If you’re wondering how to become a vegetarian (any form of a plant-based diet), you have come to the right place!
Ready to live a healthier, thinner, more physically fit lifestyle? It’s time to go plant-based.
Professional bodybuilders and athletes often enjoy improved physiques and athletic performance when they make the switch to plant-based diets. Beyond beating PRs and bulking up, there are many other reasons why people decide to make the switch to vegetarianism:
- It’s good for health, energy and fitness levels
- It’s good for the environment.
- It reduces inhumane practices toward animals (i.e. industrialized meat production).
Interested in making the switch to vegetarianism? Read on to learn how to make the transition comfortably and ensure it lasts.
Addressing Concerns About Going Vegetarian
Cutting meat from your diet can be both mentally and physically challenging, even for bodybuilders and athletes. It’s natural to stress about how a plant-based diet will impact your performance. You’ll find yourself fretting about how to get enough protein to build lean muscle, and when a monster workout or competition date looms, you’ll wonder if plants alone can sustain your energy levels enough to succeed.
However, switching to a plant-based diet keeps you in good company within the athletic community. Health organizations around the world, including the American Dietetic Association and the Dietitians of Canada, endorse vegetarian diets for sports training in their Nutrition & Athletic Performance Position Statement.
Increasing, a number of vegetarian athletes, like Carl Lewis, Jane Welzel, and Brendan Brazier, continue to prove the merit of a vegetarian athlete diet.
Tips to Gradually Transition to a Vegetarian Diet
When you’re ready to try out a new lifestyle it’s natural to want to jump right in. However, that can be a mistake. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, people who attempt to transform themselves into vegetarians overnight are less likely to stick with it for the long term. If you’ve been a meat-eater all your life, a gradual approach may be better.
To get started going vegetarian, try incorporating these eating habits into your weekly routine.
- Educate yourself with vegetarian-friendly magazines, websites, and cookbooks
- Make easy modifications to your favorite recipes, replacing meat with beans and vegetables
- Hate veggies? Instead of eating salads, start with fresh green drinks that include stuff you should throw in a salad, especially dark green leafy veggies. This way, you slowly introduce these new foods into your system. Over time your palate/taste will change, and you will crave these kinds of foods.
- Plant-based protein powders will easily bridge the gap in your protein needs.
- Stir-fries and scrambles: You can make an endless combo of meals by mixing some veggies (broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, spinach, etc.), some protein (quinoa, tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc.), and some spices (turmeric, coconut oil, black pepper, sea salt, etc.), and cooking them up together.
- Seek out vegetarian restaurants and try new vegetarian-based ethnic foods
- Regularly search for new recipes to keep you excited about you diet
- Eat healthy fats for calories. Plant foods you should be eating include avocados, nuts and seeds, and coconut oil.
Making the Transition to Vegetarian: A Timeline.
There’s no reason to rush the process of becoming vegetarian. By following this timeline, you’ll gradually (and painlessly) switch over to a vegetarian diet within a matter of months.
- Weeks 1-2: Start with eliminating meat from only one meal per day for a couple weeks to build momentum.
- Weeks 3-12: In addition to subtracting meat from one meal per day, eliminate all four-legged animals from your diet.
- Weeks 13-24: Subtracting meat from two meals per day, eliminate all four-legged and two-legged animals from your diet.
- Weeks 25-52: Subtract fish from your diet, which means you are now not eating any kind of meat at this point.
- Week 52 and Beyond: If you feel that going vegan is right for you, then spend the next six to 12 months making the transition from vegetarian to vegan.
Vegetarian Diet Guidelines
Ready to start following a vegetarian diet? These meal plans and guidelines are designed to get you started, no matter what your health and fitness goals are.
Standard Baseline Diet
Put simply, a standard baseline diet is what your body is used to before you go vegetarian. Therefore, it is the starting point from which comparisons can be made. Baseline diet studies are often evaluated in terms of meal frequency, caloric intake, water intake, and protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake.
Once you understand the effects of your current diet, you can determine what your baseline response is and gauge how dietary changes affect your fitness performance.
As an athlete, it’s important to consume more calories at breakfast than lunch, and more at lunch than dinner. This way, you’ll have the energy your need for your workouts and your metabolism will stay active.
It’s also important to spread protein intake throughout the day so your muscles can synthesize it. Recent research conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests limiting protein intake to 20 grams per sitting. (Bodybuilders will need significantly more).
Here’s what an average day our 135lb woman’s diet, with 90 grams of protein and 2,000 calories, should look like (a 225lb man trying to build muscle will almost need twice this):
- Breakfast – 20g protein & 700 calories
- Snack – 10g protein & 100 calories
- Lunch – 20g protein & 500 calories
- Snack – 10g protein & 200 calories
- Dinner – 20g protein & 400 calories
- Snack – 10g protein & 100 calories
“Light” Vegetarian Bodybuilding Meal Plan
If you’re looking to bulk up without gaining too much weight, this meal plan is a smart place to start.
(courtesy of top endurance athlete, Rich Roll)
- Pre-Workout Morning Smoothie: Kale, Beet, Chia seeds, Hemp seeds, Maca, Orange, Flax Seeds, Vega Whole Food Optimizer
- Post-Workout: Coconut water, and cold quinoa w/ coconut or almond milk, berries & Udo’s Oil & Hemp seeds
- Lunch: Salad with mixed veggies & vinaigrette or brown rice, beans & greens, hemp seeds
- Snacks: Vitamix with brown rice / pea / hemp protein, almond milk, cacao, almonds, walnuts.
- Dinner: Lentils over brown rice w/ beet greens & avocado, arugula salad, sweet potatoes
- Dessert: Coconut milk ice cream, Chia seed pudding (or homemade protein bar)
- During workout: On bike – coconut water, vega sport, perpetum. On run – coconut water, Vega Sport, Heed.
- If you want to add a little more “weight” to the meal plan, you can throw a black bean and quinoa veggie burger into the mix.
Although most people will benefit from eliminating meat from their diets, athletes and fitness enthusiasts have the most to gain. Transitioning to a vegetarian diet is just as much of a mental mindset as a physical experiment.
Evaluate your current baseline diet and slowly make small changes every day. This is more than just a dietary change; it’s a strong, pure, and sustainable path to lifelong wellness.
As a vegan or vegetarian bodybuilder, it’s important to carefully plan your meals to ensure you reach your nutritional needs and avoid deficiencies which could hinder your strength training and athletic performance.
So long as you have a plan in place, your body will soon be enjoying the long-term benefits of adopting a healthier, more natural diet.
Additional Resources for Getting Started with a Plant-Based Diet
Ready to get started with going vegetarian? Vegetarianbodybuilding.com is filled with resources to help you enjoy the advantages of a plant-based diet. Below is a compilation of popular articles to act as a launch pad to answer your burning questions and help you start your plant-based diet right.
- ANIMAL-BASED PROTEIN MYTH AND VEGAN BODYBUILDING MACROS
- 5 MYTHS OF VEGETARIAN BODYBUILDING
- HOW TO AVOID VITAMIN DEFICIENCIES AS A VEGETARIAN BODYBUILDER
- WHAT SOME VEGETARIAN BODYBUILDERS ARE AFRAID TO TELL YOU
- PLANTS BUILD MUSCLE: 7 BRILLIANT (AND SLIGHTLY BADASS) EXPERTS EXPLAIN
- 3 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PLANT-BASED PROTEIN POWDER
- LOSE WEIGHT WITH HIGH-PROTEIN VEGETARIAN BREAKFAST FOODS
- VEGGIE CHILE RECIPE THAT HELPS MUSCLE SORENESS
- EASY 5-INGREDIENT VEGAN MEATBALLS
- BUTTERNUT SQUASH TOFU JAMBALAYA
- MUSCLE-BUILDING BLACK BEAN & QUINOA VEGGIE BURGERS
- “THE ULTIMATE” VEGAN PROTEIN SHAKE
- POWERFUL PINEAPPLE GINGER TURMERIC TONIC
- VEGAN COFFEE PROTEIN SHAKE WITH CACAO AND ALMOND BUTTER
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORY JUICE THAT HELPS MUSCLE SORENESS