Now more than ever we are seeing…

…health-conscious bodybuilders and athletes move towards a vegan diet for building muscle.

Yes, a vegan bodybuilding diet is all the rage these days!

Professional vegan bodybuilders like Torre Washington, vegan bikini competitors like Samantha Shorkey and former Ms. Bikini Universe Marzia Prince, vegan strongman competitors like world record holder Patrik Baboumiam, and vegan professional athletes like David Carter (defensive lineman – Oakland Raiders) are giving us a glimpse into the future of fitness.

Clearly, professional vegan athletes are kicking some serious butt on the world’s stage.

My guess is that you will start to see a lot more of this trend happening in the future. Now, there is no question that a vegan diet can build the muscle and strength required to excel physically.

In fact, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the greatest bodybuilder of all time, recently made a statement about how we should try to go part-time vegetarian.

He also said, “I have seen many body builders that are vegetarian and they get strong and healthy.”

Wait, Arnold is on board? Ok, maybe there is something to this.

That said, you don’t have to go vegan right away to reap the benefits. You can start out by trying a plant-based diet first and see what form of vegetarianism works best for you (e.g. flexitarian, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan, etc.).

Next I will explain the difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet…


What is a whole-food, plant-based diet?

A whole-food, plant-based diet is centered on whole, minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains—and it excludes (or minimizes) meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil.

In other words, you don’t have to be a strict vegan, you can be a flexitarian or part-time vegetarian and still follow this diet.

 

Vegan Muscle-Building at VegetarianBodybuilding.com

So … what is different about vegan muscle-building?

Not a whole lot.

To build muscle (or to lose fat), the meal plan for a vegan and a meat-eater are essentially the same in terms of nutrient and caloric intake. It still all boils down to dialing in your macronutrient ratios correctly, based on your fitness goals (and physical/biological status).

To build muscle, you will need to take in a protein and caloric surplus (eating more calories than you burn metabolically and through exercise) from healthy whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans/nuts.

You will also need to create the demand for more muscle through intense weight training. Finally, you will need adequate rest to fully heal and recover (rest is when we technically get stronger).

A vegan bodybuilding diet is a lot easier than you think too!


Protein-Rich Vegan Food is Abundant

Creating a muscle-building vegan meal plan is easier than you may think.

People always ask me how I get my protein and then look at me funny when I tell them, “Food.”

Most vegan foods contain protein (i.e. plant foods), and therefore if you eat enough throughout the day, you will get all the amino acids required to build muscle. From there, simply supplement your protein (and macronutrient) deficit with protein shakes like most all bodybuilders do. Easy as pie.

Our entire system, performs at a much higher level when we eliminate all the synthetic foods with preservatives and chemicals sold on shelves. Meat isn’t inherently bad, but how it’s produced today makes it borderline toxic for our system.

The idea is to consume more protein-dense whole foods like seeds, nuts, beans, and whole grains. They tend to be the most calorie-dense plant foods, and calories are a precious part of the equation when it comes to vegetarian bodybuilding.

How much protein do I need to build muscle?

To build muscle with a vegan diet, you should start with one gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 210lbs and want to weigh 220lb, try to consume 220 grams of protein daily (your kidneys will be fine).

“I know vegan bodybuilders who need more protein, and I know some that need less. It’s about discovering your personal numbers to hit through meticulous journaling.”

Keep in mind that the average person who doesn’t train hard and doesn’t put the same physical demand on the body needs much less protein.

Should I use vegan protein powders? Aren’t they synthetic?

Yes, but do your research and be selective.

If you sift through some labels, you may notice that some protein powders use ingredients (chemicals, preservatives, etc.) that resemble a science fiction cocktail you would feed an alien. In other words, some protein powders are healthier than others, and the best ones are mostly derived from whole foods with few ingredients in it you can’t pronounce.

The two vegan protein powders that I use are made by Garden of Life and PlantFusion.

How many calories do I need?

Here’s an example:

  • Age: 35
  • Sex: Male
  • Height: 6’0”
  • Activity: 5+ days per week
  • Goal: Gain 2lbs of muscle per week

This person should consume 4,184 calories.

To calculate your daily calories visit: MyPlate Calculator

How much fat should I consume?

0.5 grams (or less) of fat per pound of bodyweight. For our 210lb vegetarian bodybuilder, this means 105g or a little lower is ideal (no lower than 75g or 80g).

Fat is essential for many of the body’s functions, including hormone production. Again, the goal here is to target whole foods as your source. Fats from nuts, seeds, and especially avocados are ideal.

You’ll notice I didn’t address carbohydrates. If you focus on protein, fat, and calories derived from a plant-based diet, the carbs will take care of themselves.


Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan

Please keep in mind that eating at certain times can increase the effectiveness of your nutritional intake (read this article). Here’s an example for a 210lb man who wants to weigh 220lbs:

Meal 1

  • 16 oz fresh raw juice (kale, spinach, parsley, cucumber, celery, ginger, green apple, and lemon)
  • Protein shake with 2 servings of vegan protein powder, 1 cup almond milk, and 1/2 banana

Meal 2

  • 1-2 servings of tofu and spinach scramble (see recipe below)
  • 2 cups oatmeal mixed with 2 tbsp pumpkin almond butter

Meal 3

  • Muscle-building black bean veggie burger with 1/2 avocado sliced on top
  • 1 large kale salad with mixed greens and tomato

Meal 4

  • 2 cups oatmeal with cinnamon
  • 1 apple with 2 tbsp almond butter
  • Protein shake with 2 servings of vegan protein powder, 1 cup almond milk, and 1/2 banana

Meal 5

Meal 6

  • Vegan protein powder with 1 cup almond milk

Approximate totals for the day

  • 4,100-4,200 calories
  • 220g protein
  • 550-600g carbs
  • 90g fat

Tofu and Spinach Scramble Recipe

*Makes only two servings

Carbs: 27.5 | Fat: 14.5 | Protein: 21 | Calories: 317

  • 14-ounce package firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 lemon freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper, optional

Committing to Vegan Bodybuilding

Fitness is not for the weak or lazy. However, if you are truly committed, all you need is a little creativity for pursuing a whole food, vegan diet. The “return on investment” is sky high, and it’s easy to get used to after a couple weeks.

You’ll love this meatless recipe that I engineered for vegan bodybuilders and athletes: Veggie Chili Recipe That Helps Muscle Soreness.

Plants can build muscle, but I didn’t believe that on faith alone, and I didn’t quit eating meat all at once. I had to ease my way into it and slowly phase out meat (and almost all supplements). I finally started to feel comfortable once I observed that I was still making gains in the gym after starting the transition.

Best Vegan Muscle-Building Food Sources:

  • Quinoa
  • Tofu
  • Seitan
  • Veggie burgers
  • Black beans (add Brazil nuts to make a complete protein)
  • Chickpeas
  • Vegan protein powder

If you’re vegetarian, add these:

  • Eggs (free-range)
  • Greek Yogurt (grass-fed)
  • Whey protein powder
  • Casein protein powder

*When available I option to buy organic