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I've been vegan (formerly 4 years a vegetarian) for a little over a year now, and while my reasons for adopting this lifestyle always have been ethics based, I've gradually become more focused on utilizing veganism as a means to improve my athleticism/physical appearance.

Probably about 5-6 years ago I began losing weight after, at 175 pounds, I finally decided to abandon my sedentary lifestyle and get active. Turning vegetarian only aided in my weight loss. I now weigh around 125 pounds (I'm 5'7" and female) and for the last year have been working very hard to become more muscular, toned, and generally physically fit. I would be lying if I said I haven't seen any improvements, but lately I've been a bit discouraged with my progress and just how I've generally been feeling.

Lately I've been feeling extremely fatigued and have been unable to finish some of the intensive HIIT workouts I was able to complete before. This year I've gotten a summer job and, after a morning workout and a full shift, I find myself coming home absolutely drained of energy. Sometimes I barely have enough energy to stay awake after making and eating dinner.
In the past few months I have modified my diet to be even healthier (meaning that I eat 85-90% whole, unprocessed foods and have been sticking to a macro-nutrient ratio of about 70-75% carbs, 15-20% protein, and, ideally, less than 10% fats). I eat very low sodium and do not consume any added oils. I work out 6 days per week, alternating strength training with cardio/HIIT.

I'm looking to increase my muscle mass and achieve a lean physique, though not at the expense of my overall fitness. I want to be a well-rounded athlete but am struggling to find the energy to work out really hard. I don't want to lose any more weight, but I don't want to gain fat, either. A lot of online sources seem to claim that you can only achieve good body building results by doing "bulking" and "cutting" phases, but that doesn't seem very healthy to me, and I can't stand the thought of ballooning up like that, even for a short period of time. Do you have any advice for my nutrition, or an exercise regime I should follow?
 

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I've been vegan (formerly 4 years a vegetarian) for a little over a year now, and while my reasons for adopting this lifestyle always have been ethics based, I've gradually become more focused on utilizing veganism as a means to improve my athleticism/physical appearance.

Probably about 5-6 years ago I began losing weight after, at 175 pounds, I finally decided to abandon my sedentary lifestyle and get active. Turning vegetarian only aided in my weight loss. I now weigh around 125 pounds (I'm 5'7" and female) and for the last year have been working very hard to become more muscular, toned, and generally physically fit. I would be lying if I said I haven't seen any improvements, but lately I've been a bit discouraged with my progress and just how I've generally been feeling.

Lately I've been feeling extremely fatigued and have been unable to finish some of the intensive HIIT workouts I was able to complete before. This year I've gotten a summer job and, after a morning workout and a full shift, I find myself coming home absolutely drained of energy. Sometimes I barely have enough energy to stay awake after making and eating dinner.
In the past few months I have modified my diet to be even healthier (meaning that I eat 85-90% whole, unprocessed foods and have been sticking to a macro-nutrient ratio of about 70-75% carbs, 15-20% protein, and, ideally, less than 10% fats). I eat very low sodium and do not consume any added oils. I work out 6 days per week, alternating strength training with cardio/HIIT.

I'm looking to increase my muscle mass and achieve a lean physique, though not at the expense of my overall fitness. I want to be a well-rounded athlete but am struggling to find the energy to work out really hard. I don't want to lose any more weight, but I don't want to gain fat, either. A lot of online sources seem to claim that you can only achieve good body building results by doing "bulking" and "cutting" phases, but that doesn't seem very healthy to me, and I can't stand the thought of ballooning up like that, even for a short period of time. Do you have any advice for my nutrition, or an exercise regime I should follow?
I'm looking to build some muscle too. So I'm interested to see what others can advise....

As far as energy goes, I think you might need to eat more. You've given percentages of the types of food you eat, but I'd be interested to know how much you're eating. It could simply mean you need to eat more. Or, a more varied diet.

As a teen, I mainly just ate a lot of bread and pasta to compensate for any athletic training I was doing and that turned into muscle. Unsure how healthy that actually was. Nowadays, I'd be more inclined to eat a bean salad with brown rice, than just devouring a bowl of white pasta.

Maybe if you give a more detailed run down of what you DO eat in the day (and how much of it) someone might be able to help you out :D
 

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With such a low percentage of dietary fat, it's going to be challenging for you to eat enough calories to support your HIIT workouts. Some of these exercises burn 1000 calories per hour, in addition to the 1800-2000 daily baseline calories that you need ( http://www.calorieking.com/interactive-tools/how-many-calories-should-you-eat/ ).


Your calorie requirements may therefore approach 3000 calories per day, and this can be difficult to do on a very low fat, whole foods diet. Remember, one cup of boiled beans only contains about 240 calories ( http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4430/2 ). One cup of boiled whole grains only contains about 200 calories. One medium potato only contains about 120 calories. One cup of fruit only contains 40-100 calories. Do you think you're getting enough calories to fuel your athletic activity? You might find it useful to add more fatty foods to your diet, such as nuts (700-1000 calories per cup).
 

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I am 120lbs and 5'4 and I am pretty dang slim... at 5'7 Id say you may need to do a bit of a bulk and cut type deal to get the desired muscle mass. I recommend checking out the forums section of myfitnesspal, or perhaps a body building type forum for specific advice.

Best of luck! Dont be afraid to play around with your macros to get your desired results. There are vegan versions of high fat, low fat, high carb, lo carb, high protien etc...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you all so much for your advice! I really appreciate all the responses. I'd be willing to try and modify my diet to include a bit more fat, maybe bumping it up to around 15% to see if that improves my energy level while increasing my caloric intake. Really the only reason I was pursuing such a low fat diet was because of all its proponents you can find for it online (specifically YouTube). I guess I got kind of caught up in all the 80/10/10 buzz and "the fat you eat is the fat you wear" mentality. Though if I'm looking to gain strength and muscle mass I suppose I'd need to consume more healthy fats (a lot of 80/10/10'ers are cardio enthusiasts, in contrast).

A typical day of eating for me would be a fruit smoothie I make for breakfast with 1-1.5 bananas, 1 cup of mixed frozen berries, 2 cups of chopped kale, 1 cup of soy milk, and 1 tbs of cocoa powder. Sometimes I put rice protein powder in it as well if I plan to do strength training later. For lunch I might have 3 oz of tempeh and a huge romaine salad (often a head of lettuce or more) with 1/4 cup of packed raisins. For a snack I might have 3-4 brown rice cakes and a homemade energy bar (they usually are 100-200 calories I guess, depending on which recipe I use). Dinner usually consists of a serving of rice, 1-1.5 baked sweet potatoes and a serving of black beans and peas. Sometimes throughout the day I wander into the kitchen and grab a fistful of raisins or grapes, maybe some crackers too occasionally. My grazing might contribute another 100 calories or so. I probably average around 1,700-1,800 calories, then. My most intensive HIIT workouts burn around 400 calories (according to my Polar heart rate monitor, which I just purchased recently for exactly those workouts). But I haven't been able to do those types of super-strenuous workouts very much lately, as I had previously said.

I know this probably isn't enough calories, but I truly do feel satiated throughout the day and struggle to consume more. It must be all the fiber I'm consuming and the sheer bulk of my meals. Today though I've already implemented some changes. I ate a bowl of oatmeal with a fistful of raisins immediately after my upper body workout this morning, on top of my normal breakfast smoothie, so hopefully if I start doing things like that I'll start replenishing my calories lost and encourage my body to build muscle rather than consume it for energy.
 
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I know this probably isn't enough calories, but I truly do feel satiated throughout the day and struggle to consume more. It must be all the fiber I'm consuming and the sheer bulk of my meals.

You got it - that's the key right there. To more easily get calories, you can reduce your consumption of bulky, low-calorie foods (like the romaine lettuce). Just 1/2 head of romaine lettuce is more than enough to supply 100% of your vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2475/2 . A single cup of cooked kale contains almost as much nutrition as that entire 1/2 head of romaine lettuce: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2462/2


You can also increase your consumption of less bulky, calorie-rich foods, like nuts. Just 1/2 cup of walnuts will give you nearly 400 much-needed calories: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3138/2 .


To avoid feeling uncomfortably full, you can also trying eating 4 or 5 smaller meals, rather than 3 huge meals.
 
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