- Posted by phytomaniac
- On December 18, 2017
My name is TJ, one of the founders of phytomaniac.com, and I will be partaking in a 30 Day Vegan Bodybuilding Challenge over the next 30 days (technically I started already). Why am I doing this? I am sick of hearing about how vegans cant get protein or necessary nutrients, and especially that they can’t gain muscle. I aim to put all of those myths to rest, especially the building muscle part!
A Brief Background About Myself
I am a former Division 1 Track & Field Athlete and have always been a fitness & nutrition nerd. I cared so much about nutrition I canceled my freshman cafe meal plan and cooked every meal myself in my shitty dorm for the second semester. Seriously. I went to the local store, bought pots, pans, and spices and put them in a big plastic box and carried it up 3 flights of stairs every night. I spent my nights scouring PubMed for the latest study and trolling workout forums arguing about everything and anything workout or nutrition related. I’ve always enjoyed dispelling common workout-related myths.
I went vegan at the end of 2016, primarily because it significantly helped some GI symptoms I was having, but also because it made me feel AWESOME in so many ways. My head was more clear, my sleep calmer, less GI distress, and more consistent energy levels, to name a few. I also traveled a lot at the time and didn’t have much time for the gym. The vegan diet made it almost impossible to gain fat or keep it on (even without exercise!).
I’ve been working a lot this year and exercise really hasn’t been a priority. It was so easy to stay “thin” or “in shape” being a vegan, I sort of forgot about exercise altogether. I enjoyed my new found skinniness.
Like all things, however, it’s time for a change. It’s time to get back to my former muscular and lean self. I’m really excited about getting back into the gym because it’s with a different set of parameters, something totally different. This time I’m vegan. I dont exactly know how this will pan out, but I’m confident I can gain weight effectively and in a totally different way that will allow me to stay lean along the way (oh and no animals will be killed either!!).
30-Day Vegan Bodybuilding Challenge Goals
Like any person who sets out on a journey, I’ve set up some primary goals as part of this challenge. Honestly, I really only have 2 goals. And they are very simple.
- To gain as much muscle as possible over a 30-day timeframe
- To be lean and cut (no pudge)
I don’t necessarily have a set number of pounds I want to gain, my goal is primarily visual-based. I want to look bigger and more importantly, I want to look cut. I definitely cannot look big and thick or pudgy.
I picked 30 days because it’s a very brief period of time and it will truly test how effective I can be at gaining muscle efficiently and quickly.
The 30-Day Vegan Bodybuilding Challenge Plan
I am a data-driven person so naturally, I started researching pretty thoroughly for the best way to go about the 30 Day Vegan Bodybuilding Challenge. Part of the reason I chose such a short period of time was because I would have to find the most efficient means of building muscle as I’m eliminating any time buffer (because of the limited time) as most workout plans are 6, 8, or 12 weeks.
There are essentially 3 major areas this challenge can be broken down into:
- Exercise Strategy
- Nutrition/Meal Plan Strategy
- Putting everything together into a consolidated plan including supplements, workouts, nutrition, accountability, and volume/periodization
Coming Up With An Exercise Plan
There is A LOT of content out there on bodybuilding programs. You can find just about anything that tickles your fancy. Everything from low rep powerlifting programs to super high rep fitness programs and they all claim to build muscle.
What I discovered, is that it basically comes down to lifting enough weight with enough volume in order to initiate a physical response from the body. My research told me this was around 10-12 reps and those reps should be difficult, meaning you should barely be able to finish your sets.
Time under tension matters and most of the movements should be controlled. Super fast movements are generally sport-specific and arent inducive to gaining size. The actual exercises themselves aren’t as important as the rep schemes and getting your butt in the gym.
Volume is important and will be increased slowly each week. There will be no dip in volume during the 4 weeks. Rep schemes will mostly stay the same and be anywhere from 8-15 reps depending on the week and exercise.
I also decided to sit down with a vegan bodybuilder, Korin Sutton, to bounce my ideas off of and get a second opinion when it came to my extensive research for this challenge (interview coming soon).
Coming Up With A Nutrition Plan
Based on my previous and new-found vegan research, nutrition is by far the most important piece to any exercise plan. If you aren’t eating enough calories, and the right ones, progress simply won’t be made.
When it comes to nutrition and bodybuilding, the most basic questions are those of how many calories to eat, what ratio of calories (macros), and what type of food. We mostly have the type of food covered (vegan), so we’re left with figuring out how much and in what ratios.
I like data, so I chose to base my calorie intake on macronutrient calculations. I started by calculating my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) based on my goals. From here I can measure and see which amounts of protein and ratios of macros work best for me. The TDEE calculation is a combination of your height, weight and age, multiplied by an activity-factor.
I also sat down with a plant-based nutrition coach to bounce ideas off of for this challenge (interview coming soon).
My Macronutrient Numbers
My TDEE is ~3,105 calories.
I need to eat approximately:
- 556 protein calories (139 grams)
- 621 fat calories (69 grams)
- 1,928 carbohydrate calories (482 grams)
Putting It All Together
One of the hardest parts of all this is trying to combine everything into a concise and easy to follow plan. I havent found any great examples out there, so I am putting it together myself. There will be workout every day with a weekly “down” or rest day; more of circuit type activity. There is no fancy way around getting your volume in and getting your butt to the gym.
Everything will be planned ahead of time, including:
- What my workouts will be every day
- When and where I will be working out (getting into a routine)
- Which days I will need/want a spotter/partner
- What I am eating for every meal
- Grocery lists for each week
- Having a plan for holding myself accountable
I am building a weekly meal plan to assist me in my 30-day challenge. I want to do as much planning beforehand so I don’t have to waste time and energy scrambling for what to eat. I will just follow my plan and adjust macros as needed. I’ve never been huge on meticulously counting calories, but I’m going to count at the start and then adjust as needed because I am working with such a limited time.
The only supplement I plan on taking is a post-workout protein shake. I am considering a pre-workout BCAA, but I still haven’t decided on that. As you can see, nothing fancy here.
My Starting Body Measurements
Weight: 169 pounds
Height: 6′ 1 1/2″ (187 cm)
I used one of those cheap bodyfat handheld devices which can be found in any gym. I know they are not the most accurate, but will be using the same device at the end to keep it as consistent as possible. I’m not as worried about my actual weight/bodyfat as I am mostly focused on the visual results. Pictures do not lie.
If you have any questions/comments be sure to leave a comment below!