Being plant-based, a vegan diet is often thought to be suitable only for people looking to lose weight. But did you know that it can also be beneficial for bodybuilders and athletes? Choosing to go meat-free does not mean that you cannot build muscle. It could help you reach your fitness goal faster, as a matter of fact.
Vegan Diet and Bodybuilding
In today’s society, there is a general misconception that the only way to build muscles is through consuming animal protein. You’d be surprised at how many vegan bodybuilders are out there to refute this claim. The truth is, switching to a plant-based diet can be a great way to build leaner muscles and lose fat.
It is not enough to cut meat from your diet when going vegan. You also need to choose healthy, whole foods to be able to bulk up. This will provide your body the fuel it needs to gain muscle tone.
There are a few diet tips you need to follow to create a suitable meal plan for bodybuilders using the vegan approach.
A Vegan Approach to Bodybuilding Diet
Want to build muscles the vegan way? Here are important principles you need to follow to create the perfect meal plan:
1. Consume small yet frequent meals. As a bodybuilder, you need to eat 6 to 8 meals per day. These should be eaten at 2- to 4-hour intervals. Also, make sure each meal is packed with vital nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates, low-glycemic carbs, and calories. Doing so will help your body achieve a positive nitrogen balance. Plus, it will promote a higher rate of metabolism so your body burns more fat. As a result, you promote muscle growth while you tone the existing muscles in your body.
2. Make sure you meet your daily caloric requirement. It can be tempting to limit the amount of calories you intake as you switch to a vegan diet. However, for bodybuilders to succeed with this diet approach, it is important to get enough calories. Plant-based diets have lower calorie content than others, so it is important for bodybuilding vegans to keep an eye on their calorie intake or else the body could go into a catabolic state. To explain: when you have a large calorie deficit, it will cause your hard-earned muscle mass to burn itself.
A plant-based diet can benefit bodybuilders, too. (Image Source: Pexels)
3. Make sure you get enough protein, too. Contrary to popular belief, a vegan meal plan should be rich in protein. Instead of consuming animal protein though, you need to look for healthier, vegan alternatives. These include tempeh, quinoa, hummus, and chia seeds. Legumes and chickpeas can be good sources of filling yet low-fat protein, too.
4. Get enough carbohydrates to promote muscle growth. Carbs are not something that you should fear or completely eliminate in your vegan diet. If you are a bodybuilder, there are plenty of healthy, plant-based sources for them. The ideal source would be organic whole grain bread as they are rich in low-glycemic carbohydrates and have fiber, too. You need to meet your daily intake requirement for carbohydrates when still in the muscle-building phase.
5. Fat should make up 30% of your overall caloric intake. This does not mean that you should consume any fat. Choose to incorporate healthy kinds of fat as part of your diet. Omega-5 is a healthy fat that is found mostly in nuts. Various kinds of fish are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
6. Snack on nuts to give you added fuel. Nuts and grains are a great addition to any vegan diet. They provide you with extra bursts of energy that you can tap into while performing muscle-building activities. They are also a good source of healthy fat. The convenience of eating nuts also adds to their popularity thereby making them a go-to snack option for bodybuilders.
7. Say no to rice. Opt for rice alternatives such as quinoa as part of your vegan diet. For many years, a lot of bodybuilders have relied on rice to enhance their nutritional intake, but quinoa is slowly gaining popularity for offering the same benefits. Actually, quinoa has a higher quality protein while also being gluten-free. Other essential vitamins and nutrients you can find in quinoa include iron, B-vitamins, potassium, fiber, and vitamin E.
Healthy chickpea and quinoa salad. (Image Source: Yummy Mummy Kitchen)
8. Invest in healthy drinks. You also need to pay attention to the quality of the drinks you consume, just as you would when choosing items to include in your diet. Avoid consuming sugary drinks, like soda, to satisfy your need for calories. It’s essential to absorb up to 2.5 liters of fluid per day so choose healthy juices and drinks for that. If possible, make them yourself at home instead of buying bottled variants.
Sample Meal Plan
To help give you an idea on creating a vegan meal plan for bodybuilders, you can take note of these examples. These include some of the food options you can add to every meal. If possible, vary them so you can always excite your taste buds. Sticking to a vegan diet does not have to be boring or repetitive at all.
Breakfast: Granola, Soy milk, Fruits
Lunch: Whole wheat bread, bagel, fruits, vegan cheese, protein shake, protein bar
Snack: Salad, tofu, vegan sandwich
Dinner: Salad, whole grains, whole wheat bread, protein shake
The Bottom Line
Do not fall for the myth that claims you cannot adapt to a vegan diet while bodybuilding. There are enough components to the plant-based diet to aid in the process of muscle building. As long as you follow the right principles of the vegan approach, you can still reap the benefits. The best part is that you can still satisfy your taste buds.
Another advantage to building a meal plan yourself is that you can avoid deficiencies in your diet. If you are not sure how, you can always consult a nutrition expert to help map things out. Another idea is to intake supplements in the form of a vegan multivitamin such as the ones found here: https://totalshape.com/supplements/best-vegan-multivitamin/. The regular intake of supplements will help prevent the detrimental effects of nutritional deprivation in your diet.
Article written by: Isaac Robertson, Co-Founder and Head Coach at Total Shape.