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Building plant based muscle


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On October 30, 2011 I decided to make a lifestyle change. On a recommendation from a co-worker, I was told to watch Forks Over Knives. I was surprised with the information that was presented and thus started my search for knowledge. I Googled the documentary and names of doctors who were presented in the movie. I stumbled upon Dr. John McDougall and his life changing way of eating that I have been following since. Unlike "going vegan" I don't include added oil into my diet and avoid all dairy and meats.


What led me to lifestyle change at age 41 was the the inability to remember all the medication I prescribed when I was at my dentist office for a routine visit. Wanting to update my medical profile, I knew I had about 6 different medications, but I could not recite what they were. At the time I was suffering from constant migraine headaches, pains in my sides, foot pains, carried extra weight and struggled to keep my cholesterol within "normal" levels.


Here were the blood test numbers in July, 2011 when I had my yearly physical and when the medication was prescribed. Just beneath those numbers my blood test results from December, 2011. I think the numbers speak for themselves.


July 26, 2011

Weight: 216 pounds

Chol: 263 mg/dL

Trig: 269 mg/dL

HDLC: 37 mg/dL

Chol/HDLC Ratio: 7.1 H

LDL: 172 mg/dL

Non-HDLC: 225 mg/dL


In just 10 months of changing my diet, with very little exercise I experienced amazing results! In preparation for another physical I had my blood work tested. Here are the results:


July 31, 2012

Weight 173 pounds

Chol: 130 mg/dL

Trig: 162 mg/dL

HDLC: 35 mg/dL

Chol/HDLC Ratio: 3.7 H

LDL: 63 mg/dL

Non-HDLC: 95 mg/dL


By my visit I had dropped that last 10 pounds (44 pounds overall) and was just below my goal weight (175 lbs) at 173 pounds. My total cholesterol (TC) went below that magical number of 150 mg/dL, now at 130 mg/dL (total drop of 134 mg/dL). Only a year prior my doctor told me that I could NEVER reduce my TC by diet alone to a healthy number. More importantly my triglycerides dropped to 162 mg/dL (46 points since March). This told me that reducing my alcohol intake was the reason my triglycerides remained high. There was a little fluctuation in my HDL (good cholesterol), up a single point, while the LDL (bad cholesterol) saw a 33 point drop to 63 md/dL.


The blood work results combined with the weight loss had me on cloud nine as I walked confidently in for my yearly physical. After the initial weigh in, I had my hearing and eye sight checked, as well as an EKG administered. As I waited for the doctor to come in, I kept playing back in my mind my answers for his upcoming questions since I knew he was not pleased with my “extreme” decision last year to cut out meat, dairy and oil.


January, 2012 brought me to start working out on a Bowflex Revolution. It was a good introduction to exercise, but I felt it was lacking. In May, I joined the local sports club and started lifting weights with a co-worker friend of mine. He had been into powerlifting and provided me a very good introduction to using free weights, as well as exercises to accomplish. Unfortunately, in October, 2012 he passed away due to a heart attack, which left me high and without direction when I went to the gym. I continued to do split routines, but was not sure what I wanted to accomplish.


In October, 2012 I started following the Stronglifts 5x5 program and have seen some excellent strength gains. Following this program I lift 3 times a week doing squats, bench press, overhead press, rows and the deadlift. It continues to be part of my weekly routine lifting out of my garage using nothing more than a power rack and a barbell.


I wanted to add some conditioning to my training, so I resolved to compete in a half marathon in August. I started running on April 1, on a 16 week plan to get me prepared for the 13.1 miles I will be running. I will also be competing in my first Tough Mudder event at Lake Tahoe in July.


Hopefully I can continue to see positive changes in my life thanks in part to my diet, the weight lifting and conditioning I am doing. Maybe I have set personal expectations too high, but I was hoping to see more changes now 16 months into this new plant based lifestyle.

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Congratulations, that is truly an amazing and inspirational story !! Well done, you have made a HUGE turnaround with your life and I am sure as time goes on it has gotten easier to continue living this lifestyle. Your blood work just proves what we all know I guess ~ plant based diets are an optimal way to gain great health and vitality.


Good luck with your running goals ~ if you need any help please feel free to either PM me or leave a comment in my training journal. I too have just started training for a race in August (I'm just nearing the end of my 4th week). I urge you to start a journal as it would be great to be able to follow your running progress over the coming months.


All the best with everything, and welcome to the forum as well. Fantastic to have someone like yourself here in the community. Have a great weekend MF.

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Welcome, Those numbers are great I wish I would have had mine checked before I went meatless to have something to compare to. I'm a newbie to the forum also and only been meatless for about a month now. About building muscle my only recommendation is to keep your protein intake up for that is what muscle is made of. The standard is .8g per lean lbs of body weight. If your looking to gain weight eat more then you burn, dont go crazy or you'll get fat.

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Not necessarily looking for weight gain, but I have seen about 6 pound increase since starting the Stronglifts program back in October, 2012. More importantly the lean body mass saw a 5.5 lbs increase compared to only 1.1 lbs of fat over a 4 month period, based on hydrostatic testing. It's a matter of working off the subcutaneous fat that still remains from my initial weight loss.


As for protein intake, I can't say I really bump it up on training days, continuing to maintain an intake of approximately 70g per day, based on tracking my food the last 16 months. I have heard of different numbers to use as it relates to how much protein to eat with lifting weights in order to build muscle. Based on the .8 and lean body mass of 150 lbs based on hydrostatic testing (overall weight 179 lbs), I would have increase my protein intake by 40 grams.

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Yeah I have been pleased with the progress I have been making. Hopefully I can continue those gains over the next 4 months. I actually found a mobile fat testing unit (truck) that comes to the gym I am leaving. He changes $49 for the initial and $39 for follow ups.


Wow sounds like your doing pretty good. Thats great 5.5 lbs muscle gain with only 1 lbs of fat awesome. Where are you able to get hydrostatic test down, best I found by me is the body pod at a university for $30 did it once.
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Congrats on the positive changes to your health! I hope you were able to convince your doctor that diet really is an effective way to fix many 'first-world' illnesses. When I was 21 and vegetarian, my cholesterol was 211, and 8 months after going vegan, my cholesterol hit 96!! I asked my doctor if there was such a thing as having too little cholesterol, and she didn't know because she had never seen a patient as low as me haha.


Stronglifts is a great program as well; be sure to keep us updated on your progress. Since you don't eat oils, I'm assuming you eat almost entirely home-made food?

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Fallen_Horse, unfortunately my doctor called what I was doing last year "extreme" and that changing my diet, something he promoted a year prior, was only a "short term fix" for a "long term problem." Needless to say it did not sit well with me at all. I was livid! It that wasn't enough, he then had to ask, "Where do you get your protein?"


Common sense tells me I should have found another doctor. After searching through thousands, I decided to give up the search and stay with him. Why? One to prove to him what I am doing works and two, because I won't need to seem him but maybe once a year for my physical and blood test results. I will be curious to see what he tries to prescribe to me this year.

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