TOP 5 TIPS FOR PLANT BASED CONTEST PREP/ BODY TRANSFORMATION
- USE A MEAL TRACKER
- DON’T STRESS ABOUT PROTEIN
- DON’T FEAR THE CARBS
- KEEP YOUR FATS LOW
- DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT
My meal tracker of choice is MYFITNESSPAL. It’s easy to use, and many people interested in fitness have heard of it or used it in the past. It keeps getting easier to use. Myfitnesspal has a large database of foods, brands and restaurants. You can scan barcodes and even take pictures of your food for data entry purposes.
You can divide your meals into 6, and name them as you choose. The app can be set up according to how meticulous you like to be with the data you collect on yourself and your dietary habits. This can help you identify what areas might warrant improvement.
Myfitnesspal allows you to add friends and let them view your diary. This means your coach or accountability partner can easily support and encourage you.
If you don’t like the hassle of tracking everything, the next best alternative is to follow a set meal plan created towards your specific body composition and goals. This method will be more rigid, while tracking allows for more flexibility and personal choice.
From my perspective as a coach, I’m not a huge fan of dictating exactly what my clients should or shouldn’t eat, and here’s why:
- Eating can be a very personal matter and even emotional for many people. Nobody knows your body better than you, and only you know the truth on how certain foods make you feel.
- Many people claim they want to be given a meal plan and love the idea of being given something tangible to get them results. The reality is that very few meal plan recipients actually stick to the plan or even begin to follow it. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it may require a complete overhaul of everything you usually have in your kitchen. When you get the plan, you have to make a list and maybe go to areas of the grocery store you’ve never been to, and maybe there are items you don’t know how to cook.
Use of a meal tracker allows you to be much more flexible in working towards your goals. The main determinant will be your ability to adhere to set calories and macros, but you have the freedom to choose the foods you prefer. However, it’s worth noting that the quality of the food matters too. You’ll get the best results if your choices are as whole and natural as possible. Ideally, there will be little or no processed food. Overall, as long as it “fits your macros,” you should see the changes you are looking for.
Nutrition in the fitness world has revolved around protein for a long time, even more so, as information from the world of bodybuilding has become increasingly mainstream. Bodybuilders are experts when it comes to having an extremely lean physique and large amounts of muscle. Protein is required to build and maintain muscle. Muscle is metabolically active and helps to burn more calories throughout the day.
One deterrent from trying a plant-based diet is the fear that it’s not possible to get enough protein. For the average person, it is easy to get sufficient protein to maintain and repair muscle and perform well in any sport. For muscle building, it is recommended to consume 1g per pound of body weight to be able to consistently build new muscle. On a plant-based diet, as you increase protein content, you will also be increasing carbohydrates.
Combining beans, legumes, grains, and vegetables along with high-protein seeds will ensure that your protein needs are met. Focus on your overall nutrition quality, and your body will respond well.
Don’t fear the complex carbohydrates!!
A high-protein, plant-based diet will also be a high-carbohydrate diet. Believe it or not, this is actually an advantage, especially if you are training hard. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for your body. The key is to keep the fats low in order to keep your overall calories where they need to be. Most complex carbohydrates have almost zero fat. High-fat and simple carbs or high-processed sugar foods are the true culprit. (Enter burgers & fries, pizza, cakes, alcohol, etc.)
It is also worth noting that 1g of fat contains more calories than 1g of carbs and 1g of protein combined!
The body’s preferred fuel source is carbohydrates. It is much easier for the body to utilize muscle glycogen for fuel than it is to mobilize stored body fat.
The idea behind low-carb diets is that in the absence of muscle glycogen, the body is forced to use stored fat for fuel. However, the rule that calories in equals calories out still applies. The body will only tap into stored body fat if there is insufficient fuel from recently consumed food.
During the first week of a low-carbohydrate diet, much of the drop in body weight is from muscle glycogen. Once these stores have been depleted, the body will turn predominantly to stored body fat for fuel, in a process called gluconeogenesis. At some point, carbs are reintroduced. This happens either during a dietary slip or during an intentional carb reload. The body weight can dramatically increase as the muscles restore glycogen. This weight increase is not fat, but it can be discouraging all the same.
As mentioned before, a high-protein, whole-food, plant-based diet will inherently be higher in carbs as well. Let this be an advantage and use the fuel to become better, faster and stronger in your training. To create a calorie deficit, keep the fats low. Cumulatively, over the weeks, your body will burn body fat according to your calorie deficit. The resulting loss will be steady and without the body water fluctuations typical on a keto or carb-cycling diet. Keeping your carbs consistent, will also help you to maintain energy and focus throughout the day. You’ll be less likely to have carb cravings when they are included in your planned diet. You can also gain the nutritional benefits of things like fruit, which can get a bad rap by low-carb enthusiasts.
When monitoring your progress, I highly recommend using something other than weight. The readings can be so deceiving and affected by so many other things besides body fat loss, such as hormonal status, hydration status, muscle gain or loss. Some alternative ways to track your progress can be use of body measurements, body fat scale, progress photos or a combination of all three.