High-Performance Vegan Letters

3 Ways You Can Build Vegan Muscle and Strength Faster

letters Jun 07, 2024

Summer is almost here.

Most people either do one of two things:

  • Double down on their fitness
  • Quit and throw in the towel (and retry again later in Sept/Oct)

Having been in the industry for over a decade this has been the pattern I’ve seen repeated every year.

The difference between the two groups above?

A shift in mindset.

When things get busier and tougher, we can either step-up… or shutdown.

There’s no right or wrong here.

But in every challenge is the opportunity for further growth.

Many of us miss out on these opportunities.

I used to be the same.

When challenged - I’d shut down immediately.

I didn’t do well under pressure.

My limiting beliefs and childhood experiences had created a weak psyche.

But the more I’ve retrained my mind and beliefs to work for me (rather than against me), the more I’ve enjoyed stepping up when things get harder.

For those of you with multiple responsibilities like family, businesses, high-powered careers, and self-development, you know what I’m talking about.

Things don’t get easier with more responsibilities.

We just get stronger.

The challenges we face in life shape our character.

Just like in the gym, we can get stronger with more reps… or we can quit on ourselves and atrophy.

We get to choose each day.

Lesson: You can sculpt your character by using challenges to chisel away at yourself. You might be surprised at the person you become after a few years.

Here's Your 5 Minute Friday:

1. Eat more (caloric surplus)

You build muscle by eating more.

While I write and share a lot about weight-loss and dropping body, building muscle and strength happens in reverse (once you’ve passed your initial body recomposition phase).

In fact, nearly 65% of new students who work with us inside VFR, come in under-eating for years on end.

This is a huge disservice to your physique and building a toned, strong body.

Note before we move forward:

If you’re above 25% body fat for a woman or 20% body fat for a man, focus on dropping body fat and weight loss FIRST before going into a serious muscle building phase.

This will prevent you from gaining unwanted pounds and inches and keeping higher levels of body fat.

With that said, here’s how to build new muscle:

  • Increase your daily caloric intake by an extra 200-300 calories per day while consistently lifting weights 3-4x a week.
  • You’ll also want to use the 4:1 ratio when building muscle (you can use this in reverse for weight-loss too).

The 4:1 ratio is for every 4 months of eating higher calories, you’ll want to use your 5th month for eating at maintenance calories or slightly lower to prevent adding too much body fat.

Typically, for every 1 pound of lean muscle you build, you’ll also put on 1 pound of body fat.

However, don’t stress about this.

You can drop 12 pounds of body fat in 12 weeks.

Building 12 pounds of muscle can take 2-3 years.

Keep that in mind.

2. Increase your workouts and intensity

Want to build more muscle?

Increase your training frequency.

If you’re working out 2 days a week, increase that to 3 days.

If you’re lifting 3 days a week, go to 4 days.

Muscle growth is stimulated by a number of factors, but two of the most important factors are how HARD you workout and how MUCH work you do (aka how many sets and reps you complete).

Researchers have found that performing 10-20 sets per muscle group is the sweet spot for optimal muscle growth, and they have also identified 8-12 reps as the optimal rep range for muscle development.

Does that mean you need to do 10 sets of squats in one workout?

Absolutely not.

What I’ve found helpful working with 100’s of high achievers each year is to spread their training volume evenly throughout the week.

So what that could look like is 3 sets of squats on Day 1, 3 sets on Day 2, and final 3-4 sets on Day 3.

The second part of the puzzle is making sure you’re lifting with enough intensity.

70-90% of your max intensity is a great standard to have when working out.

That means you’ll leave 2-3 reps left in your tank each time you do your working sets.

Remember, your body and muscles NEED a reason to change.

Training intensity and volume are the two main reasons we give our body to build lean muscle.

3. Get more quality zzz’s

The average adult isn’t sleeping enough.

If you want to sabotage your muscle-building efforts, avoid undersleeping.

More than nearly anything else, we tend to sacrifice our sleep for more time awake.

Yet, this throws a wrench in your muscular development and toning process.

Aim for 7-10 hours of sleep every night (9 hours is a sweet spot).

There’s an interesting study that was done on the effects of sleep deprivation which tested subjects on muscle gain and recovery.

The first group of subjects slept only 5.5 hours of sleep after training, while the second group slept 8.5 hours of sleep afterwards.

“What researchers discovered was that the individuals who slept only 5.5 hours had 60% less muscle mass at the end of the study, while those who slept 8.5 hours had 40% more muscle mass.”

Sleep is where the muscle building process happens.

It’s also where our body recovers and does the deep work of healing from each training session.

Proper recovery is essential for any high powering athlete.

Why wouldn’t it be the same for a busy high achiever who wants to get lean and strong?

Timeblock your sleep on your calendar as a non-negotiable.

Aim for a minimum of 7.5 hours per night.

And get your z’s in.

One Quote To Finish Your Week Strong

“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
- Bruce Lee

Excited to be in New York next week.

Been awhile since I’ve been in the Big Apple.

Looking forward to getting some good vegan food. 🙂

- Gabriel

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. :)


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