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  • Add 30 Pounds of Muscles on a Plant-Based Diet by Chad Byers


    There was an unbelievable amount of vegan muscle at the Naturally Fit Super Show in Austin, Texas this summer. After watching the other PlantBuilt members compete in the bodybuilding division, I have decided that this will be my last time competing in the Physique division. I placed 1st in the 2012 NFSS and 3rd in this year's. But, next year I will be competing in the Heavyweight bodybuilding division. At my height of 6'4", in order to compete with those under 6', I will need to gain about 25-30 pounds of muscle.

    For the past two years, I have maintained a consistent weight between 195-200 pounds and a consistent body fat between 4-5% due to my diet and training program. Gaining weight has always been challenging for me, mostly because I don't like to eat (I've just never had a big appetite, so eating a large volume of food is difficult for me), but also because of the types of food that I choose to consume. I currently follow a mostly raw plant-based diet. I don't eat meat substitutes such as seitan or tempeh, and I try to stay away from processed foods.

    When I first transitioned to a plant-based diet, I began to lose weight. This was not a welcome side effect of my new diet, so I began to track my caloric intake through a food log. The meals that I was consuming were very nutritionally dense and fiber rich, but were lacking in calories. After tweaking my meals, I was able to find the right balance of nutrition and calories to maintain my weight and even build muscle.

    Now I must find a balance again, in order to gain a large amount of muscle without gaining body fat. Building muscle does require more calories, and that means more food. I currently eat three meals per day and consume between 4500-5000 calories, while following an Intermittent Fasting (IF) program. This means that I fast 14-16 hours between my last meal on the previous day and my first meal of the current day. This leaves a small 8-hour window during the day in which to consume all of my meals. I will try to continue my Intermittent Fasting program while increasing the calories of my three meals. I am currently not using any protein supplements, and I will continue to get all of my macronutrients from whole foods for as long as my progress allows.

    My training has been devoted to heavy compound lifts and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Although my training style is not what a typical bodybuilder would recommend, it has worked for me, and I believe that functional compound lifts build mass faster than isolation training.

    This goal that I have set will not be an easy one to reach by next year. I have found comfort in my current eating and training routines, and it will be difficult to change them knowing that the results that I have obtained are due to them. I have already been told by many that my goal is not possible to achieve with the way that I train and eat. However, I will show that it is possible, and I will show how I do it each step of the way.

    I will be documenting my progress through monthly articles, photos, and video updates on Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, detailing my diet/meals, training, and contest prep, as well as answering some reader questions. I am looking forward to this new challenge and competing as a heavyweight onstage, alongside my fellow PlantBuilt teammates in 2014 in Austin, Texas. I hope you can join me in this journey to show what is possible following a healthy plant-based, cruelty-free, and environmentally-friendly diet.

    Chad Byers

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