Eat Hard, Train Hard & Sleep Hard - By K.K. Chan
In eight years as a vegetarian, a bodybuilding enthusiast, and a licensed fitness instructor, I gradually changed from a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet to a 90% vegan diet.
I encountered many difficulties, as vegan bodybuilders are rarely seen here in Hong Kong. I have had to do my own research and trials on my own body during this 8-year transition period. Most people consider that vegans must be powerless and emaciated. I can now say that misconception is finally broken.
To have a fit body shape, regardless of whether or not you are a vegetarian, there are three indispensable factors: first, do training that stimulates muscle growth; second, ensure the required amount of nutrients is taken; third, allow sufficient time to rest.
In terms of bodybuilding training methods, it is important to train our muscles every time with weight overloading to enable effective muscle mass growth. Our muscles will naturally adjust according to the weight load encountered. This causes muscle hypertrophy. To further enhance strength, change the intensity of training, the angle of the actions performed, the use of equipment, and the rest time between each session. Varying these factors allows muscles to adjust and adapt new situation. After each exercise, the muscles will naturally grow. When you feel muscle soreness after training for a few days or so, your muscles are telling you that your muscle stimulation training is being effective.
In terms of nutrients, muscle cells mainly require protein. There is a great variety of plant based foods rich in protein for vegetarians and vegans to choose from. These include soy, tofu, yuba, nuts, avocado, quinoa, etc.
Adults in general need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. My weight is 65kg, so my body requires 52 grams of protein a day. A 100g serve of chicken thigh meat contains 18.3 grams of protein. It also contains 79 grams of cholesterol. In contrast, the same amount of soybean contains 36 grams of protein with zero amount of cholesterol. From this data, we know that the more protein we absorb from meat, the more cholesterol we will absorb. This creates a negative impact on our health. Moreover, the higher proportion of body fat that results from eating meat will affect the trained muscles’ lines, and causes swelling.
I drink fresh homemade soymilk in the morning and evening, plus a balanced diet every meal that enables me to have enough protein intake every day. My muscles continue to grow steadily with good body lines as a result.
Vegetarians and vegans also have to make sure sufficient starch is absorbed in order to provide sufficient energy for exercise every day.
For resting, sleep time is prime time for muscle growth, so every day we must have at least 7-8 hours to sleep. Rest is important. We cannot train the same muscle part every day. Every time after optimal training, the muscles will be sore the next day. This is normal and shows that the muscle is growing. If we train that muscle again before it has repaired and recovered completely, muscle growth will be affected. This lack of rest causes some fitness enthusiasts to see no improvement in muscle growth even they go to the gym and train hard every day.
I hope other vegetarian and vegan bodybuilding enthusiasts, do not give up easily. As long as the method is correct, it is not difficult to have a fit body.