Ok, so we’re a month into our vegan bodybuilding challenge with Salus London and the game is afoot.
Last week we amped up the effort and started overloading, upping the weights and reps as part of hypertrophy training.
That’s when you do between eight and 12 reps with up to a minute rest in between, to really get those muscles micro-tearing and rebuilding.
Has it worked?
Well, let’s look at our results so far:
Quick translation: in four weeks, George has gone from having a body fat percentage of 29.9% to 20.4% – which is mad. And I’ve gone from 15.2% to 12.3% – getting closer to that kind of bikini model body composition so many of us envy. It’s worth saying that fat loss gets harder the lower you are so our progress is moving at different rates. But still, PROGRESS.
Last week, we also started going in on the macros.
And initially, they were pretty much all high protein, medium fat, low carb.
Only…do you know how difficult it is to go low fat on a vegan plan? It is literally impossible. I found myself well over my allotted 10% before breakfast was over. And you can do high fat (avocados, peanut butter…um….nuts) but it’s really super hard to get those protein levels up without legumes.
Vegans get their protein from beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, soya…all of which have a pretty high carb profile.
So, we’ve changed things around.
Rather than following specific macro percentages, Justin from The Gamma Project – who is the one setting our training and nutritional plans every day – has just given us calorie aims and a rough plan (i.e. breakfast and lunch = high fat, medium carb//dinner = medium carb//low fat).
And that’s easy.
Because we’ve started getting our meals delivered from Fresh Fitness Food. Some kind of wellness Santa lets themselves into our block and leaves ice bags of grub for us between midnight and 5am and then we leave the bags to get refilled just before bedtime.
Now I know what you’re thinking: getting food delivered is cheating.
But going vegan throws up all sorts of challenges and the main one for those of us trying to make incremental changes to our bodies is getting the right balance of nutrients.
Last time I went vegan (I feel like giving up dairy is a bit like giving up amphetamines – it might take a few goes before you really come round to the idea of quitting), I lived off tomatoes, flapjacks and peanut butter. I was running a marathon and that meant, in my mind, carb, carbs, carbs.
This time, however, we’re trying to get a good balance and having the food expertly prepped for two weeks has shown just what nutritional possibilities we have before us.
We’ve had three meals a day which tend to be around 400 calories, bulked out by two or three snacks.
We’re talking breakfasts of coconut yoghurt, oats, cacao nibs and melon. Lunches of courgette waffles, turmeric cauliflower curry with ginger carrot mash (omigod, so good) and seaweed, asparagus and grilled tofu salad. Mega high protein, medium carb, low fat.
Dinners have ranged from mushroom pasta (I literally don’t remember the last time I ate pasta) to candied walnut salads and vegan sausages.
The food is good.
But more importantly, the food is varied.
And when it comes to health, variety is really important and something many of us are awful at. I tend to eat the same meals every day for months and that can lead to hypersensitivity in the gut and digestive system. And that’s a one way street to inflammation – which is no good when you’re training to get set of banging abs.
It’s also taught me quite a lot about snacking and the value of calories.
I tend to be set around 2,100 calories a day and initally I struggled to each that amount because it turns out, I’ve probably been undereating for months. I’ve been living off really low-calorie dishes (tinned tomatoes and courgette rice, anyone?) and stocking up valueless snacks (Kallo corn cakes are addictive, fact).
Living like that, you can get really full on very few nutrients and calories.
Now, suddenly, I’m two-thirds through my calorie allowance by lunchtime and I’ve been panicking a little about my lack of snacking leverage.
Maybe that’s a good thing though. Having smaller but more regular meals keeps your blood glucose balanced throughout the day and having a small bag of nuts is going to be more valuable than four rice cakes – even if the rice cakes feel like you’re eating more than the bag of nuts.
Any kind of introspection when it comes to food and the way you plan your daily feed can be uncomfortable or confusing. But at least by having it professionally put together for a couple of weeks, you’re giving yourself the chance to learn what a properly balanced day of eating should be like and to get used to it.
Now we’ve got a much better idea of what we need to cooking on our own.
George’s take on delivery food meals…
When you’re working a full-time job, training nearly every day and then are expected to prepare macro-specific meals, life can become a bit of a full-on blur, particularly if you’re not used to it. So Fresh Fitness Food has been a lifesaver.
The meal variety has been fantastic, the food is super tasty and it’s given me plenty of cool ideas for what I should try my hand at cooking in the weeks going forward when we no longer have it at our disposal.
It has saved the hassle of going shopping and checking nearly every label to see if it’s actually vegan or not and it means I’m not wasting my time stressing about the differences between 100g of cooked and 100g of uncooked rice. And just how much is a bloody cup?!
I’ll be sad to see it go. But with fresh ideas about what to concoct in future and fond memories of some delightful dishes, it was a journey well worthwhile!