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High Performance Vegan Letters

Why You Shouldn’t Lift Light Weights, A 5 Minute Breathing Exercise To Lower Stress, and One Exercise You Should Be Doing EVERY Time You Workout

Published 8 months ago • 7 min read

Why You Shouldn’t Lift Light Weights, A 5 Minute Breathing Exercise To Lower Stress, and One Exercise You Should Be Doing EVERY Time You Workout

Date: October 27th, 2023

Read time: 5 minutes

Today’s issue is brought to you by Vegan Fitness Redefined. We help high-performing vegans get lean, strong, and build healthy bodies.

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

Click below to apply for a free 1:1 consultation and see if our Accelerator Program is a good match to help you get in the best shape possible while leading by example.


I played my first competitive soccer match last weekend.

It's been YEARS since I've played soccer at a high level.

And the past few years I've put aside my hobbies to work more and be more present with my family.

Yet, the past couple of years playing soccer in Poland, with my nephew Szmon, reminded me of the importance of having fun.

Unfiltered pure fun.

So I set the intention to play at some level once we moved here to Asheville.

I signed up as a free agent for the local soccer association on Saturday thinking that it would be at least a few weeks if not months before I heard back from a team (it's mid season here for teams; soccer culture is BIG in Asheville).

I received a text within an hour.

And I almost decided to quit before I started.

Even though I set the intention to play, I felt a sense of guilt for wanting to invest 90 minutes a week into having fun.

Until, my wife scolded me.

And reminded me the importance of taking care of myself.

Within less than 24 hours, I was playing my first match again and enjoying the game that's brought so much joy to my life.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of taking imperfect action.

The universe/god/infinite intelligence will respond as soon as you take action.

Lesson: Focus on setting your intention for your goals and take action - then allow yourself to receive what comes through (it might be faster than you expect).


Here is your 5 Minute Friday:

1). Why You Shouldn’t Lift Light Weights

While there's a time a place for lifting light weights (and that could be the premise of another newsletter), lifting light weights isn't the most effective way to get lean, strong, and toned.

However, before you completely knock off lifting light weights, there are situations where it may be useful including post injury rehab and having limited range of motion.

So the title here should be rewritten = Why you shouldn't lift lift weights if you're healthy and have no pre-existing conditions.

Assuming this is the case, here's a few reasons by MayoClinic on why you should consider amping up your workouts:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Manage your weight. Strength training can help you manage or lose weight, and it can increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories.
  • Enhance your quality of life. Strength training may enhance your quality of life and improve your ability to do everyday activities. Strength training can also protect your joints from injury. Building muscle also can contribute to better balance and may reduce your risk of falls. This can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
  • Sharpen your thinking skills. Some research suggests that regular strength training and aerobic exercise may help improve thinking and learning skills for older adults.

Lifting heavy weights and putting them down DOES have a positive impact on our bodies.

Part of the reason why is because over time our bodies atrophy (loss of muscle tissue and strength).

Strength training consistently gives your body a REASON to not only retain lean muscle and strength but also lower body fat, chances of chronic conditions, and enhance your overall quality of life.

Strength training is the elixir of life (when done properly).

Do this correctly and you'll regain YEARS of high quality living along with the renewed vigor and confidence that comes from having a lean, strong body.

Do this incorrectly and you'll waste hundreds of hours in the gym or at home working out for no reason.

Your body NEEDS a reason to change and develop.

Strength training gives it that reason.

A recommendation I give to most of our students here at VFR is to focus on a MINIMUM standard when it comes to working out.

While you may want to start lifting weights 5-6 days a week, it's more likely you'll commit to something that's more sustainable.

Start with minimum 3 strength workouts per week as your BARE minimum.

Don't go beneath this.

Once you've got this locked down for a few months, raise your standard to 4 workouts per week.

So forth and so on.

As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits:

'You don't rise to the level of your goals. You fall back to the level of the systems (standards) you have in place'.

The way to win with your workouts is using standards and lifting heavy weights correctly.

2). A 5 Minute Breathing Exercise To Lower Stress

There was a study done on the benefits of deep breathing.

In the study, there was two groups - the breathing intervention group (BIG) and the control group (CG).

The BIG group completed 20 training sessions over an 8 week period using a real time feedback while averaging 4 breathes per minutes while the CG did NOT do this.

After the 8 week study, the results came in.

The BIG group saw a significant improvement in attention, affect (tolerance to stress), and drop in cortisol levels.

While modern science is playing catch up, many ancient practices can confirm the benefits of deep breathing.

Last week, I spoke about the benefits of zazen and why this is the ONE habit that could change your life.

Deep breathing is an extension of this.

When you breathe deeply - you reclaim your presence.

Your attention or to be more direct, your FOCUS, becomes stronger and more clear.

Stress tends to dissipate when you're able to breath deeply.

Yet, the norm in our society is to be constantly stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed.

Deep breathing is your portal back to your center.

Focus on 1 minute per day of deep breathing in through your nose and out through your nose.

Allow yourself to fill your lungs and belly with life giving oxygen.

Then slowly release.

Practice this for 2 weeks and then feel free to share the data with me.

I'd be curious to hear.

3). One Exercise You Should Be Doing EVERY Time You Workout

One exercise that we should all be doing every time we workout is the McGill Big 3.

Created by Dr. Stuart McGill, the McGill Big 3 is one of the best exercises you can down to bulletproof your body while ensuring you activate your body properly before each workout.

Most warm-up exercises are shit.

The McGill Big 3 isn't.

In fact, doing this every week can radically improve your lifts, strength, and overall mobility while allowing you to lift safely for decades.

Here's the 3 exercises that make up this 'one' exercise:

  • Curl-Up
  • Side Plank
  • Bird-Dog

Each of these was designed to keep your back strong and stable, which for most of us (80% of Americans have lower back pain), isn't the case.

The McGill Big 3 counteracts the reality of modern living.

Most of us spend countless hours each day siting down and deactivating our big muscle groups (think glutes and core).

The longer we do this, the higher the risk that we'll injury ourselves while lifting, playing with kids, or even picking up boxes.

Dr. Aaron from Squat University wrote an in-depth guide on how to use the McGill Big 3. It's a great read and one of the best articles I've read on the Big 3.

Feel free to read his free guide on Squat University.

I'll also attach his YouTube video below and how to execute this going into your next workout session.

Progress > Perfection

video preview

If you want to lift weights for the rest of your life, the McGill Big 3 is non-negotiable.


Client of the Week

Kelly is a busy single mother. In her 50's with two younglings, she works as a corporate director and travels frequently.

She also was struggling her health and body. She felt weak, insecure, and not strong enough to lift heavy things in her home by herself.

Our strategy: We focused on shifting her workouts from cardio to lifting heavy weights 3x a week (then raised it to 4 per week after 6 weeks).

We also raised her calories by ~500 k/cal per day to help her focus on lean muscle growth and rebuilding strength. Her protein goal was also set at her bodyweight to ensure she would recover from workouts and rebuild lean muscle.

After 6 months, she's built 7 lbs of lean muscle, broke her own record lifting squats and deadlifts multiple times, and has a renewed sense of confidence even while lifting heavy things at home by herself.

If you're a busy vegan professional or entrepreneur who wants to get lean, build muscle, and build a high-performance body while fueling your vegan impact, click here to apply for a free gameplan session.


One Quote To Finish Your Week Strong

“Your health account, your bank account, they’re the same thing. The more you put in, the more you can take out. Exercise is king and nutrition is queen. Together you have a kingdom.”
Jack LaLanne

Health is truly wealth.

What you put in, is what you get out.

Invest in yourself each and every day.

The ROI is priceless.

- Gabriel


Whenever you're ready, there's 3 ways I can help you:

1. Join our free high-performance vegan fitness FB group to get access to dozens of live trainings recorded to get lean, build muscle, and regain energy even with a busy lifestyle.

2. Are you a high-performing vegan who wants to get lean, reclaim strength, and lead by example? Apply for private one-to-one coaching here.

Learn the step-by-step process that we teach clients to get lean, build muscle, and regain energy while getting in the best shape possible even as a busy vegan entrepreneur or high performing professional.

3. Want to fuel your fitness curiosity and follow along with latest findings, insights, and evidence-based practices as I learn along the way?

Let’s be friends below:

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

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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