Vegan Bulking Update #1


Word Count: 1000 |  Time to Read: 5 minutes

1:2015 (1)

In the two months since I declared my intention to bulk, few things have gone according to plan.

I came down with a nasty cold within a week of my first post, which destroyed my appetite and limited my time in the gym. Then, less than three weeks later, my energy was again sapped, this time by a stress-induced sickness that completely wiped out the promising development I’d made.

Perhaps even worse, I failed to live up to Abe Lincoln’s famous 1864 campaign phrase, “Don’t change horses in the middle of a stream,” and switched programs soon after recovering from my second ailment.

Nonetheless, I have made some very encouraging– and surprising– gains in each of my lifts and my muscles are certainly indicative of the hard work I’ve put in.


I often claim to be an ardent follower of the Quantified Self (QS) movement, which posits that tracking different aspects of one’s life through technology will help reveal periods of peak performance as well as other surprising trends. For instance, at the time of this post, I have tracked my sleep over the last 1,080 nights of my life and have observed that reading for at least ten minutes before bed will greatly decrease the difficulty of falling asleep, independent of the amount of sleep I received the night previous.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 11.21.59 AM

Despite this obsession desire to monitor different areas of my life, I found tracking calories to be a challenging endeavor. I used MyFitnessPal, which has both online and mobile formats, for about the first two weeks before my motivation plummeted. Although the interface is easy to use and visually pleasing, having to punch in the amount of blueberries I had in my morning oatmeal or the size of the sweet potato I ate for dinner greatly decreased the simple pleasure that normally accompanies eating.

Therein lies the major disadvantage of the QS movement– it gets in the way of living. Understanding the factors that allow me to obtain restful sleep is surely important, but there has to be a limit. For me, the line was drawn at monitoring each morsel of food that entered my mouth.

So, in lieu of keeping track of my calorie intake, I’m afraid to say that I simply began stuffing my face as much as possible while still keeping within the tenets of a clean, vegan bulk. Some nights I had a dessert, others, I ate a small dinner. Because of my lack of data, I can’t accurately report how many calories and grams of protein I consumed on a daily basis. I think that the numbers below tell enough of the story.


While I was perhaps not as strict with monitoring my diet, my supplement intake gave the appearance of military precision. Within moments of finishing my workout, I guzzled down a power-packed vegan protein shake, full of brown rice and pea protein powder complete with creatine and CarboGain.

About an hour before bed each night, I had another shake, minus the creatine, in order to fuel my body when it was growing most. One of most restorative parts of sleep comes with the release of Human Growth Hormone, or HGH, by the pituitary gland, which peaks during the deep sleep (NIH). I’ll include my sleep numbers down below.


I ditched my beloved 5×5 program when I realized that working out only three times a week wasn’t cutting it for me. I began focusing on a different muscle group (chest, back, shoulders, legs, and arms) during each of my workouts. I also switched from a stringent 5-rep minimum to  the 4-6 rep range, which is supposed to be better for gaining strength due to the resulting myofibrillar hypertrophy (increase in actin and myosin filaments). 

Most of my workouts focus on three key movements that target different aspects of the muscle group in question. I go into further detail here, but offer an example below.


  • Flat Bench, 3x(4-6)
  • Incline Bench, 3x(4-6)
  • Cable Crossover, 3x(8-10)

While the flat bench targets the larger sternocostal head of the pectoral, incline bench works the often neglected and smaller clavicular head that is found, as the name suggests, near the clavicle. The cable crossover, meanwhile, aims directly for area of the pectorals next to the sternum. It’s also a great way to finish a workout.

My Numbers So Far

10/21/14 1/2/15 CHANGE
Weight 159 lbs.  164  +5 lbs
Chest 37.75″ 39.25 +1.5″
Waist 29.5″ 30 +.5
Hips 33″ 34 +1
Left Quad 20″ 22.5 +2.5
Right Quad 20″ 22.5 +2.5
Left Bicep 12.25″ 13.25 +1
Right Bicep 12.25″ 13 +.75

The growth of my arms and my chest was probably the most noticeable. With luck, I’ll finally move up to a ‘medium’ in t-shirt size. On the other hand, the difference in growth between my left and right bicep is a bit confounding. Being right-handed, my right side is normally a tad stronger compared to my left– that exact phenomenon was observed in the gym. Thus, the above disparity simply presents one of the most important maxims in fitness:


Size ≠ Strength

Although I didn’t gain 10 pounds or get 15 inch biceps, my strength undoubtedly increased as a result of the work I put in.

10/21/14 1/2/15 CHANGE
Back Squat 195 lbs. 205 +10 lbs.
Front Squat 155 165 +10
Flat Bench 145 170 +25
Military Press 80 90 +10
Deadlift 275 275 0
Push-Ups (MAX) 70 75 +5
Pull-Ups (MAX) 21 19 -2

Absolutely outstanding gains on the flat bench, which was once my weakest lift. The same, however, couldn’t be said for the deadlift, which evidently plateaued in the last two months. In the coming weeks, I’ll likely deload to about 250 lbs. and start the climb from there.

Another component to factor in was the large amount of sleep I received in the past month. I averaged just over 7.5 hours a night– a far cry from my usual 6.5, which barely sustains me through college. Being more cognizant and strict with my sleep strict is sure to pave the way for more consistent gains in the future.

And now, off to Israel!

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