Believe it or not, I wasn't born with a six-pack. In fact, it wasn't until I was 29 years old that I finally earned this coveted body part. This was something that I always wanted though, at least since I started this whole weightlifting thing fourteen years prior. So what did I do differently that gave me the results I was striving for? It's really quite simple: eat more vegetables.
With bodybuilding and getting shredded, the objective is to keep as much lean body mass as possible while shredding every bit of fat that you can. This process allows the muscles to show through, because when body fat is low, your skin gets thinner and thinner (so to speak), until the anatomy of the underlying muscles can be seen.
So in order to do that, you need to keep muscle by frequently lifting heavy, you need to burn calories (fat) by doing increased cardiovascular activity, and you need to burn more calories than you consume. So with food, we have to figure out a way to reduce calories while still being satisfied with the volume of food we eat. Enter the vegetable, or more specifically, the cruciferous and green leafy vegetables. Simple vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus are loaded with nutrients and fiber and are low in calories.
Though a few plant-based high-protein foods such as tempeh, tofu, almonds, nut butters, seitan, and seeds are staples for many vegan athletes, too many of these foods will pack on the pounds, and not the good kind. But when you have some of the above mentioned foods with a huge serving of broccoli or mixed green salad or sautÃ©ed kale, you end up feeling satiated without taking in too many calories. By having veggies around to snack on such as celery sticks, sliced radishes, sliced cucumber, or sliced peppers, you can snack often and eat a large amount of these foods and still drop body fat.
At 29, when I finally realized I had to up my vegetable intake, it made it manageable to cut back on bad stuff like refined grains, salty fried foods, and all various forms of processed sugar. Then slowly yet steadily, body fat basically melted off. In 2009, I dropped about 1.5 pounds of fat per week over the course of 12 weeks, thereby dropping my body fat down to around 4%. This experience was essentially what got me to where I am today. It showed the world that I had what it takes to shape a lean muscular vegan physique, when the numbers seemed limited. Now with the incredible growth of veganism, we have many vegan athletes who walk around with phenomenal physiques. I guess more and more people are seeing the benefits of the simple, nutritionally dense, good ol' vegetable. Have you eaten your veggies today?
Here is a sample daily meal plan during my first successful Get Shredded Phase:
Breakfast — Veggie “steak” strips, 1/4 C walnuts, big handful of spinach
Snack — Smoothie with rice and pea Protein, handful of kale, frozen blueberries
Lunch — Yellow curry with tofu and mixed vegetables over shredded cabbage (instead of rice)
Snack — Apple, sliced cucumber with eggplant hummus
Post-Workout Shake — Rice and pea protein, bananas, and frozen strawberries
Snack — Lentils, brown rice, and steamed broccoli
Dinner — Field Roast sausage, with zucchini noodles and tomato sauce
Pre-Bed Snack — Protein pudding made from rice and pea protein, unsweetened almond milk, peanut butter, ground flax seed, and ice