Many people think veganism and bodybuilding are mutually exclusive.
Do you know how oil and water. . . Toothpaste and coffee. . . Apple and Microsoft. . . Anathema.
Well you are wrong. You can absolutely do both. But you have to know what you are doing.
That's because vegan bodybuilding diets are easier to screw up than the traditional omnivorous approach, and if you don't understand and address the cons and limitations of the vegan diet in the context of bodybuilding, you'll get disappointing results.
However, if you do, and plan and adjust accordingly, you will have no problem Muscle building, Lose fat, and get strong.
And that's exactly what this article is about.
You will learn there. .
- What a Vegan bodybuilding diet is
- How to get a vegan bodybuilding diet up and running (including how to get your vegan macros, how to get protein as a vegan, and what additions to your vegan bodybuilding meal plan)
- Whether you should avoid soy protein or not, not
- So you plan vegan bodybuilding meals (with some examples)
What is a vegan bodybuilding diet?
The goal of any bodybuilding diet is to provide the body with the nutrients it needs to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat build-up. Since protein is the main macronutrient for muscle growth, bodybuilding diets typically contain many high protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
A vegan bodybuilding diet is very similar, only instead of a lot of protein-rich foods from animal sources, it contains many protein-rich foods from plant sources.
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How to make a vegan bodybuilding diet work for you
The main reasons people fail to follow a vegan bodybuilding diet are: .
- They don't know how to theirs vegan macros
- they do not know how to get protein as a vegan
- They don't know what supplements to take
However, follow these five science-based tips and you will avoid all of the pitfalls associated with building muscle as a vegan.
1. Determine your daily calories.
There are many different ways you can find out, but the easiest way is to put your stats and goal in that Legion calorie calculator.
All you have to do is enter your gender, weight, height, age, activity level and goal (“lose fat”, “build muscle” or “maintain the same weight”) and the calculator will estimate. . .
These numbers are based on the fact that. . .
- If you want to lose weight, you should be consuming 75 to 80% of your TDEE or 20 to 25% less energy than you burn daily.
- If you want to gain weight, you should be consuming 110 to 115% of your TDEE, or 10 to 15% more energy, than you are burning.
- And if you want to keep your weight off, you should be eating 100% of your TDEE, or more or less exactly what you burn on a daily basis.
2. Eat a high protein diet.
Dozens of well-designed, peer–checked Studies have shown beyond any doubt that a high protein diet is better for building (or maintaining) muscle and losing fat than a low protein one.
Unfortunately, a lot of vegans die on the line here because, despite what vegans often preach, vegetables aren't a great source of protein.
Not only that, but also the protein found in plants is not absorbed by the body as well as protein from animal sources.
This double punch is one of the main reasons for vegan protein sources are not that effective to build muscle as an animal protein source.
One way to fill the gap is to eat more protein on a vegan bodybuilding diet than on an omnivorous bodybuilding diet.
Specifically, try to eat at least 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
3. Eat foods high in leucine.
Getting enough total protein is only part of the vegan protein puzzle – you also need to eat foods that are high in the essential amino acid Leucine.
Leucine stimulates directly Protein synthesis via the activation of an enzyme that is responsible for muscle growth known as Mammalian target of rapamycin, or mTOR.
Therefore research shows that the leucine content of a meal increases the amount of amount Protein synthesis that arises from it.
In other words, meals high in leucine have a higher potential for muscle building than low-leucine meals.
This is the other main reason vegan protein sources are inferior to animal protein sources for building muscle: they tend to be low in leucine and other essential amino acids.
To illustrate this point, let's compare the protein in broccoli to the protein in beef.
Here's what 275 calories from each (4 ounce steak vs. just over 9 cups broccoli) get you in terms of essential amino acids:
The best solution to this problem is to eat plenty of vegan foods that are both high in easily absorbable protein and high in leucine, such as: . .
The best sources of protein for a vegan bodybuilding diet:
- Vegetable protein powder
- Vital wheat gluten
- Navy beans
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Mung beans
4. Eat enough fat and compensate your calories with carbohydrates.
Setting up your vegan macros Building muscle isn't just about protein – you also need to eat enough fat and carbohydrates.
That's because . . .
Here's how to make sure you get enough of both:
Fat: Eat about 0.3 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day. This is enough to support overall health and wellbeing, but not so much that you need to unnecessarily cut protein and carbohydrates to stay within your calorie limits.
Some of the best sources of fat for a vegan bodybuilding diet are:
- Peanuts or peanut butter
- Almonds or almond butter
- Cashew nuts
- olive oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Carbohydrates: Assign any calories that you didn't use for protein or fat to carbohydrates.
Once you know that one gram of protein and carbohydrate are both around 4 calories and one gram of fat is around 9 calories, figuring out your carbohydrates is pretty easy. All you have to do is . .
- Multiply your protein goal by 4.
- Multiply your fat goal by 9.
- Add these together and subtract the sum from your total calories (the number you got from the Legion calorie calculator earlier) tells you the number of calories you have for carbohydrates.
- Divide that remaining number by 4 to get the number of grams of carbohydrates you should be consuming each day.
Let's look at an example of how this happens.
I weigh around 190 pounds and my TDEE is around 2,700 calories, which is roughly what I eat every day to maintain my weight and body composition.
I need to eat around 190 grams of protein and 60 grams of fat a day, and this is how I calculate my carbohydrates:
190 x 4 = 760
60 x 9 = 540
760 + 540 = 1,300
2,700 – 1,300 = 1,400 remaining calories for carbohydrates.
1,400 / 4 = 350 grams of carbohydrates per day.
So my macros are:
- 190 grams of protein
- 60 grams of fat
- 350 grams of carbohydrates
Some of the best sources of carbohydrates for a vegan bodybuilding diet are:
- Potatoes (sweet and white)
- Rice (brown, white, wild)
- Andean millet
- Whole wheat pasta and bread
- Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, kale, mushrooms, and cauliflower
- Fruits like bananas, apples, berries, pineapples and oranges
5. Take the right nutritional supplements.
It is not uncommon for people on a vegan diet to be deficient in some vitamins and minerals such as: . .
You've probably also heard that these common deficiencies in vegans can be avoided simply by adding certain foods to your diet.
That's true up to a point, but it's easier said than done.
For example the calcium in some vegetables is not that bioavailable than calcium in dairy products (and in any case multiple servings of vegetables are needed to make up a single serving of milk).
Plenty of vegetable sources of iron and zinc are also inferior animal sources and must be consumed in large quantities.
Omega-3s are mainly found in animal products, and the main vegan source of this vital type of fat is alpha-linolenic acid, which is badly received through the body.
All of this means that if you want to optimize your health and performance on a vegan diet, you have two options:
- Micromanage your diet so that it contains generous amounts of foods rich in the nutrients listed above.
Personally, I would choose door number two because it is simple and relatively inexpensive, but if you are a staunch anti-nutritional supplement type, you will need to invest extra time in your meal planning to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of the many vital nutrients that are that your body needs.
Here are some of my recommended sources of hard-to-get nutrients on a vegan diet:
- Vitamin B12: dietary supplement, fortified grain.
- Vitamin D: supplement.
- Calcium: edamame, tofu, sesame seeds, almonds, spinach and pak choi.
- Riboflavin: almonds, mushrooms, fortified cereals.
- Iodine: seaweed (especially kombu seaweed), iodized salt.
- Iron: beans, plums, fortified cereals.
- Zinc: soy products, nuts, seeds, mushrooms and lentils.
- Essential fatty acids: ground flaxseed and walnuts, but I would recommend a seaweed oil instead (although this can be expensive).
- Creatine: supplement
- Anserin: supplement
- Taurine: supplement
- Carnosine: supplement
The other supplement that is definitely worth including in yours Vegan bodybuilding nutrition plan is vegetable protein powder.
There are umpteen different vegetable protein powders on the market these days, with some of the most popular options being soy, hemp, pea, rice, and quinoa protein powders.
Instead of going in the pros and cons of eachTo get straight to the point, the best plant-based protein powder for building muscle is a mix of rice and pea.
Not just rice and pea mixes light digested, they contain high amounts of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, which make them particularly good for building muscle.
Hence it is not surprising that research shows a mix of pea and rice protein is about as effective as Whey protein to build muscle.
If you're looking for a high protein, natural, nutritionally fortified vegetable protein powder that is also delicious to drink, check out Legion's 100% natural vegetable protein powder. Plant +.
A quick word on soy protein
Soy protein is a mixed bag.
It is a all-round good source of protein for building muscle, but it's also a source of ongoing controversy.
Something Studies show that regular consumption of soy foods has a feminizing effect on men. . . Other research shows that it doesn't change anything about changing male hormone levels. . . And other things too Studies show that it helps normalize estrogen levels by suppressing or increasing production as needed.
Hence, it's hard to tell whether or not soy-based products will be a good addition to yours vegan bodybuilding meal plan.
What we do know, however, is that the effects are possible vary depending on the presence or absence of certain intestinal bacteria. Found in 30-50% of people, these bacteria metabolize an isoflavone in soy called daidzein into an estrogen-like hormone called equol, which causes Testosterone levels drop and estrogen levels rise. . . at least in men.
For women, research suggests that regardless of equol production, it is less likely to adversely affect hormones, so there is no cause for concern here.
All in all, I'd say avoiding soy protein entirely is probably unnecessary.
So why not choose something else when there are so many other sources of plant-based protein?
If you want to learn more about the best sources of protein for vegan muscle building, check out this article:
30 of the best vegan protein sources for building muscle
Example of a vegan bodybuilding meal plan
At this point, you probably want to see something well planned vegan bodybuilding meals, so here are a few that we made for ours Customers with an individual menu.
As you can see, with a little work and creativity, you can hit your macros while avoiding all animal products.
Here is an example of a vegan bodybuilding cut diet:
And here is an example of a Vegan bodybuilding nutrition plan for filling:
+ Scientific references
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