It might not be common knowledge, but many vegan athletes consume adequate, quality protein on a plant-based diet and thrive with high levels of health and fitness. Building muscle on a vegan diet should not be considered a challenge, an oxymoron or an improbable task deemed for failure. Like anything else in nutrition, getting enough protein in your diet comes down to the basics, and common sense. Eat frequently, eat quality whole foods and consume an adequate quantity to elicit the kind of muscle gains you're looking to experience.
If your goal is to build muscle, it must be understood how muscle grows in the first place. You can't expect to pack on muscle without understanding how the process works. For starters, you have a basic minimum caloric need just to maintain your weight, muscle and health. This is determined based on your age, size, weight and gender, and primarily based around how many calories you're expending (burning) each day. You burn calories in everything you do -- from sleeping to walking to exercising. And the more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.
Due to the nature of physical activity, athletes burn far more calories than non-athletes. Therefore they require more calories through the consumption of food than their non-athlete counterparts.
We know we need to eat well and eat often. But what we eat -- and what we choose not to eat -- are also important factors. It's pretty common for an athlete to require 0.8 - 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain muscle.
Building muscle, which is our specific topic, often requires the consumption of 1.2 - 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. It may seem like a lot. But thousands of bodybuilders and athletes -- who dedicate their personal or professional lives to building muscle -- have found that this system is effective. It's just the way the body works. It is a system which supports any sports interest from tennis to running to lifting weights. We break the body down through exercise and need to build it back up through sound and adequate nutrition.
You're probably not used to consuming this volume of food. But it's also one of the main reasons why “vegans” as a group get the reputation for being underweight. It's not a baseless stereotype. Of course, it's not just consuming a lot of food that is important in building muscle. It's also an exercise program that supports the food intake.
Muscle grows as a result of the micro-tears that happen within a muscle following resistance training, usually weight training. Lifting weights or putting your body under physical stress in other ways (such as manual labor or bodyweight exercises) causes the muscle fibers to tear.
The food you eat, supplements you take, and ensuing rest you get all help in the recovery process that builds you back up bigger and stronger. Without exercise, you're likely to gain fat eating a higher than usual calorie diet. That's because the caloric consumption will greatly outweigh the caloric expenditure.
When put together appropriately, they work harmoniously and create outstanding results of proper nourishment, fat-burning and muscle building. You can “have your cake” and burn it off too.
Consuming a gram to two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight isn't a task everyone is used to or currently doing. If it were, we'd all be walking around as muscle-bound citizens mimicking cartoon super heroes. Of course that image isn't the goal of many, but recovering properly from any type of exercise is our primary goal.
This usually requires the consumption of six to eight meals a day with the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats throughout the day. If the exercise is focused more on cardiovascular training such as running, a higher proportion of carbohydrates would be consumed, lowering the amount of total protein. But when the exercise is truly based on strong resistance training such as weight lifting, protein consumption becomes a primary focus to repair muscles that are damaged much differently than they are during running, cycling or swimming.
Regardless of your sports interest, consuming smaller meals throughout the day keeps you constantly nourished and fueled for a run, a tennis match, cycling, martial arts or anything else, providing important nutrition to start the day, throughout the day and pre and post-exercise. Eating six to eight times a day may seem like a daunting task. But when you exercise once or twice a day, you'll realize that you'll want pre and post-workout meals in addition to your standard meals. Before you know it, you will have eaten nearly eight times in a day without overeating, while assisting your body's ability to recover from exercise and build muscle.
The macro-nutrient percentage breakdown for an active person may look like this:
70% of calories from carbohydrates 20% coming from protein 10% coming from fats
The macro-nutrient percentage breakdown for a bodybuilder or someone focused specifically on building muscle may look like this:
50% of calories from carbohydrates 30% coming from protein 20% coming from fats
The exact percentages may change daily based on diet. They also vary per individual based on factors such as your food preferences, your rate of metabolism (your body's ability to burn fat), and your specific athletic goals.
Though it may not be common to consume a lot of food, eating every two to three hours, for athletes training up to hours a day, it becomes a higher focus and a bigger part of everyday life. It's not extremely challenging either, it just takes some dedication, focus, planning and preparation. I personally enjoy eating frequently throughout the day. My meals tend to be a bit smaller and I get to incorporate a lot of variety, flavors and themes because I am eating more frequently than just three or four meals a day.
In general fruits are the easiest to digest and are often best eaten alone rather than combined with other foods such as protein-rich foods. Consumed at the same time could slow down digestion in many people, so some people choose to eat fruit by itself and consume other carbohydrates with proteins in other meals throughout the day.
Whether you are a professional athlete or weekend warrior or consider lifting weights a hobby, building muscle on a plant-based diet should be easy, fun and highly accessible regardless of where you are. Eat healthy foods, in large quantities if you're training regularly, and allow adaptation and muscle growth to happen.
Have fun, stay motivated, visualize success down the road, and work hard consistently to achieve meaningful goals.
Robert Cheeke [email protected] http://www.veganbodybuilding.com @RobertCheeke on Twitter
There's now an ever-increasing amount of information available for the new vegan who wants to learn how to get started with a plant-based diet and for the long-time vegan who wants to improve their physique and for everyone in between — just look around this website for a start! But what about those of us seeking to build vegan bodies from scratch? What about vegan pregnancy and raising vegan children? Given the importance of these issues, there is a surprising dearth of information, as I discovered when I became pregnant with my son after having been vegan for 12 years. And, in sharing my experiences with raising Miles - now almost 2 years old - on our website, I continue to receive messages from parents who, although vegan themselves, are not raising their children vegan because they think they are lacking some vital information or trick that makes it possible to do so. There isn't! A healthy vegan pregnancy and raising vegan children are easier than you might think! In this three-part series, I will share my thoughts on a few common misconceptions, starting with...
Myth #1: Sure, you can be vegan during pregnancy — even the American Dietetic Association says so — BUT you have to take special care to get all the vitamins, minerals, and protein needed for a healthy vegan pregnancy. Have you ever looked at a list of prohibited foods for pregnant women? Here's a partial list: Raw and undercooked animal foods. Certain fish and shellfish, due to mercury levels. Hot dogs, processed meats, and unpasteurized dairy products. It seems to me that the mother-to-be who must take special care is the one not eating a plant-based diet! All pregnant women are advised to supplement with various vitamins, and regardless of what your dietary practices are, you should be aware of its limitations. A varied whole foods diet based on vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fruits, nuts and seeds, however, is far more likely to provide vitamins and minerals necessary for the demands of pregnancy as compared to the limited diet of white flour pasta, bread, chicken, and low-fat dairy — with a few tired vegetables on the side — that is standard "healthy" American fare. I was fortunate enough to avoid the medical system almost entirely throughout my pregnancy, instead choosing the care of a midwife and to simply be more aware of my own health and physical state throughout the process without relinquishing that responsibility to a doctor. My only supplements were B-12 and DHA; the former because B-12 (when not received secondhand from animals that have themselves been injected with B-12 supplements) is not present in thoroughly cleaned plant foods and the latter because I don't eat a lot of sea vegetables. I did not, however, bother supplementing with folate and iron, as many women of childbearing age are advised to do, because I eat a lot of lentils, leafy greens, and other foods that provide plenty of those things. My midwife, although otherwise comfortable with my vegan diet, was concerned that I would be iron-deficient and tested me late in pregnancy...only to be shocked that I had the highest iron levels she had ever seen in a pregnant woman! Of course, she was also concerned that my super-low blood pressure, the product of 12 years without the consumption of cholesterol, would cause me to pass out in childbirth (it didn't — I had a complication-free, drug-free home birth)!
Myth #2: Even if you manage a vegan pregnancy and breastfeeding, there is nothing to replace breast milk with without cow's milk Well, the first part is true anyway: there is nothing to replace breast milk with. Why would there be? Humans existed long before cows were milked and humans continue to survive and reproduce successfully all over the world in places where cow's milk is not available. The idea that any animal would require the milk of another species to thrive past infancy is clearly absurd if you think about it for a few minutes — certainly, in nature, no other animal drinks its mother's milk past early childhood, let alone the milk of another animal. We are mammals, and, like all mammals, our infants survive and thrive on the milk of our own species until gradually transitioning to eating the food that the adults of our species eat. This transition seems quite logical to me and occurred very naturally for us. Before sharing the details of that transition, I'll say a few words about breastfeeding vs. formula, and cow's milk. Breastfeeding is the nutritionally ideal way to feed an infant, and I believe that's pretty universally acknowledged at this point, all politics aside. It provides various important things that formula can't, such as immune factors, and has the flexibility to adjust to the needs of the moment, changing composition at various times of day, during the feeding, as your child ages incrementally, and based on gender. Note that I said it's ideal; it's not the only way or I wouldn't have survived to adulthood! There are man-made infant formulas available, both soy- and cow's milk-based. Often they cause allergic reactions, and of course I would never recommend introducing cow's milk protein to your infant's delicate gut and immune system, whether by consuming it yourself and breastfeeding or with formula. In my extensive reading I've come across some clear and disturbing links between cow's milk consumption in infancy and childhood and later leukemia, autoimmune disease, and allergies. For this reason, I would recommend that if you don't breastfeed to explore getting vegan donor milk or using soy formula if possible. Now for the mechanics of feeding the vegan baby; again, this is an area of being vegan that seems to require special effort only because we never see it happening! My experience has been straightforward. Derek and I eat a whole foods plant-based diet based on bananas, sweet potatoes, oats, and lentils for calories (with a lot of extra fruits and vegetables) and these happen to be perfect baby foods. In this case, there's minimal fretting over when certain foods can be introduced, over food safety, and no awkward moments of trying to explain to a toddler why some of the foods in the house are "bad" and some are "good". Everything that is available to him, any food choice that he could make, is good! Miles will turn two this month — he still nurses but now gets most of his calories from solid foods. Here is how this transition worked for us: When he was 6 months old, we determined that he was ready for solid foods based on his interest in what we were eating and his developing motor skills. I searched online for some guidelines on when to introduce various foods, and initially followed those recommendations, waiting a few days before introducing any new foods to determine if he would have an allergic reaction. Unsurprisingly, he had none so I gradually relaxed the rules as I became more comfortable feeding him. We first offered him banana mashed with breast milk. It was a smashing success. Over the next few weeks we tried other foods such as avocado and sweet potatoes. "Baby cereal" was not something I ever fed him, nor was anything else out of a package. All of those jars, boxes, and squeeze pouches are comfortingly labeled with "stages" and spare parents the effort of figuring out what to feed a child...but wait a minute, why shouldn't you give something so important some thought and effort? I also think that feeding your child unrecognizable food that in no way resembles what you eat only makes the transition to adult food more confusing for both of you. It is easier, cheaper, and more nutritious (when you eat a whole food plant-based diet) to share what you already eat with your baby, modifying the texture as necessary until they can handle the food in solid form. For us, this meant mashed or blended bananas, sweet potatoes, and other fruits at first. Within a couple of months, Miles was able to take bites of whole bananas or sweet potatoes and required no mashing or pureeing of these soft foods. Gradually he ate more of the things we ate as he expressed an interest in them, like lentil soup, oatmeal, white beans, and tofu. He goes through phases, just like all people do, in which he prefers one food to all others or can't stand something he loved yesterday. This is no problem for us — his available choices are not between fruit and candy, or between kale and hot dogs, for example, but between one fruit or vegetable and another. His instincts about what his body needs, or when he is hungry or full, have never been damaged by an overload of processed foods so I can trust his choices — we never argue about food and there is no coercion involved in our mealtimes. We are not 100% perfect, forbidding Miles anything that is not in whole plant form. He sometimes has vegan animal crackers at preschool, and a few bites of our desserts when we go out. I waited until after he was a year old to allow him some of those foods — before that we didn't have them around. Don't think you have to be perfect, but on the other hand, don't think you can eat foods that are forbidden to your children without seriously undermining your credibility with them! This is part one of a three-part series on vegan pregnancy and parenting that will appear here, and you can find more about my experience, diet, and feeding Miles at www.veganmuscleandfitness.com. I am sharing only my personal experience with you, but healthy vegan mothers, children, and families of all types are out there! I encourage you to read some additional inspiring stories of vegan children here!
Further resources include this article on raising plant-strong kids from the folks at Engine 2, Disease-Proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever
Myth #3: It takes too much effort to raise a child on a vegan diet, and they won't want to eat the food. A vegetarian mother approached us recently at Whole Foods and marveled at the fact that our son is happily growing away on a vegan diet. "But my son hates kale!" she said. Um, yes, if that was all vegans ate we might be in trouble. Fortunately, we eat a wide variety of foods that are perfect for the needs and tastes of small children. There are no pitched battles over the consumption of kale in our house. This is probably because I am quite content if Miles eats a banana instead, whereas another mother might be feeling desperate to get some nutrition into a kid that has eaten nothing but Kraft macaroni and cheese for the last several days. Here is why raising our son on a vegan diet has been easy for us, and beneficial for own health to boot! Our breakfast is the same: We all eat the same food for breakfast: oatmeal with various spices and toppings. You can do fun variations such as chocolate banana oatmeal (with cocoa powder and mashed banana) to keep your child from getting bored. It's the perfect food to sustain anyone throughout a busy morning!
Snacks are fruit or smoothies based on Derek's famous bean shake. These are the same things that we snack on, and you can't beat fruit for convenience! I always have a banana or some mandarin oranges on hand for trips out. As for the smoothies, I see a lot of concern from parents about their vegan children getting enough calories — you will never have to worry about it with these. Kids can't taste the white beans, or the leafy greens if you add bananas and a date or two, or some cocoa powder and nut butter.
Lunch is salad, lentil soup, and sweet potato, often made in advance. Again, we all eat the same foods here! Midday is a hectic time to be preparing a nutritious lunch, so it helps to keep it simple. Lentil soup and sweet potatoes have been a centerpiece of Miles's diet since he was about 7 months old and they're both incredibly nutrient-dense! I prepare a large batch of soup whenever we run out, and bake several meals' worth of sweet potatoes at a time.
Dinner is where we diverge in our diet a bit. Miles rarely eats much for dinner, and I don't fight him on it because I know he's already gotten plenty of healthy food throughout the day. He'll sometimes join us if it's a meal he especially enjoys, otherwise he'll just snack on fruit or finish a smoothie saved from earlier in the day. That's fine by me, because kids really shouldn't eat a lot right before bed.
There are almost too many healthy dessert options that kids love. Banana ice cream is a staple in our house, which is simply frozen bananas blended in a high speed blender. Another great food for active toddlers is date balls: combinations of nuts and/or seeds with dates, figs, and/or prunes with cocoa powder, blended in a food processor and rolled into balls. There's a lot of great ideas in the cookbook Unprocessed by Chef AJ For birthdays and other celebrations, I love this cupcake recipe, free of refined sugar even in the frosting which is date-based, from the Forks Over Knives blog — I always get requests for the recipe after the party! When you consider the time and money saved by sharing simple whole food meals as a family, without including packaged "baby foods" or separately preparing foods that are not baby-friendly for the adults, and when you consider the additional motivation for the parents to eat a clean diet as role models, you will see that it really is a blessing to raise a child vegan!
Add to those benefits the money saved on medical bills by feeding your family an antioxidant-rich diet that boosts their immune systems, and all the exercise you'll get chasing your healthy energetic little ones around, and you'll find that a vegan parent has it pretty good! The above supports the argument that feeding your child a vegan diet is not especially difficult, but what about getting a vegan child to choose healthy foods when given personal freedom? I think the key here is to respect the intelligence and empathy of your child and explain why you eat some foods and not others, keeping the discussion age-appropriate. This is another great opportunity for you to reaffirm your own reasons for choosing to be vegan; I've found that parents who tell me they struggle with keeping their children away from animal foods are unsure themselves about what is motivating their choice. Make sure to do your own homework and pass the information on to your children so that they can form their own justification for eating this way. "Because I said so" is not going to cut it for an ethical lifestyle choice that will require some courage for them to adhere to! This is part three of a three-part series on vegan pregnancy and parenting that will appear here, and you can find more about my experience, diet, and feeding Miles at Vegan Muscle & Fitness. I am sharing only my personal experience with you, but healthy vegan mothers, children, and families of all types are out there! I encourage you to read some additional inspiring stories of vegan children here! Further resources include this article on raising plant-strong kids from the folks at Engine 2, Disease-Proof Your Child by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition by Julieanna Hever.
Calorie Cycling for Lean Gains by Derek Tresize Probably the most common question I get from guys is that they'd like to gain weight or mass. When someone says their main goal is to 'gain mass', it's pretty safe to assume they don't mean they are looking to get fat. Especially within the context of bodybuilding, anyone who wants to gain mass wants to gain muscle mass, while hopefully keeping fat gain to a minimum. As Robert Cheeke would say, "Life is too short not to get SWOL!", so if you're going to gain weight, why the heck would you want to obscure your hard earned muscle with bodyfat?!
A trick I like for gaining muscle mass while keeping fat gain in check is calorie cycling. I have used this technique with clients and on myself (in fact I'm currently using it for my contest prep), and I've had a lot of luck with it. The name pretty much speaks for itself, because you alter (or cycle) how many calories you are taking in depending on the day of the week or the day of your training split. For example, I am on a mass gain eating plan right now so I am taking in a large calorie surplus every day that I lift, and on my two off/cardio days per week I drop calories down to my maintenance level. This keeps me in an anabolic state and out of a catabolic state on my training days, and keeps my metabolism very high so that when I drop calories AND do cardio on my two off days I will cut into any bodyfat I might've gained and halt the process of gaining any more. The only thing you have to be careful of with this type of calorie cycle is not taking your low-calorie days below your maintenance level so that you avoid reversing your hard-earned muscle gains. It takes some time and a lot of trial and error to find the exact amounts of food you need to eat for this program to be successful, but in the end it's well worth it! This is what my current calorie cycle looks like, but keep in mind I have a very fast metabolism and know my intake needs pretty intimately, so your numbers will probably vary:
Days 1-3: Train, consume 6500+ calories
Day 4: 20-40min intense cardio, consume 4000ish calories
Days 5-6: Train, consume 6500+ calories
Day 7: 20-40min intense cardio, consume 4000ish calories
There are plenty of other ways to cycle your calories such as using high and low-calorie weeks instead of days, or even having several different levels of intake on different days rather than just the standard high and low that I've listed here, but I've had the most success doing it this way. Always focus on maximizing the chance a plan has to succeed from the outset, so whenever you put together a meal plan try and keep things realistic and as simple as possible so you don't make what should be an easy and routine part of life overwhelming. So, if you are tired of your old eating plan and want to shake things up, give calorie cycling a try and let me know how it goes! Good luck and stay strong!
Derek Tresize ACE Certified Personal Trainer Cornell University Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition Derek Tresize
Please note: This is the final part in a series of 12 articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review the previous part (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here. In the one month since my last update, I have lost 2 lbs. (current weight is 202 lbs.). My diet has remained mostly the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am eating three meals per day, consisting mainly of raw fruits and vegetables with cooked food rarely. Strength training days (Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday) still consist of total body compound lifts. I am currently in the first cycle of The Juggernaut Method and am consistently getting stronger in all four main lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press). I have been doing fasted 20-30 minute conditioning workouts (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and take off one day per week (Saturday). I am still taking three servings of Cell Block80 per day, including one pre-workout. Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13209 1/24/142102/25/142123/25/142164/28/142145/25/142086/27/142047/31/14202 Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part III of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part I, please click here. To read/review Part II, please click here. It has been a month since my last update. Since then, I have gained another 4 lbs. (My current weight is 202 lbs.), but I have changed my diet from the previous month. Last month I had increased my calories steadily, until topping out at 6,000 calories per day, eating solely whole plant-based foods. This was difficult for me to maintain, as I felt heavy and sluggish and was putting on more body fat than I wanted. I was starting to feel soft and was losing muscle definition. So, I talked with Patrik Baboumian, vegan German strongman, who recently carried 550 kilograms (1,212.54 lbs.) for over 10 meters (32.8 feet) to set a Guinness Book World Record. He told me that I wasn't consuming enough protein, even though my calories were high. He recommended between 200-300 grams per day, and I was only consuming an average of 125 grams per day. I decided to go back to Intermittent Fasting and see if I could make it work again. So far, it has been working great. I am eating 3 meals per day within an 8 hour feeding window. I am even doing conditioning again every other day! On my conditioning days, my first two meals are green, consisting of fresh green veggie juice (chard, kale, collards, parsley and celery), broccoli, and a salad. My last meal on conditioning days is my largest and consists of Quinoa & Bean Gumbo, a big fruit smoothie (3c rice milk, 6 bananas, 2c blueberries and 2c pineapple), 2 apples and a couple of Lara Bars. I also add protein powder to my smoothies to increase my daily totals to around 250 grams per day. Total calories on conditioning days: 4,500. On strength training days, my first meal is green (same as conditioning day), and my last two meals are fruit smoothies and fruit. Total calories on strength training days: 5,500. Progress
Date Weight 8/3/13 9/20/13 10/24/13 194 198 202 Workout This month I have been training using a split routine: Day 1: Legs (High Rep 8-12) Day 2: Conditioning Day 3: Back/Biceps Day 4: Conditioning Day 5: Legs (Low Rep 5-6) Day 6: Conditioning Day 7: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps You can watch me do my Chest/Shoulders/Triceps workout in the video above. -Rest 60 seconds between sets KB Bench Press 4 x 12 Weighted Bar Dips 4 x 12 Pike Press 4 x 12 Close Grip Plate Press 3 x 10 (Drop set/no rest) You'll also see me make this Quinoa & Bean Gumbo in the above video. Here are the ingredients: 1/2c vegetable broth 1c quinoa 1 can beans 1/4 cup salsa 2 tbsp nutritional yeast 1tsp curry powder 1tsp cumin 1tsp spices Nutrition Info: Calories: 650 Protein: 37 g Carbs: 114 g Fat: 8 Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part IV of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part III (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here.
It has been one month since my last update, and since then I have gained another 4 pounds (currently at 206 pounds). My diet has remained the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables with cooked food occasionally, but not every day. I am still eating three meals per day within an 8 hour feeding window. On my conditioning days, my first meal is green, consisting of fresh green vegetable juice (chard, kale, collards, parsley and celery), broccoli, and a salad. My last two meals on conditioning days are big fruit smoothies (3 cups of rice milk, 6 bananas, 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of pineapple). I am still adding protein powder to my smoothies to increase my daily total to around 250 grams. My total calorie intake on conditioning days is 4500. On strength training days, all of my meals are fruit smoothies, although I do add in some greens to them. My total calorie intake on strength training days is 5500. Progress Date Weight 8/3/13 9/20/13 10/24/13 11/24/13 194 198 202 206 Workout This month I have continued to train using this split routine. Day 1: Legs (High Rep 8-12) Day 2: Conditioning Day 3: Back/Biceps Day 4: Conditioning Day 5: Legs (Low Rep 5-6) Day 6: Conditioning Day 7: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps You can watch me do my Legs workout in the video above 12-10-8-6 (increase weight for each set) 1. Squats 2. Split Squat 3. Front Squat 4. Ball Leg Curl 5. KB RDL You will also see me make thisThanksgiving Lentil & Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie (great for any time of the year!) in the above video. Here is the recipe: 2 medium sweet potatoes 1/2 cup diced onions 1/2 cup diced celery 1/2 cup diced carrots 4-1/2 cups prepared lentils 2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes 1 tablespoon basil + more for garnish 1/2 cup chopped spinach Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into small chunks and let them boil for at least 15-20 minutes. Mash and save to use as topping. Chop the carrots, onion, and celery into small chunks or use frozen veggies. Add this to a large skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of water and allow them to soften. Once the veggies are softened, add the prepared lentils and cans of diced tomatoes (but do not drain them) and add these along with a tablespoon of chopped (or dried) basil leaves, a handful of chopped spinach, and a splash of soy sauce. Let this filling simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the lentil filling to a 9 x 13 pan and top with a the layer of mashed sweet potatoes. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the topping becomes slightly browned. Nutrition Info: Calories: 1059 Protein: 70 g Carbs: 190 g Fat: 0 g Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part V of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part IV (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here It has been one month since my last update. Since then, I have gained another 3 pounds (current weight is 209 pounds). My diet has remained mostly the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables with cooked food occasionally, but not every day. The only change that I have made to my diet since last month has been to add a pre-workout meal on strength training days. This meal is in the morning, 2-3 hours before my strength training session and includes 1/2 cup of oats and 1/4 cup of blueberries. On conditioning days (though I have cut out some of them this month), I still train while fasted in the morning, followed by my first meal at noon. I am still adding protein powder to my smoothies to increase my daily totals to around 250 grams. My total number of calories on conditioning days is 4500. On strength training days, all of my meals are fruit smoothies, although I do add in some greens to them. My total number of calories on strength training days is 5500. Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13 194209 Workout This month I have been training using a split routine: Day 1: Legs (8-12 reps) Day 2: Off Day 3: Shoulders Day 4: Off Day 5: Back/Biceps Day 6: Off Day 7: Chest/Triceps You can watch me do this SHOULDER workout in the video above: 4 sets x 10 reps 1. Overhead Press 2. KB Arnold Press 3. Upright Row 4. TRX W Fly Superset 4x10 5. Lateral Raise 6. Pike Press
Please note: This is Part VI of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part V (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here.
Progress Update 5 It has been 1 month since my last update. Since then I have gained another 1 lb (210 lbs). I have been doing more conditioning this month and I feel that this may be the reason that my weight gain has plateaued. For the next three months until the end of April, I will cut out all conditioning and refocus my efforts on gaining. I have been using the same split routine for my strength training workouts, but I will change them up and by adding in some full body workouts beginning in February. As far as my diet, this month I am still Intermittent Fasting from my last meal to my first meal at noon the following day. Green juices and smoothies make up the majority of my meals. I will be experimenting with different foods, cycling of carbohydrates and calories, as well as timing of meals for February. Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13209 1/24/14210Workout This month I have been training using a split routine. Day 1: Legs (8-12 reps) Day 2: Off Day 3: Shoulders Day 4: Off Day 5: Back/Biceps Day 6: Off Day 7: Chest/Triceps Conditioning AMRAP x 7min/each station 1a. Tire Push/Pull D/Bx2 1b. PW: Rollout x15 2a. Toe Taps x 80 2b. TRX Pike x 10 3a. Jump Rope x 80 3b. Alt. Situp x 20 4a. Rower x 250m 4b. Rope:DB waves x 40 Finish with 10min Steady State cardio (Jog or Rower) Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part 7 of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part 6 (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here: It has been one month since my last update, and since then I have gained 2 more lbs. (current weight is 212 lbs.). My diet has remained mostly the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables with cooked food occasionally, but not every day. I am still eating a pre-workout meal on strength training days. This meal is in the morning 2-3 hours before my strength training session and includes 1/2 cup of oats and 1/4 cup of blueberries. My training has changed this month. On strength training days, I have gone to an upper body and lower body split. I have cut out all conditioning workouts. I have also increased the amount of Cell Block80 that I have been taking, from 2 servings/day to 3 servings/day, including one pre-workout. Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13209 1/24/142102/25/14212Workout This month I have been training using an upper/lower split routine. Day 1: Upper body 5x5 Day 3: Lower body 4x15 Day 5: Upper body 4x10 Day 7: Lower body 5x5 Day 9: Upper body 4x15 Day 11: Lower body 4x10 Upper Body Power (Watch the video posted above for clarification.) 5x5 1. Bench Press 2. Pullup 3. Dips 4. T-Bar Row 5. Overhead Press Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part 7 of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part 6 (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here. It has been one month since my last update. Since then, I have gained 4 lbs. (current weight is 216 lbs.). My diet has remained mostly the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables, with cooked food occasionally, but not every day. I have added a fourth meal every day, in the morning between 5:00-7:00 AM. It is a smoothie with 2 handfuls of baby greens (spinach, kale, and chard), 3 bananas, 2 cups of blueberries, and 2 cups rice milk. Strength training days still consist of an upper body and lower body split, where I alternate between upper and lower body every other day. The days in between workouts are off. I am still taking 3 servings of Cell Block80 per day, including one pre-workout. Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13209 1/24/142102/25/142123/25/14216Upper Body Bodyweight Tension (Watch the video posted above for clarification.) Circuit: 3x10 3:3:3 (3 count tempo on eccentric phase, isometric hold at top/bottom and on concentric phase so that each rep takes 9 seconds to complete) 1a. Pushup 1b. Pullup 1c. Dips 1d. TRX Row 1e. Pike Press Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part 8 of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part 8 (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here. It has been one month since my last update. Since then I have lost 6 lbs. (current weight is 208lbs.). My diet has remained mostly the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am back to eating three meals per day, consisting mainly of raw fruits and vegetables, with cooked food occasionally, but not every day. Strength training days (Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday) still consist of total body compound lifts.
I have been doing fasted 20-30 minute conditioning workouts (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and take off one day per week (Saturday). I am still taking 3 servings of Cell Block80 per day, including one pre-workout.
Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13209 1/24/142102/25/142123/25/142164/28/142145/25/14208Workout Conditioning Workout (Watch the video posted above for clarification.) Focus: Speed 6 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) AFAP (as fast as possible) 1 min Rest between stations 1. Shuttle Run x 3 2a. Jump Rope x 60 2b. V-ups x 10 3a. Box Jumps x 5 3b. Cross Body Mountain Climber x 10 4a. Ropes: Double Waves x 20 4b. Skaters x 20 Chad Byers
Please note: This is Part 9 of a series of articles following Chad Byers' quest to gain 30 pounds of muscle in a year. To read/review Part 8 (where you will find links to the previous articles), please click here. It has been 1 month since my last update. Since then I have lost 2 lbs. (current weight is 214 lbs.). My diet has remained mostly the same as last month, and I am still alternating between higher and lower calorie days. I am eating mostly raw fruits and vegetables with cooked food occasionally, but not every day. I have continued eating a fourth meal on my strength training days in the morning between 5-7am. It is a smoothie with 2 handfuls of baby greens (spinach, kale, chard), 3 bananas, 2 cups of blueberries and 2 cups of rice milk. Strength training days still consist of an upper body and lower body split, where I alternate between upper and lower body every other day. The days in between workouts are off. I have been doing fasted conditioning workouts on the alternate days because I wanted to try out some new workouts for my gym, Beyond FIT. Although I increased my calories on these days, I have still lost 2 lbs. this month. I am still taking 3 servings of Cell Block80 per day, including one pre-workout.
Progress Date Weight 8/3/131949/20/1319810/24/1320211/24/1320612/24/13209 1/24/142102/25/142123/25/142164/28/14214Workout Total Body Kettlebell and Bodyweight Tension (Watch the video posted above for clarification.) 4x10 3:3:3 (3 count tempo on eccentric phase, isometric hold at top/bottom and on concentric phase so that each rep takes 9 seconds to complete) 1. KB Deadlift 2a. Weighted Dips 2b. Weighted Pullup 3a. KB Push Press 3b. KB High Pull Chad Byers
Getting the right nutrients to recover from strenuous workouts is easier than you think. When you exercise, you tear down muscle tissue, you drain your adrenals, and you exhaust your body's energy systems. In order to recover from that, you need an assortment of nutrients. This smoothie has everything you need to repair damaged muscle tissue, replenish vital energy, as well as rebuild a leaner and stronger physique. You can use any plant-based protein as the base, but using Vega One is a great way to get many important nutrients that other protein powders may not have. The other ingredients simply add to the nutritional content of the shake. Vega One has a multi-source protein blend of peas, sacha inchi seeds, hemp seeds, and sprouted rice protein. You also get additional protein from flax seeds, chia seeds, and leafy greens, so we are now talking seven sources of protein! No dairy whey can compete with that.
Vega One also has maca, which improves hormonal balance, promotes vitality, and has stress-reducing effects. The blueberries and leafy greens provide anti-oxidants to fight off the free radicals caused by exercise. This recipe also has probiotics, which promote healthy gut flora. Vega One also provides 50% of your daily recommended value of many vitamins and minerals for optimal health and immune support. This shake has 25 grams of fiber which helps lower your "bad" LDL cholesterol as well as supports a healthy digestive tract. It also has over five grams of Omega-3 fats, which help lower triglycerides and blood pressure and reduces inflammation throughout the body, including your blood vessels and joints. And finally, the carbohydrates from the fruit will help replenish glycogen stores in muscle tissue. So now, let's get to making this! It is satisfying, delicious, and simple to prepare. Use a frozen banana to make it feel more like ice cream! Though the dried coconut and cacoa nibs do have nutritional benefits, I like to add them for taste and texture.
You will need: 1 cup of water 1 scoop of Vega One (or other plant-based protein) 1/2 cup frozen blueberries 1/2 banana 1 cup raw kale, spinach, and chard (Trader Joe's "Power to the Greens") 1 tbsp ground flax seed 1tbsp whole chia seeds 1tsp cocoa 1tsp cinnamon 1tbsp dried unsweetened coconut 1tbsp cacao nibs Place all ingredients except dried coconut and cacao nibs in a blender and blend until smooth. Top with dried coconut and cacao nibs and enjoy! The nutritional breakdown of this shake is: 490 Total Calories 25g Protein 55.5g Carbs 25g Fiber (30.5g Net Carbs) 21g Fat Ed Bauer
What is preventing you from living the life that you dream of? What isstopping you from taking a risk, moving to a new city, starting your ownbusiness, taking on a fitness challenge? Why do you just settle? Our mindsseem pre-programmed to tell us to play it safe, to not take chances, to notput ourselves out there. It is a sort of survival instinct, like we areconditioned to survive, but not thrive. When you step back and analyze whoyou are and what defines you, are you genuinely happy with what you see? This concept is really important to me because I have let myself down overand over again. What do we get in return from playing is safe? Do we evertruly experience happiness? I played it safe all through my twenties. Igraduated with a degree in graphic design, and did that for a while. I thengot laid off, and worked in legal copy. Then I got a nice safe desk jobworking for the state of New York. I did that for about a year, living inthe same city that I grew up in, because I wanted to stay near my family.Back when I was about 8 years old, my dad moved the family to CarolinaBeach, N.C. But after I graduated, I went right back to where I was from. Istarted to realize that just because I am from somewhere, does not mean itis where I wanted to be. Because of moving when I was younger, I knew placescould be quite different from my hometown of Albany, New York.
In 2004, I had enough of it, and decided to move to Asheville, NorthCarolina. This city was known for being vegan-friendly and more progressivethan the rest of that state. I was there for about a year and realized thatwasn’t quite right for me either. I was working odd jobs, just trying to payrent. I worked at a wholesale florist for a while, but this was not what Iwas destined to do with my time. Asheville was more geared toward thetourist industry, and I didn’t feel a solid connection with it. Since Ialready broke the fear of moving away from home, why not move again? Thistime, I moved to the Midwest for two years, with my eyes on one day makingit to Portland, Oregon, one of the vegan meccas! The person I was dating atthe time was finishing her degree in Iowa, so I moved there until shegraduated. We then moved to Portland together. That relationship didn’tlast, but I was really happy with the city. Before leaving North Carolina, Istarted working at gyms. As a vegan for a long time, I knew I wanted topromote veganism in some way, I just didn’t know how back then. Once I foundpersonal training and coaching, I knew that was the path for me. So, it all starts from a desire to be something more. When I moved toPortland, as luck would have it, I ended up working at the same gym thatRobert Cheeke worked out at. We quickly became friends, and he inspired meto compete in bodybuilding. What prevented me from ever putting myself on abodybuilding stage was definitely a lack of confidence. This lack ofconfidence has always been with me to some degree. You see, I always feltaverage. I never felt like I was the worst at anything, but never feltreally great at anything either. This was not a mindset to live with. Itprevented me from taking more chances sooner. Looking back on my twenties, Ifeel like I let them just pass me by – all because I didn’t believe inmyself.
Once I competed in bodybuilding, I developed a new sense of confidence. Thisis not to be mistaken for arrogance, as I realize that I am simply oneperson trying to be an effective advocate for compassionate living, but Iwas no longer going to let my doubts decide what I can and cannot do. Thisconfidence has snowballed in that it has allowed me to take more chances. Inow had the confidence to quit my big box gym training position and open myown gym. I opened PlantFit Training Studio in Portland and had a blastrunning that for two years. I signed up and have been a competing member ofthe PlantBuilt Vegan Muscle Team, competing in both Men’s Physique and nowCrossFit. I used that same confidence to sell my gym and move to SanFrancisco, California, where nearly everything was unknown. I sold my oldcar and finally got the car I’ve wanted for years. I pursued the women of mydreams, and we are now celebrating our 2 Year Anniversary! The me from 10years ago was lost and stagnant. The me from 5 years ago was just scratchingthe surface. The me of today is living his dreams. Our lives are in our control. We should of course accept what we cannotchange, but we must become clear on what we can. Once we acknowledge that wecan change something, we should put everything we have into creating thosechanges. If you want to go vegan, do it! If you want to get in the bestshape of your life, do it! If you want to inspire others to go vegan, thendo it! No more excuses. Now is the only moment we truly ever have. Take thismoment and that confidence and live the life you have always wanted. This isyour only chance. Ed Bauer
Would having a certification in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University help you in your career? Do you think a course led by some of the world's leaders in health and wellness would help you in your own personal health journey? Could this unique educational experience answer questions you've had unanswered for years? Are you confused, wondering what the best way to optimal health really is? If so, you're a lot like me. I had all of those questions and then some floating around in my mind for a while. I decided the best way to find an answer to my questions was to enroll in Cornell's online plant-based nutrition course. As a result of the encouragement from many of my friends and colleagues, coupled with my own professional desire to enhance my understanding of health and nutrition, I enrolled in the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Course through Cornell University. The course is offered exclusively online and takes six weeks to complete. There are a variety of professional development options for professionals including for physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and health education specialists seeking continuing education credits. In addition to academic credits, upon completion, one earns a certification in plant-based nutrition from Cornell. Over the course of the six week program, there are nearly a dozen guest lecturers while most of the lectures are provided by the host, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, one of the world's leading authorities on nutrition. Covering much more than I expected, the well-rounded course left me inspired. The program exceeded my expectations, and facilitated a change in my position on at least five issues, including levels of protein consumption, vitamin B-12 supplementation, the health impacts of processed foods, vitamin D deficiencies and more. It also brought my attention to subjects I have since become passionate about, including food labeling tricks and tactics the food industry uses to keep people sick and uninformed, and the incredible devastation unleashed on our oceans due to our collective addiction to fishing and consumption of marine life. Though I had already written a best-selling book about health and fitness, Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness — The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet, and have been on speaking tours about health and fitness for seven years, I was eager to expand my knowledge through this course. I did not anticipate changing my views about major issues and was not expecting to learn as much as I did. Many of the staggering statistics and much of the information taught in the course have already made their way into my speaking presentations and discussions with others. The course challenged what I (and many of us) believe to be true about health and wellness and provided alternative ways of thinking supported by cutting edge research, science and results. Every assignment, paper and project was designed with a practical purpose in mind. I completed the course in the late spring of 2012, and in the next few pages, would like to share some of my experiences with you. This is my account of what was truly an inspiring and edifying learning experience on my way to becoming certified in plant-based nutrition from one of the most prestigious schools in America. My Experience: Truth be told, I was a bit nervous about taking Cornell's plant-based nutrition certification course. I had wanted to for many months, perhaps over a year, before I finally enrolled and committed to it. I hadn't been in an academic setting for some time and was naturally anxious. I questioned my own ability to focus, my willingness to reduce my time spent frivolously using the internet, wasting time on popular social sites, and my ability to commit the required amount of time to the program to succeed and get the most from the course. To help ease this anxiety, I dramatically decreased my time spent online with the exception of course material. I paused the online video lectures frequently to take notes and rewound and re-watched to get the most out of them. I created a routine ensuring I would complete a lecture, project, assignment or quiz before indulging in the beautiful spring weather at home in Austin, TX, sitting by the pool, going for a run or playing basketball. I was prepared and ready to learn and took the course seriously, giving a concerted effort to each assignment. When class started, I learned that all of the class's projects and papers would be posted for the whole cohort to see, and that we were required to read others' papers and provide feedback. Writing assignments were my favorite part of the course. We were also encouraged to discuss related topics with our fellow classmates in an online discussion forum. The entire course was broken into three two-week classes, with specific themes and a new instructor for each two-week segment. My instructors were encouraging, helpful, and informative in guiding us through the course material. I enthusiastically filled my spiral-bound notebook with notes, shared what I was learning with friends and continued to re-watch lectures to get the firmest grasp on all I was learning. Like any academic setting, I had my favorite topics, favorite instructors, and favorite lectures. I even made friends with some of my virtual classmates who lived all over the world from Australia to South America. The majority of my classmates were from North America and I happened to meet two classmates in person — an added, unexpected bonus. Each lecture was followed by either a quiz or a writing assignment. The writing assignments took longer (and to me were far more fun and engaging, allowing us to apply our new knowledge), but the quizzes demanded more detailed note-taking to ensure one wouldn't miss a tricky question. Most lectures were about 40 minutes in length while others varied from roughly 20 to 90 minutes. With my approach to learning and note-taking, some lectures would take three to four hours to complete with frequent pausing, rewinding and replaying. There are options to not only view and listen to the lecture but to download a written transcription as well. The course started with the basic, foundational aspects of nutrition. Dr. Campbell posted a number of lectures on fundamental principles of nutrition so we would come to an early understanding of the essential information that would help carry us through the course. Lecture titles such as Nutrition Fundamentals, State of Health, The China Project, Diseases of Affluence, and Calories, Obesity and Diabetes set the tone early on for a very engaging and thought-provoking curriculum. Topics such as our current diet and lifestyle habits compared with the growing number of diseases and correlations between the two, coupled with solutions grounded in science, data and research got us off to a strong start in the course. Discussing questions about possible solutions to these crises were at the forefront of discussions. Furthermore, details about protein, fat, metabolism, absorption of nutrients, cells, sugars, macronutrients and micronutrients and basic information about DNA and genes were expressed early on to give us an understanding from a scientific perspective of why we might get sick, how we can get healthier, and in general, how the body works. The critical topics of diet, disease, illness and death were dealt with extensively throughout the course. Lectures about cancer and its causes, including its three stages and what we can do to best prevent it, were presented with ample research-backed evidence. The evolutionary psychology component of the course was perhaps the most riveting to me. Who wouldn't want to have a better understanding of why we eat the way we do, why we behave the way we do, and be able to make connections through this comprehension and apply new health strategies in our own lives? One of my favorite aspects of Dr. Doug Lisle's psychology presentation provided statistics that I now use in my presentations. Consider the following: Caloric Density of Food (approximate number of calories per pound from the following foods): "Healthy Foods" Salad = 100 calories per pound Vegetables = 200 calories per pound Fruits = 300 calories per pound Starches (potatoes, rice, beans) = 500 calories per pound Nuts and seeds = 2,000-2,500 calories per pound "Popular Foods" Cheese = 1,700 calories per pound Chocolate = 1,800 calories per pound Potato chips/fries = 2,500 calories per pound Ice Cream = 3,000 calories per pound Oil (pure fat) = 4,000 calories per pound Does this chart alone help explain where some of our excess bodyweight and body fat comes from? Simply becoming aware of information like this that was presented in the course can give us a whole new perspective of what healthy consumption truly is. Over the course of the term, I wrote down a list of benefits one might expect to experience on a plant-based diet. Another chart worth sharing consists of the following:
The benefits of a plant-based diet: Live longer Look and feel younger Have more energy Lose weight Lower blood cholesterol Prevent and reverse heart disease Lower risk of prostate, breast and other cancers Preserve your eyesight in your later years Prevent and treat diabetes Avoid diet-related surgeries Vastly decrease need for pharmaceutical drugs Keep your bones strong Avoid impotence Avoid stroke Prevent kidney stones Avoid Type 1 Diabetes Alleviate constipation Lower blood pressure Avoid Alzheimer's Overcome arthritis And much more.... As you can see from a couple of examples from of my 100+ pages of notes, there is an abundance of valuable information in this course which can help you, your loved ones and those you interact with. Asking the same question I asked in the first paragraph of this review, "Could this unique educational experience answer questions you've had unanswered for years?" — What do you think now? What I liked most about the course As mentioned, my favorite aspect of the course were the writing projects we were required to complete after watching a lecture and using information we learned in our assignments. Here is a list of some of the types of projects assigned: Write a letter to the editor of a publication who promotes weight-loss strategies that you do not think are health-promoting. Compose a personal letter to a loved one who is suffering from obesity or heart disease, sharing the information learned in a helpful and encouraging manner, using facts, statistics and providing hope. Write a press release explaining the state of health in America with some proposed solutions to fix it. Research a popular supplement in-depth and write a detailed report about it. Write a brief Public Service Announcement intended for radio use in order to draw attention to problems in our health habits, using facts and statistics while providing solutions. Write a letter to our members of congress about a specific form of environmental destruction that is being caused by the way we eat and offer solutions using the information learned in the course. We not only had to write about these topics but also read papers written by other classmates and discuss them as a group. I had my personal favorites, including researching a popular supplement that many people have tried at one time or another, and writing a powerful argument against the Milk Mustache Campaign in the public school system in America. We were also assigned to write a heartfelt letter to a friend or loved one suffering from heart disease with empowering suggestions, strategies and techniques to improve health. I found this to be inspiring and rewarding (that friend is now embracing a plant-based diet and is already seeing health improvements). There were additional projects and dozens of discussions stemming from our course writing assignments that got me to think differently. Throughout the course, we covered subjects and materials I had not anticipated, such as nutrition in the public school system, impacts of fishing on marine life and endangered species and the environment, as well as the healthcare system. There were exceptional lectures on psychology, food labeling, supplementation, cancer, lifestyle medicine and disease prevention. My favorite lectures were by psychologist Dr. Doug Lisle, Dietitian Jeff Novick, a really informative talk on supplements by Brendan Brazier (and Dr. Campbell), and a lecture by Bruce Monger about marine life. What I liked least about the course: I think the software for the discussion forum could be enhanced, which I repeatedly gave as feedback at the end of each course review. It seemed like it could use an upgrade to be more user-friendly but for our class purposes, it worked okay. Perhaps I'm just too familiar with my own website discussion forum layout. The only other thing I disliked about the course was that it ended so soon. I would have liked to have spent a few more weeks in class, working on more projects with practical application. I guess that is what graduation is for; a time to take what we've learned, apply it in the real world, and keep learning. That is precisely what I've done since graduating and will continue to do in the future. Samples from my course work: When I stated my initial reasons for enrolling in the course, commenting on Dr. Campbell's initial welcome lecture, this is what I wrote in the public discussion forum as one of our initial assignments: Why I enrolled in the Cornell Course /article-legacy/why-i-enrolled-in-the-t-colin-campbell-plant-based-nutrition-certification-course
My argument against the Milk Mustache Campaign in the public school system: /article-legacy/milk-mustache-campaign-letter-to-the-public-school-system
My letter to a loved one suffering from heart disease: /article-legacy/letter-to-a-friend-who-is-suffering-from-heart-disease
Sample from letter to Congress: Open Letter to a Texas Senator - Energy Conservation and Sustainable Agriculture /article-legacy/open-letter-to-a-texas-senator-energy-conservation-and-sustainable-agriculture In Summary As you can see, I not only had a lot of fun, but put in a lot of effort to articulate detailed information about pressing issues that impact all of us, and our environment directly or indirectly. I continue to use information acquired from this course in my book writing, article writing for my website, and as a contributing columnist at Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine. Throughout the course I was in regular communication with my fellow students via our discussion forums, and with each of my three courses, I contacted the instructors directly when I didn't fully understand something or wanted to know more. I had positive, regular communication with each one of the teachers and my efforts to attain better understanding of certain concepts were acknowledged and appreciated. That type of respect, patience and understanding coming from each of my teachers left a lasting impression on me and speaks volumes to the character, professionalism and positive attitude that were displayed throughout the entire course from everyone associated with the program. Some say one way to judge the value of an experience is to evaluate the positive changes that resulted from partaking in the experience. When I look back on the six-week course that changed my views on nearly half a dozen topics and opened up doors for me to use not only new information, but also my new title as "Plant-Based Nutrition Certified from Cornell University," I see the value as priceless. For those completing this course, one can gain the knowledge and wisdom to help improve the lives of everyone around you and to give a plant-based diet a shot in order to prolong lives and prevent many of our most grave illnesses. Please consider joining me as an alumni member of Cornell University's Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Course. Together, we can use our collective knowledge and experiences to create positive changes around the world. As I often say, there is no better time than now to resolve to make a difference. For more information about the T. Colin Campbell Plant-Based Nutrition Certification Course, please visit this page Cornell created for me, as a graduate, to share with you: www.ecornell.com/robertcheeke -Robert Cheeke — Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University - author of the best-selling book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness — The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet Robert Cheeke
In my last two articles, I've first discussed how a recent study revealed the risk of a shorter lifespan from consuming too much protein, and specifically the anabolic and bodybuilder friendly amino acid L-Leucine. In the second article, I went on to cover that given this risk, what is the minimum protein level we can take in to optimize our muscle mass and fitness goals? For the next article in my series on protein, I'd now like to discuss my findings on the optimal protein intake for longevity - how much protein should we eat to live as long and healthy a life as possible?
As I've mentioned before, the daily recommendations for protein intake vary incredibly widely across the board, with some organizations and diet groups advocating extremely low levels of protein intake, and many experts and coaches in the health and fitness industry recommending very high intakes. All these conflicting guidelines can be very confusing, but given that our goal is to find what will result in the longest lifespan, and the evidence that too much protein can shorten lifespan, a low recommendation is what we should be expecting to find.
And that's exactly what it is. According to Dietary Reference Intakes of the National Academies Press, the daily requirement for protein in humans is only 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight each day (0.8g/kg), or only 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight daily - that's only 54g of protein per day for a 150lb individual! Clearly, getting enough protein to survive is no problem, but will that result in the longest possible life?
Studies examining the diets of long-lived populations such as in Okinawa, Japan and Bama, China have found people's average protein intakes there to be right at 1 gram per kilogram bodyweight each day (1g/kg, or slightly less than half a gram per pound bodyweight each day) , which is actually very close to the Academies Press figure. This means if our hypothetical 150 pound person lived in one of these longevity-friendly places and ate what the locals did, he or she would average 65 grams of protein a day. Again, that's a very easy number to hit! And the type of protein you eat also has a big impact on how long you will live. An animal study comparing two groups eating the exact same level of calories and protein, with one group's protein coming from casein (animal protein) versus the other coming from soy (plant protein), showed that even at identical levels of calories and protein, the group getting its protein from plants lived an average of 15% longer and reached a higher maximum age - findings extremely consistent with the research referenced in the first article of this series. The take home point here is obvious: get all of your protein from plants!
So, depending on your goals, you should now have a good idea of how much protein to structure into your diet to maximize your muscle gains while maintaining a healthy life-span (1.6g/kg), or to go all out and strive for centenarian status (1g/kg)! Whatever your goals may be or what you decide to follow for yourself, I hope this series has helped you make informed decisions and removed some of the confusion surrounding everyone's favorite nutrient: protein.Sources “10 Protein and Amino Acids.” Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005 Iseki K et al, Estimated protein intake and blood pressure in a screened cohort in Okinawa, Japan. Hypertens Res. 2003 Apr;26(4):289-94 Iwasaki, Keisuke et al. The Influence of Dietary Protein Source on Longevity and Age-Related Disease Processes of Fischer Rats. Journal of Gerontology Volume 43, Issue 1 Pp. B5-B12 (1988) Derek Tresize
No one knows better than a vegan athlete how prominent the issue of dietary protein is in most peoples' minds. Ask any vegan athlete what question they hear most, and it will undoubtedly be "Where do you get your protein?" And this isn't too surprising. The fitness industry, especially its bodybuilding aspect, has long touted the importance of a high protein diet for muscle gains, and most people outside the vegan community are clueless that plants, not animals, are the ones producing protein in the first place. Regardless of where you get your protein, several studies conducted within the last decade have pointed to protein, and specifically to the amino acid leucine, as a driver of muscle-building protein synthesis, and since animal proteins tend to have a higher concentration of leucine than plant proteins, it makes sense that vegan athletes will generally need to consume more total protein to achieve the same muscle-boosting effect from their diet that omnivores observe. This effect is separate from a discussion of any training that will induce muscle growth independent of diet, and of course is not addressing the countless advantages of a plant-based diet, such as improved performance and recovery, reduced metabolic acid load, increased micronutrient intake, and countless other topics where a plant-based diet handily trounces an animal-based one — such as longevity.
A multitude of research dating back to the 1930s has shown that caloric restriction (reducing daily caloric intake by ~30%) can extend the lifespan of a wide range of species from insects to primates, and quite possibly humans as well. A new study published last year in the prestigious journal Nature pointed to one reason caloric restriction might work: reduced leucine intake. That's right, it's possible that the exact same biochemical process that leucine stimulates to generate new muscle mass is also responsible for accelerating the aging process. And this makes sense when given some thought. Faster growth rates and larger body sizes tend to correlate with shorter life spans in many animals (including humans), and it may explain why the longest lived populations on earth all happen to eat a low protein, mostly plant-based diet. There is certainly a lot more research to be done before any of this information can be stated with certainty, but for now we have one more reason a vegan diet may be superior to an omnivorous one, and a reason to think twice before deciding to follow a high protein diet or supplement with leucine.SC Johnson, PS Rabinovitch, M Kaeberlein. mTOR is a key modulator of ageing and age-related disease. Nature. 2013 493(7432):338 - 345. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23325216 L Yan, R. F. Lamb. Amino acid sensing and regulation of mTORC1. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2012 23(6):621 - 625. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22342805
Protein is the major nutrient focused upon by athletes, coaches, and the fitness industry as a whole. Whenever it is discussed, the overarching theme is usually "How to get more protein", but is this the best perspective to take? As I discussed in last month's article, new research has indicated that on top of being stressful to your kidneys and causing inflammation, excess protein may negatively impact your longevity! So rather than asking ourselves how we can get in as much protein as possible, why don't we instead look at how to get as little as possible while still striving to optimize building new muscle mass and improving our athletic performance?
Athletes looking to improve their body composition and gain muscle mass are often recommended to have as much as 1-1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight every single day (up to 300 grams per day for a 200lb bodybuilder!) by coaches, friends, or just reading any mainstream fitness articles on the subject. These numbers are very challenging to reach on anything resembling a healthy diet, as I can personally attest, having striven to eat this much protein for my first years as a bodybuilder. And it may be entirely unnecessary. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, strength and power athletes will optimize their performance by consuming 1.6-1.8 grams of protein per Kilogram of bodyweight each day (which comes out to about 0.8 grams per pound of weight, or 160g grams per day for our 200lb bodybuilder example) - about half of what is commonly recommended! So why is more protein being recommended to improve your bodybuilding results everywhere you look? Is more really better? In 2006 a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition set out to test if protein above these recommendations was, in fact, better. They placed 23 collegiate strength/power athletes on a diet below, at, or above the ACSM recommended protein intakes while being the same in total calories and had them follow a 12 week strength training program. At the end of the program they tested each athlete's improvements in strength and lean body mass, and guess what they found? There was no significant difference between any of the groups in any of these measures. All 23 participants improved in strength and body composition, and while I should mention there were slight differences in each group amounting to a slightly better result in the higher protein groups, it was not statistically significant and therefore was just as likely due to random chance as to the variables tested.
Given these results, and our knowledge of the dangers of consuming excess protein, it seems prudent to set these recommended values as an upper threshold for protein intake. Since there were no significant differences between the groups, you can certainly make a case for eating below 1.6 grams of protein per kg bodyweight each day. If you want to accept the risks of eating a little extra protein in case those statistically insignificant results were due to extra protein rather than random chance, I'd still not recommend going above 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. This is more than enough for anyone on a calorically adequate diet, and in going above this amount you are not only adding more stress for your body to recover from, but you are taking up 'space' in your diet by eating protein when you could be eating something else that would better fuel your performance and enhance your recovery. As with everything in nutrition and fitness, every body is a little different, so don't be afraid to try eating a few different concentrations of protein over time to see what works best for you. Good luck!Hoffman, et al. Effect of Protein Intake on Strength, Body Composition, and Endocrine Changes in Strength/Power Athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 3(2): 12-18, 2006 Derek Tresize