How my Vegan Client Beat 435,000 Contestants and Won BodyBuilding.com’s $200K Transformation Challenge
With the new year upon us and everyone embracing a “new year, new me” mentality, I thought it perfect timing to share one of my favourite client success stories and more importantly, dish out my biggest and best-kept vegan coaching secrets as to how exactly I helped one of my clients go from meat eater to vegan and WIN Bodybuilding.com’s $200,000 12 Week Transformation Challenge in 2015.
Before I begin, however, allow me to plug the fact that my eBook “Jacked on the Beanstalk: Plant-Based Fuel for Vegan Athletes” does include a sample meal plan for anyone interested in “peeking under my skirt” (or blinged out, ass-baring bikini bottoms I should say) to see exactly how and what I eat at the start of a competition prep. 🙂
Alright, gather ’round, vegan fit fam…
Today’s fitness fable begins exactly two years ago at Veg Expo in Vancouver, BC where I was giving a talk on vegan fitness. I was just about to get on stage when a cute Asian woman with bright pink lipstick and an LA Dodgers hat approached me. We chatted for a little bit before she revealed that she had flown all the way from Los Angeles just to hear MY talk! I was of course both shocked and flattered to hear that Nina, a complete stranger, was inspired enough by lil’ ol’ me to dish out hundreds of dollars in airfare just to hear ME talk about being a vegan bikini competitor. Even if my PowerPoint skills were on point… 😉
After the expo was over, despite being hungry and exhausted, I asked Nina if she wanted a quick tour of downtown Vancouver. Without any hesitation, she immediately said she’d love to and joined me for a stroll along the nearby sea wall.
She told me that she had tried going vegan a few times in the past but always ended up going back to her meat eating ways mostly because she was scared to lose muscle without consuming animal protein.
Many months had passed before I heard from Nina again. But in December of 2014, I received an email from her saying that she was ready to take the vegan plunge once again; and this time, it was for good reason.
Bodybuilding.com—the Internet’s most-visited fitness site—was kicking off its annual $200,000 Transformation Challenge to commence on January 1st, 2015 and conclude on April 3rd.
The 12-week challenge was designed to motivate and incentivize participants to achieve their health and fitness goals with a staggering 435,000 people from all over the world entering.
Winners of the contest were announced on May 11th: two grand prize winners (one male and one female) who received $80,000 each and a people’s choice champion who took home $40,000.
I worked with Nina to create customized nutrition and training plans that worked with her lifestyle and schedule. She worked her ass off (literally) during those three months, decreasing her body fat by 14 per cent (a total weight loss of 21 lbs) while adding almost two pounds of lean muscle mass. Yes, Nina got seriously JACKED ON THE BEANSTALK!
And here’s the best part of all…
Out of the 435,000 applicants, that doubtful, lifelong carnivore who didn’t think it possible to gain muscle on a vegan diet proved just how possible it was when she won the $80,000 grand prize!
Two years later, I am still proud and honoured to have been given the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles and surprise Nina with the bag of CASH. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome it was to fly all the way to her city, exactly one year after she visited mine to present her with a well-earned $80,000 alongside the Bodybuilding.com film crew.
So how did we do it? The million dollar question! Well, $80,000 question I suppose…
First, let it be known that my meal plans are strict. And because we didn’t have much time, Nina was not allowed any sauces or condiments except vinegar, mustard and hot sauce. She was, however, able to use lemon, lime, fresh herbs and spices to her hearts’ content.
Nina ate six small meals everyday, each spaced out every two to three hours and protein with all of them in order to increase muscle tone and definition. I am a big advocate for soy. I’m not big on seitan like many other vegan bodybuilders so instead I rely on organic tofu, tempeh, beans and protein powder for the majority of my protein sources. I usually opt for tempeh over tofu because fermented soy is especially high in vitamins and nutrients. The fermentation process also improves digestibility of the soy beans. And as much as I like the taste of seitan and am by no means “gluten free,” I do find seitan to be bloating therefore keep it off my diet plans when leaning down is the goal.
Because we didn’t have much time to prep, I kept Nina’s carbs quite low except for before and after her workouts where I’d have her consuming anywhere from half a cup to a full cup of rice, yams or oats. I wanted to make sure she had ample amounts of fuel to lift heavy and push herself through those long, tough workouts.
And yes, Nina was working out as much as two or three hours per day sometimes in order to make the most progress in the 12 weeks.
Believe it or not, because her progress was so steady, I had Nina eating fruit right until the very end of her prep but in minimal amounts and always early in the day so she’d be able to burn it off. For veggies, I gave her the option to eat whatever green vegetables she wanted but added more asparagus the closer we got to the end. I emphasized green veggies like spinach, zucchini, broccoli & kale because they’re the lowest in calories (and sugar) but high in vitamins and protein. And of course, asparagus is a natural diuretic containing high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which not only helps to flush out fluids but rids the body of excess salts, resulting in a harder, leaner look. I also got her to consume dandelion root in supplement form (an even more potent naturally-sourced diuretic.)
For women, I’m a firm believer in healthy fats for keeping hormones regulated so I kept fats in Nina’s diet all throughout the 12 weeks. That being said, her fats were quite low. One serving was never more than a tablespoon and her options were basically limited to almond butter, avocado, coconut oil, flax oil or extra virgin olive oil.
This might come as a surprise but Nina was consuming very few supplements. Just BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) to help with protein synthesis and retain muscle mass. L-glutamine to help with soreness and recovery, a good quality multivitamin, a B complex, digestive enzymes to keep those vegan farts and bloating under control and of course, plenty of high-quality plant-based protein powder (like Jacked on the Beanstalk Vegan Protein Powder - wink wink).
For Nina’s training, I had her doing high intensity interval style cardio (HIIT) on an empty stomach most mornings for about 20 – 45 minutes depending on how she was looking. I’m a big fan of fasted cardio in the morning because when your stomach is empty, your body can focus on burning fat rather than digesting food.
She would then do an hour of weight training in the evenings, four or five days per week. I love writing training plans so it was fun to switch things up for Nina all the time. We always kept her muscles guessing with new exercises to avoid hitting a plateau or slow progress. I usually switched up her exercise program every four weeks.
In the beginning, Nina was doing a lot of drop sets or sets with lower reps in the 6 – 8 rep range to help build muscle. Then once she had built a solid foundation of vegan muscle, we increased her sets and reps to 4 or 5 sets of 15 – 20 reps and added a lot of super sets and even triple sets to make her weight sessions more cardio-based in order to really lean her out.
When Nina wasn’t training, she was prepping food. Sundays were her rest day which also meant food prep day.
Preparation is so crucial when following a very specific diet plan. As I always say, when you’re prepared, there is no reason to fail. It only takes a couple of hours to chop up veggies for the week, make a big pot of rice, bake some tofu or pan fry some tempeh. Is it the most fun way to spend your Sunday afternoon? Hell no. But it sure is a small price to pay when you’ve got $80,000 to spend.
Hope you enjoyed this feel-good vegan success story. For anyone interested in learning more about my vegan coaching packages, hit me up! And be sure to follow my own next prep as I get ready to once again hit the stage with Team Plantbuilt this June and rep the veegs in the pro bikini division at the Naturally Fit Super Show in Austin, Texas.
Happy New Year, kids! Let’s make 2017 our fittest one yet (physically, mentally and spiritually.)
– Samantha Shorkey, Jacked on the Beanstalk