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Eating Plants and Pumping Iron: 3 Tips for Bodybuilding on a Vegan Diet


For those who are just getting into bodybuilding and want to explore how to get results on a vegan diet, a great way to learn is to observe and emulate athletes who are already following this regimen. Thankfully, you don’t have to look far to find seriously impressive plant-powered pros. You’ve got British heavyweight boxer David Haye looking bigger than ever, record-breaking strongmen like Patrik Baboumian lifting logs that a crane would struggle with, and bodybuilder Barny du Plessis winning 2014’s Mr. Universe. Then there are top UFC competitors like Nick and Nate Diaz saying that they reduce their consumption of animal products to an absolute minimum when preparing for a fight in order to get into prime condition. In fact, Team USA’s only male weightlifter at the 2016 Rio Olympics was a vegan. How about that for a meatless feat?

Now that you’ve seen the plant-powered bodybuilders who are doing everything right, here are three solid tips to consider when starting your own program. After all, when transitioning from a standard bodybuilding diet (or even a standard American diet) to one with more vegan options, there are a few major factors that have to be considered.

1. Getting Enough Protein

tempeh kale wrap


Although it’s one of the most commonly asked questions regarding plant-based diets, most vegetarians or vegans who are conscientious, have a good handle on their protein intake. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein intake is only 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound). However, this is merely the bare minimum that a sedentary person is advised to achieve, and isn’t necessarily the optimum amount to aim for. The ideal amount of protein to consume would depend on the lifestyle, age, genetics, size, and activity level of the individual. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, hitting somewhere between 0.5-0.8 grams per pound is more than adequate for anyone who lifts weights regularly or is training for an endurance event.

A general rule in the world of bodybuilding has always been to hit around one gram of protein per pound of body weight, but some studies are starting to suggest that this may be overkill, as natural bodybuilders normally won’t benefit from consuming more than 0.82 grams per pound of body weight. Ultimately each individual will have to experiment with their intake to find what works best for them.

Consuming adequate amounts of protein is obviously paramount from a vegan bodybuilder’s perspective, and it is possible to eat too little on a plant-based diet without proper planning. But the good news is that there are hundreds of sources of vegan protein and endless ways to prepare them creatively and deliciously. Nuts and seeds are packed full of protein and their usefulness doesn’t have to stop at trusty ol’ trail mix. Why not try these Nuts, Seeds and Stuff burgers or these Superpower Protein Balls for a powerful post-workout snack. Pulses such as chickpeas and lentils are an affordable, low-fat source of protein and can form the base of creamy, protein-rich dishes like this 15 Minute Chickpea And Spinach Curry, or this Red Lentil Dal With Carrots And Peas. Tofu and tempeh are also excellent options and can be made supremely flavorful. Check out this Fiery Garlic Tofu, this Jamaican Tofu Scramble, and this delicious Tempeh Bacon. Take a look at this massive list of common plant-based protein sources and these protein-packed, soy-free vegan foods for even more ideas.

Although it’s preferable to reach your protein goals through clean whole foods, there are loads of vegan protein powders available which can be used to boost your protein intake. Even massive fitness brands like MyProtein offer vegan options now, which shows just how popular plant-based fitness is becoming. If you’re searching for the healthiest protein powder possible, try making your own hemp protein powder, or perhaps you’d prefer a sprouted brown rice variation flavored with raw vanilla bean powder.

2. Getting Enough Calories


Getting enough calories is the single most important issue to consider as a plant-based bodybuilder. And just because you stuffed your face doesn’t mean you’ve consumed enough calories!

However, counting calories isn’t an exact science and unfortunately, much like when considering protein intake, there’s no exact formula you can apply to calculate your personal requirements. Your calorie goals will differ drastically depending on your activity levels, your metabolism, your size, and your own personal fitness goals.

Vegan bodybuilder Jon Venus advises that a beginner’s main concern should be consuming plenty of healthy whole foods whilst cutting down on junk foods. He goes on to suggest that whilst it’s not essential, more experienced gym-goers looking to improve their physiques should keep track of their calories and macros, experimenting with slightly modified intakes and recording the results. If you’re really unsure where to start, certain apps can guide you in the right direction with calorie-counting features. They can even set you rough calorie targets in order to reach your goal weight. MyFitnessPal and CRON-O-Meter are a couple of popular choices.

Some safe bets if you want to boost your calorie intake are nut butters, quinoa, avocados, and bananas. Why not try these Sticky Peanut Cauliflower Wings, this One-Pan Cheesy Mexican Quinoa, or this Healthy Banana Bread? Try using this Raw Avocado and Cacao Smoothie as a delightfully decadent way to meet your calorie and protein targets.

3. Supplements

 Steven Depolo/Flickr

A properly planned vegan diet will provide you with all the nutrients necessary to build strength and size. That being said, some key supplements taken alongside a sensible diet are often a good idea. B12, algae-based Omega 3s, and vitamin D (depending on how much sun you get) are all decent options for boosting general health. Some optional bodybuilding-specific supplements would include creatine and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).

Of course, you can obsess endlessly over whether you’re getting enough protein from your breakfast quinoa bowl, but nothing is going to happen unless you’re putting in the hours at the gym (sorry). People trying to eat a more plant-based diet shouldn’t have to train any differently from standard bodybuilders so get out there and make some gains!

With all the amazing information currently available on plant-based nutrition and bodybuilding, there has never been a better time to start channeling your inner Popeye. Got any tips of your own? Feel free to share them below!

Lead image source: Pexels

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One comment on “Eating Plants and Pumping Iron: 3 Tips for Bodybuilding on a Vegan Diet”

Click to add comment
1 Years Ago

Nice one, destroying the myth that you can\'t be healthy and/or strong on a vegan diet!

About high protein vegan foods, I notice that everyone mentions the same: tempeh, broccoli, lentils... and while they really pack a punch, the truth is - There are some vegan foods with WAY more protein than those!

I\'m talking 30g of protein per 100g of food - that\'s more than meat!!!

Have you ever heard of Lupini Beans? 36g of prot/100g.
Hemp Seed? 37g/100g.

And there are many foods like those!
Check out this table, it\'s a MUST-READ for vegans > http://www.veganproteinguide.com/vegan-sources-of-protein/


Michelle Delpozo-rodrigues
1 Years Ago

Alex Rodrigues read this please

Kim Dunn
1 Years Ago

Heath Dunn

Jennifer Hamilton
1 Years Ago

Rachelle Stefanski

Amy Shepherd
1 Years Ago

Benny Scott ;)

Jordan Elise Croucher
1 Years Ago

Wendy Arthursdottir


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