It can take years to build a body you want, years of commitment, years of gruelling exercise, sacrifices and pushing yourself beyond your limits to achieve your goals. But as with most things in life, anything worth having usually takes a great deal of commitment and self-control to obtain.

No one has ever pretended you can change your body over night or even in a week and it is solely through determination and dedication, as with anything, that you can achieve. Any of these fad diets that can be found scattered around the internet or in glossy magazines can often market themselves as a ‘quick fix’ but none of them demonstrate long-term sustainable results. It’s been proven time and time again that the only real way to change your body is to change your lifestyle; spend time in the gym and eat a balanced, healthy diet. The same is never more true, than when looking at body building. Body building is a sport that sees both men and women, train intensively in the gym consistently with the aim of building a well sculpted, muscular body. There are dedicated competitions which require both physical and mental discipline from competitors to show the best version of themselves against their peers as they are judged by industry professionals.

Not only is there intense training involved in becoming a bodybuilder there is a strict diet that must be followed to help build lean muscle, and this is where it gets interesting. A standard body builders diet is based on high protein intake. It is recommended to consume more protein than you need to help grow muscle, the suggested intake ranges from 0.8g-1.2g of protein per pound of body mass per day. That’s a lot of protein to consume in 24 hours. Here at VLIFE, we want to know how it’s possible for someone to achieve this level of protein intake on a plant-based diet.

Of course it’s not just about the protein, it’s about achieving a long-term maintainable lifestyle whilst not putting yourself at any health risks and more than that, getting enjoyment from what it is you’re working towards.  The key to success in this strict diet is food preparation; planning and preparing meals in advance. This allows for you to get the right nutrition at the right times to help progress towards your goals, it can be challenging but worthwhile when done correctly. Nathan Umagash, 23, is a bodybuilder from Liverpool, he became vegan after discovering and researching the impact the meat and dairy industry place on not only the animals involved but also the environment. We caught up with him to find out about his journey and how he finds time to prepare his meals, train hard in the gym and have an active social life.

He explained, ‘I got into body building when I was about 16-years-old, it was more of something to do at the time but I take it more seriously now. It’s a good way to stay focused and keep your health intact. Dieting with the sole purpose of losing weight can get pretty tedious and hard to sustain, so body building gave me a purpose and encouraged me to keep my diet clean. I’m vegan because I chose to be. In my faith, a lot of people don’t eat meat for religious reasons so going vegan was just one step further for me. Of course I have friends who like to go to Nando’s after the gym and refuel, but things like that I just don’t indulge in. Not because I can’t but because I don’t want to. From being 13 I had started feeling ill when I ate foods which contained dairy so I started to look into what could be causing it. That then lead me onto vegan websites which is where my diet progressed from.’

When asked how he manages to consume enough protein to spike energy levels and promote muscle growth he added, ‘you can get vegan protein powder which doesn’t contain dairy that I have with water but also from foods such as: egg substitutes, lentils, rice cakes, spinach and oats.  I’ll usually have a pre workout shake which helps raise your energy just before training and this really helps to get me through those heavy sessions. Other than that I take amino acids which help to keep both my body and mind focused.’

Nathan aims to get to the gym six days a week which is slightly higher than the average body builder prefers, ‘every body builder is different’ he told us, ‘some prefer three to four times a week if they have other commitments but this tends to be reflected in the physique they hold. A standard training session for me would include up to 12 different exercises depending on the time I have to train. When I first started I probably wouldn’t train as often as I do now and that’s because my recovery time was a little longer than others. I used to get myself really wound up about that. But since I’ve developed my body has got used to it and I am able to train heavier, and more often which is great for me.’

Nathan went on to explain how his cheat meals are limited, but he makes sure to indulge once a week to keep him hungry for success in the gym. He professes to feeling passionate about the lifestyle choices he has made and will do anything necessary to help him on the road to success. When asked if he would consider competing in an industry competition he said, ‘I would consider it definitely. I have considered it. Competition prep is a lot different to off season dieting and the side effects of completely cutting carbs could be a struggle. I think it all boils down to how much you want it and how mentally strong you are, more than physically. But I do think I could do really well on stage if I put my mind to it, my drive to stay healthy and feel good about myself would pull me through, some may call it vanity but after you spend so much time committing to the gym, once you start to see real results it becomes an addiction. There are worse things to be addicted to though.’

Finally, we asked the 23-year-old if he could share any tips for being a successful body builder whilst being a vegan, he explained, ‘it is so important to do your research! Make sure you have supplemented what you will miss and make sure you are 100 per cent committed to the vegan lifestyle because it isn’t without it’s challenges. Many people have started and failed because they haven’t planned out an achievable exercise programme or planned their meals in advance and that can make it harder to motivate yourself to keep going. Expect it to be challenging at first but it does get easier as your body has time to adjust.’

Being a vegan shouldn’t hold you back from achieving your goals, nothing should. Nathan is living, lifting proof that your body can achieve anything, it’s just your mind you need to convince. There are so many inspirational and empowering members of the vegan community that ‘being vegan’ isn’t an excuse anymore. You’ve got this!

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