Do you want to get bigger? Do you want to get leaner? Do you want to have that muscular, ripped physique that more and more vegans are achieving nowadays? Well, what is the root to acquiring any of these goals? Any guesses as to what I may suggest? To achieve larger muscles, you need to get stronger. To get leaner, you have to burn fat. A fantastic approach to doing this is to build more muscle to stoke your fat-burning engine, which means you need to get stronger. In the end, strength will be the underlying adaptation which must take place for that ripped look. Without strength, you will lack lean mass, and following a cutting diet protocol will only make you look skinny and undernourished, which is not what you want. Regardless of who you are, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so let’s lay out this simple plan that will get you stronger and increase lean body mass. Here are the three easy steps.
Step 1: Program Design
Now this is a simple approach I picked up from a strength coach named Jim Wendler. It is called the 5/3/1 Program. I recommend you go here to read all about it. The program is simple enough, and it is based on percentages of your 1 repetition max for four basic compound lifts. These exercises are the Back Squat, Bench Press, Dead Lift, and Standing Shoulder Press. This will be the first portion of your workout and will be solely based on lifting more weight for more reps over time. It is set up in 4 week durations. The weight increases for 3 weeks, but then on the fourth week, weights get much lighter for a deload week. This prevents burnout and allows the body to recover for the next round. After every four week cycle, the upper body weights are increased by 5 lbs., while the lower body weights are increased by 10 lbs. So in other words, over the course of 6 months, you will be working with 30 lbs. heavier on the bench press and shoulder press, and 60 lbs. more for the squat and dead lift. Now let’s be honest, have you seen that fast of an improvement beyond your first year of training? Most people’s 1 rep max doesn’t increase 10 lbs. over the course of a year.
This program is really simple and easy to follow. Just estimate your 1 rep max for these four lifts and use percentages for the programming. So here is a quick example of how Squat programming would look: If my 1 rep max was 300 lbs., I would use 90% of this number for calculations, so 270. Then for week 1, I would perform 5 reps (or more) with 65%, 75%, and 85% of 270 lbs. Week 2, I would perform 3 reps (or more) with 70%, 80%, and 90% of 270 lbs. Week 3, I would perform 5/3/1 reps (or more) of 75%, 85%, and 95% of 270 lbs. Then for the 4th week, I would perform 5 reps of an easy 40%, 50%, and 60% of 270 lbs. After the first 4 week cycle, I would add 10 lbs. to my estimated number. In other words, for week 5, I would perform 5 reps (or more) with 65%, 75%, and 85% of 280 lbs.! With patience and persistent effort, this program pays off with huge gains in strength over time.
Plus, another great part of this program is the main lift is only performed for 3 sets. You will have time to follow the program up with whatever type of training you prefer. For example, perform your 3 sets of squats, and then follow it up with assistance work for Bodybuilding, CrossFit, Power Lifting, Olympic Lifting, or for any other goal you may have. I have used this program for the last 8 months and have had significant strength gains. Okay, now let’s move on.
Step 2: Nutrition
I like to recommend people eat 1 gram of protein per pound of ideal body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 and your goal weight is 165, eat 165 grams of protein daily. As another example, if you weight 230 lbs., but your goal weight is 180, then eat 180 grams of protein daily. This is a simple strategy that ensures you are giving your body enough amino acids to build more lean mass. A few easy vegan protein sources are:
Chickpeas (AKA Garbanzo Beans)
Tofu (Soy or Hemp)
Sprouted Grain Bread (Wheat)
Protein Powder (Rice, Pea, Hemp, Savi Seed)
Analog Meats such as Tofurky or Beyond Meat
Beyond meeting your protein goal, calculate your daily intake, based on what you have been eating for the last few weeks on average. If your weight hasn’t changed over this course of time, it is safe to say this is your maintenance calorie intake. If your goal is to increase weight, simply add in an extra 400 calories per day. The easiest way to do this is to add in one Protein shake with a scoop of protein, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, and a banana. This will add approximately 435 calories, 29 grams protein, 32 net carbs, and 18 grams of fat. At this rate, you will add about 1 to 1.5 lbs. every two weeks. Anything faster is surely fat gain. If your goal is to lose fat, then reducing calories by about 300 calories per day would be a good place to start, while increasing calories burned through exercise. These calories should be reduced from net carbohydrates or fat, but not from reducing protein. Now let’s go over the final step.
Step 3: Recovery
After intense bouts of weight lifting, it is essential to recover properly. This can be done by proper rest and supplementation. For starters, get enough sleep at night. Aim for 8-9 hours per night. Also, if you can, take naps sometime during the day. After workouts would be an ideal time for naps. Make sure to take in protein at crucial recovery times. These two times are immediately following a workout and right before you go to bed. After workouts, your body is ready to start repairing all the muscle damage that just happened. If you do not feed your body at this crucial time, you will heal much slower and likely no stronger than before. This time period of 1 hour after a workout is also known as the “anabolic window.” Your body also rebuilds itself while you rest, so by consuming protein right before bed, you give your body crucial amino acids to help you heal and grow stronger as you sleep. A few supplements I recommend for better recovery are L-Glutamine powder, Zinc, and Magnesium. L-Glutamine is shown to boost immunity, help protein synthesis, and boost growth hormone levels – all valuable components of gaining strength. Zinc and Magnesium taken before bed can improve overall sleep quality by helping with muscle relaxation, and the deactivation of adrenaline. This allows for a better quality of sleep with better recovery.
Info on Magnesium