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 Hello from San Jose, CA

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PostSubject: Hello from San Jose, CA   Sun Apr 04, 2010 9:36 am

Hello All,
I have been weight training for more than 15-years and vegetarian for 3-years. I cringe to admit the amount of animal protein and supplements I have taken over the years. But slowly I have been working towards whole organic locally produced vegetarian. My strength and body mass stayed level, with this change, so it wasn't too hard to go from omnivore to lacto ovo veg.

4-months ago I made the switch to being vegan. But the switch to vegan has me searching on how to maintain my build. I have always in shape and hard. I have a routine that keeps me in a sustainable nice balance at 185 lbs. Since becoming vegan, I have lost tone, size and strength. Every book, trainer and fellow gym member at my gym eats whey at least. I thought I could just balance foods, eat my 6-meals and stay the same. As part of the change to vegan, I also stopped using creatine & CLA in Jan. So it's hard to know which had the most impact. Anyway, I'm here reading all I can. I plan to remain vegan regardless of whether I can regain my build, but want to seek out whatever effective nutritional regimens, protein sources and supplements that are not in conflict with being vegan.

Anyway, talk to you soon.
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Mon Apr 05, 2010 4:05 am

When you first make the transition it can be pretty hard. Basically as you are introducing new foods & stuff your macro-nutrient levels can be all over the place (usually your total calories go down & you proportion of carbs go up, while protein goes down). In your case we've also got supplement changes will will make things harder to figure out (as now we've got multiple changes).

First of all I'd track for a few days what you are eating (if you've got older details of what you were eating before you became vegan that would be fantastic, then we could compare). Basically our aim has to be to get you back to your old macro-nutrient intake (with maybe 1 or 2% more protein as vegan from vegan sources is just a touch less assimilated).

It sounds like you're not eating enough calories (as you're losing size) & probably not as much protein as you're used to (as you're losing 'tone'). You mention everyone eats whey...ok that implies to me that you were taking a protein powder & now you aren't. So let's get that sorted out first.
There are many, many protein powders you can take - soya, protein powder & pea protein powder are both around the same % of protein as whey (about 90%). Hemp & rice protein concentrate are 50-70% protein depending on the brand. You can try any of those. We've got some site that sell proteins up at here that might help (these are not all vegan companies, just companies that sell some vegan supplements, so always just bang off an email asking if a product is vegan before you buy).

Next is your calorific intake I would up it just a little. Bear in mind vegan food is often less calorifically dense than meals based around animal or dairy products. Also maybe try out some new things, so give some stuff like quinoa a go (pretty high in protein for grain-type food) & some other foods like seitan, tempeh, tofu etc. Just try to pump up the calories by a couple of hundred at first & see what happens.

Next let's move onto the supplements creatine & CLA. Creatine will make a difference. It is a muscle volumiser & so coming off will cause a lose in both weight, tone & strength. There wasn't any need to stop creatine if you are under the impression it comes from an animal product. So far I've yet to find a creatine that isn't synthetic (made in a lab, not an animal). Obviously it's worth shooting off an email to any company just to check, but if you just buy a creatine without any added goodies it's likely to be vegan. You can get vegan CLA as well if you want (for example here), but CLA has little evidence to back it up. I'd prefer if you just tried getting your EFA's, especially your Ω3 fatty acids. I would suggest you get some linseeds (flax seeds) & a cheap coffee grinder & grind up 2 tablespoons daily first thing then down them in some water or soya milk (or add them to your cereal or porridge if you prefer). If you're hard training you might also want to add a couple of DHA pills (from sea algae) any time later in the day if you like as well. I would check out this download about nutrition that covers most of the basics you'll need.
To be honest it will take some trial & error to get you back on track, but with a little work we will be able to get you back on track - not only return you to the levels you were at, but surpass them if that's what you're after!
I'm doing my last few weeks of work finishing up my clinical nutrition course right now, so I'm much more busy than normal (seems like 24/7 I'm at the computer typing), but after that's done if you're still not on track I'll be able to dig into your diet & training as much as you need to see if we can't sort it out.

If you are still taking supplements, but just not sure which are ok for vegans my suggestions would be to use:

Protein powder (any type soya, pea, rice hemp or one of the 'blends' out there)
creatine
BCAA (branch chain amino acids) or L-leucine (these can often be from dairy but plant based are available). I would add just a little (2-5 grams) to your protein shakes (& have 5g pre & post-workout). BCAA's & particularly L-leucine is shown to be an anabolic stimulant (that is it tends to move the body to a more anabolic state). Whey tends to be a bit higher in L-leucine than any of the plant proteins so you might get slightly better growth because of that. So adding the extra just levels that field a little bit. You might have to email a few BCAA or L-leucine suppliers to find one that uses ingredients suitable for a vegan.
L-glutamine - if you find you get sick due to training all-out adding this could well fix it. If you have no issues then there's not need. It aids recovery & boosts immunity, so if recovery is fine & no obvious issues I'd leave this one (but I thought I'd mention just in case).

That's about it - take a multi vit (one with B12), get your EFA's & then we'll have to tweak your diet so you're eating a bit more (& maybe focussing on higher protein foods a bit more as well).

Hopefully that'll start you off on the right path.
Final point - my guess is you're slightly off optimal eating & the loss of creatine have both hit you together to reduce your size, strength & possibly recovery. All we need to do it get everything back on track & you'll return to the anabolic zone & start gaining again - as I said try modifying the eating a little bit & maybe some of the supplements above & see how you get on (read the nutrition guide pdf I mention above). Keep letting us know how you're getting on & what changes you're making so we can track how you're doing...finally don't worry, it is fixable & we can get the physique back to, or even surpassing what it was, we just have to work on it a little bit!
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:17 pm

Thank you Pete for such a detailed reply. I read your post a couple of time and the links and got to thinking about the points you made. No doubt, my caloric and f/p/c balance is out of whack.

Example before
6am 6 egg whites, 1/4 cup salsa, one slice of whole grain toast/ espresso w/soy
9am 'Muscle milk meal replacement shake (300 cal/ 4o g. whey protein)
12pm veggie burrito or salad with tofu or veggie sandwich
2:30pm 'Muscle milk meal replacement shake
5:30pm 'Muscle milk meal replacement shake
6:30pm 1-scoop nitrogen drink
7pm work out / 1-scoop creatine drink immediately after
8:30pm tofu or tempeh steamed veggies salad with brown rice or whole wheat pasta


Example now
6am cup of cooked whole oats with 1/2 cup of berries, half cup of almond milk / espresso w/soy
9am 1/2 cup of seeds or nuts, 2-pieces of fruit
12pm veggie burrito or salad with tofu or veggie sandwich
3pm nut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, piece of fruit
7pm work out
8:30pm tofu or tempeh steamed veggies salad with brown rice or whole wheat pasta


After reading your post, I ordered Vega Performance protein powder and resumed nitrogen and creatine powders before and after work out. That will get things closer to the balance I had before and I can tweak it from there. Thanks.
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Wed Apr 07, 2010 3:07 am

Yea, it looks like your protein has dropped quite a bit. Up that a bit & you should noticed an improvement.
One other thing I would add is 2 tablespoons of linseeds (flax seeds) with your brekkie. One of the main reasons vegans only live as long as meat eaters is thought to be the fact we have a high amount of Ω6 fatty acids, but not enough Ω3 fatty acids, so grinding a couple of spoons of flax & you'll rebalance your EFA's (the ALA in flax is also an anti-inflammatory so good for recovery & is a vital part of cell membranes, so making those muscle cells expand will be easier Cool ). I just use a cheap coffee grinder & whizz them up every morning, done in 2 seconds (they have to be ground as the seeds stay whole if you swallow them & just pass right through!
Just a thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:11 am

Pete wrote:
Yea, it looks like your protein has dropped quite a bit. Up that a bit & you should noticed an improvement.
One other thing I would add is 2 tablespoons of linseeds (flax seeds) with your brekkie. One of the main reasons vegans only live as long as meat eaters is thought to be the fact we have a high amount of Ω6 fatty acids, but not enough Ω3 fatty acids, so grinding a couple of spoons of flax & you'll rebalance your EFA's (the ALA in flax is also an anti-inflammatory so good for recovery & is a vital part of cell membranes, so making those muscle cells expand will be easier Cool ). I just use a cheap coffee grinder & whizz them up every morning, done in 2 seconds (they have to be ground as the seeds stay whole if you swallow them & just pass right through!
Just a thought.
Thanks again Pete. I know this sounds dumb, but I didn't know about some of the vegan proteins powders. I had tried soy protein powder as a substitute for whey before and had poor results. I am looking forward to trying Vega and some of these others that have a combo of ingredients.

What about flax seed oil in liquid state (rather than seed)? I have seen it in the refrigerated section of the market.
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:56 am

Yea you can do that, but flax seeds tend to taste nutty & pretty ok even if you just mix with soya milk (or any other fake milk) & chugged. With your brekkie though I'd say mixed with the oats (after cooking).
The oil can taste ...um...not so nice, it can also go rancid really easily - Ω3 fatty acids should be kept cool & in the dark - you can even freeze oil - unlike water it shrinks when frozen so even glass bottles can be frozen if you're not using it pretty quick within a month or so.
If you fresh grind the oil is kept in it's own little sealed container (the seed) & is ultra-fresh upon grinding PLUS you get a bit of extra protein, extra fibre, & extra bit of vitamins & minerals & some anti-cancer chemicals all in one handy seed that is lost in the oil.

Yea there are a few unusual blends out there - If you're going to try a few I'd like to hear your thoughts about Nitrofusion as they don't sell that over here in the UK, but it sounds interesting & I've yet to see anyone I know use it (it's just the artichoke protein - what the hell does artichoke protein even taste like? It's in there with the rice & pea protein weird combo), anyway as you were looking I thought I'd mention it.
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:08 pm

Tried the Vega Performance protien powder. Not bad tasting and mixes well. I will substitute this for the Muscle Milk I was drinking and see how it goes. I realized when I put the side by side diet comparison, that I had cut over 100 g of protein in my switch to being vegan. I'm glad I found this site.
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PostSubject: Re: Hello from San Jose, CA   Thu Apr 08, 2010 2:19 am

Don't worry it's what most of us do when we swap over diets, I think 99% of us hit the same issue. It's actually one of the top 10 issues we get mail about & is pretty obvious once you did what you've just done & compare the old diet with the new.
For non-athletes it's a non-issue as whether they get a bit less protein doesn't really show up, but for strength athletes it nearly always needs a re-think in eating habits (which is a good idea to do now & again anyway), conversely some endurance athletes actually do better with the increased carbs & more moderate protein that the same change brings, but that's just no good for us iron-heads.
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