: 12 reps

Set 3: 11 reps.

Perfect, you hit the top end of the range on the first set and got all subsequent sets within the rep range of 10-12, so you can then add ​5 lbs the next session.

Next time around you do 205 lbs and get 12,10,10. Add​ 5 more lbs.

Next session you do 210 lbs and get 10,9,9. As you didn't hit the top end of the range and the subsequent sets fell outside, stay on this weight for the next session.

Next session you absolutely kill 210 lbs and get 12,12,12 which means you can add weight next session, and so on and so forth.

Don't get discouraged if you're not able to add weight every single session. Strength gains aren't linear and sometimes you're stuck on a certain weight for a while until it decides to move again.

And once again, ​you should not add weight at expensive of good form. Don't bounce the barbell of your chest during bench pressing - you'll only look like a jackass and ​risk an injury.

How do I warm-up?

First do about 5 minutes of light cardio to get your body temperature up and joints loosened up. 

Then:

Before any lower body session perform the agile 8 circuit.

Before any upper body session perform a couple sets of wall slides, band pull-aparts, and perhaps some chins to get the shoulders warmed up and ready for action - here's a good example routine.

When it comes to warming up for a specific exercise you perform a couple of lighter sets before the heavy work sets.

So if you were to do a 135 pound incline bench press it might look something like this:

Set 1: 45 pounds x 10

Set 2: 45 pounds x 10

Set 2: 90 pounds x 8

Set 3: 110 pounds x 5

And then on to the big working sets.

As a rule of thumb bigger movements and the first exercises of the day will require more warm up sets, whilst isolation movements later in the routine require less.

​​Go Get the Vegan Gains!

That's about it.

​If you made it through to the end you should now be pretty damn well-equipped to build ​some muscle in a cruelty-free manner.

Now it's a matter of putting this information into action (which arguably is the most important step, without actually doing anything nothing will happen)

​There is some hard work involved ​to produce serious results... but this is also supposed to be fun and enjoyable.

As a natural vegan athlete there is a limit to how fast you gain muscle and lose fat so you might as well enjoy the ride.

Eat some delicious vegan food, drink good coffee (or if you don't like coffee have some beet juice or something) and bust your ass in the gym.

Don't get discouraged if you do not see immediate results. That is not really how this works, sorry.

Combining all of the previous steps with consistency and hard work is how vegan gains are made.

When your plant-based diet and training is on point you have to simply trust the process and let time work its magic.

Think of it as depositing a small amount of money into a savings account every single day. One day is not going to make you rich or matter in the grand scheme of things. 

However 100 or more consecutive small deposits, and also taking into account the 5% return, will add up and create a snowball effect.

Suddenly what seemed impossible at first has happened, and your body has transformed into something that you can take pride in.

​I hope you liked this guide!

Please feel free to share it with anyone you think might need it.

Until later, may the vegan gains be with you.

Vegan Bodybuilding: The Definite Guide

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​P.S. ​If you​ have any questions about​ the steps in this guide, head over ​here and send me a message and I will respond ASAP.

:)​

'Spread the Vegan Word'!
Alex
 

Hey there! I'm Alex and I'm obsessed with a vegan diet, strength training and bodybuilding, as well as health and nutrition. When I'm not writing articles on here I am either in the gym, playing electric guitar or cooking vegan food!

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