The Ultimate Vegan Diet Plan for Bodybuilding
Crafting a vegan bodybuilding diet that works for you isn’t rocket science, but it does take some basic knowledge, motivation, and attention to detail. I’ll say it again – good nutrition is the most important factor when it comes to building muscle.
You can lift massive weights and pound out dozens of sets, but it won’t make any difference if what you’re putting in your body is junk.
In this article, I will demystify the vegan bodybuilding diet (bikini competition diet) and break it down into its most essential elements. Beyond the myths and the hype, here’s what bodybuilders should know about building muscle the vegan way.
Vegan Nutrition Guidelines
The good news is that the core bodybuilding diet guidelines (1) are the same whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore. Truly, the only difference is that all of the protein sources in a vegan diet are non-meat, non-dairy, and do not contain any animal byproducts.
As with a traditional bodybuilding diet, vegan bodybuilders should eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to maintain a positive nutrient and nitrogen balance. Both types of bodybuilders are advised to eat approximately their bodyweight in grams of protein (2).
For example, an 180-pound man can bulk up by eating 180 grams of protein per day. Spread across six meals, and that’s an average of 30 grams of protein in each meal.
Carbs are not the enemy when it comes to bodybuilding, and in fact, they are essential to building muscle (3). Healthy carbs for vegans have lots of fiber and are low on the glycemic index, such as organic whole grain bread.
Fats should constitute about 30 percent of a bodybuilder’s overall calories, and nuts are an excellent vegan source of healthy fats.
But one of the biggest challenges for vegan bodybuilders is getting enough calories each day. By nature, healthy vegan foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are low in calories and high in fiber.
Bodybuilders should strive for 15 to 20 calories per pound of bodyweight, and then adjust that number based on noticeable gains or losses at the gym.
Vegan Protein Sources
Of the three macronutrients, the one that gets the most attention among bodybuilders is protein. As a vegan bodybuilder, you’re undoubtedly concerned about getting enough protein in your daily diet to fuel your workouts and build lean muscle.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get the protein you need on a vegan diet. There are some delicious options for vegan protein sources, many of which are complete proteins. Examples include peanut butter sandwiches on Ezekiel bread, quinoa, hummus, and chia.
Sample Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plans
Here are two days of sample meal plans to get you started for the week. Each one is packed with power and 100% vegan.
Meal Plan Day 1
- Vegan protein shake, banana, 2 tablespoons of natural almond butter
- Bowl of lentil soup, cucumber salad with cherry tomatoes and avocado, 1 baked sweet potato
- Veggie burger, kale salad with handful of pumpkin seeds, apple
- Edamame & quinoa wrap with sweet ginger dressing, banana, vegan protein shake
- Before bed
- Vegan protein shake, 1 tablespoon of natural almond butter
Meal Plan Day 2
- Bowl of steel-cut oatmeal, vegan protein shake
- Apple, handful of grapes, handful of strawberries, 1 cucumber
- Large salad with mixed greens
- Mixed beans with artichokes and sprouts
- Vegan protein shake
- Celery sticks with natural almond butter
- Veggie burrito with quinoa, beans, and avocado
- Small side salad with mixed greens
- Before bed
- Vegan protein shake, mixed nuts
Pre- and Post-Workout Snacks
Many vegan bodybuilders focus on main meals but don’t pay much attention to the snacks in between them. But this is a mistake. Snacks are immediate sources of energy for your workouts and your recovery, and the snacks you choose at specific times (4) make a huge difference in your performance and how you feel.
The best pre- and post-workout snacks are a healthy mix of protein and carbs. Light carbs like bananas, dates, and apples are great before your workout. When you’re done at the gym, try carrots with hummus or protein shakes with vegan protein powder.
Vegan Bodybuilding Supplements
No conversation about a bodybuilding diet would be complete without talking about supplements. Nutritional supplements have become practically a requirement for competitive bodybuilders these days, and the industry has shown few signs of trending away from them.
Rice protein and hemp protein are excellent sources of vegan protein that can easily replace whey and other animal-sourced products in shakes. But ultimately, the best vegan protein powder is made with multiple proteins to ensure the spectrum of amino acids needed to build muscle.
Garden of Life, Vega, and PlantFusion (get them here) produce some excellent protein blends that skip the meat and go straight for the muscle.
I keep it simple, coffee, tea, water, and protein shakes. I drink roughly 2.0 to 2.5 liters of fluids each day. One way I gauge if I’m drinking enough fluid is that I make sure that my urine is pale yellow to clear.
If you are getting ready for a bodybuilding or bikini competition (or photo shoot), your fluids should go up quite a bit and based on what your trainer suggests.
Tying It All Together
No matter which foods you settle on for your daily meals, make sure that you’re getting plenty of variety (5) to ensure that you’re supplying your body with a full array of muscle-building amino acids.
Fake meat products are good for transitioning into veganism and occasional meals here and there but try to get the bulk of your nutrients from fresh and organic foods for optimal fitness results.
With these meal plan recommendations and diet plan tips in mind, you should be more than equipped to start planning your healthy vegan meals. The overwhelming health and fitness benefits (6) of a plant-based diet are undeniable, so now is the time to give vegan bodybuilding everything you’ve got!
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