Vegan Weight Loss Toning


Goal: Weight loss and toning. I am a 5'7", 128lb. female with a 12% body fat percentage.

I am at my wits end. I have been exercising 5 days a week for some time now. I do 15 minutes of cardio with my heart rate above 165 4 days a week before weight training. Sundays I perform just cardio training.

When weight training, I do lower weight and more reps, alternating between upper body and core, and then lower body and core. Usually my workout extends over 1 1/2 hours.

I am a vegan so my diet consists of fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, grains, etc. I currently take in anywhere between 12-15 hundred calories daily. I have worked with a personal trainer and dietician and have not achieved the results I had anticipated.

The body fat is not going anywhere and I see little toning. But mainly the fat is STILL THERE. I don't care too terribly much if I don't lose weight, I just want to get rid of the FAT!

I have recovered from a severe eating disorder and think perhaps that has something to do with it. But what do I do now?

I burn more calories than I take in daily (I monitor both closely) And still nothing. HELP!

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question


Please read our article on body fat percentage first: fat percentage in women

You have probably heard this 1,000 times before, but your weight and body fat percentage does not need to be any lower.

Your 12% body fat represents essential body fat which is all you have left. This is required for healthy bodily function.

If you want to lower your body fat percentage, you may look into adding lean body mass.

At your current level of body fat, 2 pounds more of lean mass (muscle) would lower your body fat percentage and you would then have more lean mass in relation to your body fat.

It is still not recommended and dangerous if your body fat percentage falls outside of the chart shown on the right. This is the precise reason why bodybuilders and athletes who compete in weight classes almost never keep their competition weight year round.


If you are highly active with a vegan diet, you should look into vegan protein supplements.

A friend, Robert Cheeke, an acclaimed vegan bodybuilder and speaker would be a good source for information related to supplements for vegans. There are also a ton of additional resources on vegan diets online which can point you in the right direction.   

Again, the reason why your body will not burn extra fat is because it is the essential fat, which is required for normal bodily functions. This is anorexia which is very serious as it can lead to very serious problems, even death.

If you do not have enough body fat, your body will catabolize your own muscle and eventually your internal organs will cease to work.


Your cardio regimen sounds good but your weight training needs work. You monitor your heart rate and it sounds like you achieve proper intensity.

You should keep track of your weight training intensity just as you keep track of your cardio intensity (heart rate). Intensity means, the heavier the weight is for your repetition range.

Your rep range should be in between 12 to 20 reps of a decent weight, which you should increase as you get stronger.

Since weight training is an anaerobic exercise, sets of over 20 reps are particularly useless. Most women are afraid of "bulking" which is a fitness myth and a top reason why most women find results harder to come by when working with a personal trainer or training in general.


Rest is just as important as nutrition and training. You need even more rest if you have a very low caloric intake. Make sure you get enough sleep at night and take at least 2 days off per week from structured training of any kind.

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