High Performance Vegan Letters

If You Want To Build Your Next 5-10 Lbs of Lean Muscle - Use This Template

Published about 1 month ago • 9 min read

Want To Build Your Next 5-10 Lbs of Lean Muscle? Use This Template

Date: May 24th, 2024

Read on:

Read time: 5 minutes

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Today’s issue is brought to you by Vegan Fitness Redefined. We help vegans, veg-curious, and plant-based humans get lean, strong, and build healthy bodies.

Are you a high performer who wants to drop body fat, build lean muscle, and tone up while feeling confident in your health?

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I’ve spent the past 13 years mastering my craft.

On average it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.

Whether it’s cooking, coaching, speaking, writing, teaching, skill acquisition is one of the most valuable ways we can add value to society.

Unfortunately most people never reach full mastery.

The difference between the master and beginner?

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.

Which is why I’m obsessed with continuously learning and stretching my boundaries.

Spending 1000’s of hours working 1:1 in-person and online has taught me so much.

Reminded me of the value of having a beginner’s mindset.

And staying humble.

Working with some of the best mentors and teachers on the planet has also taught me another thing:

‘Growth is never-ending’.

After coming back from a recent conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, I’m reminded of the value of being in the right rooms.

Learning from the right mentors.

Having the right conversations with the right people isn’t just helpful.

It’s transformational.

I flew across the country with the intention of speaking face to face with a mentor.

I got 40 minutes of 1:1 facetime with him.

That was exactly what I needed.

The right nudge with the right strategy.

That’s why you hire coaches and mentors.

2024 feels like it’s just started.

Yet I also feel like it’s been an impactful year.

A year of deepening my growth as a leader.

Challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone.

And reminding myself that the more I invest into myself, the more I’m able to pour into others.

What you do for yourself is the greatest gift you could give to others.

I’m excited for the second half of this year.

Also - today is a special May edition of your High Performance Vegan Letters.

Enjoy the read and let me know what you think and hit reply. 🙂

Lesson: Mastery emerges after countless failures. What separates the master from the beginner is the willingness to persevere.

Here's Your 5 Minute Friday:

#1.) Build Your Next 5-10 Pounds of Lean Vegan Muscle

Without lifting a weight, you need to master this principle first:

Eat in a positive caloric surplus.

In other words - eat more food.

Muscle is NOT created from thin air.

It comes from eating slightly more food than usual and THEN lifting weights to convert the extra energy from food into lean muscle.

Is it possible to build muscle while eating less?


Is it sustainable?


Body recomposition is common especially with beginner trainees who haven’t worked out consistently for more than 6+ months.

However, once you’ve gotten into a consistent cadence for lifting weights, you’ll need to be more strategic with your nutrition and weight lifting efforts.

Starting with your nutrition goals and targets, ideally aiming for a ~250 k/cal - ~500k/cal increase above your maintenance calories.

This is a solid starting point.

The Law of Thermodynamics states that ‘energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transferred’.

If you’ve been lifting weights in the gym and NOT seeing results, this may be part of the reason.

Especially for vegans or plant-based eaters, this is even more important.

Working with 100’s of humans in their health, one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen with hardgainers in their muscle-building efforts?

They are NOT eating enough.

While I 100% agree that eating whole foods, fruits, and vegetables are the most powerful healing foods on the planet, eating more needs to be a bit more strategic if you’re whole foods plant based (or aspire to be).

Being a little bit more liberal and adventurous with your food choices can be a big asset when it comes to muscle building.

Let’s dive into the next main principles.

#2.) Metabolic Adaptation: Plateaued and Stuck

Our bodies love to stay the same. Without a REASON to change?

There’s no reason to change.

Metabolic adaptation means your body has adapted to a specific nutrition or exercise protocol.

Which is why typically if you do the same exercises or same macros for too long… eventually it’ll stop working as effectively.

Metabolic adaptation is the reason why you can workout every week in the gym yet do NOT see the results you’re working hard for.

Because our bodies love to remain in homeostasis (or balance), being aware of this mechanism can be crucial as you build lean muscle.

Simplify your next 5-10 pounds of muscle doing this:

  1. Focus on a consistent surplus and adjust accordingly as you notice your weight, measurements, and pictures stop changing. I’d recommend waiting 2 weeks after your first initial macros calculation and then watching your weight and measurements and noticing if there’s any positive changes. If your weight AND strength are increasing, that’s usually a good sign you’re building muscle (since strength is directly related to muscle gains).
  2. Progressive overload is KEY. Progressive overload is the principle that works by lifting heavy weights with the right amount of intensity and volume, your body will get the signal that it makes sense to build muscle. Without the extra energy from food and the exercise signal from heavy weights - there’s no reason to build muscle.

#3.) Fat Gain is Inevitable

Building muscle does come with one caveat. You’ll end up putting on a bit of fat too. Which is completely okay.

Fat gain is part of the game when it comes to muscle-building and it’s nearly unavoidable (unless you want to build muscle at a ridiculously slow place, which I wouldn’t recommend due to losing motivation).

Typically, it’s about a 1:1 ratio of muscle to fat gain so for every 1 lb of lean muscle you put on, you’ll typically put on a pound of fat.

However, when you think about the big picture, for beginner male trainees you may build 1.5 -2.5 lbs of muscle per month.

For beginner females, that’s about 0.65 - 1 lb per month.

But keep in mind that when you drop fat, you can drop 1 lb of fat PER WEEK.

Which means that dropping 12-15 lbs of fat can easily happen within 12 weeks.

Building muscle properly and with consistency can take YEARS.

Takeaway: fat loss is quick and much easier than building muscle.

Once you’re lean enough to build muscle, go for it and focus all your efforts on consistent muscle-building until your next fat-loss phase.

#4.) What You Need To Track To Win

Tracking is fundamental if you want to build muscle consistently.

Here’s what you need to have in place:

  1. Calories and macros (plant-based nutrition)
  2. Strength workouts (intensity, volume, and consistency)
  3. Body measurements (pictures, weight, and body measurements)

This will allow you to have systems in place so you’re progressing instead of just lifting and praying that you’re building muscle.

Make sure that you’re on track and keep your systems simple enough to be consistent.

#5.) Strength Training: Do Weights Matter?

Muscle building can be broken down into this easy formula below.

(Volume x Intensity) + Strength Training + Caloric Surplus = Muscle Growth

Strength training is the overarching principle while volume and intensity fall underneath lifting weights (strength training).

Strength training works as a SIGNAL on your body.

The SAID principle states that our bodies respond to specific adaptations to imposed demands.

This means that in order for you to create specific adaptations (muscle growth) you need to impose particular demands on our bodies.

Strength training = stimulus for our body to grow lean muscle.

However - strength training ALONE won’t build muscle.

Which is why it’s important to keep in mind the fundamentals of strength training.

Having 13+ years of strength training under my belt, I’ve seen a lot when it comes to ‘training’ or ‘working out’.

It’s easy for many of us to think that we’re ‘lifting heavy’ or ‘building muscle’ when in reality we aren’t doing either.

I want to stress this point here because the majority of people who want to build muscle ARE NOT TRAINING HARD ENOUGH.

There’s enough research demonstrating that the average person who works out and lifts weights is lifting within 60% of their actual training potential.

Which means you’re leaving so much muscle building potential in the gym or workout room.

I want to be clear here - this does not mean you need to train every day in the gym or annihilate yourself.

It does mean you need to be intelligent with your programming.

So let’s cover one of the most important yet misunderstood workout rules.

#6.) Volume - How Much Should You Lift

Volume is often misunderstood.

Yet if you want to build muscle, you need to understand volume in the workout world.

Volume is a measure of work output.

It’s the total amount of work which you do within your training sessions - which is directly correlated with the amount of strength or muscular potential that we can activate.

You can measure volume in a few ways:

  • Total amount of reps x sets x weight lifted
  • Training density (amount of time it took for workout to be completed)
  • Training stimulus (different tools used, stances used, grips, etc)
  • Amount of effort per lift (RPE or RIR tracking systems)

It’s important to note that volume is NOT just one linear way of measuring your training performance from total sets and reps and weights lifted.

It’s a more comprehensive and holistic way of seeing your workouts from the BIG PICTURE.

Everything that you do in the gym including adding an extra rep or set or increasing weight to changing stance or using a different grip can have an impact on your volume.

The main thing is to increase your training volume over time to ensure hypertrophy (muscle growth) and retaining lean muscle during fat loss phases.

Also, since you’re reading this I’m presuming you want to build muscle and ideally keep it during future fat loss cuts.

There’s been quite a few studies on what exactly stimulates muscle growth but current research points that PER MUSCLE GROUP from a weekly perspective you should aim for 10-20 sets per muscle group.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll need to do 10 sets every week for biceps, triceps, or some of the smaller ancillary muscle groups.

When you’re performing a close grip bench press, you’ll also activate the triceps muscle which will give you some of the necessary training volume for triceps in particular.

The takeaway is that you need to make sure you’re doing ENOUGH WORK, which means doing enough sets and reps (as well as some of the other suggestions above for training volume).

Follow the right workout principles.

And let the results follow.

One Quote To Finish Your Week Strong

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the human who turns back soonest is the most progressive human.”
― C.S. Lewis

If you enjoyed today’s special edition on muscle-building, reply below.

Also, our son is pooping on his little toilet at 5 weeks old.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Apparently, there’s a lot they don’t teach you re: parenting techniques.

Always question the mainstream. 🙂

- Gabriel

P.S. Who thinks I should give away a full ride scholarship and some partial scholarships to our VFR coaching program?

Worst idea ever? 😆

Let me know below.

Whenever you're ready, there are three ways I can help you:

#1 Join our free high-performance fitness FB group to get access to dozens of live trainings recorded along with a tight-knit group of leaders who want to get healthy, lean, and strong.

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#3 Want to fuel your fitness curiosity and follow along with the latest findings, insights, and evidence-based practices? Let's be friends on Facebook and Instagram. :)

(feel free to DM me anytime - I love connecting with new friends worldwide).

Gabriel's Recommendation Zone

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High Performance Vegan Letters

by Gabriel Zhanay

Join the top 1% of plant-based founders, leaders, and creators. Every week, you'll receive practical advice on how to build muscle, get lean, and build a high-performance body that fuels your busy plant-based lifestyle.

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