The Plant-Based Power Guide to Hitting the Gym

If you are a vegan who is getting into fitness, you might need to modify what you eat here and there, but you won’t need to modify what you do in the gym. It’s completely possible to get bigger, stronger, faster, and leaner on a plant-based diet. It’s time to read up, hit the fridge, and smash some weights!

buff-guys-gym

Left to right: Nick Diener, other buff dude, other buff dude, other buff dude

Nick Diener, fitness junkie and singer of the four-piece punk band The Swellers has joined with peta2 to share tips on eating right and exercising so you can feel your best!

About the author: I got into lifting weights and eating to get bigger and stronger about a year ago. Since then, I’ve gained 30 pounds and made significant gains in size and strength. Warning: I am in no way a professional trainer or nutritionist. But I’ve found what works for me, and I’m happy to share it! Follow me and hit me up on Twitter @nickdiener. I’m happy to help with any questions that you may have, and I’m always open to advice and suggestions as well!

1. Set Your Goals

Do you want to bulk up and build muscle? Do you want to lose weight? Are you already muscular but want to cut some fat? Do you want to build endurance and keep your heart healthy? How many days a week can you and do you want to work out? Think about what you want to achieve. Remember: An hour is only 4 percent of your 24-hour day.

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2. The Right Nutrition Plan

With any body transformation, what you eat is half the battle—seriously:

  • If you’re eating to get big and strong, eat a lot.
  • If you want to lose weight, eat fewer calories and eliminate junk food.
  • If you’re lifting, keep protein-filled foods handy and don’t be afraid of carbs!

Most workout programs will include a suggested nutrition program. Online calorie calculators can help you get a good understanding of what your body might need.

3. Modify 

Standard workout meal plans will almost always include animal products. Luckily, you can make some easy substitutions to get the show on the road:

Vegan protein powder

  • Substitute meat-based recipes with vegan-friendly options. Most mock meats are comparable to the real thing in taste and are still loaded with protein. Three of the most popular muscle-building foods (sweet potatoes, oats, and brown rice) are already vegan! Get creative in the kitchen and try to hit your macros!
GardeinGardein

4. The Right Exercise Program

When it comes to working out, listen up: if you’re not sure what you’re doing, do not just go to the gym (or basement) and attempt to “figure it out.” Your time is valuable, and not seeing results is disheartening, so your workouts need to be tested and effective.

Nick diener workout

Here are my two favorite places to find new workouts, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran of the iron:

  • B.U.F.F. Dudes: B.U.F.F. stands for “Better Understanding of Food and Fitness.” These guys are smart and hilarious, and they look great. Their website contains workouts that can be done in the gym or at home, so no excuses! They even have great recipes that will help you with number 2 (on this list, not pooping), but with some of them, you’ll need to work on number 3 (“modify,” not … yeah, I don’t know).
  • Bodybuilding.com: This site has plans for men, women, bulking up, losing fat—everything! Stick with the eight- to 12-week programs, and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

5. Quality, Not Quantity 

This applies to everything. The websites mentioned above will have video tutorials on how to do many of the exercises in their programs with proper form. Do not sacrifice form for more repetitions. This can lead to a less effective workout or, worse yet, serious injury. Until you get the moves down:

  • Practice.
  • Watch yourself in the mirror.
  • Use less weight.

When it comes to food:

  • As tempting as it is to go a little overboard with vegan junk food, don’t eat 85 Oreos in one sitting because you need more calories and want to bulk up.
  • On the other hand, just because a banana or an apple is vegan and nutritious doesn’t mean you should eat 31 of them a day. Watch your sugar and fat intake and think lean. It’s for your health!

6. Inspiration 

Google these names:

patrik-baboumian-psa

peta2 ufc fighter mac danzig vegan testimonial print psa

They’re all great reminders that it is in fact possible to succeed as a vegan fitness buff.

7. Stick to Your Guns and Be Realistic

A lot of workout programs don’t tell you that your first week back (or first week ever) is going to suck. Your joints, ligaments, and muscles and even your mind have to get used to this new, awesome thing you’re doing. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your body needs consistency, intensity, and focus to become better.

8. Take Your Vitamins

With all the added stress you’re now putting on your body, you should be taking a multivitamin. It sucks that most pills are coated in gelatin (gelatin = animal bones), but don’t sweat it! There are plenty of vegan-friendly vitamins out there. Two of my favorites are:

9. Supplement

There are supplements available to fit nearly every need. Do your research and find out what you think will benefit you. Here are a few products that I like to use and when I find them most effective:

  • Pre-Workout: Try a pre-workout powder 20 to 30 minutes before lifting. Vega Pre-Workout Energizer is an awesome natural approach. I also use Cellucor C4 Extreme for a super-explosive workout. A creatine supplement is an optional addition that can be used 30 minutes before a workout.
  • During Workout: I add Cellucor BCAA to my water bottle and sip on it throughout my workout. It helps with recovery, building muscle, and soreness, and it tastes great!
  • Post-Workout: Whip up a tasty protein shake five to 20 minutes after lifting.

Nick diener oatmeal shake

10. Don’t Let the Meatheads Drag You Down

There are always going to be naysayers and “experts” when it comes to eating a plant-based diet—you won’t get big, you won’t get enough protein, you’ll get man boobs from eating soy, etc.

Newman what reaction gif

Getting buff on a vegan diet may seem challenging, but just remember why you chose to eat the way you do. For me, it’s about compassion and ethics. There is so much suffering in the meat and dairy industries. I don’t think an animal needs to be killed or exploited for any gain of mine. The health benefits are just a bonus! Just listen to what I told peta2 about food ethics more than a year ago when I was 30 pounds lighter and didn’t even lift, bro:

P.S. I’ve been eating quite a bit of soy for 12 years now. No man boobs. Suck it.

 

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  • Profile photo of llkkdd7

    355 days ago

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    Don’t forget Mike Tyson!

  • Profile photo of loveeanimals

    382 days ago

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    I want to get fit so I can have more energy to go out and save more animals!!

  • Profile photo of tianna

    387 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    i want to get fit because i want to look and feel better for myself!

  • 388 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    Thanks for the giveaway…family history of heart disease has spurred me to get serious about my health / fitness to enjoy a long & full life !

  • Profile photo of Bradmer12

    389 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit because I have been really skinny my whole life and I’m tired of people calling me “twig” or seeing if they can fit their hand around my arm.

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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      Don’t be afraid to eat more food and pick up those weights!

  • 390 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I would love to get more in shape because fitness is very important for both the mind and body.

  • Profile photo of Mashy68

    390 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I so wanna try! Love what I read! I am vegetarian bordering Vegan & need a boost in my workouts!

  • Profile photo of keanadunn

    390 days ago

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    I have been a vegan for the past 2.5 years and recently started working out, hard. And I was in desperate need of a protien shake. Where I live there arnt any vegan protiens near me. I went into the GNC in my town and nothing, and I don’t have the money to order vegan protien online. I was forced to go vegitarian for my protien. I bought the most natural whey protien I could find, but still eat and drink every thing else vegan. I only go vegitarian for my protien. But my body keeps rejecting it. I get really sick sometimes when I drink my protien. So I would love the opertunity to go back to being 100% vegan.

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

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      Very admirable that you’re still eating and drinking everything vegan, even if you chose a dairy-based protein powder. I’d love to see you go back to 100% animal-product free.. and this protein powder that you can order online is extremely cheap and there is LOTS of it in every container. Hell, I’d order 2-3 of them at a time just because! $19, some shipping.. totally worth it. Tastes great and won’t leave your stomach upset, hopefully! http://www.bodybuilding.com/store/un/isolate.html

  • Profile photo of HisWabbit

    390 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit because it’s healthier. I chose to be vegetarian because I love animals, but then I learned that it can be so much healthier. Being in college has made it tough to be a vegetarian and healthy but it’s not impossible. I just want to be able to say that I’m fit and I’ve helped animals along the way.

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

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      might be time to pick up some groceries! i know that can be tough, too, with college life and all, but having some meat substitutes/beans available can keep you going strong. Maybe some protein bars, even a protein powder drink/fruit smoothie to boost that energy.

  • 390 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I am already vegan, but I want to get more in shape. My plan is to run a ton of 5k & 10k runs this summer, so I need to start training now!! I love the comment about the man boobs!!!

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

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      Hammer Nutrition is geared heavily toward runners. It’s awesome that they have so many vegan products. Check out the Fizz (electrolyte replacement) especially for those 10ks. I’m not much of a runner but it’s a great challenge! Just did a 5K a couple weeks ago.

  • 390 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    Once you start getting healthy and continue to stay healthy, it’s gets harder and harder to break the “healthy” habit. Just like becoming a vegan.

  • Profile photo of cateybatey

    391 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I recently broke my knee in an ice skating accident and am currently in physical therapy. Over the summer, I have to focus on rehabilitation and getting fit again, because in September I’m going to Kenya and Tanzania for three months to work in wildlife conservation on various refuges. The program is said to be physically taxing, so I need all my strength. The protein bars would be incredibly helpful in that scenario – it’s going to be difficult being vegetarian in Africa!

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

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      I’ve done my fair share of traveling, sometimes in third world countries, and you’re right! It can be a bit difficult at times. Luckily, beans and rice are a huge staple in African countries. Plenty of protein and carbs to keep you going. Try to stock up on nuts as well. Do stock up on protein bars when you can, though!

  • Profile photo of choreokitty

    392 days ago

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    I’m a dancer, so I’m already pretty fit, but I strive for perfection. I want everyone to know the health, environmental, and ethical advantages of being vegan! And what better way than having them look at me and say “Dang you’re hot! How’d you do it??”
    Because seriously, who doesn’t want to feel better in their own skin AND be making a difference in the world! :)

  • Profile photo of silvermonkeyding

    392 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit so I can make an even bigger difference for animals and show the meat heads that its even better to be a veggie head!

  • 393 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit so that when the worldwide revolution by the animals against the humans start I will be ready. I will be a traitor, I will be with the animals.

  • 394 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and low protein diets in my family to cook for and we are a healthy, active group of people. No one is weak and helpless. I would like these products for my family to try.

  • Profile photo of euchre35

    394 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I would love to win this for my brother in law – give him an alternative to what he is currently using.

  • Profile photo of Love3570

    394 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I used to be very fit and felt great. I let myself go and want to get back the same feeling I had.

  • Profile photo of brettr311

    395 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    Im on active duty in the military and the other guys clown me all the time for being a vegan… these products would really help me take my workouts to another level and show them vegans can kick @$$ too!

    • Profile photo of PlantBasedPaige

      393 days ago

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      @brettr311 all Vega products are Informed Choice certified so they are safe for military personnel, professional athletes, government workers or any one that gets regular blood testing!

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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      I single-bicep salute you!

  • 396 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    i want to win cuz fitness is already a huge part of my life but i am a new vegan and just really looking for products to help me out combining fitness and veganism!

  • Profile photo of jiahui7

    396 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit to feel better about my body in my mind and have my body tell me it feels good too!

  • 398 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 5yrs now, I’m looking to get even healthier. Had a terrible accident last year and gain a lot of weight. It’s my time

  • Profile photo of SayyLaVee

    398 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    2

    I love being fit and maintaining my health and these vegan products would help me do that while still saving lives.

  • Profile photo of tiff321

    400 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    i want to be fit because i want to healthy

  • Profile photo of 2014arianna

    400 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I became vegan for the animals and also to be healthier and to get fit and lose weight. Getting fit and losing weight (for me) would help me to be healthier.

  • Profile photo of marialovesmusic4

    400 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I want to get fit because it is finally my time to. It’s been on and off for so long and I am just ready to make this change. I mainly want to just to be healthier and live a long life but also because I’ve set goals and have wanted to achieve them for so long. It’s time! :)

  • Profile photo of KelseyLiz

    400 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I want to be more fit so that I have more energy and get happier! :]

  • Profile photo of sarrie

    400 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I want to get fit to be healthy and become strong

  • Profile photo of aashi20

    400 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    iloveanimals

  • Profile photo of beachsweeps

    401 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    56 years need to stay fit!

  • Profile photo of DrinaMoore

    401 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to be more fit because I want to be healthier and live a long healthy life. I want my body to be in good shape. I want to be able to take the stairs instead of the elevator and not be out of breath when I reach either the top or bottom (depending on which way I’m going).

  • Profile photo of dmasz91

    401 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    i want to get fit so i can feel confident when i try to surf

  • Profile photo of cheesefairy12

    401 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit so I can be proud of myself

  • Profile photo of stinapopik

    402 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    This is what I have been waiting for! Thanks for all the tips! I’m thirteen but I already know I want to be a firefighter! I tried lifting to build muscle but I was having a really hard time and I gave up. But I’m ready to try again. I’ve been trying to do some research but this is just what I need. Not only do I want to be strong for the job but I don’t like how skinny I look especially in my arms. I really hope this helps!

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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      That is awesome! Firefighters definitely need to be tough. All that equipment is heavy, not to mention when they’re carrying people out of wreckage and other crazy hero stuff like that. Find one of the beginner programs on http://www.bodybuilding.com and stick with that, and also the Buff Dudes have videos for teen bodybuilding and weightlifting on their youtube channel. Hope that helps. Stay buff.

  • Profile photo of Sam908

    402 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit because I want to take the best care of my body I possibly can so that I can live a healthier, happier life.

  • Profile photo of alexisricheson

    402 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to be healthy to lose weight and to cure my health problems. I also want to be a better athlete and to prove you can be healthy as a vegan

  • Profile photo of AlexRedmin

    402 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I want to get fit because I NEED to get fit :b I’ve been a real couch potato lately and I think its about time I start working out again :) and what better way to start out than to get a hook up with Peta and Hammer Nutrition! :D I’ve been jogging, running, push ups, etc. and this would just help out a whole lot more!

  • Profile photo of Meg525

    402 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit so that I will be healthier and feel better.

  • Profile photo of Catgurl14

    402 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit because I try to take good care of my body and love it no matter what.

  • Profile photo of NeverTakeMyHeart

    403 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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    I want to get fit because I want to be healthier, and I want to be able to play sports in college and do well.

  • Profile photo of fadingaway

    403 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I want to get fit so I can prove to guys girls can be just as strong, or stronger ;D

    • Profile photo of nickdiener

      385 days ago

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

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      Is that a challenge?! No way, that’s awesome. I’m sure you’re already stronger than a handful of dudes who walk around the gym “acting” like they’re working. Keep it up!