Justin Palermo, Natural Bodybuilder and Fitness Model
I will go on the record in saying that nutrition is the most important part of the muscle building equation. What you put into your mouth will determine the gains that you make from intense workouts in the gym and how you recover and build muscle away from the gym.
Nutrition is important for every bodybuilder and especially for vegan athletes and trainees. Building an impressive physique is possible while adhering to a Vegan diet and lifestyle, but careful planning is necessary to maximize testosterone and insulin production and to maximize recovery.
If you are currently following the workout program that I created in Part I, then you are doing all you need to in the gym to stimulate new muscle growth. With your workouts well underway, it is important to maximize your time away from the gym and your training table (meals for the week).
I will admit that there certain benefits as far as testosterone release and absorption that occur with meat and whey protein consumption. As a vegan, I do not eat any of these products or any product that comes from an animal source.
My reasons are based on my own morals and ethics which is not to say that I look down upon those who do not follow my lifestyle, it is just that I personally feel that abusing and killing animals for personal gain is not something that I want to be affiliated with.
Even if you do not believe in my lifestyle choice, I still believe that the principles and base for my nutrition program can be taken and used for your benefit. Again, my goal is to promote a vegan lifestyle and to show that it is possible to achieve great gains while holding to a vegan lifestyle.
I am not making judgments, just creating an awareness and providing a resource for those who are vegan, are interested in becoming vegan or those who would like to learn how I build my physique while living a vegan lifestyle.
Eating Vegan has become simpler in recent years with the increase in awareness and a more mainstreaming of Vegan lifestyles. Most commercial-chain supermarkets have Organic sections and there is an increase in the amount of natural and organic markets throughout the United States. Everyone Vegan or non-Vegan can reap the benefits of eating natural and organic foods.
Soy is my staple protein source. Much has been researched on soy and its effect on estrogen levels and it has been concluded that soy is healthy for males and will not effect estrogen levels to a drastic degree. With that said, I also use Rice protein. Hemp protein is another great protein source, and in the near future Hemp protein shakes may soon replace soy protein shakes in my diet.
Nutritional Principles and Guidelines
Just because I am Vegan, does not mean that I do not follow the same guidelines as champion bodybuilders when it comes to nutrition. In fact, just the opposite is true. I still eat the same way that professional bodybuilders do, the only difference is that all of my protein sources are non-meat and non-dairy and do not contain any animal, or animal by-product.
Also, all of the food in my diet is organic and contains only natural ingredients. I follow the following basic guidelines in setting up my nutrition plan and I suggest you do the same in yours.
1) Eat Small, Frequent Meals
I eat 6 to 8 times per day which equates to roughly every 2 to 4 hours. It is important to keep a constant influx of nutrients (protein, calories, healthy fats, complex and low-glycemic carbohydrates) in your body to maintain a positive nitrogen balance.
Not only will your metabolism and fat-burning capabilities increase, you will have the nutrients needed to fuel muscle growth and recover so you can workout harder the next time you hit the gym.
2) Eat Your Bodyweight In Grams Of Protein
I strive for 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight in grams of protein. For example, in the off-season I weigh anywhere between 180 and 185 pounds. This past off-season I was in the 180 pound range which equates to 180 grams of protein per day. This is spread out between the 6 meals that I eat in a day which comes to an average of 30 grams of protein per meal.
3) Carbohydrates Are Crucial To Muscle Growth
The great thing about a Vegan diet, is the fact that I eat organic foods. When it comes to carbohydrates, I only eat organic whole-grain breads which provide plenty of fiber and low-glycemic carbohydrates that keep blood sugar levels even. When in a mass building phase, I strive for 2 to 3 grams of carbohydrates per day which comes out to 360 to 540 grams per day. I usually aim for the lower amount.
4) Eat Enough Calories
This is the biggest problem of most hard-gainers and can be especially tricky for Vegans. The reason is not a lack of meals, but the fact that are diets are high in fiber and low in overall calories, due to the abundance of fruits and vegetables.
It is important to take in 15 to 20 calories per pound of bodyweight. Start at the lower number and adjust up or down based on the progress that you are making. If gains are coming well and your body looks to be gaining muscle with a minimal gain in body fat, maintain or even slightly up your caloric intake. If the opposite is occurring, lower the calories until the desired effects are occurring.
5) Fat Should Comprise Roughly 30% Of Overall Calories
The positive to a Vegan diet is that the fats consumed are of the healthy kind; mainly Omega-5 from nuts.
The Nutrition Plan
Now that I have addressed the 5 guidelines that I follow in creating my nutrition plan it is time to see what it looks like. I have laid out a typical off-season meal plan for me. I usually eat roughly the same each day, but I do change things up occasionally and my overall calories may vary slightly from day to day.
Meal One- 8am 2/3 cup granola 2 cups soy milk 1 orange
Meal Two- 11am 4 oz. Deli-style soy meat 2 slices soy cheese 2 slices organic whole-wheat bread Or 2 tbls. Natural peanut butter Organic whole-wheat bagel Box of organic raisins or 1 small banana
Meal Three- 2pm Pre-workout 2 slices organic whole-wheat bread 1 small banana (if I have the banana in the previous meal I choose an orange here) 20 grams soy protein in powder form Or Odwalla Organic Soy Protein Bar 1 small banana
Meal Four- 4pm Post-workout 20 grams soy, hemp or rice protein 8 oz. Organic soda 1 small apple Or 20 grams soy, hemp or rice protein 1 organic bagel
Meal Five- 6pm I have many different options at this meal and I will list the main choices that I usually have for this meal 6 oz. Tofu mixed with 2 cups of mixed organic vegetables. My favorite vegetables are broccoli, spinach, cooked carrots, onions and garbanzo beans. Or Large salad made with 2 to 3 cups of romaine lettuce, 6 oz. Morningstar Veggie Strips (made to look like sliced Chicken Breast or sirloin steak), 1 onion, 1 tomato, 1 cup garbanzo beans, Â½ cup black olives and 2 tbls. Organic salad dressing. Or Veggie Soy cheese burger patties- 1 Morningstar meatless veggie burger patty 2 slices soy cheese 2 slices organic whole-wheat bread Chopped lettuce chopped onion 1-2 Tomato slices
*Morningstar also makes meatless soy veggie hotdogs and a host of other different types of meatless protein that resembles meat, chicken and sausage*
Meal Six- 10pm 2 tbls. Natural peanut butter 20 grams soy or hemp protein mixed in 8oz. Soy milk Or Odwalla Organic Soy Protein Bar 2 tbls. Natural peanut butter
In the off-season I do not deprive myself of any foods that I crave or feel like having. Soy ice cream is my biggest vice and when not dieting for a photo shoot or bodybuilding show it is not uncommon for me to have a few scoops around 8pm.
The key is moderation and taking the time to enjoy your cheat food. Take the time to savor each bite and enjoy the flavor; doing so will allow your brain time to find comfort in the taste and by eating slowly your body will have time to tell you that you are full and do not want or crave any more.
With the exception of protein shakes and my post-workout organic soda, I have not listed what I drink throughout the day. This is because how much fluids I drink depends on how thirsty I am. I only drink when I am thirsty. My choices are water (I flavor my water with lemon) and green tea from tea leaves.
I drink roughly 1.5 to 2 liters of fluids each day. This number includes water, soy milk, green tea and soy protein shakes. I gauge my hydration by the color of my urine. I make sure that my urine is pale yellow to clear in color. As long as it is and I am not thirsty, I drink only when I feel thirst.
Meals on Non-Training Days- On my off days I still eat the same type of meals. The only exception is that I do not have organic soda. The times of my meals after 2pm changes as well in the following way:
Meal Three- 2pm Odwalla Organic Soy Protein Bar 1 cup broccoli or spinach
Meal Four- 6pm meal on my training day is eaten at 5pm
Meal Five- 8pm Soy, rice or hemp Protein shake
Meal Six- 10pm 2tbls Natural peanut butter 1-2 cups Soy Milk
This is how I eat on a typical day. This plan has allowed me to gain quality muscle while still being able to stay fairly lean during my bulking phases. The foods taste good and at no point do I ever feel like I am missing anything.
There you have it. You are now well on your way to building a great body the Vegan Way!!! Be prepared to feel great, have energy you never had before and make the best gains of your life!!! Thank you for taking the time to read my articles.