Vegan Bodybuilding Diet | Reach Your Plant-Based Goals

Written by
Lydia DeJesus @ 8fit
Written by
Lydia DeJesus @ 8fit
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Mainstream bodybuilding culture promotes the consumption of high levels of single-source complete proteins to build muscle faster. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Complete proteins contain nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. These sources are similar to the ones found in your body and are needed for building muscle efficiently. Because your body cannot produce these nine essential amino acids on its own, you need to get them from food.

Examples of these complete proteins include meat, pork, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy. These are not an option for the vegan bodybuilder. So, the question becomes, can you follow a vegan bodybuilding diet and still bulk up? The simple answer is yes, you can develop a toned and muscular physique and still live your vegan lifestyle.

What does a vegan bodybuilding diet look like?

The guidelines for a vegan bodybuilding diet and traditional bodybuilding diet are fundamentally the same. The significant distinction is protein; specifically, where you’re getting your protein.

  • Traditional bodybuilding diet: protein sources derive from animal proteins like meat, fish, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy.

  • Vegan bodybuilding diet: protein sources come from non-meat, non-dairy, and are free of all animal by-products. Instead, all proteins consumed are plant-based sources like grains, nuts, and beans.

Plant-based proteins are, however, considered incomplete because they lack one or more of the essential amino acids your body needs to function effectively. Remarkably, you don’t need animal proteins to achieve the same results that traditional bodybuilders get. You can still meet your protein needs even though animal protein sources are known to have higher levels of certain nutrients, like vitamin D, vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acid, and iron.

However, it’s impractical to believe that you can get all the protein you need by just eating spinach and leafy green vegetables. On their own, plant-based proteins often lack the levels of nutrients found in animal proteins. If you want to successfully build muscle while on a vegan bodybuilding diet, you must find the right mix of foods necessary to create complete proteins. This means eating a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day to get the needed range of amino acids.

To bulk up on a vegan bodybuilding diet, you simply need to follow a healthy whole-foods diet that gives your body exactly what it needs to thrive and build muscle. This may seem challenging, but with proper planning, it is doable.

What you should know about building muscle the vegan way

The vegan diet consists of only plant-based foods, which are lacking complete proteins. Consequently, vegan diet deficiencies can occur if you don’t eat the correct amount of nutrients. Taking a proactive approach to meal planning can help you craft a vegan bodybuilding diet plan that addresses nutritional deficiencies before they occur. The most common nutritional deficiencies vegans may experience are described in this next section:

  • Calcium: This is important for building and maintaining strong bones. There are many plant-based sources of calcium, some even have a higher concentration than their dairy counterparts. Examples of these sources are collard greens, kale, soy nuts, chia seeds, and edamame.

  • Iron: While iron is readily available in many plant-based foods, you must be careful not to consume it with foods that prevent its absorption, like tea, coffee, or high levels of calcium.

  • Iodine: This deficiency may occur if you don’t include iodized sea salt in your vegan bodybuilding diet. Sea vegetables like kelp and seaweed are an excellent source of iodine. When your body doesn’t get enough iodine, it can lead to thyroid issues.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These are important for controlling inflammation. These are considered healthy fats. Sample sources include walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and plant-based micro-algae supplements.

  • Vitamin B-12: The metabolism of every cell in the body depends on vitamin B-12 because it plays a role in the synthesis of fatty acids and energy production. To fill this gap, consume plant foods that come fortified with B-12, such as soy milk, cereals, and nutritional yeast.

  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D is most accessible in dairy products but can also be found in cereals, soy products, and orange juice. Alternatively, you can spend 10 to 15 minutes a day outside soaking up the sun rays. (But whatever you do, give perineum sunning a pass.)

  • Zinc: This is another important nutrient commonly found in animal proteins. The good news is they can also be found in plant-based sources. The best sources are legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Vegan bodybuilding diet tips

Science shows that plant-based diets may be one of the best ways you can reach your goals faster. Timing, caloric intake, and the way you eat all make a difference in your diet and training. A vegan bodybuilding diet focuses on the consumption of natural whole foods. These foods help provide an efficient way to consume nutrients and improve energy to boost performance. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your vegan bodybuilding diet, so you can put your food to work for you.

1. Fuel your body to build muscle efficiently

Your vegan bodybuilding diet should consist of five to six smaller meals. This gives your body a timely and consistent supply of nutrients for effective muscle repair and growth. This method of feeding also helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels. When considering foods to eat, make sure you eat the right combination of calories, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates throughout the day. We all have different requirements based on age, height, gender, and goals. Seek advice from a nutritionist or medical professional to help you figure out the right mix of macronutrients you need to hit your strength training goals.

2. Be prepared for life

The secret strategy for successfully following a vegan bodybuilding diet is to be prepared. This means planning your meals ahead of time, which ensures that you will make healthy meal and snack choices throughout the day.

  • Prepare your lunch for the following day the night before.

  • Have a variety of ready-to-go snacks on hand. This will help combat the urge to snack on junk foods.

  • Drink protein shakes. Rice and hemp are great options to add to your protein shakes.

  • Take supplements. It’s okay to use supplements to fill in the gaps in your nutrition. It’s important to note that not all supplements are created equal, so be mindful in your selection. Choose high-quality supplements to support your overall health, energy, and well-being. As with any medical decision, consult with your doctor before taking supplements.

3. Things to consider throughout your training

When you are starting out, it may seem confusing trying to find the right balance of macronutrients, so the best advice we can give is to keep it simple and monitor your progress. Monitoring your progress ensures you can make relevant adjustments when needed. A food diary is an important tool for your training because it can help you determine what is working or what is not working. Here are things to be mindful of as you track:

  • Protein consumption: Space out your protein intake throughout the day. Too much or too little protein can be harmful to your goals. On the vegan bodybuilding diet, you should shoot to consume 1.5 kilograms per kilogram of body weight. This may be adjusted based on your bodybuilding goals, but defer to your nutritionist before adjusting.

  • Caloric intake: Eat enough calories but stay away from empty calories. The harder you train, the more calories you will need to sustain your muscle growth. Work with your nutritionist to determine your daily calorie intake.

  • Hydration levels: Stay hydrated throughout the day. A dehydrated body will not build muscle efficiently. Hydration is vital before, during, and after workouts.

  • Recovery times: Muscles need time to rest, repair, and strengthen between workouts. Build in recovery days around your tougher workouts. If you need help with designing the perfect training plan, sign up at 8fit.

The vegan bodybuilding diet is not simply about eliminating animal products from your diet. The goal is to find the right mix to fuel your body and build muscle.

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Featured photo courtesy of Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

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