Bodybuilding supplements are a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s growing every year. Because of the growth and explosion of choices, making sense of all this is increasingly more difficult.
Highly-effective advertising has hypnotized us to believe that we need supplements. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or bodybuilder, casual fitness enthusiast or gym rat, we have be conditioned to take powders and pills to get ahead.
Most plant-based diets can benefit from the right kind of supplementation (healthy skepticism aside), and some vegan bodybuilding supplements do have merit.
In this article, we discuss what to look for in vegan bodybuilding supplements and protein powders so you can make better choices.
What Performance and Bodybuilding Supplements Can Do for You
Whether you’re plant-based or not, every athlete and bodybuilder needs the correct balance and blend of macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats).
If you eat enough calories and the correct ratio of macros, train hard, and get enough sleep, you will build muscle as a vegetarian or vegan.
In addition to these nutrients, which you can obtain from food alone, there are some performance and bodybuilding supplements that may give you an edge in the gym or on the field.
Vegan BCAA supplements (branched chain amino acids), the primary force behind muscle repair and building, can also help reduce muscle soreness after intense training sessions.
This means vegan BCAAs can help you build muscle with less downtime between workouts.
One of the other popular bodybuilding supplements on the market an amino acid called creatine*.
*Creatine monohydrate is one of the only supplements that consistently demonstrate some effectiveness in performance.
And it happens that the only food source of creatine happens to be meat, so vegans and vegetarians tend to have lower muscle creatine stores than their meat-eating counterparts.
By supplementing your plant-based diet with creatine, you can enhance your ability to build lean muscle and strength.
Vegan Bodybuilding Supplements
The type of supplement that’s best for you depends on what your fitness goals are and how intensely you train. If you’re just aiming to tone up a little and get in shape, you probably don’t need to buy supplements.
Yes, I just said that. But then again, I’m not a supplement company trying to sell you… supplements.
However, if you’re intensely getting after it in the gym and/or training for competition it might be worth it to get supplements like Vegan BCAA and creatine.
When searching for vegan bodybuilding supplements, here are a few things to look for:
- Natural and/or non-GMO ingredients and food sources
- Absence of dairy and egg ingredients
- Grams of supplement per serving and amount of servings (cost per serving ratio)
- Ingredients* you can pronounce
*Typically the fewer ingredients, the better. Means less processing.
To learn more about supplementation, please read through our Guide to Vegan Bodybuilding Supplements.
Vegan Protein Powders
More and more professional athletes and bodybuilders are taking up plant-based fitness and doing extremely well. As a result, more supplement companies are offering plant-based protein in their product lines.
In fact, go to Whole Foods sometime and look at the protein powder section. You will notice 50-60 percent of the shelf space these days is filled with vegan protein powders.
Here are some key components of vegan protein powders to look for:
- Multi-sourced plant-based protein products, a blend of different proteins
- Organic sprouts like chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and lentils
- Minimal processing
- Favorable customer reviews about the taste and how the powder mixes
Our 5 Best Vegan Protein Powders article is a great starting point for choosing a quality vegan protein powder.
Vegan Bodybuilding Supplements vs. Food
The truth is that you probably don’t need any bodybuilding supplements if you’re eating the right foods. But few of us can keep up with the “perfect diet,” and supplements can help pick up the slack.
For many vegan and vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes, supplements can make up for missed nutritional opportunities and add convenience for meal planning.
However, everyone’s digestive system and biochemistry processes supplements differently. For instance, creatine doesn’t do anything for me but it has done wonders for many of my friends, so trial* and error is required.
*Keeping up with a daily food journal is essential in this process.
It’s certainly worth mentioning that the placebo effect is live and well! So keep an honest assessment of your supplement regimen, workout plan, and overall gains in a journal to determine if supplements are really making a difference for you (observe over 6-12 months).
Just because a multi-billion-dollar industry says you need them to reach your fitness goals doesn’t mean that you necessarily do.