This article breaks down everything about the vegan bodybuilding diet, from the diet itself to its benefits, what foods to eat, what foods to avoid, and what meal plans athletes on this diet should follow.
The vegan diet has gained a lot of fans in recent years. With each passing day, more and more people decide to adopt this way of eating due to the health benefits and ethics towards animal treatment.
Many still believe that building muscle is impossible on a vegan diet. This isn't true, as numerous vegan bodybuilders do just fine without eating animal products. We'll explain everything there is to know about the vegan bodybuilding diet and how aspiring bodybuilders can successfully incorporate a vegan diet into their routine.
But first, the misconceptions about vegan bodybuilding need to be addressed.
The Truth About the Vegan Diet and Bodybuilding
“I can’t build muscles without meat.” This is the biggest misconception about the vegan diet among bodybuilders and athletes. Although a high animal protein diet does enhance muscle growth by stimulating hormones like testosterone, it doesn’t change the fact that meat is high in fat. Athletes or bodybuilders who consume a high volume of animal fat are subject to health risks such as rapid aging and cancer growth.
The vegan diet can help you put on muscle mass while keeping you healthy. Contrary to popular belief, the vegan diet isn't rigid; it's flexible enough to accommodate athletes’ and bodybuilders’ nutritional needs.
Read on as we address the common myths surrounding the vegan bodybuilding diet.
Myth #1: Lots of animal protein is needed to recover from a workout.
The truth: Athletes only need a certain percentage of protein from their daily calorie intake for muscle recovery and growth. Plant proteins are adequate for your bodybuilding needs. They provide you with phytonutrients and fiber, which are components that animal protein does not contain.
Myth #2: Plant protein isn't as nutritional as animal protein.
The truth: Certain plant foods contain high-quality sources of protein, such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouted grains. The fact that athletes and bodybuilders require a different nutritional makeup doesn't mean that they should turn to animal protein. A vegan diet can be just as effective. Combining vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and grains, athletes can be better nourished.
Myth #3: You can’t build muscles as a vegan bodybuilder.
The truth: Numerous vegan athletes and bodybuilders are doing just fine without meat or dairy products. A few examples are Mike Tyson, Carl Lewis, and Billy Simmonds. If you’re committed to building muscles while staying healthy, a vegan diet is just the right diet for you.
What is a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet?
First, you need to understand that bodybuilders develop their musculature through intensive training and workout sessions. Due to the constant wear and tear of muscles, bodybuilders need to stay well-fed.
Nutrition is a significant factor to consider when pursuing muscular development. According to numerous studies, bodybuilders need to increase protein intake to about 0.7-1.0 grams per pound of body weight each day. The purpose of high protein intake is to stimulate optimal muscle growth. For traditional bodybuilders, a calorie surplus of 10-20% is considered beneficial for muscle mass gain.
Although animal sources are frequently chosen for bodybuilding due to their high protein and calorie content, a vegan diet is just as useful for this purpose. A vegan bodybuilding diet removes all animal products and usually contains more protein than regular vegan diets. Still, there is the issue of lower protein intake than animal diets. Plant-based bodybuilders should carefully plan their diet to ensure they get a sufficient amount of calories and nutrients common in animal-based diets.
How to Become a Vegan Bodybuilder
Nutrition is critical, especially to vegan bodybuilders. Careful planning is required to maximize the production of testosterone and insulin needed for muscle recovery. Choosing to become a vegan bodybuilder is simple, but ensuring you eat complete meals can be difficult.
Therefore, it's vital to understand the several staple foods that make up the vegan bodybuilding diet. The first step to becoming a vegan bodybuilder is to plan out a week of meals to ensure you have all the ingredients needed. If you’re making the switch from an animal-based diet, you should slowly transition to more vegan foods before switching completely.
- Stock Up on High Protein Plant Foods: The most significant trade-off you’ll experience when switching to a vegan diet is lower protein intake. To keep up with your muscle-building goals, you’ll need to get sufficient protein intake each day. Lots of plant-based protein sources don't contain all the essential amino acids. This means you’ll have to eat various high protein vegan foods such as tofu, legumes, and quinoa to optimize muscle gain.
- Eat Enough Fat: The recommended fat intake for bodybuilders is 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight daily. This means you have to eat more foods that are high in fat, such as avocados, olives, almonds, and pistachios.
- Stay Hydrated: Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains have high fiber content. When eating such foods, you get full quick. This can make it difficult for vegan bodybuilders to get the required amount of nutrients needed for muscle gain. To prevent such complications, you should drink enough water. Experts recommend a minimum of 1 ml of fluid per calorie. Keep in mind: fluid needs may change when exercising.
- Calculate Nutrient Intake: Paying close attention to nutrition levels is necessary when bodybuilding on a vegan diet. This is because vegan diets exclude many food groups, which may increase the risk of nutrient deficiencies. To ensure optimum muscle gain, you need to know precisely how many nutrients plant-based meals should provide.
Tips for Beginning Vegan Bodybuilders
Is this your first time taking on the vegan bodybuilding diet? In need of some inspiration? Look at vegan bodybuilders on social media who have bypassed the ‘vegans are skinny’ stereotype.
Here are some valuable tips to help beginner vegan bodybuilders build muscle:
- Eat Enough Calories: Calorie intake is what separates a successful vegan bodybuilding diet from an ineffective one. The problem isn’t a lack of meals, but the low-calorie content of such meals. Most vegan diets are filled with fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and low in calories. As a bodybuilder, you need to eat more calories than your body burns. To do that, you need to calculate your calorie requirements based on your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This takes into account your age, height, weight, and activity level.
- Make a Workout Plan: Vegan bodybuilders should aim for shorter, intense workout sessions. This recommendation is in alliance with your diet as shorter workouts help prevent loss of muscle mass. Most beginners make the mistake of engaging in longer workout sessions, which only increases your protein needs. Aim for a shorter workout plan, and don’t overtrain yourself.
- Get More Protein: Protein is essential to the muscle-building process. After each workout session, you should ingest meals that are high in protein. You could start with chickpeas, quinoa, or legumes; plant-based foods with high protein content. Soy or other vegan protein powders also come in handy as they help you make protein shakes on the go.
How to Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet
If you’re new to vegan bodybuilding, understand that the journey to muscle gain is a long one. But it’s all worth it in the end. Therefore, we recommend making subtle changes to your vegan diet until eating plant-based food becomes second nature. Here are some beneficial tips to help you build muscles on a vegan diet:
- Drink Protein Shakes Daily: There's no shortcut to muscle building: you need protein and lots of it! The fastest way to ingest the right level of protein is by drinking protein shakes. Drink one with every meal, and you’ll have added an extra 20 grams of protein.
- Replace Fiber with More Calories: Plant foods rich in fiber, like fruits and vegetables, need to be eaten less often. Why? Because foods like peppers, broccoli, and carrots fill you up very quickly. Rather than eliminate them, replace them with high-calorie foods like beans, grains, nuts, and seeds.
- Eat Beans More: Beans are one of the best sources of protein. If you can, cook a whole batch multiple times per week and store them for later consumption. Remember, cooked beans are better than canned ones.
- Replace Oils with Nuts and Seeds: Oils don’t have much protein content—nuts and seeds do. Next time you prepare meals like oatmeal, salad, and lentils, try replacing the coconut oil or olive oil additives with pumpkin seeds or almonds.
- Don’t be Afraid to Supplement: As a vegan bodybuilder, it’s pretty impossible not to use supplements. Keep an eye out for zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin D, creatine, and protein supplements, among many others.
How Do Vegan Bodybuilders Get Enough Protein?
There is some talk about how vegans only need 10% of their total calories to be protein. Please disregard this information as there is no evidence to support this. Think about it; as vegan bodybuilders look to add muscles, 10% of overall calorie intake being protein won’t do anything. You need a whole lot more to build some muscles—and that’s a fact.
That being said, it's harder to meet protein needs without careful planning. Vegan diets are generally lower in protein than traditional diets. This can, however, be fixed by increasing portion sizes. It's recommended that vegan bodybuilders eat small but frequent meals with a constant mix of protein and healthy fats.
Need some recommendations for vegan-friendly foods that provide high protein levels? These foods are what you should consider incorporating into your eating plan:
- Vegetables, like kale.
- Beans and legumes, like chickpeas.
- Seeds, such as chia, sunflower, hemp, and flaxseeds.
- Grains, such as quinoa, oats, and millet.
- Sources of soy; like tempeh, tofu, edamame, and soy milk.
- Protein powder made from a combination of protein sources such as hemp, brown rice, and peas.
The vegan bodybuilding diet needs proper planning to be effective. You need high levels of protein, healthy fats, and, of course, calories. While nutrition is essential to your bodybuilding goals, you still have to undertake serious training. You’ll need a perfect mix of diet and weightlifting to build rock-solid muscles.
Choosing a healthy plant-based and vegan diet is most beneficial when it comes to:
Higher levels of energy;
Aids in energy and overall happiness;
Provides a sense of comfort and relief;
Could prevent major diseases such as obesity and diabetes;
Accomplish weight-loss and management; and
Improves mental and cognitive functioning.
There are really no excuses not to try healthier habits in your everyday life. If you are a man or woman looking for specific benefits of adopting healthier habits or just want to know about the general healing properties of herbs. Please remember to comment or post any health questions or contact us directly!
Beedle, M. (2019, February 18). Vegan Bodybuilding Diet: The Ultimate Guide (2019).
Iraki, J., Fitschen, P., Espinar, S., & Helms, E. (2019, June 26). Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review.
Petre, A. (2016, August 16). The 17 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Vegetarians.