Vegetarian Health And Fitness

I’m long over due for an entry just for the vegetarians. For those who might have missed it, I’m vegetarian myself and I have had a host of vegetarian and vegan clients locally and around the world. For myself, I started out as just a “fussy eater who wouldn’t eat meat” but eventually got my act together and added and incorporated enough new food choices to be able to put a reasonably balanced diet together suitable to maintain good health and pursue my training related goals with a reasonable amount of success.

Being vegetarian or vegan is no disadvantage in the pursuit of weight loss or fitness goals.

What I talk about more often on my blog and facebook is “Flexible Dieting”, which covers what I said above. Rather than having a rigid “eat it and learn to like it, it’s good for you” type of diet that’s been put together by someone else, Flexible Dieting is all about the understanding that you can determine your nutritional requirements and then plan to meet them with your own choice of foods.

Now… this idea is a source of consternation amoungst some people in the health and fitness world. The argument often comes up along the lines of “so what if you’ve met your targets and seen tremendous results from training? You should be eating better and healthier choices of foods!” as if by definition this means we would belligerently abuse the concept by choosing the most dubious options of processed or fast foods. Well, whether or not people should be doing it that way is perhaps another conversation for another day… but the fact remains that people out there have indeed found a way to meet their requirements and produce truly amazing results while regularly consuming what you or I might consider unwise or unhealthy food choices.

If it can be done like that, it can certainly be done on a vegetarian or even a vegan diet.

Flexible dieting recognises that the nutritional content of foods are more important than the source of the food or some arbitrary classification that we ascribe to it. For example, if your total calorific intake is not in excess of an amount that your body can utilise for energy and to grow stronger in response to training, it will indeed all be put to good use regardless of it is broccoli or ice cream. If you are consuming an adequate amount of protein, it will all be put to use to maintain your lean body mass regardless of it being plant, dairy, soy, egg or animal protein. If you are getting sufficient vitamin and mineral intake it will all be put to good use regardless of coming from fresh fruits and vegetables, or processed cereals.

Make no mistake though, this isn’t a license to just eat as much as we want of whatever unhealthy crap we want, and still expect results. We need to meet our requirements and some choices of foods will prove much wiser than others in the pursuit of this goal. Keep in mind too that just because someone does eat a “normal” diet including meat and other animal products is no guarantee that they would be meeting (and not exceeding) their requirements either. If we are wise and if we are serious about results, we’ll have used a scientific method to determine those requirements, and then created a plan to meet them with choices of foods that we’ll enjoy eating. Until you’re at really elite, competition preparation level, your plan doesn’t even need to be all that tight or strict. You can get…. well, you can get at least as far as I’ve gone with a very flexible approach, so long as you get it about right most of the time.

What are the advantages of a vegetarian diet?

I believe in learning your requirements, planning to meet them with your choice of foods, and training strategically to put all of those resources to good use in building your dream body. I don’t believe in lecturing other people on what those choices should be, and in fact I spend a lot of time helping people realise they’ll be a lot happier and see better results when they eat according to their own ideals rather than trying to force themselves to meet someone else’s. If you want to avoid preservatives and additives, be vegetarian, vegan, or whatever else… it’s your choice. My job is to help you achieve your training goals regardless of that choice, not to judge your choices or to try convince you to just copy my diet.

So, advantages of a vegetarian diet? Appropriate fiber intake is crucial for good health and results from training, and you’ll get plenty of this from vegetables and legumes in particular. Micronutrients are also very important, and you’re almost certain to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements effortlessly if you consume a variety of vegetables, as well as fruits. I would suggest avocado and coconut as excellent choices to boost your total calorific intake and to meet your requirements of healthy dietary fats.

What about protein, though?

Latest research suggests that even in athletes, human protein requirements are significantly lower than previously thought. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can easily meet these requirements, and there are numerous other plant based protein sources available. Tofu, tempeh, seitan, quorn… the list goes on.

Ensure success with the right plan to meet your goals with your choice of foods.

Shoot me a message here or on facebook to discuss your options for Online Coaching.

Vegetarian & Vegan Bodybuilding, Weight Loss and General Health And Fitness

Let’s talk vegetarian and vegan body building, and general health and fitness.

Now, over the past year or two as far as my online presence and business focus goes, I’ve been talking a lot about weight loss. Since becoming more involved in the fitness related social networks, micro blogging and so forth, I became more aware of the amount of misinformation (or perhaps, disinformation) being spread, ranging from just over complicated or inaccurate advice all the way through to the promotion of dangerous and damaging unhealthy approaches.

The line between what is just inaccurate or unhelpful and what is dangerous and damaging is vague and blurry. There are any number of different dieting strategies people could adopt and be successful with, but whenever the message is “you must cut out these foods, and you cannot do it without these other foods” we’re straight into inaccurate territory. For people who think “well that’s easy enough, I can do that” it’s all well and good.

More often though, people already doubt themselves and their ability to succeed. You throw a lot of rules and restrictions at them and they doubt their ability to stick to them. They try to force themselves to stick to them, inevitably fail, and then things get messy as people start to associate feelings of guilt or inadequacy with eating and before you know it… actually I double the general public really has any idea how rife this is and what a serious health and mental health issue it has become. If you’re active in or have browsed the supposed “health and fitness” or weight loss tags of the various blogging platforms, you’ll know what I’m talking about already. It is most concerning.

I digress a little especially as I’m supposed to be talking about vegetarian fitness and body building or body sculpting, but my point is that all these rules and restrictions aren’t at all necessary and the responsible message that people in the business (or anyone else) should be promoting is that as long as you know your nutritional requirements (and limits) you really can meet them with your choice of foods and nothing needs to be off limits entirely.

Now watch how smoothly I tie all this together and turn it into a post about vegetarian fitness.

So like I said earlier, I talk and write a lot about weight loss and I’ve become very successful in using Flexible Dieting principles (aka IIFYM) combined with strategic and methodical training to produce some truly amazing results in weight loss, body sculpting and re-composition with clients all around the world. For myself though, my interest is in getting bigger, stronger and more symmetrically proportioned while still remaining relatively lean; known to the general public as “body building” although truth be told I do not really take this anywhere near to the level required to get on stage and compete.

Also, I happen to be a vegetarian at least 99% of the time.

Now, talking earlier about all these unnecessary rules and restrictions, who out there would possibly get told “you can’t do it that way” more than someone trying to get big and strong on a vegetarian diet? Well… you’ve got your vegans I suppose, that’s about it. The point remains the same though. Regardless of the goal, if you know your nutritional requirements you can build your own plan to meet them with your choice of foods. You do need to know those requirements, and you do need to plan and ensure that you meet them… it requires some effort but it is entirely doable for anyone who is serious about trying.

Of course… you also need an awesome training program.

But protein though?

All you vegetarians and vegans out there are already sick of being asked this annoying question by people who suddenly think they’re a nutritionist as soon as they find out you don’t like chewing on animals. Right? Back in my corporate days, as soon as I got a sniffle some joker would instantly chime in with the old “it’s because you don’t get enough protein” line. I’ve ranted about this so many times in the past already. Really though? Because I could tell them exactly how much protein I was getting on a daily basis, due to actually having a nutrition plan I’d created to meet my needs. Also I could probably lift them up over my head and throw them across the room, or tear their arm off and beat them with the wet end if they keep trying to lecture me about things they know nothing about.

If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian… no problem at all, because that means you’ve got your eggs and dairy as protein sources. You can always supplement with whey, soy or other forms of protein shakes if you need to bring up your protein intake. Vegans, you’ve still got your pulses, nuts and seeds and there are now some pretty nice tasting plant based protein supplements available as well.

Something I have been reading up on a little bit lately and trying to get an even better understanding of is the way the human body can actually synthesise protein for itself. What this means is that as long as you’re getting your 9 Essential Amino Acids, your body can synthesise whatever else it needs to produce a complete protein. There is no scarcity of plant based sources for these Essential Amino Acids, and as a vegan these sources will make up the majority of your total daily calorific intake.

In other words you have very little to worry about, if anything at all.

A good, varied vegetarian or vegan diet will also mean an excellent micronutrition (that means vitamins and minerals) profile, as well. One could safely bet, much better than those of the average misinformed meat eater lecturing you about protein as if it is the only important aspect of nutrition.

Winter weight gain

Wow haven’t I been a little slack lately with the amount of time since the last update?

Actually I’ve been quiet busy, finishing off my online personal training packages, working with clients, my own training and so on, so I haven’t been all that lazy really.

So for the Autumn and Winter I’m upping the calories to add some muscle mass, following the meal plan included in my vegetarian bodybuilding package, which is about 3000 calories. I’ve talked about this a lot in the past and it’s pretty simple; when you want to lose weight you need to consume less calories than your maintenance level, and when you want to gain weight you need to consume more. And of course you should always be lifting some heavy weights.

Of course, we’re talking about gaining lean muscle mass with a minimum of increased body fat, so where these calories come from is just as important as it would be on a weight loss program. You have to remember, any fat that you put on in the winter will need to be worked off again in the spring, so you still need to be strict with your diet.

Vegetarian body building; protein sources

The other day I was looking at my nutrition plan and trying to increase my percentage of protein intake compared to fats and carbohydrates. If you’ve read my nutrition tips newsletter (if you haven’t, why on earth not? It’s free and full of useful information!) you’ll know that I do not subscribe to these “no carbs” fad diets, HOWEVER if I’m trying to pack on some extra lean muscle without also gaining body fat, I want my increase in calorie intake to be more from extra protein and less from carbs or fats.

Makes sense right?

This is pretty easy to do if you eat meat, but for vegetarians such as myself you’re really limited to either egg whites, or protein powder (whey, rice, pea, soy, whatever type of protein powder) in water. I’m eating enough eggs and protein shakes already so I started doing my homework on other protein sources and realised something I should really have known already.

Here it comes.

I’ve been using TOFU with my evening meal as a protein source and it’s pretty damn good. However when you break it down, the main source of calories is fats. There’s actually more calories from fats than from carbs and proteins combined, although this may vary from brand to brand. Granted these are the essential fats that we do need, but still it’s a lot of calories.

So I looked into some alternatives to tofu and discovered that TEMPEH is even better as a protein source, with the brand I bought reporting a massive (by vegetarian standards) 43% of calories coming from protein, compared to 28% with tofu. These are both soy based products, if you did not know. Personally I prefer the taste of tofu, but I’ll go with tempeh from here on as the macronutrient levels suit my goals better. I shall try marinading the tempeh in some hot sauce and i think I’ll like it more next time.

Another great option is SEITAN which is a wheat based protein source. I’m having trouble tracking some of this down in my local supermarket but according to the information I’ve found, contains a whopping great 64% protein. I NEED to get onto this stuff immediately!

Of course, even though these are vegetarian products we must remember they are essentially a processed food. So it’s important to use them in balance with simple whole foods. Cereals, fruits, fresh vegetables, legumes and so forth.

This autumn and winter I’ll be taking my vegetarian body building to the next level and looking to add a lot of strength and mass. Keep watching the blog  for more on this subject!

Vegetarian bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition.

My dinner... capsicum stuffed with avocado, spinach and tofu nuggets + red lentil and coconut curry.


I’ve been getting a lot of interest and new clients for Vegetarian Bodybuilding, and general fitness for vegetarians too. Obviously I’m always happy to get new clients and have an opportunity to be a part of someone taking their life to the next level through better health and more fun, but vegetarian body building is one of the areas I’m particularly passionate about so to have so much new interest in this particular area is a real bonus.

One of the reasons I’m having some success in this area is because… well… there’s just not that many people doing it! As I’ve talked about in the past, when I first got started with weight training in my late teens (and then again in my mid 20s) I found it very difficult to get any advice from gym instructors, nutritionists or dieticians other than “you have to eat meat”. Haven’t these people heard of chickpeas? Or tofu? Sheesh!

Well that was all quite a long time ago now, and since then the amount of vegetarians around has increased significantly. Whether for religious, moral or ethical reasons, or just because they’re a former problem child / extremely picky eater like me who eventually managed to get their act together but still found the idea of eating meat kind of revolting… well suffice to say there’s plenty of us vegetarians & vegans around these days! But there’s still a real shortage of people in the health and fitness industries who have personal experience and expertise in this area.

Well… that’s about to change because as you may know I am starting a new Personal Training Studio in Oakleigh with my friends from The Combat Academy, and as well as myself we’ll be having a vegetarian martial arts instructor (currently studying nutrition at university), and I also plan on taking on a second vegetarian personal trainer as well.

Back to nutrition for vegetarian bodybuilders… in some ways vegetarianism is an advantage, as you’re more likely to be consuming lots of healthy, high fibre, low calorie salads and other vegetables. Lower calories usually equates to less body fat, so vegetarians are often ahead of the game in maintaining a healthy bodyweight. For bodybuilding though, it makes things a little more of a challenge.

To build muscle we require protein, and lots of it. While there are plenty of options to get protein on a vegetarian diet (especially if you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian who will eat eggs and dairy products), generally they are from foods that also contain a similar amount of fats or carbohydrates. Now I’ve already talked a lot in other blog entries about why fats and carbohydrates are nothing to be afraid of, but as a vegetarian it is more difficult to increase calories from protein without also increasing calories from the other macronutrients. It’s not like we can just grab a tin of tuna and get an all-protein meal like the “normal” people can.

It can still be done, it just requires very careful meal planning.

So… vegetarians out there, whatever your fitness goal is… don’t let ANYONE try to tell you it can’t be done on a vegetarian diet. There are a handful of very successful bodybuilders and strongmen who are vegetarians or vegans. You quite probably have a more modest goal of just building a strong, athletic and attractive physique, which is certainly attainable with the right plan… and the right trainer!

If you’re in Brunswick or Oakleigh, you know who to call (or email) about Vegetarian Personal Training. All you non-vegetarians out there can still call me too, by the way.

My 2000 Calorie Vegetarian Diet

I wrote up a sample diet for all the meat eaters the other day, and I promised I’d have another one for the vegetarians. There’s probably a real shortage of these on the internet so if you’ve been looking for one, well you’ve found it!

This is the diet I am following as part of my plan to get ripped in time for summer. It’s actually a reduced calorie diet for me, as I usually eat closer to 3000 calories while I’m trying to build some muscle mass especially during the winter.

Starting at the beginning with breakfast, I’m having 1 cup of a certain cereal, plus another 1/2 cup of a certain brand of muesli, and I also add a scoop of vanilla whey powder over the top before I pour in my glass of no fat milk. You can’t even believe how good this is for breakfast! Call it about 340 calories and your day is started.

For a mid morning snack I have either an apple or a pear. As I said in the diet plan for meat eaters, I’m not going to count the fruit because I refuse to accept that anyone ever got fat from eating fruit. Also I’d have to change the title of the blog post to “2100 calorie diet”! The high fibre in an apple or pear cancels out the energy content, so I consider these a free ride.

On to lunch and I’ve got a couple of options here which I alternate between. The first one is a couple of bbq soy sausages on two slices of soy and linseed bread, with a little avocado spread on it. Also I like some sweet chilli sauce with these but I haven’t bothered to work that into the calculations. You’re looking at a touch under 500 calories here for lunch.

The other option is my all time favourite, two slices of french toast made with three eggs. This is a bit more calories and will put us up around the 2100 calorie mark for the day, but that’s ok, alternating slightly higher and slightly lower calorie days is a useful strategy. Call it 580 calories if you go with french toast. Of course you could reduce the calories by leaving out one of the egg yolks if you like.

After this is my pre-training protein shake which includes a banana blended in. The banana is a great energy source to fuel a hard session in the gym. I’ve counted the banana in the overall figures unlike the apple and the pear from earlier.

After training you can see I like to have a couple of rice cakes with some jam on them. I subscribe to the theory that after resistance training it’s good to get some carbohydrates in to replenish your muscle glycogen stores and prevent catabolism (muscle breakdown). You can leave these out if you don’t buy into this theory and drop about 160 calories from the diet. Another protein shake comes shortly after this, but no banana this time.

Now it’s just a matter of killing time until dinner and for me this is going to be either chick peas or a 4 bean mix, served with about 1/2 a packet of tofu nuggets on a bed of chopped up 4 leaf salad. Alternatively I might do soy fillet parma with avocado, which is a lower calorie option although WOW look how much protein is in that tofu! Call it 500 calories with the tofu, and around 400 for the soy fillets.

Again I haven’t bothered adding the salad to the totals because that’s the beauty of a salad, it fills you up with a negligible amount of calories. In fact if you want to reduce calories even further, or just want a bigger meal without many extra calories then add in some steamed vegies as well.

Now to the right you can see my daily totals, based on the cereal, protein shakes, rice cakes after training, soy sausages for lunch, and the tofu for dinner. You can see my protein is above the 40% target, carbohydrate just above 30%, and fats just under 30%, so this is a pretty well balanced diet coming in at just over 2000 calories.

Vegetarian fitness and nutrition

Any vegetarians out there can probably attest to some frustration in finding good information and advice when that they can follow regarding the right nutrition plan for their needs. Personally I can’t even guess at the amount of “you can’t do it without meat” lectures I’ve had from misinformed people out there. Once or twice it has even come from someone in the gym who’s come over to ask me for advice, but then argued with me and refused to accept that I could possibly be getting results without eating meat!

There’ll be a million blogs and articles out there talking about body building diets full of chicken and tuna and steak and everything else, but probably quite a few less for the vegetarians. If you’re vegan, even less again!

For the lacto-ovo vegetarians (who consume eggs and dairy products), I’m going to outline my thoughts on how to put together a good meal plan to suit your goals. Luckily for the vegans, there is a wide variety of high protein soy, rice or gluten based products out there as well as the whey, casien and egg white protein that I’ll mention here.

We all know everyone needs a good breakfast, and a good high fibre and high protein cereal is a good start. I’m not going to name any brands specifically, but if you use your common sense (and read the nutritional information on the package) you can easily avoid the sugar loaded cereals and make a healthier choice. Lately I’ve gotten into the habit of adding a scoop of vanilla protein powder to my cereal, as well.

Depending on your goals and the amount of meals you intend to have per day, you may prefer something other than cereal for your breakfast. Eggs are an excellent choice as they are a great source of protein, however be aware of the amount of fat contained in a egg yolk, and depending on your target calorie intake you may need to discard some or all of the yolks. Speaking of eggs I personally am a huge fan of french toast made with soy & linseed bread, and my current nutrition plan includes this for “2nd breakfast” – so I am getting a huge serve of protein from both the eggs and the soy bread, as well as fibre, carbohydrates and vitamins. In my theory, this sets me up perfectly for my weight training routine in the early afternoon.

For lunch depending on your goal and target calorie intake you may consider carbohydrate sources such as potato, sweet potato, rice (basmati is my favourite), pasta or cous cous. Combine these with a good protein source, such as tofu or any meat substitute. Keep in mind with a lot of soy based products there is also a high fat content. Although these are usually the “good” kinds of unsaturated fats, the calorie content is still high and could potentially put you above your target calories. If you are trying to put on weight (like me) and also doing enough cardio and continuous training, this is less of a concern than for people on a limited calorie / weight loss diet.

You definitely want your fresh vegetables included as well, and for those trying to keep their calories low fresh vegetables will suffice for your carbohydrate requirements (so forget the potatoes etc from earlier). Generally I keep my lunch relatively small, as I want to be able to follow it up with a protein shake (milk or soy milk, whey isolate and a banana blended in) around an hour later, and be able to train after that without a full stomach.

After training, it’s important to replace the glycogen stores burned off during your workout. Aside from bodybuilding supplements, I simply use some white rice cakes with jam. Replacing these glycogen stores is essential to prevent the body going into a catabolic state, breaking down muscle tissue and converting it to glycogen (glycogenises). At the same time I like to have another protein shake, with either a banana or some mixed berries blended in.

You really want another high protein meal within the next few hours after training, but by this time I am making my meals smaller than earlier in the day. For the last main meal of the day ideally you would use the “nothing white at night” rule, avoiding high carbohydrate foods such as potato, rice, pasta etc. Again, this is a good time to take in your fresh vegetables, and use chickpeas, lentils, beans etc as your source of protein. Legumes are also high in fibre which makes them an excellent choice as part of your evening meal.

For supper, everyone knows that cottage cheese is the product of choice for body builders. Plain yogurt with some protein powder mixed in is also good.

For snacks through-out the day, obviously you should be taking in fresh fruit, nuts and seeds. Again, if you are on a low calorie / weight loss plan you need to be aware  of the high calorie content in nuts and limit your intake. Of course it is also crucial to drink lots and lots of water!

Use this plan as a framework to build your own nutrition plan that suits your tastes and needs. A good vegetarian personal trainer or dietician can help you further if necessary.

My long term goal is to become the leading vegetarian personal trainer in Melbourne, so all you vegetarians should check back here frequently for more ideas and information. And feel free to leave a question in the comments box below!

Update: Here’s the 2000 calorie vegetarian diet plan I’m using to get lean for summer!

Another Update: More about Vegetarian Fitness.