Charlotte Clarke

Competing as a Vegan

Written By

Charlotte Clarke


Nutrition, Personal Training

Posted On

10 May 2016

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I’m Charlotte, a Vegan Bikini Fitness Competitor and Health and Fitness Blogger.

For the last five months I have undergone competition prep to compete for the first time as a Bikini Model. In terms of training, it is essentially bodybuilding. Sound scary? Thought so! Do not fear, this does not mean that my physique is going to switch from petite dancer to Arnold Schwarzenegger overnight. You may be thinking some of the following:

  • She’s vegan
  • She’s so small
  • She’s a girl
  • Girls shouldn’t have muscles
  • She’s going to get hooked on steroids
  • That’s gross
  • She’s going to get really big and look stupid

Or you might be thinking:

  • I respect that
  • Good on her
  • That’s commitment
  • I want to follow this journey
  • I wish I was so passionate about something
  • It doesn’t surprise me
  • Well done

Or perhaps you’re thinking a mixture of both and much (much) more!

Taking on such a challenge resulted in a total lifestyle change. I accepted a job with flexible hours, allowing me time to train during the day, and work during the evenings when the fridge temptations are greater than ever!

I am vegan, a non-ethical vegan but nonetheless a strict one. I made this choice just 18 months ago for health reasons, after trying the diet and noticing the way my body responded to the change. I am well aware such a choice isn’t for everyone, and I would not impose it on anyone, but it works for me. The big question I’m asked about my diet, especially with my recent challenge is where do I source my protein? For the majority of my prep, my protein intake wasn’t that high sitting at around 25% until the final few weeks. I began my day with porridge or pancakes, using a soy protein to boost the protein intake. Throughout the rest of the day I’d consume foods such as tofu, broccoli, kale, chickpeas and ’Linda McCartney Veggie sausages’ to ensure I met the macros required to fuel my body.

The bigger problem I faced came about as contest grew closer. Vegan sources of protein still maintain a fairly high level of carbs, for example beans, pulses, legumes so I was encouraged to use supplements to fill this gap.

There is a common misconception surrounding diet that suggests you need meat and eggs to gain the muscle required to eventually step on stage. I gained approximately 5kg of lean muscle for my competition across a period of five months, dropping around 7% body fat. I didn't go through a ’bulking season’ we just focused on lean gains and improving muscle definition.

Since becoming vegan my metabolism hit sky high meaning I was still losing body fat until I increased my daily calories to 2750! Don’t get me wrong, this allowed to me eat all day, every day which in my opinion was great! I may be a small person, but my size does not match my appetite!

Generally speaking, competition prep for me wasn’t too dissimilar to that of non-vegan. Minus the generic ’chicken, rice and eggs’ meal prep photos, you’ve pretty much landed at the same scenario. The main challenge came in the variety of foods, and towards the end this became a matter of simply seasoning my tofu with different spices come breakfast, lunch and dinner!

I am naturally quite lean so the beginning of my training didn’t involve too much cardio. Dreamy right?! Closer to the competition we slowly introduced more cardio to ensure that I was in a calorie deficit to bring the body fat down and present a tighter leaner physique.

I have been questioned as to whether I have taken steroids during the process to which my response is always a gasp in shock followed by a swift no of course not! It just proves that if you’re committed you can make big changes in a fairly short space of time following a vegan lifestyle.

So there we have it.... ’I am vegan and I am lean and muscular’. It can be done!

I will be competing again in October and will be spending the next six months focusing on building more of my upper body. In my off season, you’ll catch me in the gym or in the kitchen whipping up all sorts of vegan protein-y goodness! Perhaps I’ll even see a few of you at TRAINFITNESS?

Charlotte x

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