The Best Way To Gain Strength & Muscle On A Plant-based Diet

Are you looking to improve your fitness and learn more about vegan nutrition? Then you need to check out the interview with vegan fitness coach Gabriel Zhanay. In the interview, Gabriel covers important topics like how much of each macronutrient you should be eating, the importance of gradually increasing workout intensity, and why focusing on healthy behaviors is more effective than fixating on a particular goal. He also shares valuable insights into the best sources of plant-based nutrition. Whether you're a seasoned athlete or just starting out on your plant-based fitness journey, this interview is sure to provide you with valuable information that can help you reach your goals. So make sure to tune in and check it out!
Hosted by
Laurie Marbas
Last updated
August 26, 2022


00:01:36 Introduction
00:02:18 What led Gabriel to a whole food, plant-based diet
00:08:12 Gabriel's fitness journey
00:25:41 How to determine how much you need to eat to reach your health goal
00:32:48 Macro ratios for gaining muscle on a plant-based diet

Podcast Transcript

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Welcome to the podcast. I'm Dr. Laurie Marbas. And today I'm very excited to welcome another vegan fitness enthusiast, Gabriel Zhanay, how are you today?

Gabriel Zhanay: I'm doing great. Thank you, Laurie, for having me on.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Thank you. And I hope I didn't slaughter the last name I've been saying you

Gabriel Zhanay: Did. You did great. You did great.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Yeah.

Gabriel Zhanay: <Laugh> let's keep it up.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: <Laugh> yes, absolutely. So you're from vegan fitness read defined. So you've got quite a bit of, I mean, good stuff on there and you guys check it out. What, we're gonna talk a little bit about your journey and health and how that relates to, you know, body building and strength and just overall fitness and see what you think. But tell us a little bit about your story. What led you to a whole food plant based diet? I I'd be curious to, to know your, your, what led you down that path?

Gabriel Zhanay: Hmm. Yes. Great question by the way. And I think, you know, the seeds were initially planted about like five or six years ago when I first became pescatarian and I, you know, just being completely honest, I actually never knew what the word vegan meant. <Laugh> I knew what vegetarian was and I was like, what's vegan. Like I started hearing like this word, like vegan I'm like, what are they <laugh> like, I don't even know what they're right. But I knew a vegetarian was. But I started, I, I was actually living in Yonkers in New York at the time. So back in New York and there was like a Zen center, I would go and meditate every Sunday. And sometimes after the meditation, they would have like a meal and I'm like, oh, hell yeah, I'm staying for a meal. I'm like, I was just meditating all morning.

Gabriel Zhanay: I'm staying for a meal. And they started to bring out like plant-based meals, like whole food plant-based meals. And I was so curious. I'm like, you know, where's the protein, right. Cause you know, obviously I was still pescatarian. I was like, you know, working out in the gym and trying to build muscle. And I was like, you know, what, what, what is this? You know, I'm like, there's no protein at all. I'm like nothing like no dairy, no eggs, nothing. And I was like, I was really intrigued. And you know, they basically explained like this is vegan, you know, but they also explained like the reason why, right. They explained like, you know, this is, this is like food, but it's compassionate. Right. And I was like, oh my goodness. You know, here, I was like, kind of like, just thinking about like compassion as like this idea.

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. And here they were actually putting it into action. So compassion in action. And later that year, actually I moved to Bristol United Kingdom. My wife had been, or my wife now, she had been vegan already five or six years. And she had also been educating and telling me more about veganism in general. And so I became vegan that year. And while I was vegan, you could say like in name, I feel like I truly became vegan in like in spirit about a year later when I started to connect more deeply with the ethics and the morality, even the spiritual aspect of as well. And in terms of whole foods, like being completely honest, I truly feel like I didn't go like whole food plant based, you know, like more like really focusing on having like foods from the planet, fruit, vegetables, like herbs and spices.

Gabriel Zhanay: I didn't focus on that until like two or three years after. Right. Cause my first initial thing was like, oh, like you're vegan, like that's health. Right. And you know, there's so many misconceptions, especially as you're learning about veganism and all the foods. And I think it's amazing. They have so many options now, but I think that it's easy to get misdirected. There's a lot of misinformation disinformation out there. And I think it's very useful, right. To have to have your base, your foundation, you know, really coming from foods that support your health, right? Doesn't mean you can't build muscle. You can't drop that. You can't be lean strong and toned, but at the same time, there is no fitness. There's no six pack. There's no. Oh, I'm so strong. If there's no health, you know, there's, there's over 250 million Americans just in this country alone who have chronic symptoms, chronic conditions.

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. Myself included. I grew up when I was 10, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. They told me you have psoriasis, right? Oh, you have this for the rest of your life being a 10 year old. I'm like that doesn't make any sense. They're like your body's fighting you, your body. Doesn't like, you I'm like what? Like you're in 10 year old. You're believe it. Right. And yet the more I've learned these past 5, 10, 16 years, the more I've learned that actually with food, with nutrition, you can heal anything. You can heal anything, no matter what people tell you that mm-hmm

Dr. Laurie Marbas: <Affirmative>. So tell us did you transition to the psoriasis? Did you have ongoing issues and it went away at the plant diet or did it kind of, what was that journey like?

Gabriel Zhanay: Ooh, I mean, this is, this is actually all being completely honest. This is still an ongoing journey. This still ongoing journey for me. But the transition into whole food plant-based has, has been spectacular, been absolutely spectacular because even when I became became vegan there, wasn't such a kind of like shift in like some of the symptoms and things like I saw. But the moment I started focusing on just two things on just adding more fruits and vegetables, that was it. I, as a vegan, I eat plenty of fruits and veggies, like, come on, that's all we eat according to everyone else. But there was a difference between just having one apple day, maybe a banana here and there and amping it up to having two or three apples a day, three or four bananas a day. All of a sudden it was like symptoms that I had for year decades. Right. Things that I'd been suppressing with steroids, hydrocortisone, all of a sudden it's like, holy crap. All I had to do was have more apples and, and bananas. This is nuts. And yet it's that information. That's why I say it's disinformation. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> this kind of information is not, it's not, nobody talks about it. Right. And the people that talk about it, they're like, oh, they're crazy. Right. Or they're talking about fruits and bad whole foods. Like what is this? This is nuts. Mm-Hmm

Dr. Laurie Marbas: <Affirmative> yeah, no, your body's capability of healing itself is, is quite profound. And and it can be, you can be very seriously ill and have significant improvements and sometimes not a hundred percent, but certainly improvement to the point that they would've never thought they could have reached that state of health, you know, really depends on where you're entering into looking into whole food plant based diet. Especially if you can get these young people like yourself, that's really ideal. Like my kids, you know, in their twenties and they're all plant based. One's a physician. But yeah. And then, you know, you think about the future for them is gonna be one free of chronic disease. You know, hopefully in, yeah, it's exciting to see the new generation coming up behind people like myself Mo moving the, moving the needle even further. So. Excellent. So tell us a little bit about your kind of fitness journey and what led you and your wife to start the vegan fitness redefined.

Gabriel Zhanay: Sure. Yeah. So I actually, I grew up as an athlete since I was five and you know, I, I played all the American sports. You like soccer, baseball, tennis, swimming, martial arts, all that. And in my early twenties, actually, I was trying to play semipro soccer. And it was just like my passion, like, you know, I lived, I soccer grew up like my father, he played professional soccer for the Ecuador national team. So it was like my right. Awesome. Yeah, it was pretty cool. So after that kind of like phasing my life, I started actually even before then, actually even before then I had started going more into the gym and strength training and like building up my body. Right. So I realized that there's a lot of like, kind of like chronic and like subtle injuries. I kept having, you know, playing soccer all the time.

Gabriel Zhanay: Like it takes a beating on you, right. You know, playing 6, 8, 10 hours a day and you're playing on concrete on breasts. It's like, it takes a beating. And I found that even at a young age, you know, 17, 18, I think I was kind of getting some of these like niggling like injuries. Right. And I was like, wow. You know, maybe, maybe there's a way to like strengthen up my body. Maybe there's a way to not just be like athletic, but also to be strong. Right. Obviously not such a tall guy. I'm not a big guy. So I, I found like, all right, maybe I need to just get strong. Get's some muscle. Right. So that was kinda like my initial motivation. But then as I progress, especially with, with strength training, I found like it's not just such a, a physical activity as it is a character building activity.

Gabriel Zhanay: And I found the more that you do it over years and years, the more you find like mental and emotional traits like fortitude, resilience, determination, all these things are also developed simultaneously. So going back over to when we first started vegan fitness redefined my wife had actually been working as, or she has experience as a nutritional therapist. So very deep experience in nutrition therapy and like holistic healing arts and things like that. And I came with all the experience as an athlete and, you know, being a fitness coach and things like that. And we thought, wow, you know, both be both being vegan at the time. We're like, wow. It would make sense to kind of like pair up our skills and talents and actually help people in these things that we're already passionate in.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm. I had a, I interviewed another vegan couple's called eat eat, move, rest the STIX. And they have the very similar picture. They each came with different talents and created something new. So that's pretty cool. So what do you offer at being finished or defined? Like what, what do you do if you take someone who's in just entering into this and they reach out to you for coaching or some advice, like where does someone start?

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. Right. So typically we have kind of like a little bit of an interview process. Right. So when someone first reaches out, we don't always take on every person. And I say this, like, because a few years ago we should just take on everybody. We're like, oh, come, we'll be your coaches. Like we'll serve you. And we found that, you know, going a little bit slower, especially in the beginning makes a big difference because we're able to understand the, the student, the client much more deeply, we're able to understand their goals, their needs, their aspirations. And when they do come in, if they're accepted, what we go through is a three tier process. Right. We go through mindset strategy and their accountability needs. Right. And we found with all three of those areas, it's essential because some people, right. They may think like, oh, you know, I just need to focus on my macros or my caLauriees, or I just need to get, you know, like you know, muscle building workouts or fat loss workouts.

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. But the reality is all, all behavior is belief driven. Right? All behavior is belief driven. And so if we don't have the right mentalities, right. The right belief system in place, most of us end up self-sabotaging 3, 6, 12 months down the line. If we don't have the right accountability to hold us on track, when things get, you know, rough, right. <Laugh>, you know what I mean by that? Right. Mm. You know, when, when you go off and you're on vacation or you get sick, or, you know, something happens with the family, right. If we don't have these three systems in place, it's an inevitable, right. Even if you have the best plan in the world, if you have the best workouts, you have the best nutrition. I mean, the chances are, and even looking at the statistics, 95% of people who lose weight, end up regaining it in five years or less, this is nuts. Right. The fitness industry, the health industry, we're failing people. Right. If we don't understand these behavioral change strategies.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Hmm. So how do people change their mindset? Or how do you judge someone's mindset to make sure that they're actually in a place to be ready to take on transformation?

Gabriel Zhanay: Hmm. That's a great, good question. So psychologists have found that it takes up to 69 times for us to hear something before it starts to sink in. And while some people, they may never be truly ready. There's an emotional investment that needs to be there in order to move forward. Right. You need to be doesn't mean, you have to be like, oh my God, my mindset's perfect. This is the right. No, that's not what we're talking about. We're just talking about, are you serious? And emotionally invested, even if you get thrown off track, even if you get sick, right. As long as you're emotionally invested right. In your health, in your fitness. Right. It's very, very likely, I mean, it's not a hundred percent, but it's like 99.9% chance that we will succeed. And when we understand that, even if you mentality or mindset, isn't perfect, the more we can repeat the right patterns, the right beliefs, things like progress or perfection one day at a time setting up winning streak. Right. Focusing on what's going well, not all the 50 things that you know were shitty that week. Right. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> so that's, that's really the key there taking in account for some of these psychological principles, but also repeating it, you know, just putting in the reps for our mindset, for our, for our mind, right. Just like we do for our body, for our muscles, et cetera, et cetera.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm. So what do you mean by repeating? What are you repeating what's? Is this a mantra words, a belief, like, what does that mean? Exactly.

Gabriel Zhanay: You know, it can be, it can be a few things. It could be an affirmation, right? We, we believe in the power of positive affirmations. That's one possible route. It could just be writing down, you know, three to five key mentalities reviewing it on a daily basis. You know, maybe there doesn't need to be an actual, like verbal articulation of it, but actually reviewing it. You know, the reality is most of us, we don't create our current beliefs overnight. <Laugh> as, as much as we like to think, like if we didn't wake up and think like, oh, I'm gonna, I just suck, or I'm not good at this. Or, you know, I'm not destined to be healthy, but we didn't create that overnight. So we have to acknowledge creating new neural pathways right. In our brain, in our prefrontal cortex. It just takes time. Right. It may not take you 20 years. It may take you a few months, maybe take you a year or two, but creating those new neural pathways, which is essentially what's happening. Just take some time.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Gotcha. And so then, so let's say they, someone's got the right mindset, mindset. They're emotionally invested, as you say, and now they move into fitness. So what does that look like? So how does someone begin a fitness journey? Let's say they're maybe a little bit active or, you know, they're not crippled or anything or unable to participate. How do you start someone? Where, what does that conversation look like and what should someone be thinking about?

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. So we, we truly believe in the power of standards stand. And while we, while we have goals, and I think it's important for us to have goals, like whether it's drop 20 pounds or build 10 pounds of muscle or, you know, improve health or, or blood pressure, whatever that goal is, we believe that having a standard actually can be more powerful than just saying here's my goal, right? Because when most of us start a health and fitness journey, we have goals like every week, like, oh, this goal, this is my goal for the week, I'm gonna do this thing and I'm gonna do this thing. I'm gonna go to the gym five times a week. I'm gonna walk 10 times a, whatever the goal is. Right. But when we have standards and to clarify what I mean by standard a standard is your baseline, right?

Gabriel Zhanay: It's what you do not tolerate to go beneath. Right? So a standard could be minimum three strength, workouts per week, right? Not a goal like, oh, this week I'm gonna work out three times, no, as a bare minimum, I'm gonna get three strength workouts this week. If I do four or five, awesome that's bonus. But as a bare minimum, I'm gonna do three strength, workouts. Another standard would be five nutrition tracking dates, right. As a bare minimum, right? Not that every meal has to be perfect. Not every meal has to be like this beautiful Instagram friendly. Like this is my whole food plant based meal. Look, everybody, no, it doesn't have to be like that. Right. But at least five days that you're tracking your nutrition and working towards, you know, healthy, nutritious meals, you know, the real, we really, we really believe that if you focus on the things that give you the most leverage, right. At least 70 or 80% of the time, it doesn't need to, it doesn't mean you have to be perfect. Right. Mm. It doesn't mean you have to be always like on point, always have to be like Instagram photo shoot. Ready. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, as long as you're doing things, 70, 80% of the time mm-hmm <affirmative>, this is gonna give you massive results. And, and as opposed to trying to be perfect, like a hundred percent of the time.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Gotcha. So you're, instead of trying to reach a goal, you're, you've kind of flipped it in the mindset of mind thinking, this is literally the bare minimum that you, you will accept. Right. So this mm-hmm <affirmative> this otherwise. Yeah. I kind of like that, cuz you're thinking instead of always striving, striving, striving to meet something and you don't meet it, then you feel Ugh. But it's other difference thinking is Hmm. The, I don't accept anything less than the minimum that we still know will be the 80% thera or rule type thing. Gotcha. That's good. That's really good. I haven't had anyone say that before. And I mean I've had, <laugh> over 300 interviews at this point and so yeah. That's very good. That's good thinking. So now, now we've got that. Is there any specifics that you find that are helpful, like in those three, you know, strength, training exercises per week and in those meals that you're tracking, how do you define those for the individual? Cause they're all obviously gonna be a, a bit different.

Gabriel Zhanay: Yeah. Yeah. So there's some like main overarching principles and I can touch on that in a second. Yeah. But yes, you're absolutely correct. Like on an individual to individual case by case it, it will vary. But as an overarching principle, when it comes to strength training, what we look at is really using the law progressive overload. Right. Making sure that over time we're lifting heavier, we're adding more volume. Whether that's sets that's reps, that's poundage, right. We're using basically we're using the principles of physics to ensure that, okay, we're not just going in the gym and we're doing five hours of cardio. And then we're like, why am I not sculpted? Like why don't I actually look fit? Right? And again, there's nothing against cardiovascular health, right? Cardiovascular training is actually phenomenal, right? This is a great way to improve, help and you know, and plenty of other ways.

Gabriel Zhanay: But when it comes to strengthening, this is hands down, one of the most effective ways to lean out, to tone up and actually build up our bone density, our muscle mass improve our connective tissue, et cetera, et cetera. So number one is the law of progress overload. And then number two is making sure that we have a way to track this. Right. And I think it's very easy, especially when you go to the gym, you're like, oh man, I just did all this workout. I did these weights and it's all great. But the reality is when we can be objective, right. When we can actually have the data and measure together, we can actually see week by week. Holy crap. I'm getting stronger. Oh my God. I'm putting in more reps, I'm lifting more weights. Right. And I think that's something that it, it makes it very powerful when you focus on your behaviors rather than just getting caught up in the results.

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. Being more behavior focused like, oh, you know, let me focus on lifting more. Let me focus on putting more sets in reps as opposed to like, oh, every week I gotta drop two pounds or every week I gotta build a pound of muscle. You see, we get so obsessed with the results and you'll notice it takes the joy out of the process, right? The joy of just enjoying it, like, oh my God, just going to the gym, it can be a joyful activity, just cooking a meal. It can be fun. Right. But when we're just focused like, oh, I gotta have this perfect meal or this meal better help me drop two pounds this week, like kinda takes the joy out of it.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm. So you're just, it's the process of just seeing that continual improvement, not necessarily this very distinct outcome, like the weight loss or whatever that may be for someone. Interesting. Okay. So that's good too. I mean, it really makes you think about how we speak to ourselves right. When we're doing something and it really just the conversation inside the head, it where it's easier to get off rails. But if you're looking at it a different way, it really is a change in how your perception is is your absolutely participating in the activity. Got it. Okay. And so now we have the mindset, we are working on, you know, minimum standards, threshold. Like I just don't do this. Right. It's kind of like saying, someone's saying I'm trying to quit smoking. And someone says, I'm not a smoker anymore. Right. So that I'm not a smart person, not gonna go back to smoking to someone who's like I'm trying, is trying to meet that goal is trying to, so it's the belief system that you're describing a hundred percent believe that. So now we have those. Now what, with the food, is there any particular principles regarding the nutrition that are kind of generalized principles that people can take into account if they're thinking about this?

Gabriel Zhanay: Yeah, definitely. So we, we try to see nutrition from a holistic perspective because especially in the fitness industry and myself included, you know, it's very easy to become dogmatic, right? Mm-Hmm, <affirmative> the ball under these nutrition, doctrines and laws. And like all, you know, these, this nutrition, dogma also has like three now he's like, oh, this is a nutrition guru now. Right? Mm. So we try, <laugh> you not being facetious right now, but it's, it's very easy, especially, especially in the, in the health world. Right. I really believe that with food and like food beliefs, you can go down a lot, a lot of radicals mm-hmm <affirmative>. So instead of just focusing on one aspect, we focus on three different angles of nutrition, cover each one in a second. So the first part, and I think this is actually the most important you can say, this is the base of the nutrition pyramid is how are you eating?

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. How do you eat food, right? Are you somebody that just like eats food in five seconds, right? You don't actually process, you don't actually digest the food. Right. 30 to 40% of the digestion process actually happens when we chew the food. Right. So we wanna be clear, how, how are you eating right before we start looking at quantity or quality. Right. And there's been studies specifically done on how people eat. There's actually one great study where they had two groups of people go in to a movie theater and they gave them popcorn. Right? It's like one group one group got a big, big, big bucket of popcorn. The other one got maybe like half the size of it. Mind you, the popcorn they gave them was stale. It wasn't, it wasn't good popcorn. It was just sta popcorn for right. And so these people that went into watch a movie, they had the popcorn, right.

Gabriel Zhanay: Researchers are watching and they found that both groups of people finish their buckets of popcorn all the way to the bottom. Right. All the way to the bottom. So what does that tell us? Right? What does that tell us? Well, teaches us that people, when they have food more often than not, they eat what's in front of them. Right? They eat what's in front, no matter, doesn't matter. The taste doesn't matter. The situ we typically finish all of our food. It's how many of us are conditioned? Right. So it's really understanding first and foremost, how are we eating? Are we eating mindlessly? Are we eating mindfully? Are we eating with maybe being mindful of our portions? Right? How are we eating? And then moving over to a quality of food, right? And quality of food is one side of the pyramid as well in quality of food.

Gabriel Zhanay: This is this is one that we're very passionate about, especially in the past couple years, seeing the impact of having all the vitamins, the minerals, the antioxidants, the phytochemicals, right? All these essential, like seriously essential, essential ingredients that all of us need. And yet, so many of us are walking around completely deprived depleted. Right. And it's so sad because that's essentially, that is the source of so much of our suffering, all of these, these chronic diseases and symptoms and conditions, right. So it's really focusing on, do we have a base of what, what we call the, the holy for food? Do we have enough fruits, vegetables, whole foods, and herds and spices, right? It, it, it is being mindful, right? It is being mindful. Our soil, it is depleted, right. We, we have to be aware of that. Our soil is actually depleted. So it's being aware of that. Possibly being open to maybe, you know, a little bit more organic produce, right? Because of all the pesticides and all the toxic and everything they're putting on the, but if, if all you can get is conventional produce, that is still a win. I guarantee you having three apples a day will beat having three donuts a day. Doesn't matter. <Laugh>

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Exactly. Exactly. So those are the three principles. And then do you look at someone let's say that they're trying to lose weight. Where do you begin to assess their caLauriec needs? Macro needs, cuz I will get these questions. If I don't ask, I will get comments. So please share that, that kind of strategy in how you become.

Gabriel Zhanay: Yeah. Awesome. Awesome. Yeah. So that's, that's actually the third one that would be quantity. Right? So we covered, how do, how, how do we, what is the quality of what we're eating and then how much are we eating? And so when we look at how much this is the law of energy balance, this basic dictates right. Energy in energy out, it's a little bit simplistic. There's obviously more nuance to it. But essentially using this model, we can start to calculate, okay, let's say Laurie comes in and she wants to drop, you know, maybe she wants to drop 10 pounds. Right. And so we have to set up, all right. So what is Laurie's maintenance caLauriees, right? What is her caLauriees that will basically maintain her current body, weight and current body composition. Once we have that and we'll go through a calculation, just setting up, you know, some of your biometrics, like age, height, weight, activity levels neat.

Gabriel Zhanay: Which is non-exercise activity level. Basically like what you do when you scratch your head. Right? So non-exercise activity, thermogenesis, and then the thermic effect of food. Once we have that again, it's a little bit scientific, so I don't wanna overwhelm everybody. Who's listening. They're like, holy shit, what did you just say? No, keep it simple. We just put that into a calculator. It calculates it for us on the individual. And then ideally we look at dropping anywhere from 250 caLauriees up to 500 caLauriees a day in order to ideally aim for the gold standard of about one pound of fat tissue per week. Again, that can be variable. Some people they'll notice like, oh my God. And actually let me go back a second. As a preface, as human beings, we tend to overestimate how much we really burn. And we tend to underestimate how much we really eat.

Gabriel Zhanay: So keeping this in mind, right? It's a reason why most people say like, Hey listen, Gabriel, like I hear you on this. But like I drop 500 caLauriees. Okay. Is actually possible that that that's the case, but it's also quite possible that maybe we aren't tracking correctly. Maybe we are under tracking. Maybe actually your body has already adapted to those new caLauriees, which is very, very feasible. Especially if you've been in a dieting phase or in a caLauriec deficit for months or even longer than that. So it's keeping all those variables in mind. Again, it doesn't need to be complicated, but kind of keeping in that in mind, that's the initial calculation. And then from there, I always say that's just the first one, right? Because usually then we may need to make an adjustment. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. And usually typically after that, we make an adjustment every couple months after that. Does that make sense? I know I a

Dr. Laurie Marbas: And then, so that's the caLauriec amount and the now how do you divide that up with the macros? Cuz I will get that question as well. So what is your preference on percentages of protein carbs and fats

Gabriel Zhanay: It, you know, again, I'll, I'll give a more specialized answer, but it does depend on the goal. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> if you're working towards fat loss it can be one way and I'll explain that way. And if it's for muscle building, it can be a different way. And if it's just for maintenance, if you're just maintaining and you're doing more of like a body, recomposition maybe sports performance, that can be also a particular way. I'll speak towards weight loss or fat loss first. And then I'll go over to muscle building and then maintenance. So for, for fat loss for, and I'll speak to the vegan and the plant-based community, cause that's primarily who we're talking to here, but for the plant-based community, it can be helpful to have protein a little bit higher during fat loss phases. And the reason why, and I know some people may have different beliefs on this, but the reason why is because when we're dropping fat tissue, right, we need two things in place in order to retain muscle tone.

Gabriel Zhanay: The first thing we need is the signal from strength training to give us a reason to even keep the muscle, right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> we don't get that signal. Then the body will be primed to drop muscle tissue and fat tissue. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> number two, we need, we need at least a decent amount of amino acids or protein to ensure we even keep the muscles so we can be working out all day. But if we don't have the building blocks, which is essentially what amino acids are, then again, no reason to keep it. So that could look like, let's say we have an individual, they come in and they want to focus on, let's say drop 20 pounds and for a macro switch. So the first thing setting the caLauriec intake. So one, once we have the caLauriec intake, the macros gets very easy, right? Cause then all we do is just set it up from there.

Gabriel Zhanay: So typically look at protein carbohydrates and then fats as the last one. So we'll calculate protein depending on their body weights. And I know some people may be listening and they tracking kilograms. So depending on their body weight I pounds, right? So I pounds we look at typically at a range anywhere from 0.8 grams up to even 1.5 grams of protein per pound. Again depends on the person, right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative>, there's kinda like a general range, but anywhere there will calculate versus of protein, making sure we're ensuring muscle retention, right? While we're dropping weight or dropping fat tissue, then we're gonna prioritize carbohydrates again. This one is, this one is demonizing. So many circles like HARs with the devil or carbs are bad and like all these different myths. Right? But primarily when we're getting carbohydrates from healthy whole foods, plant based sources that fuel us mm-hmm <affirmative> we also have to understand that from a fitness or performance aspect, carbohydrates are actually muscle building the actually aid in the muscle building process.

Gabriel Zhanay: Whereas some of us may think like, oh my God, it's not good for muscle. No, actually carbohydrates are actually very, very essential to muscle building because our muscles are 80% water. Right. So 80% water. And when we keep in mind that for every one gram of carbohydrate, you're throwing three grams of water. Right. So many people when they drop weight, they're like, oh my God, I dropped 15 pounds in the first month. Right. It's like, okay, that's awesome. Let's acknowledge that. But probably 12 or 13 of those pounds with water weight. <Laugh> right. So we wanna acknowledge that it's, it's very easy, right? It's very easy to get kind of like fooled by the scale on the weight. But when we understand, okay, carbohydrates, yes. It's probably gonna retain a little bit more water, but wait. Okay. I actually need carbohydrates to build muscle, to keep my strength as I'm focusing on dropping fat tissue. And then the last one that will be fats. And then we'll typically look at anywhere between like 20, to maybe 30% for fat. We don't, we don't keep, we don't typically keep fats as high. We just want to keep it there for more for hormonal balance and not overloading the, the body with fats. Again, there's nothing wrong with fats, but the higher, the fat intake, the more likely our liver's gonna have to work harder to process the extra fat and break it down.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm. Okay. So that was weight loss. What about what in that changes for the muscle building component?

Gabriel Zhanay: So this guy it's actually a lot, I would say actually, if you're working towards like a fat loss phase or you're like how we say in the fitness world, you're shredding or you're, you're dropping fat. I would say it's actually a little bit more challenging because you're gonna have less caLauriees coming in, which means you have to be more strategic with protein, carbs and fat with muscle building. You don't have to be as strategic. And what I mean by this is that when you're muscle building, you can actually get most of your protein intake from whole food plant based sources. Whereas maybe if you're in a fat loss base, you might need to be a little bit more open minded to maybe a little bit of protein powder, maybe, you know, a little like, you know, vegan, like process protein. You know, that, that may be the case for FRA a muscle building.

Gabriel Zhanay: Like we've actually found because so much of whole food plant based sources when you mix them up, right. Whether it's like from a grains or a legume or even vegetables, right. It's actually really, really easy to hit protein goals and carbohydrate goals and fat goals while doing it kind of like in a fun and more sustainable way, if that makes sense. So typically for protein, we're looking at about like 0.8 to about 1.0 grams per pound for muscle building. So a little bit less. And then for carbohydrates again, this is where we can have a lot of fun because muscle building, depending on how long you're doing it, you get a lot more room for like, you know, playing around with macros and eating a lot more. So carbohydrates can any go anywhere from like 40 to even like 70% of the intake coming from carbohydrates. And then whatever's remaining be a lot for the fat macros at that point.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Gotcha. Okay. And so so we had the mindset, we talked about the food, we talked about the macros what's left in the journey of transformation for someone.

Gabriel Zhanay: So once we have these things left and I, we covered a lot, we're like, oh my God, what's left essentially consistency, consistency, and accountability. And there may be adjustments, right? Because again, this is just the first you could say like initial adjustment. We first said like, all right, these are first targets for the workouts. First targets for nutrition. The main thing here is now collecting data. What, whether that's from a nutrition tracking software or a strength tracking software, and then making sure we have data there so we can observe it like objectively, right. And then continue to refine the process. This may take anywhere from like two to six weeks as we're refining things, as we're like, all right. So how much, how much weight do I need to live in the gym? But usually that takes a couple weeks until you start to adjust and start to like recognize.

Gabriel Zhanay: Okay. All right. Maybe, maybe I don't need to be lifting the five pound pink dumbbells anymore. Maybe I should go over the twenties now <laugh> right. Starting to understand, okay, what are the, maybe for nutrition, what are maybe six to eight meals, right? Mm-Hmm <affirmative> that can consistently have maybe templating out as a recipe or having it as kind like saved as storage. Right. Kind of getting all those kinks out in that first month or two. And then from there, essentially, it's just being consistent. I know there's a lot of sexy stuff in health and fitness, but essentially with the principles that we're covering right here with the law of energy balance, we're looking at the law of progressive overload and looking at whole food plant based foods, essentially, I guarantee you would see better progress than most people who change their strategy every month or every year, every single decade.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm-Hmm <affirmative> absolutely. Okay, cool. So that really lays out a very simple map of, I mean, I say simple in the sense of, you know, there are, there are, there are strategies and principles in place that you've seen will work when people are consistent with their actions and habits, which that's the hard part, right. That gets back to the mindsets and the behavior component, which is by far the most difficult aspect of any of us who are trying to help people find better health. Fantastic. So this was fantastic. Is there any other final advice you'd like to share with anyone who is considering starting this journey? Cause you're obviously very knowledgeable and what have you seen helps? A lot of people.

Gabriel Zhanay: I think the most important thing is having an open mind. I think that's been one of the most powerful things I've had I've experienced in my own life is mm-hmm <affirmative> having an open mind being receptive, being a student at heart. And I thinks very helpful when you have an open mind, even, you know, even if you're not vegan, even if you're not fully plant based or even if you are right, maybe you've been vegan for 10 years or 20 years. Right. The thing is when we have an open mind, it actually it's like, I love the analogy of a garden, right? When we have a fertile garden, right. When the garden's ready to be planted or when the student is ready, when the teacher appears, right. We're able to grow much more exponentially. And you know, they've done plenty of studies on the, the difference between a growth mindset versus the fixed mindset.

Gabriel Zhanay: But you know, you'll find that in society, the people who tend to grow the most learn the most, you know, maybe even enjoy life the most is that people who have open minds, the ones who is like, okay, maybe, you know, doing this other random diet thing that I found on internet. Maybe I, maybe I, I should be open to something maybe, maybe doing, you know, 20 hours of cardio on the step master, maybe, you know, maybe I should look at something else. Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, the whole point here is just being receptive to learning because even though, even if we end high school or college or whatever educational place you've come from, you know, the thing is the learning never ends. Right. It's always there. And you know, the information now is so readily available that I think it's actually not a lack of MIS not information. It's actually a too much information. It's like, what, what happens when people get too much information, they get like info beast, they get obese with information. So it's absorbing, what's useful discarding. What's not. And then adding what is uniquely mine? Like, what is it that resonates with me? What is it that makes sense? What is based on evidence based principles and then moving forward with that

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Mm-Hmm <affirmative> no, I think it just relates back down to searching for the truth. Right. And what's working the hard facts of at least in our scientific realm that we have evidence of and always being curious. Right. I, to mm-hmm, <affirmative>, it's a superpower curiosity. You just look at little kids, they're always curious to ask tons of questions. And so when you go into it, like with the, the curiosity mindset and the joy of learning, that makes the whole judgment of am I being open minded, it doesn't even matter because you're just always looking for curiosity and looking for answers, you are open minded, right. So, and just minding your response though, cuz sometimes we live in our silos and then someone cracks, open a door and is like, Hey, what are you guys doing in here? What about this? And people get a little defensive, but just being, I think like an open heart too is really key just to, to accepting, accepting of whatever news is coming your way. So absolutely. That's fantastic. So yeah. Well thank you, Gabriel. Is there if there's any place we should be looking to find you besides vegan fitness redefined.com, where else can people be in touch?

Gabriel Zhanay: Sure, sure. So you can find me on Instagram at Gabriel under and if that's hard to spell, I'm sure Laurie will

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Put, it'll be a link, but it's D H a N a Y. Yes, <laugh>

Gabriel Zhanay: Right. And then also on Facebook you can find me and add me at Gabriel.

Dr. Laurie Marbas: Gotcha. Perfect. Yes. We'll have links to all those guys in the show notes. But definitely share this with someone. If you feel that might resonate with and leave a, a great comment subscribe, and we're super excited that you came to speak to us today. Thank you for your time.

Gabriel Zhanay: Thank you, Laurie. It was a pleasure being on with you. Thanks!

Laurie Marbas
Laurie is our Chief Medical Officer, double board certified family and lifestyle medicine physician, licensed in all 50 states and DC.

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