by Niall Doherty

For over a year now I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind, ever since I read how Tim Ferriss put on 32 lbs of muscle in 28 days. I wondered if I could do similar on a vegan diet. I’m about to find out.

Let me break down the plan:

20 lbs of muscle

This morning I weighed in at 185 lbs. My body fat was 8.21% (15.2 lbs) when I measured it last weekend. To gain 20 lbs of muscle, I need to get up to 205 lbs while lowering that body fat percentage slightly.

Six weeks

Why six weeks? Well, adding 20 lbs in four weeks seems just a little too ambitious given my inexperience with body hacking. Tim was no stranger to this kind of stuff when he started, plus he was eating animal products (easier to get ridiculous amounts of protein). He was also muscular a few years before, so he may have benefited from some kind of muscle-memory type thing.

I’m lowering the bar a little. Six weeks feels about right.

Vegan diet

I’ve been vegan for over a year now, and it works well for me. I didn’t want to go back eating animal products just for the sake of this experiment. I’m more curious to see if I can add muscle rapidly on a vegan diet.

Tim Ferriss ate lots of meat during his training, consuming 5000-6000 total calories per day. He also took supplements.

I’ve worked out a vegan meal plan that will see me consuming an average of 5000 calories per day, which is double my regular intake.

I want to stick to real food as much as possible, so I won’t be taking any supplements or protein shakes. My carb-fat-protein ratio will be approximately 3:1:1.

You can check out my spreadsheet on Google Docs for more detailed info.

One hour of exercise per week

This is the part where people usually start thinking I’m crazy 😉

To put on 20 lbs of muscle in six weeks, you’d think I’d have to be hitting the gym almost every day, but I’m only planning to do two half-hour sessions per week (Wednesday evening and Sunday morning). I’ll be working out my whole body each session, doing slow (10-15 seconds) reps with resistance both ways. The goal is to exhaust my muscles completely each workout, and then build them back up stronger with the protein-heavy diet.

I’ll have a trainer I’ll be working with. I did one test session with her a few weeks ago. She’s agreed to push me to my limits and beyond once we start for real next Wednesday. This type of slow training is intense and painful, but I believe it’s the most effective form of weight training out there. Quality, not quantity.

My current health

In preparation for this experiment, I’ve been doing all sorts of measuring and testing. I’ll be taking the same measurements and tests after the six weeks and comparing the results. I don’t just want to put on 20 lbs of muscle. I want to do it safely, without negatively impacting my blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.

Below are some results from tests my doctor ordered last week. Apparently I’m in fantastic health 🙂

  • Blood pressure: 124/80
  • Cholesterol: 129
  • Triglyceride level: 81
  • White blood cell count: 5.47
  • Red blood cell count: 5.12
  • Fasting blood glucose: 92
  • Calcium in blood: 9.3
  • Protein in blood: 7.4
  • Urine pH: 7.0

My body measurements, as taken last Saturday:

  • Chest fat: 4 mm
  • Abdominal fat: 14 mm
  • Thigh fat: 10 mm
  • Body fat %: 8.21
  • Neck: 386 mm
  • Chest: 953 mm
  • Shoulders: 1145 mm
  • Thigh: 590 mm
  • Calf: 397 mm
  • Upper Arm: 283 mm
  • Forearm: 282 mm
  • Waist: 832 mm
  • Hips: 1013 mm

The why

For a while, when people asked why I wanted to put on 20 lbs of muscle in the first place, I’d respond that I just wanted to challenge myself, much like I did when I tried to finish in the top 200 of the Crescent City Classic. But the challenge isn’t the main reason I’m doing it. Mostly, I just want to look better naked 😉

It would also be nice though to prove that this works and inspire other folks to give it a try.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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