VEGAN CONTEST PREP / BODY TRANSFORMATION
Are you an experienced competitor looking to try a plant- based prep for the first time? Or a vegan looking to compete for the first time?
Are you looking to make a significant physical transformation while following a plant- based diet?
If so, then this article is for you.
Where to Start:
A contest prep is the 12-16 weeks leading up to a show. However, this is not where the process should begin. Typically 6 months to a year or even longer is spent consistently training with weights and gaining muscle without too much concern with being overly lean. After this building phase, focus is switched to burning body fat until a very low body fat level is reached. Competitors usually step on stage at 10% BF or lower.
Best results will be achieved if you hire a coach. Having someone to hold you accountable will help you to be honest and realistic with your progress. Another set of eyes on your physique transformation can help you to identify areas that may need more focus than others. Knowing that you have to send your progress pictures in every week can often give you that extra psychological push to maintain your discipline all the way through to the end of each week.
You may not be able to find a vegan contest prep coach near you. Some coaches who work with competitors may try to persuade you to consume at least some animal products. Not all fitness experts believe that a plant-based diet is ideal for building muscle and getting lean. However, awareness is increasing as more plant-based athletes are stepping into the limelight.
For optimal muscle hypertrophy and maintenance, it is recommended to consume 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Plant-based athletes will typically consume a diet that is lower in protein and fat and higher in carbs. Many of the plant-based foods that are high in protein are also high in complex carbohydrates, which is a huge advantage when it comes to maintaining energy and focus throughout the day, as well as for intense training.
In order to burn body fat, you must be in a consistent daily calorie deficit, and the weekly total will determine your results. If you are in a calorie deficit Monday through Friday but overdo it on the weekends with high fat and high sugar foods combined with alcohol, you may find you have undone much of your progress.
One pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories. Therefore, to burn 1 lb of fat within 7 days, you would need a daily deficit of 500 calories for ALL 7 days. If you only had that deficit for 5 out of the 7 days, then you would lose less than 1 lb of body fat at the end of that week.
Many people get misled with diets like Keto, low-carb and carb-cycling diets. These often seem to yield more dramatic weight loss in a shorter time frame. The key term is “weight loss” as opposed to “body fat loss.” If your WEIGHT loss at the end of 4-7 days is greater than 1-2 pounds, that will typically be in the form of water. This is due to mild dehydration, reduced sodium or depleted muscle glycogen stores. Glycogen is the form in which the body stores carbs and glucose in the muscle and liver.
In order to burn 1 lb of body fat per week, you can reduce your calorie intake by 250 calories per day and increase your daily activity by 250 calories per day. To burn 2 lbs of body fat per week, you could reduce calorie intake by a total of 500 calories per day and burn an extra 500 calories per day. Your total calorie deficit would then be 1000 per day, which if done for 7 days, would be 7000 calories and potentially 2 lbs of body fat.
However, in the real world, you would not be able to burn those extra calories all 7 days. You would need to take one or two rest days per week in order to avoid over-training. You would also probably want to allow yourself a treat at least once per week. Both of these things would likely reduce your deficit on 2- 3 out of 7 days. Therefore, a 1 lb loss of body fat each week, over a 12-week period, is a realistic and sustainable expectation.
How to Measure Progress
One of the discouraging and deceiving aspects of body transformation, is the use of a weighing scale to monitor your progress. You could burn 2 lbs of body fat in 1 week and not see your weight on the scale budge at all. Worse still, your weight on the scale could INCREASE despite a 2-lb loss of body fat. This is the point where many people dive off the wagon. Why would your overall weight increase when you have trained so hard all week, eaten perfectly and made a ton of changes and sacrifices?? This happens ALL THE TIME.
Here are some reasons:
- Increased muscle density (your muscles are stronger and build better fibers as you progress)
- Increased muscle size (muscle growth is a typical response to certain styles of training and is heavily dependent on genetics)
- Improved hydration due to better dietary habits
- Trained muscles store more muscle glycogen
The factors above could increase your body weight, while your waist measurement goes drastically down.
The best way to avoid discouragement is to avoid stepping on the scale on a regular basis. Instead, use a high-quality body composition monitor. The INBODY machine now found in many gyms is a great choice due to its ease of use and detailed data it produces.
The good old measuring tape is still a great way to monitor progress, alongside weekly photos taken in shorts or a swimsuit, where you can clearly see your waist, back, arms and legs.
Measurements can be taken from the following sites:
Keep a chart for measurements and use an app to place your progress photos side by side.
What Should You Eat?
- You don’t need soy.
- Fake meat should be reserved for rare treats.
- Supplements should not be relied upon but may assist.
- You can succeed entirely with whole plant foods.
Focus on foods like:
Beans (kidney, black, chickpeas, blackeye peas)
Seeds (hemp, chia, pumpkin)
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
Grains (quinoa, brown rice, whole oats)
Vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, mushrooms)
Quality plant-based milks
Natural protein powder with the fewest additives.
Combine foods similar to those above. Keep it clean, and you’ll be getting such high-quality overall nutrition and your body will be so optimized that you’ll see and feel the improvements daily. If you feel you want to increase your protein intake specifically, there are plenty of great products, such as tempeh and tofu. Supplements come into play once you have optimized your nutrition.
This is a great tool to keep track of your calories, plan your meals and make sure your food consumption remains in alignment with your goals. Some people find it inconvenient, but once you develop and maintain the correct habits, you won’t need to track. Initially it’s beneficial to track meals or follow a set meal plan.
For more vegan fitness motivation, check out my new Ig page focused on plant-based fitness and health.