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Top 3 Myths and Facts of Plant-Based Nutrition in Bodybuilding

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“What? Are you telling me to *not* eat animal protein?”

“I need my protein and strength. I can’t train or bulk up without meat. “

“Meat helps me recover faster and build muscles.”

These are the common misconceptions of a vegan diet among many avid gym-goers, bodybuilders and athletes. That’s arguably why the Paleo diet is more popular at gyms like CrossFit versus a vegan diet.

While consuming a high animal protein diet may promote muscle growth by changing hormones and making testosterone more active, you may also be accelerating cancer growth and aging. Most meat is high in fat and full of environmental contaminants, so bulking up may come at a cost. This is why some athletes who consume a vast amount of animal protein may have digestive issues and get sick easily.

So what’s the alternative? A plant-based bodybuilding diet.

Before you think that the diet is too rigid or impossible to help you put on muscle mass, we’re here to help you debunk the top three myths of plant-based nutrition and bodybuilding.

Myth 1: We Need a lot of Animal Protein Post-Workout! 

Many may have a misconception that we need a lot of animal protein post-workout to recover.

Fact 1: Athletes Probably Only Need About 10 Percent of Their Daily Calories From Protein to Support Muscle Recovery and Growth. 

Plant proteins can easily meet these needs while providing you the phytonutrients and fiber that animal protein does not offer.

And yes, just because you are consuming huge amounts of protein does not mean you’re processing it. The amount of protein you intake does not matter as much as the protein absorption rate in your body.

Since animal protein does not have fiber, many who eat meat may need to eat a lot of vegetables to speed up digestion. As an athlete, you may be ingesting a few times more meat than the regular person, and if you have drag in your system, you may not be able to assimilate the protein you eat properly.

When you consume too much animal protein, rather than maximizing protein synthesis, you may just be storing the excess protein as fat, or overtaxing your kidneys and liver by processing excessive dietary protein.

Myth 2: Plant Protein is Inferior to Animal Protein.

Fact 2: It is a Myth That the Only Sources of Quality Protein Come From Animal Products. In Plants, Sprouted Grains, Nuts, Vegetables, and Seeds All Contain Significant Levels.

While vegan athletes and bodybuilders may have different nutritional requirements, this does not mean they need to turn to animal protein for fuel.

A vegan diet, consisting of fruits and vegetables, plant-based protein like nuts, legumes, as well as grains can yield similar, if not better, results than a meat or dairy filled diet.

Here are a few examples of plant-based protein sources for athletic performance:

And here are some delicious recipes you can try pre/post-workout:

Also, we do not think whey is the best source of protein since it is isolated, is no longer a whole food for the body to digest, and is acid-forming.

While some may argue that certain nutrients are harder to obtain through plant-based foods, you can use the following tips to enhance absorption of nutrients:

  • Eat foods which contain good quantities of vitamin C to significantly increase absorption of plant-sourced iron.
  • If you do choose to have dairy and/or calcium supplements, take them separately from food with iron since calcium inhibits iron absorption 
  • You can get B12 through nutritional yeast or a supplement

Some athletes such as ultramarathon runner Grant Campbell thrive on fruitarianism.

Myth 3: You Can’t Bulk Up as a Vegan or Vegetarian Bodybuilder.

“Vegans and vegetarians cannot grow muscle mass the way a meat-eater can; they lack energy and strength.” Ever heard that?

Fact 3: Yes, There Are Elite Vegans and Vegetarian Athletes and Bodybuilders.

Here are examples of only a few renowned athletes and bodybuilders who eat a plant-based diet:

  • Bodybuilder and 4-Time Mr. Universe Bill Pearl (Vegetarian)
  • Bodybuilder and Mr. Universe Billy Simmonds (Vegan)
  • Former professional Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier (Vegan)
  • Professional Boxer Vegan Mike Tyson (Vegan)
  • Track Star Carl Lewis (Vegan)
  • Six-time Iron Man world champion Dave Scott (Vegetarian During Competition)

Want more examples? Check out our 10 amazing athletes that eat plant-powered foods or performance. Not convincing enough? Check out how this vegan bodybuilder smashes weak stereotypes with insane strength workout.

And did we mention that training and weightlifting builds muscle…not just diet alone? Otherwise, you won’t see all the hot bods huffing and puffing in the strength training area!

Image source: embhoo/Wikimedia



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