Two Healthy, Hearty Thanksgiving Recipes from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook

thanksgiving-recipes

This Thanksgiving will be my seventh as a vegan, and I’m happy to say that it’s no longer a big deal to not to have turkey at dinner. Honestly, though, I can’t say that it ever was.

Even before I went vegetarian, the interesting part of cooking Thanksgiving dinner was never the turkey: we knew what turkey tasted like. And it was more or less the same every year, save for the ill-fated turkey-fryer-on-the-deck experiment of 2007.

The side dishes, though? Those were the opportunity to have fun and to try new things. And other than good company, of course, they’re what stands out in my mind to distinguish one year’s Thanksgiving dinner from the next.

So since going vegan, my wife and I have never found it a big deal to just make Thanksgiving dinner—we just make a bunch of sides, new ones every year. And it works. If we’re attending somewhere else, we do the same, and just bring plenty to share. And enough that even if there’s nothing else for us at the table, we’ll be happy.

And as I always like to point out this time of year, I think that’s the best attitude to have if you’re a new vegan and you’re concerned about Thanksgiving—be happy with the abundance that you have.

It’s a time to be grateful—grateful that you have enough to fill your belly, and people you love to share it with. Even if your father-in-law is making annoying vegan jokes, even if you’re stuck eating nothing but salad and bread because that’s all there is for you, just try to keep in mind how many people in the world—right there in your town, probably—would be overjoyed to switch places with you, to have the luxury of being the vegan with only a few dishes to eat at a Thanksgiving feast (in a heated home, I should add) for a day.

And that, long as corny as it may be, is my answer to “How do you do Thanksgiving as a vegan?” 🙂

Below are two Thanksgiving-appropriate recipes from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook, which I co-wrote with Stepfanie Romine, published earlier this year. While these aren’t traditional Thanksgiving recipes per se, the flavors definitely work for a modern, plant-based (and oil-free!) interpretation. You could consider them both sides, but the stew can definitely be a main course if you’d like it to be.

And by the way, in case you’re looking for a health-focused gift for yourself or a friend, I must say The No Meat Athlete Cookbook makes a good one. Granted, I’m just a little bit biased … but lots of reviewers, and even many mainstream publications like Sports Illustrated and Outside Magazine, agree.

Enjoy the recipes, and have a happy, grateful Thanksgiving!

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Chi Running with Danny Dreyer

woman running alone in the mountains in the morning

What do you get when you cross running with tai chi? Chi Running, of course.

You’ve probably heard of Chi Running, as it has been helping runners (including Matt and me) for years. But unless you’ve really taken a dive into the philosophy, you might not know what it’s all about, and how simple changes to your form and technique can completely change the way you run.

In today’s episode, we chat with Danny Dreyer, founder of the Chi Running training philosophy, about how your running form, mind, and breath all play a role in your running performance.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The connection between tai chi and running.
  • Proper form techniques for injury-free running.
  • Why shoe choice matters.
  • Nose breathing when you run?
  • What it means to connect mind and body when running.

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On Tough Love and Unconditional Support

Silhouette of cyclist with friend motion on sunset background

Every major life change starts with some sort of trigger. Maybe it’s a visit to the doctor or an inability to squeeze into your favorite jeans. Or in the case of Susan Lacke, a conversation with her boss, Carlos.

A boss who became one of her best friends and biggest fans as she went from self-proclaimed couch potato to Ironman and now ultramarathon finisher.

Several years ago, Susan was the original contributor to No Meat Athlete (other than Matt, of course), and through dozens of posts she chronicled not just her fitness journey, but also that epic friendship with the late Carlos Nunez. This week Susan released her new book, Life’s Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow, a tribute to the life-changing support we can give one another.

We’ve asked her to share an example of that support. An example we can all learn from.

————

To call Carlos Nunez my “cheerleader” makes me laugh out loud. Case in point: When I proudly finished my first 5K race, I texted him. His response to my finishing time: “45 minutes?! What did you do, skip?”

There was also the time I crashed my bike—it was my first time riding in shoes that clipped to the pedals, and I didn’t quite time the release of my feet correctly. I went down in the gravel, still attached to my bike, and Carlos laughed. (And laughed, and laughed…)

When Carlos, a multiple Ironman finisher, inspired me to sign up for my first Ironman despite never having done a triathlon (a journey I chronicled in the early years of No Meat Athlete), he told me it was the dumbest thing I had ever done. Even the title of my new book, Life’s Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow, is a direct quote from something he huffed just before dropping me on a bike ride where I was dragging ass.

And yet I still maintain that for almost a decade, Carlos Nunez was my cheerleader. The captain of my squad, even.

When most people think of a cheerleader, they think of someone who waves their pom-poms and effuses positivity. Though there’s certainly a time and place for that, that’s not the only way to show your support for someone. The thing I’ve learned about cheerleaders is that it’s not the positivity that matters—it’s the underlying and unconditional belief.

You see, when Carlos gave me grief for my slow 5K, he didn’t do it to mock me, but to get me to sign up for another one. He knew me well enough to know that I’m a deeply competitive person. With the right provocation, I’d not only sign up for another race, I’d go faster just to prove him wrong.

Carlos laughed when I crashed my bike, yes, but that was because I had too much pride to ask him for help understanding my newfangled shoes. After he stopped laughing, he cleaned the gravel out of my scraped knee and let me know that he wouldn’t offer advice when he saw me doing dumb things, but he would always give it if asked. As entertaining as it was when I failed, he wanted to see me succeed.

And he did want to see me succeed. So much, that he rode at my (much-slower-than-his) pace every Sunday morning so that he could coach me to my first 100-mile ride, my first mountain summit, and my first Ironman triathlon. He taught me how to pull a water bottle without stopping, how to change a bike tire, and how to pace myself during a 112-mile bike ride so I could follow it up with a 26.2-mile run.

He didn’t have to do any of those things, and yet he did them. He never once said anything resembling a “rah-rah,” and yet I knew he believed in me unconditionally, even on the days I didn’t believe in myself. If it weren’t for him, I would have quit endurance sports a long time ago.

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The Life-Changing Power of Someone Who Believes in You with Susan Lacke

ep212

Have you ever taken a life-changing smoke break? NMA’s own Susan Lacke has, when her old boss, Carlos, convinced her to start working out with him.

Twenty months later, she was running her first Ironman triathlon, writing for NMA, and launching a new career. And it was Carlos’s never-wavering support that she believes made it all possible.

In today’s episode, we speak with Susan about that epic friendship, her new book, Life’s Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow, and the power of supporting someone through their goals.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • The power of denial (in sport and life)
  • Picking yourself
  • From coach-potato to Ironman finisher
  • How one cigarette break changed Susan’s life
  • The major difference between triathlons and ultramarathons

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Reset: 3 Steps To Get Your Plant-Based Diet Back On Track

Roasted fruits and vegetables

Sometimes life can be a minefield, littered with temptation and booby traps that sabotage our best attempts to take charge of our health, eat a well-balanced plant-based diet, and live at our best. Occasionally, we can trip up and find ourselves off course.

Maybe it was the constant temptation of so many sweets over the holidays, only to find that “I’ll just have one” snowballed into a week-long sugar coma.

Or maybe it was a crazy work week, and you just couldn’t find the energy to make dinner after stumbling through the door. A few days of eating take-out turned into a few weeks, and you still aren’t cooking many meals at home.

Perhaps it’s just hard to stay motivated when your not-so-supportive significant other brings tempting food into the house, eats it right in front of you, and then makes fun of you for not trying some.

However you fall from the straight and narrow, the important thing is how you respond to it and get back on track. Good eating habits take a long time to build, but they can easily slip away, and it can be hard to regain that initial momentum and motivation.

But with the right blend of planning and support, you can get your diet back on the right path, feeling your best in no time. Even if you’re busy, struggling with cravings, or just can’t seem to find the motivation and willpower to stick to it, you can get things back under control.

Here are the three steps to help make it happen.

Step 1: Make a Plan

Eventually, something will make you want to get back on track. Whether that’s a number on the scale or a favorite pair of pants that don’t fit quite right anymore, you’ve crossed the line in the sand.

This is a crucial moment because what you do with that initial motivation matters. If you immediately jump headlong into a complete life makeover, you often won’t follow through.

A successful reset starts with a good game plan. Here are two recommendations to make yours a success:

1. Start with just three days.

While three days may not sound like much, it sets you up with an achievable goal that has a hard start date and a hard end date.

The biggest challenge you face when getting back on track with your diet is the simple fact that it’s easier to not do it! It’s better to set an achievable goal that isn’t super intimidating.

2. Set clear rules and follow them 100%.

It seems paradoxical, but making a 100% commitment to a few clear rules makes it easier to follow through.

Clear rules help eliminate the need to make a momentary decision about whether or not something is on plan, and removes the possibility for justifying bad choices.

Also remember that you want to engineer a win—so be sure to craft achievable rules that fit within your current dietary program or lifestyle.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Note that your rules don’t have to be only about eliminating things from your diet. It can be effective to work on “crowding out” the bad by making sure you get plenty of the good stuff.

Lists like Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, NMA’s seven daily foods, or our “green light” foods, provide a framework to make sure you’re getting the most healthful, nutrient-dense foods. By focusing on those foods, there is less room for other, less healthy foods.

2. Schedule, Commit, and Create Accountability

As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest obstacle to getting back on track is simply not doing anything. So, once you have a plan, it’s time to put it into action.

If possible, choose a three-day window where you don’t have many social obligations and will have some free time to prepare food for yourself.

But know there will never be a perfect time, so just choose the best option. It shouldn’t be more than two to three weeks from now, and no sooner than three days. You need a little time for your commitment to sink in, and a few days to prepare as well.

Once you have your date set, take some time in advance to plan out three days worth of meals and snacks.

kickstart-ad

So here is some tough love from your buddy Matty J: Pull up your calendar right now and schedule your three-day reset. I’ll be here waiting for you when you get back.

Ready? Go!

I’m still here! Waiting…

Okay, got it scheduled? Great. Now it’s time to up the ante and add some accountability. Ask a friend or two to join you (they can even set their own unique food “rules,” but the timing should be the same). Or better yet, make a commitment with a friend who can play ref, and commit to paying them 10% of your monthly salary if you don’t follow through.

Sound painful? It’s supposed to be.

When getting back on track, we need a little kick in the rear to make us change our ways. A little extra motivation (like some money on the line) goes a long way towards keeping you on track when temptation inevitably comes calling.

Now that you have a game plan, have scheduled your reset, and added support and accountability, you’re ready to go. All you have to do now is show up and follow through.

3. Review Your Reset and Build Off Your Wins

While a three-day reset is a great thing to do on its own, you can get more bang for your buck by using this reboot as a jumping off point by turning these things into healthy habits.

After the reset is complete, take some time to do a review:

… Could you keep or tweak your rules to make sustainable progress long-term?

… What practices could you integrate into your daily routine?

Think of it as expanding on your three-day reset by adding a new rule or expanding on the ones with which you’ve already been successful.

If you’ve been making home-cooked, plant-based meals, can you commit to making healthy meals at home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?

If you’ve been avoiding white flour and sugar, can you quit altogether, or limit yourself to just one treat in the evening or only on the weekends?

If you’ve been doing yoga for 10 minutes each day, can you tie your practice to a daily activity to create a stronger habit? Or can you sign up for a weekly yoga class that will create more accountability and help ensure that you follow through going forward?

Or if you’re ready to add a new rule, you could…

  • Start each day with a smoothie, full of fruits and veggies.
  • Have carrots and a healthy homemade dip at work and home for when you get a snack craving.
  • Limit alcohol intake to weekends only (or try taking a complete break).
  • Use water instead of oil when sautéing veggies for dinner.
  • Replace soda with sparkling water.

Notice that in each of the above examples contains one key element: 100% commitment to a specific rule or goal and clear boundaries.

This commitment sets the boundaries in advance, which helps to turn these practices into self-sustaining habits. Once the habits are established, we can rely less and less on willpower to stay on track; our healthy choices move towards becoming automatic.

And that, my friends, is the holy grail.

The best way to make continual progress is to schedule a weekly review to look back on the week and see how you did, ideally with your accountability buddy. Did you follow through on your commitments? If not, what could you tweak in the coming week to help you do better?

A weekly review provides continual support and accountability and gives you a chance to refine your approach. Establishing these healthy habits is a work in progress, and this is a great way to build a foundation for ongoing support.

Ready to Get Started?

Everyone struggles with making the right diet and lifestyle choices. Whether you’re hoping to get back on track after a rough week, or you’ve been struggling to reach your happy place for months, you’re not alone.

Getting back on track can be intimidating—but it doesn’t have to be. By engineering your three-day reset (here’s a free Reset Bonus Pack), committing to a few attainable goals, and getting some friends to join you on the journey, you’ll be on your way to a win in no time.

Believe in yourself. I know I do.

About the Author: Matt Jager is a wellness advocate, web developer, and yogi on a mission to give everyone access to the tools they need to live their best life. You can learn more at his website True Wellth, and download the free Reset Bonus Pack here to get started.

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Motivation, Creating More Free Time, and Overcoming Stress with Jeff Sanders

EP210

Jeff Sanders’s ability to rise early, stay motivated, and get stuff done has long been an inspiration for the NMA Radio team.

But even for one of the best, most productive guys out there, he still needs a process of managing and evaluating what’s on his plate.

In today’s episode, Jeff shares how his philosophy has changed over the years, and how he underwent a major life shift after stress landed him in the hospital.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Why Jeff ended up in the ER.
  • How weekly reviews can keep you focused.
  • The advice Jeff no longer gives.
  • Focusing on the “one thing.”
  • Going big vs. small steps.

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How to Build Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet: Staple Foods, Meal Plans, and Philosophy

gym interior with equipment

Let’s face it, building muscle is hard, no matter what “diet” you follow. And supporting your athletic endeavors with a plant-based diet can be challenging too, especially if you’re new to the vegan lifestyle.

I’ve been there—desperately hoping to gain muscle and weight eating only plants. After decades of learning from personal failures and successes, I have officially cracked the code on how to truly build and sustain muscle. I’m sharing those keys to success with you today so that you too can achieve your bodybuilding and fitness goals.

When I first started my plant-based, muscle-building journey many years ago, there wasn’t much publicly available on the subject. So little, in fact, that I had to rely almost entirely on trial and error. Thankfully, over time I started to figure it out, and I grew from weighing 120 pounds in 1995 when I went vegan, to a 210-pound champion bodybuilder at my peak, built entirely by plants (and hard work in the gym).

Even if you’ve struggled with building muscle in the past (while plant-based or not), I’m confident you can bulk up when you apply the strategies, habits, foods, and exercises necessary to achieve your goals.

And it all starts with nutrition.

Understanding Your Caloric Needs

Your quest to build muscle on a plant-based diet relies on understanding your true calorie needs. Not guessing, or estimating, or assuming characteristics about your current habits, but real, raw data based on who you are and what you do.

Believe it or not, it’s much easier to figure out than you might think.

Start with finding your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) using the Harris-Benedict equation. BMR is the amount of calories you expend simply by existing, based on your gender, age, height, and weight.

Combine that number with your actual activity level—any additional movements beyond just existing, like walking the dog, running errands, hitting the gym, or walking up a flight of stairs. This gives you the approximate number of total calories you expend daily… your calorie needs.

If you expend 2,500 calories per day, you need to consume 2,500 calories per day just to maintain weight.

In order to gain muscle, you would need to consume more than 2,500 calories, ideally from mostly real plant foods. Combine that with resistance weight training, and you’re on your way to muscle-town.

Not that long ago I shared this technique, along with a breakdown of my own caloric needs, in an interview for the No Meat Athlete Academy. Check out this clip:

Red treadmill, track running at the stadium

As simple as this sounds, implementing this approach into daily life is the real struggle. But it doesn’t have to be…

You just need to consume the healthy foods you enjoy most, with sufficient calorie quantities, and you’ve got it made.

To determine which foods will help most, it’s important to consider not only calories but also nutrient density.

Calories vs. Nutrient Density

The nutrient density of a food is the amount of nutrients you can obtain from it, given the number of calories it contains. Nutrients give your body nourishment, allowing for growth, muscle recovery, energy, and quite frankly, the maintenance of life—think vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, fiber, water, nitric oxide, and other phytonutrients. If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your nutrient buck, the best place to look is whole foods.

Simply speaking, there is nothing in fresh, whole food that doesn’t belong there. There’s a profound difference between eating 2,500 calories of whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, and eating 2,500 calories of processed food-like substances such as chips, fries, pizza, candy, and ice cream.

You may be eating 2,500 calories either way, but the nutritional result is wildly different.

Therefore, low-calorie, nutrient dense foods provide a higher return on investment than foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition. Eating a high-calorie, nutrient-poor diet will make any fitness goals a struggle, whether burning fat and losing weight, building muscle, or improving endurance.

Here is a look at the rough calorie count vs. nutrient score for some common food types:

FoodCalories Per PoundANDI Score
Kale2231000
Arugula136604
Potatoes (baked or boiled)389181
Bananas40030
Apples23053
Carrots136458
Kidney Beans151164
Peanut Butter266551
Chicken Breast100024
French Fries140012
Almonds260028
Ice Cream9459
Olive Oil400010
Cola1701

Using Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s ANDI score method is an easy way to measure nutrient density. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, and basically reports “nutrients divided by calories,” Fuhrman’s formula for healthy eating. The higher the ANDI score, the higher nutrient density.

While calorie density is very important regarding weight gain and weight loss, nutrient density speaks to our health and the overall nutrition we are getting. Whole plant foods provide the perfect combination of relatively low calorie density with high nutrient quantity, and some foods such as the staples I list a little further down, are kings and queens of the plant-based jungle.

As we know, eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean limiting yourself to fewer food options than on an omnivorous diet. There are lots of options! While this is good news, it can also be overwhelming. But—like many things, it doesn’t have to be too complicated at all.

Five Staple Foods for Bulking Up

This is the section where calorie needs and nutrient density come together in beautiful union.

By weighing a food’s calories against its nutrient density profile, you’ll set yourself up for success in building muscle. Of course you want to consume as many nutrients as possible, but hitting your calorie goals on kale alone just won’t cut it.

So where do you start? Here are five staple foods to include in your bulking up program, based on their nutrient-to-calorie ratios and caloric density:

  1. Oats
  2. Potatoes
  3. Beans/lentils
  4. Brown rice
  5. Bananas/other fruits

With variations of just these five staple foods alone, you can create lots of variety and overall nutrition to help you in your bulking efforts.

Now, let’s put that in action…

Create Muscle-Building Meal Plans

In my new book, Plant-Based Muscle, my co-author Vanessa Espinoza and I provide a great collection of meal plans. I’d like to share two with you now to showcase the variety of foods that can help you hit your caloric goals.

Sample Meal Plan 1 with 2,500 Calories

Breakfast

Oatmeal

  • 1 cup cooked spelt
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower butter
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon                               
  • 1 sliced banana
  • Mix together in a bowl

634 calories, 95 g carbohydrates, 17.6 g protein, 20.4 g fat, 14 g fiber

Snack

Edamame

  • 1 cup

189 calories, 15 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein, 8 g fat, 8 g fiber

Snack  

Fruit

  • 2 cups blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, or any combination of the three

92 calories, 20 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 0 g fat, 3 g fiber

Lunch  

Spinach and Kale Salad

  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • 1 cup raw kale
  • ½ cup cooked brown lentils
  • Any type of veggies you like
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • ½ cooked sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons Follow Your Heart brand vegan honey mustard dressing

495 calories, 71 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 16.3 g fat, 12.3 g fiber

Snack

Nuts and Seeds

  • Handful of raw nuts and seeds (no oil or salt): peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

441 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 15.2 g protein, 36 g fat, 9 g fiber

Dinner

Rice and Bean Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked black rice                                                        
  • ½ cup chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli or asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Mix together on a plate

343 calories, 64 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein , 3 g fat, 10 g fiber

Snack

2 Banana Protein Muffins

  • 4 bananas
  • 1 cup dry oats
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Mix in the remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined. Form into 12 balls and place on a cookie sheet or in a muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes.

For 2 banana muffins: 259 calories, 34.8 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 14.8 g fat, 5.6 g fiber

Totals

2,453 calories, 313.8 g carbohydrates, 93.8 g protein, 98.5 g fat, 61.9 g fiber

Sample Meal Plan 2 with 2,900 Calories

Breakfast

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons chia
  • 1 banana
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds

699 calories, 96 g carbohydrates, 23.8 g protein, 24.4 g fat, 20 g fiber

Snack

Fruit and Nut Butter

  • Apple and 1 tablespoon peanut butter

275 calories, 31 g carbohydrates, 7.5 g protein, 15.3 g fat, 6.4 g fiber

Or, Protein Shake

  • Vegan protein shake with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, water, and ice

211 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 7g fat, 5 g fiber

Lunch

Sweet Potato Plate

  • 6 ounces baked tofu using different types of seasoning
  • ½ cup sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups roasted or steamed veggies

698 calories, 62 g carbohydrates, 45 g protein, 30 g fat, 5 g fiber

Snack

Veggies and Hummus

  • Raw veggies of any kind (I like to keep chopped up celery, carrots, cucumbers, and radishes in the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons hummus

78 calories, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 3.8 g fat, 2 g fiber

Snack

Nuts and Seeds

  • Handful raw nuts and seeds (no oil or salt): peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

441 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 15.2 g protein, 36 g fat, 9 g fiber

Dinner

Black Bean Bowl

  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup cooked brown basmati or black rice, farro, or quinoa
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ½ cup salsa of your choice
  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast
  • Mix together in a bowl

658 calories, 96.6 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 18.3 g fat, 26.2 g fiber

Snack

Fruit

  • 1 cup strawberries and 1 cup blueberries

122 calories, 28 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 0 g fat, 6 g fiber

Or, Protein Shake

  • Vegan protein shake with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, water, and ice

211 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 7 g fat, 5 g fiber

Totals

2,971 calories, 336.6 g carbohydrates, 122.5 g protein, 127.8 g fat, 74.6 g fiber

With optional protein shakes:

2,996 calories, 303.6 g carbohydrates, 161 g protein, 126.5 g fat, 72.2 g fiber

Combine an Effective Exercise Program for Desired Results

I’ve talked a lot about nutrition in this article, but before you think gaining muscle is all about eating, an effective exercise program is unsurprisingly a key component. I won’t go into too much detail here (there are plenty of lifting routines out there), but I do want to share the fundamental principles everyone should follow:

  1. The foundation of your workout program should consist of barbell and dumbbell free weight exercises.
  2. Perform exercises you enjoy. Ultimately, if it isn’t fun, you will find a way to avoid it.
  3. Create a workout program that targets all major muscle groups, including, legs, chest, back, shoulders, arms, and abs, to ensure you stimulate muscle growth throughout your whole body, not just your chest and biceps. You can train one muscle group per day, for five or six major workouts per week, or you can combine multiple muscle groups into a single workout.
  4. Consistency is key to success. You will need to put in the requisite time in order to attain desired results.
  5. Set attainable goals.
  6. Document your workouts as a way to hold yourself accountable.

The key is to train hard with consistency and with a level of intensity geared toward igniting and eliciting change and forward progress.

Set Goals and Objectives and Track Your Progress

A great exercise and nutrition plan creates an excellent foundation for your bodybuilding goals. The next step is to create actionable goals with attainable objectives.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Goal: Add 10 pounds of total mass over the next 6 months. (Pro-tip: Share your goal with some friends and on social media, and hold yourself accountable by providing regular updates, good or bad.)

Timeline: Add 2 pounds of mass per month (muscle, fat, and water weight), and evaluate progress monthly.

Action Plan: 5 days per week of resistance weight training, and develop a nutrition plan that supports your goal by meeting your calorie and other nutritional needs.

It’s also important to track your progress daily. Not only your gains, but also track the food you eat.

This may seem tedious at first, but I’ve found that over time, it becomes second nature, and with little effort you’ll be able to construct a nutrition program that will set you on the path to success.

Meal tracking can be the secret sauce to your muscle-building plan. But of course, sometimes, life gets in the way.

Recently, I spent many months editing, revising, and re-writing a book I spent nearly two years writing. I was working 12- and 15-hour days leading up to the day I submitted the manuscript for printing. Subsequently, I took some days off from the gym, and my nutrition plan took a hit too, and things like frozen vegan burritos made their way into my diet…

I’m not afraid to admit it. I wasn’t tracking or focused on my goals, and inevitably, things went awry.

But, after submitting my manuscript, I got back to documenting meals and workouts, and in just one month, the results were obvious:

Transformation

Had I put more effort into tracking what I ate throughout those busy weeks and months, I wouldn’t have slipped as far as I did.

Tracking holds you accountable, and gives you a clear picture of what you’re eating, what you’re not eating, and where you’re falling short.

I use Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, or the Shred It! 13-Week Training Journal to document my daily meals and workouts to have an accurate account of my efforts. This way I can look back at my progress to see where I’ve hit my goals or where I need to make some adjustments.

You Have the Tools, Now Make it Happen

My experience in building muscle on a plant-based diet took decades of trial and error—but your experience can be so much better! The systems and approaches I outlined above have proven effective time and time again, not only for me but also for the thousands of plant-based athletes who have followed these principles.

Your exact approach will be filled with variation and interpretation, but the core concepts remain true and lead to success: set meaningful goals, eat healthy with whole plant foods, perform exercises you truly enjoy, and be consistent.

Now make it happen. I believe in you.

About the Author: Robert Cheeke is the best-selling author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Shred It! and Plant-Based Muscle, a two-time champion bodybuilder, and the founder/president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness.

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Mindful Cooking, Flavors, and Keeping Food Simple with the Buddhist Chef

Organic Raw Soy Tofu

How does a classically trained French chef turn into one of the most popular vegan recipe developers on Facebook?

Ask Jean-Philippe Cyr, The Buddhist Chef. He’s made a name for himself not by whipping up thousands of mediocre recipes, but by creating carefully crafted, reliable meals, and doing so in a mindful way.

We frequently share Jean-Philippe’s recipes in the Academy and the Tribe newsletter, so when we had the chance to bring him on the podcast to discuss his food philosophy, it was a no-brainer.

In today’s episode, Jean-Philippe Cyr shares his take on maximizing flavors, mindfulness, and why it’s important to keep recipes simple in order to grow this community.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • French flavors in vegan recipes.
  • How Buddhism and food connect.
  • Soy sauce in your tomato sauce?
  • Why simple is important.
  • Making it big on Facebook.

Click the button below to listen now:

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Join the Tribe and support No Meat Athlete Radio.

If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

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