by Niall Doherty

I’m now 1.5 weeks into my 6-week experiment to see if I can add 20lbs of muscle on a vegan diet, while doing just one hour of exercise per week. Here’s a quick report on how the diet and workouts have been going.


I made it through the first week okay. Eating 5,000 calories per day wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t too difficult either. My body seemed to be responding just fine.

But then came Monday, and I found myself exhausted. I was lucky it was Labor Day and didn’t have to work, because all I wanted to do was sleep. I took approximately 5 hours worth of naps during the day, despite having gotten my typical ~8 hours of sleep the previous two nights, and I slept another 8 hours that night, too.

Monday was also my “cheat” day. On Mondays I halve my calorie intake “to prevent protein uptake downregulation.” This was a welcome break from 5,000 calories per day, but I found it very difficult to ramp back up my eating on Tuesday. I managed to eat everything as planned, but it was a struggle. I started having mild stomach aches, I was sweating randomly like a fat dude, and it didn’t help that I was slightly constipated. I also continued to feel exhausted throughout the day, which really sucked since it was a work day and I hate being unproductive at work.

On Wednesday, I woke up feeling stuffed, but ploughed on. By noon, I’d already consumed close to 3,000 calories, and then I reached breaking point. I had two more veggie wraps lined up for lunch, but I felt strongly that I would puke if I ate them. So I passed. I felt I wasn’t digesting my food as quickly as I had the previous week; a lot of it seemed to be sitting in my stomach for far too long.

I went and had my third workout on Wednesday evening, and still didn’t feel comfortable eating anything after. I drank some orange juice and scarfed down a handful of mixed nuts, but that was it. That night I had difficulty getting to sleep. My mind was racing like it hadn’t done in days. Thursday morning I jumped out of bed with more energy than I’d had all week. Those two occurrences told me that my body had been devoting far too much energy to digestion. I believe there is a tipping point with food; eat too much and it’s only serving to fuel it’s own digestion, at the expense of things like mental clarity.

Going forward, I’ve decided to cut back to 4,000 calories per day. I’m hoping that’s closer to the sweet spot where I’m eating enough food to build my muscles back up without overloading my digestive system.


My workout schedule is Wednesday evening and Sunday morning. I’ve had just three 30-minute workouts so far and they’ve all been hell, but I’m enjoying them 😉

After the first workout, my arms were so fatigued that I found it challenging to steer my car home. After the second, my body trembled uncontrollably as I took a drink at the water fountain. After the third, I felt completely drained and had to sit down for a few minutes before leaving the gym.

Call me crazy, but I like those post-workout feelings. I like having physical confirmation that I went all out.

I’m happy with how fast my muscles have been recovering. After the first two sessions, I was sore for a couple of days each time, but the soreness was pretty much gone in time for the next visit to the gym. My trainer has been mixing up the exercises a bit just to be sure I don’t work the same muscles too hard in consecutive workouts.

Speaking of my trainer, she thinks I’m nuts, but she continues to push me hard like I asked 😉

Is it working?

Honestly, I’m not sure yet. It’s still a little early to tell. I’m taking complete tape and body fat measurements every Saturday morning, and last week the numbers told me that I’d gained 3.5 lbs of fat and 2 lbs of muscle, but I’d only done one workout up to that point. This Saturday’s measurements should provide better insights, but I’m not going to draw any conclusions until the following Saturday. By then I’ll be almost halfway through this experiment and it should be pretty obvious if I’m on target.

I’ll let you know how it goes.