Can you get sufficient amount of protein and energy for weightlifting three times a week from a 100 percent plant-based diet? One of my fitness goals for this year is to get to 20% body fat while gaining more muscle. This process is known as "body recomposition". To get there, I need to go through a cutting phase, which consists of creating a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than my body burns) and sticking to my workout plan. The expected result if successful in this endeavor: more muscle definition and reduced fat stores all over, in other words, a major physique improvement!
According to research, the best kind of exercise to do while in a calorie deficit is resistance training or weight lifting. Strength training during a cutting phase is critical to maintaining as much lean muscle mass as you can while in a calorie deficit. In fact, the difference between cutting and a regular diet is that with a regular diet you often lose muscle mass.
10 days ago I started my first ever round of cutting, which means eating fewer calories while also making sure I am getting enough protein. Protein may become a challenge if the diet is strictly plant-based. I currently train (weightlifting) three times a week, I also surf and practice yoga so having enough energy for these activities plus my daytime job and social life is very important to me.
Here are the steps I took to turn my first cutting phase into an actionable plan for those who, like me, hate meal prepping but love to eat healthy and as much plant-based as possible:
- Know my average daily "burn" or TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). I tried a few online calculators + my Garmin smart watch, and found this one from Legion Athletics to be most accurate.
- Figure out how many calories I should eat to lose fat. I went with the 25% approach from Thinner Leaner Stronger (by @muscleforlifefitness) as I got intrigued by a research-backed and life-proved book on how to “build the perfect female body”.
- Cutting strategy: 25 percent below TDEE until I get to 20% BMI, hopefully within 6-8 weeks. For example, I established my TDEE at 1900 calories. I should drop my calories about 25% so here's how the math looks: 1900 - 25% = 1425 calories.
- Calculated cutting macros. Based on Thinner Leaner Stronger it is as follows:
40% - protein
40% - carbs
20% - fat
- I used the MyFitnessPal app to calculate calorie % to macro goals, which came down to:
150g - protein
150g - carbs
33g - fat
- Signed up for a plant-based meal plan Splendid Spoon and just finished my first week of lunches and smoothies. They have a number of filters to help narrow it down by meals that are lower sugar, lower fat or higher protein etc. Here's my biggest challenge: I would only get about 50 grams of protein if I were to only eat plant-based meals. How on Earth do I get +100 grams more of protein?!
- Figured out additional sources of protein: as I need about 150g of protein per day, I'm supplementing with a plant-based organic protein from Orgain (it mixes and tastes really well, my favorite flavor is chocolate) - about 21g per serving. I'm also adding shrimp, fish or tofu to every meal and have a two-egg omelet for breakfast. It is still a challenge to get to 150g of protein but my BMI is already down .2% and counting.
While I find it difficult to get all of my protein from a strictly plant-based diet, I still get all of the benefits of eating primarily veggies and am able to save a lot of time on meal prepping, grocery shopping and cooking with Splendid Spoon. All of the soup bowls, smoothies and salads I have tried so far are well balanced, delicious and come from a variety of globally-inspired cuisines like Indian, Moroccan, Mediterranean and others. I love that it saves me time to focus more on my fitness goals while eating healthy and clean.