If you’re wondering if bodybuilding and a Vegan diet can coexist, the answer is yes. While vegans do have to pay attention to avoiding nutrient deficiencies, the rules of building muscle and getting in peak shape don’t change just because you’re vegan. Principles such as calories in and calories out, consuming a high protein diet, eating foods high in leucine, eating enough fat, and using supplements to fill in the gaps still apply to Bodybuilding Competition Diets.
What about fueling performance in the gym on a vegan diet? You can do it!
In this article, you’re going to learn what a vegan bodybuilding diet looks like, ideas for setting up vegan macronutrients, and common supplements that vegan bodybuilders take to avoid nutrient deficiencies.
What Do Vegan Bodybuilding Competition Diets Look Like?
Typically, a bodybuilding diet includes a lot of protein coming from animal sources. Animal protein also delivers plenty of calories which is excellent for developing aesthetically pleasing muscle. However, the vegan diet removes all animal products, eggs, and dairy and transitions to consuming only plant foods. Many people adopt a vegan diet for ethical, environmental, or health reasons.
Here is a quick list of minimally processed foods commonly consumed on a Vegan diet:
- Tofu, tempeh and seitan
- Nuts and nut butter
- Calcium-fortified plant milk and yogurts
- Nutritional yeast
- Whole grains, cereals, pseudocereals
- Sprouted and fermented plant foods
- Fruits and vegetables
The health benefits of being on a vegan diet include lower blood sugar levels, lower risk of developing type two diabetes, lower cancer risk, reduced arthritis symptoms, improved kidney function, and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Bodybuilding on a Vegan Diet
The good news for a bodybuilder interested in adopting a vegan diet is that nutrition principles largely remain the same. Every bodybuilder aims to take in nutrients that will allow for maximum muscle growth and minimal fat gain. You have to consume enough protein, good fat, pay attention to your daily calories and consider supplements to bridge nutritional gaps.
Protein is the most critical macronutrient for muscle growth, regardless of whether you’re on a vegan diet or not. The main difference between a traditional bodybuilder diet and a vegan diet is that protein intake comes from plant sources. An excellent target for protein intake is 1 gram per pound of body weight.
Vegan bodybuilders often get the bulk of their protein from sources like beans, seeds, nuts, legumes, lentils, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Tempeh, tofu, and edamame are also high in protein. Protein powders made from pea protein are high in branch chain amino acids which are excellent for building muscle.
Fat will generally make up 20 to 25% of the calories in a vegan bodybuilder diet. For many, this means eating around 0.3-0.5 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day. While it is true that omega-3 fatty acids (called ALA) can be absorbed through foods like nuts and seeds, these foods don’t absorb as well as EPA and DHA. The body poorly absorbs Alpha-linolenic acid.
Best fat sources for vegan bodybuilders include:
- Peanuts and peanut butter
- Almonds or almond butter
- Olive Oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
As you can see, nuts and seeds make up the majority of foods listed above.
One fantastic source of vegan EPA and DHA is algae. Taking an algae supplement is convenient and practical.
After accounting for protein and fat, carbs generally make up the rest of the calories in a vegan bodybuilder diet. While it is harder to go low-carb as a vegan, if your goal is to work out a lot with the intent of increasing strength and muscle, low-carb is generally not a great idea. Carbs are a primary fuel source for intense efforts in the gym.
In the areas where a vegan diet falls short, supplementation becomes necessary. Supplementing your Bodybuilding Competition Diets to fill in gaps is easy and relatively inexpensive. It also reduces the time you have to spend meal planning to ensure you’re getting the critical nutrients your body needs.
Here’s a list of vitamins and minerals vegans are often deficient in:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Riboflavin (B2)
- Essential Fatty Acids
Diets that exclude any foods can increase the need for Bodybuilding Competition Diets supplementation. Vegan diets are no different. Many vegan bodybuilders find it beneficial to supplement nutrients that are commonly found to be deficient. The best way to identify which supplements you need is to have blood work done versus guessing.
Risks of a Vegan Diet
No diet is free of flaws. Nutrient deficiencies are well documented with vegan diets. These issues can often be avoided by proper planning and understanding which nutrients are generally at risk of being deficient. Vegans tend to be at higher risk of having an inadequate intake of vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3’s, iodine, iron, calcium, and zinc. Supplementation is key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies while adhering to vegan Bodybuilding Competition Diets.
Another common issue with vegan diets is the increased fiber. Fiber is beneficial in a diet, but drastic increases in fiber intake can cause bloating or abdominal pain due to the high fruit, vegetable, grains, and legume intake. Consuming enough water is one way to help avoid any complications. Start with 1ml of fluid per calorie. If your target calorie intake is 2,500 calories per day, you will aim to drink around 2,500 ml of water.
Planning Is The Key To Success!
Implementing vegan Bodybuilding Competition Diets conducive to getting you ready for a bodybuilding competition might seem like a daunting task. The key is to plan to make sure you’re eating complete meals. Familiarizing yourself with the best food options to hit your macronutrient and caloric goals will ensure you keep making gains until it’s time to step on stage.
Some experienced vegan bodybuilders recommend planning out 5-7 days of meals to ensure all ingredients are accounted for to prepare those meals. Notice, this is a staple planning strategy for any diet, not just vegan. Planning is key to reducing stress or anxiety while switching over from a regular diet.