Vegan diets for bodybuilding have become increasingly popular in recent years as a growing number of people are using this diet for its purported health and ethics benefits surrounding animal treatment.
It not only attracted the interest of the population worldwide but also athletes – including bodybuilders. This article reviews bodybuilding vegan diet, lists of foods that should be included and avoided, and provides a sample 5-day diet plan.
What is a bodybuilding vegan diet?
Bodybuilders strive to improve their muscles by vigorously training for aesthetics purposes. Nutrition plays a major role in the process of muscle development. It is generally accepted that for optimal muscle growth to occur, protein intake should be approximately 0.7-1.0 grams per kilogram (1.6-2.2 grams per kg) of body weight per day.
A 10-20% calorie surplus is also beneficial for gaining muscle mass, especially for those who are not new to training. Traditional bodybuilding vegan diet include many animal source foods due to their high protein and calorie content.
Vegan-based foods do not contain all animal products and have more protein than traditional vegan foods. This poses a challenge for bodybuilders who follow a vegan diet, because plant proteins tend to be lower than their animal-derived counterparts, which can affect muscle gain.
Therefore, careful planning is required to ensure adequate intake of protein, calories, and several micronutrients that can be made from a vegan diet. Vegan diets also change between different stages of a bodybuilder’s life, such as whether they are in their teens or preparing for a competition, where fat loss is common.
Vegan-based foods are high in fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein. It excludes all animal-derived products and is often higher in protein than traditional vegan diets.
How to implement vegan diet
While using a vegan diet may seem easy, it takes a good deal to make sure you eat a complete diet. A vegan diet includes a number of basic foods on which many of the meals are based.
To start a vegetarian vegan diet, it helps to plan a 5–7-day diet to make sure you have all the ingredients, as most vegan recipes require a several items.
If you are switching from a traditional diet, it may be helpful to gradually incorporate vegan foods into your regular diet before completely switching.
Fill up on high protein plant foods
When following a vegan diet to build a body, it is important to get enough protein to support your body building goals. Considering that most vegan protein sources usually do not contain all the essential amino acids, higher amounts and wide variety of these foods should be consumed to meet your needs on a regular basis.
Complementing a high protein diet, such as seitan, tofu, legumes, and quinoa, can help you meet your protein needs to increase muscle gain. Vegan protein powder can also help you meet your protein needs by providing concentrated protein sources of protein surrounding workouts throughout the day.
Make sure you eat enough fat
By eating a sufficient amount of fat, you get the calories needed to promote muscle gain, as fats provide twice as many calories as carbs and proteins per gram.
The typical recommended dietary intake of dietary supplements for a short period of time is 0.5 grams per kilogram (1 gram per kilogram) of body weight daily (1Trusted Source). This equates to 80 grams of fat per day for a male bodybuilder who weighs 175 pounds.
When you start a vegan bodybuilding diet, it can help to track your diet of macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fats – for the first few weeks to make sure you meet your needs.
Drink plenty of fluids
Given that vegan bodybuilding diets often contain fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, fiber intake can be very high. If you overdose on your fiber, certain side effects may develop, such as constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain.
Drinking enough water is one way to help prevent problems from eating a high vegan diet. Minimum 1 ml of liquid per calorie is a good starting point. For example, if you are eating a 2,000-calorie diet, aim for 2,000 ml (68 ounces) of liquid. However, keep in mind that your water needs may vary, especially when you exercise.
Education plays an important role in following a vegan can set apart a successful diet from an unsuccessful one. Given that the vegan diet prohibits the diet of several food groups, it puts followers at risk of deficiency of certain nutrients.
To prevent this, it is important to know which foods provide the most important nutrients that the diet may otherwise lack. Fortunately, with the rising popularity of vegan diets, educational resources have been developed that can lead you in the right direction.
Implementing the vegan bodybuilding diet requires good planning and education. Ensuring protein intake and calorie intake, including plenty of fat, and drinking enough water are three major factors that should not be overlooked.
Potential benefits of a vegan diet
A vegan diet is associated with a number of potential health benefits;
Reduce the risk of heart disease
People who follow a vegan diet appear to have a much lower risk of developing heart disease. This may be due to a decrease in saturated fatty foods and cholesterol and a diet high in fiber and various plant combinations.
Traditionally, vegetables tend to have lower blood pressure and levels of total and LDL (bad) cholesterol than the general population. In addition, vegan diet is high in fruits and vegetables, which contain the right amount of dietary fibre. High fibre diet has been associated with a lower incidence of stroke and heart disease.
It can promote healthy bodyweight
Those who follow a vegan diet often have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who follow a traditional Western diet, which reduces the risk of several disease factors.
One 16-week study looked at the effects of vegan diets on 75 overweight people. It has been found that a vegetarian diet is more effective at improving body weight, fat weight, and insulin resistance symptoms than dietary control. So, if you are starting out on your weight loss journey with a bit of weight to lose, a vegan diet can help with this.
It can protect against certain cancers
Following vegan diets is associated with a reduced risk of various types of cancer, compared to traditional Western diets. This effect may be due to an increase in legumes, fruits, and vegetables associated with a vegan diet, leading to higher fibre, micronutrient, and phytonutrient intakes.
Vegan diets are also linked to lowering BMI.
In addition, eating extra soy, which is common for those who follow a vegan diet, has been linked to a reduction in the risk of breast cancer in women.
Finally, the various levels of red meat consumption consumed have been linked to a higher risk of cancer in public. This additional risk does not apply to those who follow a vegan diet.
Vegan-rich diet are rich in fruits and vegetables and can provide several health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as promoting a healthy bodyweight.
Downsides of the bodybuilding vegan diet
While vegan diet seems to have many potential benefits, it does come with some downsides to consider;
It can increase your risk of nutrient deficiency
The worst thing about a vegan diet is the increased risk of deficiency of several nutrients.
By eliminating animal products from your diet, your intake of various essential nutrients is reduced which can then be supplemented with vegan multivitamin to ensure proper intake of the above nutrients. While these nutrients can be found from fortified vegan foods, nutrition education plays an important role in starting a vegan diet.
High fibre intake
Another potential downside to a vegan diet is its extremely high dietary intake. While a high-fibre diet is generally considered healthy, eating too much fibre can cause digestive problems, such as constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain.
The recommended dietary fibre intake is 14 grams per 1,000 calories, which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. This amount is easily exceeded on vegan diets.
Eating too much fibre can also lead to a feeling of fullness and decreased appetite. While this may benefit some people, it can limit the progress of bodybuilding if sufficient calories are not consumed.
Protein and calorie needs might be difficult to meet
Given that vegan diets mainly contain nutrients that are nutrient-dense, high fibre, it can be difficult to meet protein and calorie needs without proper planning. Vegan diets tend to have fewer calories than traditional foods, due to the release of high-calorie, animal-based foods.
Therefore, following a vegan diet can make it more challenging to eat more calories than your body burn to support your bodybuilding goals. This can be counteracted by increasing the size of the portions, adding healthy fats to your diet, and eating vegetables cooked differently from raw ones to reduce volume, allowing you to eat more.
It can be too restrictive
By eliminating all animal-derived products, a vegan diet can be very limited in some people.
Although the selection and availability of vegan foods has grown exponentially in recent years, the diet can be seen as slightly monotonous, compared to traditional Western foods. Fortunately, the amount of creative vegan recipes that can add life to a diet and keep it interesting is unlimited.
Food to eat
Vegan diets usually include most of the following foods:
- Beans and legumes This provides a good source of protein and fibre.
- Dough, flax, sunflower, and chia seeds which contains omega-3s and proteins.
- Quinoa and amaranth- very good sources of proteins.
- Soy products.
- Calcium-enriched plant milk and yoghurt. These products can help vegans meet their daily needs of calcium and vitamin D.
- Spirulina – Very good source of protein as well as vitamins and minerals.
- Vegan protein powders- these are gotten form protein sources.
- Nutritional yeast. Used for vegan cooking vegan for its nutritious taste, healthy food yeast is often fortified with vitamin B12.
- Sprouted grain breads. This provides a good source of complex protein and carbs.
- Oats. Oatmeal and oats provide the right amount of protein per serving, as well as some beneficial fibre.
- Fruits and vegetables. These are an essential part of any vegan diet.
- Whole grains and cereals. This can provide a good source of protein, B vitamins, and fibre.
- Nuts. They can provide a good source of protein when combined with other related proteins.
- Tahini. This paste made with sesame seeds provides a good amount of fat and protein in each meal.
- Healthy oils. oils, such as olive, avocado, and hempseed, provide a good source of healthy fats and other essential omega-3s.
- Vegan dark chocolate. High in antioxidants, dark vegan chocolate contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A, B and E.
Considering that vegan diets can be deficient in certain nutrients, it is recommended that followers take advantage of certain dietary supplements.
With the increase in vegan diets in recent years, supplements geared at those who follow them have greatly improved in quality and taste. One of the most important supplements you should consider is vegan protein powder, which allows you to reach the recommended dietary levels of protein while staying in a certain calorie range.
There are many vegan protein powders available, such as soybeans, pea, hemp and brown rice. It is best to get a powder with several sources to ensure that you get all the essential amino acids.
Another potential supplement is vegan multivitamin which includes a sufficient amount of nutrients in a vegan diet, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamins B12 and D.
Other supplements to consider are creatine and beta-alanine. These two well-studied compounds are found naturally in meat products and are found in vegan-friendly varieties. They can play a role in metabolism and muscle gain.
While supplementation is not absolutely necessary in a vegan diet, it can reduce the chances of nutrient deficiencies and optimize the diet for your bodybuilding goals.
Foods to avoid
Bodybuilding vegan diets often avoid or limit the following foods:
- Animal foods. Meat, fish, poultry, milk, eggs and bee products are not completely off-limits on a vegan diet. Certain animal additives found in several foods also fall into this category.
- Foods that may not be good for vegan. Some breads, deep fried foods, sweets, potato chips, dark chocolate, and other products may contain animal-derived ingredients.
- Vegan junk food. Sweets, ice cream and other vegan protein bars should be avoided, as they tend to be high in sugar and calories.
- Mock meat and cheese. This is usually processed and may contain additives. They also prefer to provide fewer nutrients than whole foods. Therefore, these products should be limited.
What About Micronutrient Deficiency?
You may have heard that without animal products in your diet increases the risk of various malnutrition. This is true.
For example, research shows that most vegans have a low level of;
- Vitamins D and B12
- Riboflavin (B2)
You may also have heard that this common deficiency among veggies can be avoided by simply adding certain foods to your diet. This is true to a point, but it is also easier said than done. For example, calcium in some vegetables is not found as bioavailable as calcium in dairy products. Many plant sources of iron and zinc are also inferior to animal sources and require very large amounts of nutrients.
Here are some of my recommended sources of weight loss for vegan diets:
- Vitamin D: supplement.
- Vitamin B12: a supplement, fortified cereals.
- Iron: beans, grower cut, fortified grain.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: flaxseeds ground and walnuts.
- Riboflavin: almonds, mushrooms, fortified cereals.
Seeking size and definition, vegan bodybuilders have fueled themselves effectively on a vegan diet. By winning titles in a variety of different categories, they have excelled in traditional categories such as classic bodybuilding as well as figure, physique and fitness, they have years of veganism among them. Proving that they can get not only protein but also essential minerals from plant sources, has caused some rivals to reconsider their nutrition. Most have been awarded Pro Cards in major bodybuilding communities.
Shelli Beecher-Seitzler is a natural bodybuilder who has made a positive impact on sports in a short period of time. After many people suggested that she compete, she started training six days a week for the purpose of competing.
Zack Belknap, a vegan bodybuilder
Zack Belknap is a pro-card-based bodybuilder and personal trainer certified by NASM and Eugene, Oregon. He was awarded a WNBF Pro Card after an impressive performance at regional level.
Nimai Delgado, vegan bodybuilder
Nimai grew up in Mississippi and was raised by Argentine parents who moved to Hare Krishna. He has been a vegetarian since he was born, initially for religious reasons, and has never eaten meat.
Jehina Malik, vegan bodybuilder
Jehina has been competing in bodybuilding since she was 19 and is now regarded as a successful athlete with an impressive body. In 2013 she won first place with a women’s physique and for the first time overall at the NPC Eastern USA Bodybuilding Championship.
Maayan Eliasi, vegan bodybuilder
Maayan Eliasi is an Israeli bodybuilder who broke into an international competition and won her Pro Card. In 2018 she won first place in the Israeli national category of NABBA Bikini Over 30 category. Shortly thereafter she won the WNBF Israel in the fitness category and received a WNBF Pro Athlete card.
6.SuzAnne Llano, vegan bodybuilder
Natural Bodybuilder SuzAnne Llano started training hard in 2009. Since then, she has competed in more than 20 competitions, taking the winning positions and stage performances. The elite accolade of a Pro Card is something she’s been awarded in three federations: NGA, ANBF and NFF.
7.Anastasia Zinchenko, a vegan powerlifter and bodybuilder
Anastasia Zinchenko has been competing with the powerlifting for several years, recording high profile placings and fantastic totals. She competed in the 63kg and 72 kg weight classes, and won UK regional titles, national placings – and competed internationally.
8.Karl Bruder, vegan bodybuilder
Karl Bruder is a bodybuilder who has impressed everyone as he has made great strides in sports. He graduated from the WABBA Grand Prix (2016) and took 6th place in Mr Universe before placing 4th in the PCA Physical Culture – all as a vegan.
Julia Hubbard, a vegan runner and figure competitor
Julia has been a prolific competitor in various sports, competing internationally in bobsleigh, bodybuilding, fitness and running. The road was not always smooth; Julia was born with a heart condition that was not diagnosed until 2009, and the bobsleigh crash left her with a broken back.
Derek Tresize, a vegan bodybuilder
He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree, is an instructor at the American Exercise Council and holds a Plant-Based Nutrition certificate through Cornell University. He has been a professional bodybuilder since 2007 and he is vegan.
11.Ivan Blazquez, vegan physique competitor
Ivan Blazquez is a professional gymnast who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology, a competition / pro bodybuilder – and a competitive triathlete. Holding the required card for bodybuilding naturally since 2009, he gradually switched to a vegan diet as he gained benefits from both health and fitness.
Joe ‘Monk’ Coleman, vegan physique competitor
Joe ‘Monk’ Coleman is a bodybuilder who started competing in his 40s and still offers tough competition to younger competitors. After many years of unhealthy lifestyle, Joe began to change his habits. These included meditation, diet, and exercise.
Torre Washington, vegan bodybuilder
Long-time vegan Torre Washington started competing in bodybuilding in 2009 and received his Pro card that same year, winning his second game. Since then, he has won many competitions and been placed in the top 3.
Greg Moormann, a vegan physique competitor
Greg Moormann has had a positive impact on his sport of natural Bodybuilding with many wins in the Masters category. He is a Pro card holder with both NGA and ANBF organizations, which are issued only after reaching an elite standard.
Amanda Riester, a vegan boxer and figure competitor
Amanda’s grandfather and father were boxing professionals and Amanda learned a lot from them when she was growing up. She started her professional career as a boxer at the age of 16 goinig up to national level at 17. She was 18 years old, ranked second in the United States.
Dusan Dudas, vegan bodybuilder
Dusan is a Slovak-born bodybuilder living in New Zealand. In 2001 he won ‘Mr New Zealand’ and a year later he entered ‘Muslemlemania’ in Australia, taking second place. In 2007 he won ‘Mr New Zealand’. Two years later he won the Mr New Zealand Natural Over 50 category, aged 54.
Jim Morris, vegan bodybuilder
Jim Morris was a bodybuilder who had a remarkable career until he was older. In 1966 he entered his first competiton at the age of 31 and became Mr. New York City.
Patrik Baboumian, vegan strongman
He broke the world record for a lift of less than 105kg, a lift of 165kg, and a German heavyweight log record, also won the German junior bodybuilding title at age 20.
Alexander Dargatz, vegan bodybuilder
Alex rose to prominence in December 2005 when he won the World Champion Fitness and WFF (World Fitness Federation) titles. Five years earlier he had become a vegan in response to the cruelty of the animal food industry.
Joel Kirkilis, vegan bodybuilder and powerlifter
Joel kirkilis is a professional bodybuilder and powerlifter and also vegan from Australia. In 2010 he entered the INBA Melbourne Open and Victoria Class 2 competitions, finishing second in each competition. Since then, he has been working on technique and training other athletes.