Name: Nina Nam
Occupation: Actress, Administrative
City/State/Country: Santa Monica, CA, USA
Type of Training: Bikini competition
Q: Tell us about how you won the Female Grand Prize for the Bodybuilding.com competition.
For years, I used to say to myself, “Psshh, if I could win a lot of money, I would enter a transformation/weight loss contest.”
So one really depressed night, I was browsing through transformation videos on YouTube.
Someone posted a video about this competition, and I was so shocked that the prize was $80,000!
I saw last year’s female winner’s before and after photos and immediately got inspired!
I decided for the first time in my life to lift as heavy as I could for all of my body parts (not just my butt).
“It felt empowering to aim for getting stronger, not skinnier (which is what I used to want).”
I did not know this would be the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging feat I had accomplished in my life.
The reason I wanted to try a vegan diet for this bodybuilding competition is because I read from many sources that it helps with faster recovery and less acidity in the body, and I’ve read about successful top athletes and bodybuilders who were vegan and vegetarian.
Thanks to a lot of research and a coach, I made the transition from a heavy meat-based diet. I doubted the diet and/or the workout many times, though.
But the reassuring weekly progress photos kept me going, as well as the support I received from my friends, family, God, and even from fellow competitors. The obstacles they shared really got to me emotionally. I adored their efforts and their honesty. I was continuously inspired by their commitment no matter what got in their way.
Pretty soon, I honestly did not even care about the money. It was so gruelling that I simply wanted to finish the challenge to my best ability and have no regrets. I wanted to say that I gave it my all.
That would be the biggest reward ever because I never committed and completed something so physically and mentally demanding. When I prayed, I knew in my heart that God wanted me to finish this for a reason.
“I will forever remember the time my mom visited me halfway in the 12-week transformation. She looked straight in my eyes and confidently said, ‘You’ve already won.’ I felt her believe in me so much.”
I already had the desire to do my best, but her confidence burned a fire within me that felt so intense.
She told me to make this bodybuilding competition a priority because something great was sure to come out of it.
Another special person who always encouraged me with kind words is a close friend of mine.
When I felt particularly exhausted near the end of the 12 weeks, he accompanied me to the gym and helped train my weakest muscles (abs).
Even till the final day of the challenge, when I took my “after” photos, he was there alongside my loving sister.
It felt like a sprint to the end as I performed jump lunges, squats, crunches, and leg lifts. I jumped up ready for my photos.
Because they were so cued in, we got amazing shots just in time for me to drop off my sister back to the airport!
After I dropped her off, I cried so hard in the car (like an Oscar-award-winning performance kind of cry). I knew I gave it my all, and I felt so grateful to everyone who helped me.
“The most important thing is: never, never, never give up … give it all you got till the very end.”
- 6 vegan meals* (2-3 protein shakes, lots of asparagus and tempeh).
- 1-2 gallons of water.
- No pre-workout/coffee/caffeine.
- Only four cheat meals early in the 12-week competition.
*A typical meal would be like 4 oz. tempeh, 1/2 cup white rice, and 1 cup asparagus.
- Multivitamin for active women
- Vitamin B12
- Glucosamine MSM & CMO
- Digestive enzymes
Q: What did your training look like for the bodybuilding competition?
I would do the same workouts for an entire month before changing it up.
- 6 days of morning fasted cardio (30-50 min on treadmill/spin bike/stairmaster/plyometrics).
- 5-6 days of evening weight lifting.
- For muscles that needed extra love/growth like my shoulders, I hit them 3 times a week.
- For my abs, 6 times a week for the last month when I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted.
“I know hitting the same muscles six times a week goes against what a lot of trainers believe, but after a lot of research, I went with Arnold’s strategy: he trained his calves every day.”
So I strengthened my abs in various ways, and it worked for me. Foam rolled and stretched at least twice on workout days.
Q: What advice would you give that you don’t commonly see in magazines?
You are made PERFECTLY! You may be struggling to accept things about yourself, but only you can be of service to others with your specific set of gifts and weaknesses.
Accept all of yourself.
Work on your struggles from a loving place.
Ask God (or your Higher Power) to show you the way every day, and only surround yourself with friends and family who believe in you 100 percent.
Q: What uncommon activity do you schedule into your daily routine?
One-hour power-naps. It’s sadly a luxury, especially for busy people.
“I make it a priority because solid naps (not mini 15-minute naps) help me lower stress significantly and maintain my energy without depending on caffeine or pre-workout drinks.”
Q: What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome in your life?
The hardest obstacle has been and may always be: conquering that negative voice, which instills fear, worry, and doubt.
Q: What was your experience at UC Berkeley like? Also, highlight three key things you walked away with.
Getting accepted into Berkeley is one of my proudest accomplishments. A well-respected counsellor in high school told me I wouldn’t get in.
Berkeley was my dream school, and I worked my ass off for it. I had the time of my life:
Found my love for fitness and bodybuilding because of my favourite hilarious dynamic cardio-kickboxing group fitness instructor.
Found my love for acting because of my favourite monotone, yet incredibly inspirational, theatre arts professor.
Blossomed socially by creating diverse friendships, serving as president and social manager of a student cooperative housing, and partying (without drinking!).
Q: What was the hardest part of going plant-based? What helped you overcome the obstacles?
I worried how I would get a lot of protein without eating too much of the same tempeh or tofu. So I researched brands that had the cleanest highest amount of protein without excess calories. That’s how I found amazing stuff like spirulina (6g per tbsp.), chlorella (6g per tbsp.), and tofu skin (a.k.a. yuba, 20g per 3 oz.).
Q: What misconceptions about vegetarianism did you have at first that are now shattered?
Despite seeing photos and reading stories about many strong vegetarian and vegan bodybuilders, I still worried I would become physically weaker.
“But having been a heavy meat-eater, I can now say from personal experience, you can definitely gain muscle and strength on a plant-based diet!”
Q: What are your go-to plant-based protein sources?
I used to get stomach aches from whey protein shakes. But not with the vegan kinds! I enjoy Vega Sport Chocolate. I love certain organic tofu! If you’re worried about insufficient protein on a vegan diet, you will be surprised after you look at the nutrition labels.
Q: What’s next for you after accomplishing such a big goal, what new goals do you have for yourself?
- Empower people by encouraging them to love and believe in themselves through my blog.
- Write an Oscar-award-winning screenplay.
- Be the lead in the biggest action films of all time.
- Be a little nicer to creeps at the gym.
To get more vegan diet tips for bodybuilding competition, watch this video – How To Start a Vegan Diet for Fitness: Foods To Eat + Tips
Chris Willitts (creator of V3), is the founder and owner of Vegetarian Bodybuilding.
V3 Vegetarian Bodybuilding System is a mixture of science and author’s advice, providing users with optimal diet and exercise. This system is designed for vegans and vegetarians only.
A lot of research has been put in this program. Furthermore, a lot of professional bodybuilders and athletes tried and tested the program, praising its progressiveness and efficiency.
The program is about taking control of your own body and health according to your potential and needs. And worry not; you’ll get plenty of proteins with this system. It will boost you with energy, and you’ll feel just a strong as any carnivore would (perhaps even stronger, depending on how much you invest in your exercise). It avoids vitamins deficiency and provides you with a lot of proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Instead of saying things like “I think a plant-based diet is good for athletes and bodybuilders,” the V3 Vegetarian Bodybuilding System claims “I know a plant-based diet is good for athletes and bodybuilders, and I have results to prove it.”
To find out more, visit the website at V3 Bodybuilding – Vegan Diet Tips for Bodybuilding Competition