Ever wondered what the blueprint of a vegan body builder looks like? Here it us: uncovered and undisputedly awesome!
Bodybuilding is a sport that doesn’t get a lot of mainstream attention. People know of it, and if you work out regularly, you probably see a bodybuilder or two who is a regular at your gym, but outside of that most people’s experience is pretty limited. I was the same way for years, even though I was a competitive athlete and spent hours each week in the gym. I knew of bodybuilding; I appreciated that it was a lot of work, and I found the results impressive, but I didn’t know any of the ins and outs. Ironically, that changed once I became vegan.
When I chose to stop consuming animal products for health reasons in 2007, all my athletic friends thought I was crazy and that I’d never be able to keep doing the sports I loved. What actually happened is I got leaner, had more energy, and recovered faster from my workouts! This was completely unexpected for me, but needless to say I wasn’t unhappy about my results! However, even though I continued to have no trouble leading an active lifestyle, I still regularly encountered the It-can’t-be-done attitude regarding being big and strong on a plant-based diet. This is actually what started me on the road to being a competitive bodybuilder; now I had something to prove. I decided the easiest rebuttal would be showing that I could be competitive as a vegan bodybuilder amongst omnivores, so in 2011 that’s what I set out to do.
In the time between then and now I’ve learned a lot, and I happened to collect three first place finishes and a Pro card along the way! (Cue applause). Things are a lot different now than they were ten years ago when I became vegan, but my message when I compete is the same: consuming a plant-based diet is in no way a liability for any sport, including bodybuilding!
I am now preparing for my 8th competition and my second as a Pro in the Men’s Physique category. I’m sharing this short background and a little about my progress and strategies in the hopes that it will help or even inspire someone reading this to achieve their own goals, be them bodybuilding related or otherwise.
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I began my diet at about 14 weeks out from the show (which will be June 3rd), at around 8% body fat and 193 lbs. My target for being on stage is to be right around 4% body fat and to retain or build as much muscle as possible. Given that I needed to lose 4% body fat, and that 4% of 193 lbs. is just under 8 lbs., I’m shooting to be right around 185 lbs. on stage. To accomplish this I’ve made moderate cuts to my calories of roughly 300–500 per day at a time, and when fat loss slows, I’ve made additional drops to keep progressing. To counter potential muscle loss from this deficit, my daily protein intake is up approximately 20% to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, so my tub of chocolate Warrior Blend is coming in extra handy. I’ve also increased my cardio from one session per week to around three, and I may add more depending on my progress. At 5 weeks out from the show, I’m currently at 189 lbs. and about 5 ½ % body fat, so I’m happily right on course for my target. I’ve dropped my calories three times over these last 9 weeks, from about 4000 kcals/day at the start to 3000 kcals/day presently (and I’m hungry!). With a little patience and some extra cardio, I should be able to cruise right into the contest at my target weight and body fat level. I’m listing all these numbers and facts to shed some light on this process for anyone who isn’t familiar with it, and to really show that it isn’t magic; it’s all in the numbers and the consistency! I outline this process as well as gaining weight in our book The Vegan Muscle and Fitness Guide to Bodybuilding Competitions, so if you have any interest in the blueprint I use, please take a look!
I also want to add that my wife Marcella and I are competing alongside a great team of dedicated vegan athletes called Team Plantbuilt, so we’re honored to represent plant-based muscle as part of this team! We’ve competed on Team Plantbuilt since 2013, and it’s always fun to see the audience’s response to a big influx of vegan competitors at a major multi-sport event! And it’s doubly exciting because Sunwarrior is a corporate sponsor of the team, so I am able to represent vegan muscle on a team of like-minded athletes and with the great Sunwarrior brand I respect. With only a few more weeks to go, I’m getting excited about the show, and I’m hoping it will be the one where I check off my next big goal as a competitive athlete: to place first on a pro stage! All that remains is to see the process through and hope for the best. Thanks for reading, and wish us luck!