When you think of it, the whole notion of a bodybuilding diet seems to revolve around chicken, broccoli and rice. Well, that’s what is being pushed by the majority of mainstream ‘fitness influencers’ at least. This clearly isn’t a viable option for dedicated vegans with an obsession for bodybuilding or fitness in general.
As the whole idea of veganism and a cruelty-free lifestyle is still not widespread, you might be left with slim pickings when searching for a vegan bodybuilding diet or a vegan bodybuilding meal plan for that matter. To add to the hardship, it is factually a tad bit trickier to follow a vegan bodybuilding approach and make consistent progress towards your goal physique. This makes it all the more important for you to get equipped with the necessary knowledge about the dynamics governing body composition and vegan food options at your disposal to help you achieve your calorie and macro thresholds.
In any case, you need not wander anymore for reliable information pertaining to vegan diets for bodybuilders. This article is the ultimate guide you’d need to learn all things to be able to create a sustainable vegan bodybuilding meal plan for yourself all by yourself. Doesn’t that fascinate you? Or are you overwhelmed? In either case, I’d highly advise you to go through the entirety of this post. Having included a step-by-step guide to create a vegan bodybuilder’s diet plan and examples of readily available vegan bodybuilding foods, I reckon by the end of the post, you would’ve gathered all the information that you’d require to pursue you vegan bodybuilding goals.
A Vegan Bodybuilding Diet – How Reasonable Is It?
Bodybuilding on a vegan diet; just how feasible is it? Can it be done? Is there someone doing it for me to look up to? I’d answer with a big YES for all of them! Building a lean and aesthetic physique is sure possible being 100% vegan. In fact, there are a great deal of bodybuilders that have either turned vegan recently or have been practicing this approach all along their journey. You can do more with a vegan bodybuilding approach than just surviving, given you have the proper knowledge; you can thrive and progress at an optimal rate.
However, there are certain limitations to a vegan diet when talking in correlation with bodybuilding. You see, growing muscles as a natural athlete requires three things; stimulus, nutrition and recovery. Each of these have their own importance and are incomplete with the other two.
You stimulate your muscles to grow by intense resistance training with appropriate progressive overload along the course, replenish them with nutrients critical for muscle repair and recover from the muscular damage with apt rest. While providing the required stimulus and recovering from your workouts by resting have no relation with your lifestyle, the nutrition aspect is where all the concerns lie.
It is factually proven and recommended that an individual with muscle-building goals should consume anywhere between 0.7 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound (1.6 – 2.2 grams per kg) of lean bodyweight per day. This with a modest caloric surplus makes for an optimal environment in the body to grow muscles. Now, a vegan diet being devoid of lean protein rich foods like chicken breast, bacon and ground beef, it might be a bit tough for a vegan bodybuilder to hit these numbers per their goals consistently.
What’s more, the go-to vegan food options for protein are not deemed to be ‘complete’. This simply means that most of the vegan foods that have a comparatively higher protein content still have an incomplete amino acid profile. In essence, plant protein sources unlike meats are low on essential amino acids (9 out of the 21 amino acids are considered essential because the human body cannot produce them and hence, they’ve to be sourced from outside). This requires you to thoughtfully mix vegan foods with differing levels of essential amino acids in them to compensate for their respective lacks.
Further, a vegan bodybuilding diet is also known to be lacking in certain micronutrients that would otherwise easily come from mainstream food options. This includes vitamins B12 and D, calcium, iodine, zinc, iron and probiotics among others. Consequently, formulating a vegan diet for bodybuilding requires careful planning so that these deficiencies are best taken care of within the actual diet and that the ones remaining are thoughtfully supplemented with.
Actionable Steps to Create a Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan
Having a balanced meal plan to follow is analogous to having a precise map while taking on an outdoor adventure quest. Just like a map would put you in the right direction so your movements actually get you closer to your end goal and not wander aimlessly, a balanced meal plan ensures that your body is supplied with appropriate nutrition to complement your muscle-building efforts put in the gym. Consistently following a calculated meal plan and hitting your calories and macros would put you years ahead of someone that’s just ‘eating clean’ or ‘eating more/less than they used to’.
The essential cycles of bulking and cutting in bodybuilding meant for adding muscle mass to the frame and shedding off body fat respectively, require a meticulous intake of calories and macronutrients to be effective.
Formulating an effective vegan diet plan for either of these phases comes down to the following three steps:
- Calculate your calorie intake
- Decide an appropriate macro spilt
- Find your selection of go-to Vegan foods
That is it. Master these three steps and comprehend the underlying concepts behind each and you should be able to tailor a 100% plant-based bodybuilding diet for yourself or others based on their personal goals and preferences.
I’ve discussed the ins and outs of each of these steps and how’re they responsible in governing your body composition and thereby your outer appearance. Let’s start with the concept of calories, how to calculate and manipulate them according to your current bodybuilding goals.
1. Calculate Your Calorie Intake
If you’ve got a circle of mates with one or more ‘calorie-conscious’ people, you must certainly have heard of phrases like, “how many calories is that thing?” or “wait, lemme check if I can fit it in my macros”. These people are rightly termed ‘conscious’ because they’re well aware of and keep a track of what foods they eat in a day and how those foods translate in terms of calories. But why do they stress it so much?
Look, the principle of body composition is straight. Your body does not identify soy as soy, spinach as spinach or any other food as that food for that matter. Your body only knows how many calories a particular serving of food provides it. In basic terminology, your body deals in units of energy. You ingest calories when you eat certain food and you expend calories when you perform some task. The balance of ingested and expended calories determines if your body will add or get rid of body weight.
The science of weight gain or weight loss boils down to the average energy balance you maintain across a set period of time. Here’s a simple breakdown:
1. Say, if you were to consistently eat more calories than you burn per day, you’re certain to add weight to your body. What form you add that weight in, fat or muscle, is a whole another discussion (completely depends on your diet and lifestyle)
2. Similarly, if you consistently eat less calories than your body burns per day, you’ll definitely end up losing weight. Your body compensates for the consistently deficient calories with stored reserves of energy. This too, may be fat or muscle depending on how your diet and lifestyle looks like.
Now, you must wonder what happens if you eat nearly as many calories as your body burns per day? You guessed it right! You neither add any weight nor lose it. The number of calories that you eat resulting in neither a weight gain or a weight loss is termed as your ‘maintenance calories’ or ‘TDEE’.
TDEE, short for Total Daily Energy Expenditure, is what you must first focus on to eventually tailor your personalized vegan bodybuilding diet plan. The TDEE varies for person to person and depends on a great deal of factors like your age, height, current body composition, metabolism rate, daily activity, etc. The following TDEE calculator shall help you calculate a fair estimate of your maintenance calories. Please note that there isn’t an accurate way of pinpointing this number. Once you have a fairly approximate guess of TDEE, you could start eating those many calories for a span of 7 -10 days and see for yourself if your weight fluctuates.
Quick Tip: Weigh yourself at the same time every day to avoid inaccurate weigh-ins. Early morning after you get fresh, with minimal clothes is the ideal time to weigh yourself.
Well, now you’re very close to finishing up with the first step of putting together a vegan bodybuilding meal plan. Once you have a fair estimate of your TDEE, you only need to make slight adjustments to this number as per your current bodybuilding goals.
1. For Bulking
If you consider yourself lean enough at this point of time and are looking to add lean muscle mass to lagging body parts, you’re a good candidate to run a ‘bulking’ cycle. During this phase where building lean muscle tissue is the primary concern, you need to be eating slightly more than your ‘maintenance calories’ otherwise known as ‘TDEE’.
But here’s where you might get all excited and go overboard. Ever heard a gym bro preach “eat big to get big?” Right, that’s the kind of crap you need to keep a safe distance from. You’ll only need a modest surplus of around 10% above your TDEE to be able to continue building muscle at the fastest possible rate. Any higher and you risk adding excess body fat that would potentially shorten the period of your bulking phase and demand for a longer cutting period to lean down again later. Point of the matter being, an unreasonable increase of calories over your TDEE will only hamper your bodybuilding progress in the long run.
To summarize, you’ll have to either increase your TDEE by 10% or add 200 – 250 calories to your TDEE (whichever is lower). This shall be your daily calorie intake for bulking and steadily gaining strength on your lifts.
2. For Cutting
Cutting is a phase in bodybuilding where you focus on shedding away excess body fat while trying to hold on to as much muscle as possible thereby achieving a lean and aesthetic physique. Just like while bulking you run the risk of accumulating unnecessary fat with an aggressive surplus, you risk losing your hard-earned muscle and strength on your lifts if you start-off your cutting phase with an aggressive calorie deficit.
A deficit of 20% or 500 calories (whichever is smaller) from your TDEE should give you a good daily calorie intake to commence your cutting phase. You may further reduce your calories or up your cardiovascular activity to maintain the deficit as and when the scale stops showing progress.
3. For Fixing the Skinny Fat
Perhaps the most prevalent problem in all of the bodybuilding community is to find an effective fix for ‘skinny fat’ people. As the name suggests, a skinny fat person neither classifies as a thin individual so that they can start bulking up nor as a fat person that gives them a reason to slim down.
The skinny fat body type is characterised by thin limbs with negligible muscle mass yet a noticeable gut. The majority of people suffering from this state either have had a sedentary lifestyle all along or have had a long layoff from any form of strength training. However, this exact virtue makes this group the most suitable for the following fix.
Get to the point already! Yeah, I hear you. What I’m talking about here is popularly known in the bodybuilding community as ‘body recomposition’. In essence, you aim to build muscle mass and lose body fat simultaneously while on this approach. Unlike bulking or cutting, a body recomp diet requires you to eat at around your maintenance calories with slight tweaks (technically termed ‘cycling’) on training and non-training days. Essentially, you bump up your calories by 15% above your TDEE on the days you actively perform strength training and reduce them by 10% on your rest days.
What you’re trying to achieve here is ingesting calories corresponding to a day’s expected energy expenditure. You eat slightly over your maintenance on training days to support gym performance and you marginally undereat on days you rest, in other words, spend lesser energy than on training days.
Sample Calorie Intake Calculation
Let’s work the numbers here as an example for the one’s that still haven’t got it very clear. Let’s say, we’re to calculate the daily calorie intake of a 75kg (165 lbs), 5’10”, 30-year-old male with a fairly active lifestyle. Upon entering the specifics in the TDEE calculator, we’ll get his maintenance calories roughly at around 2750 calories.
- For Bulking: If he intends to start a bulking phase, he’s supposed to add a surplus of 10% or a total of 250 calories to his TDEE (whichever is lower) to get his daily calorie intake goal. So, his calories would be set at either 2750 * 1.1 = 3025 Calories or 2750 + 250 = 3000 Calories. As discussed earlier, it’s better if he selects the lower of the two. Meaning, our friend here will be bulking on a daily intake of 3000 calories.
- For Cutting: It is required to reduce your TDEE by 20% or 500 calories (whichever is smaller) for you to get your daily calorie intake goal to start cutting. 20% of 2750 comes out to be 550 which is evidently greater than 500. So, he’ll simply reduce 500 calories (smaller of the two) from his TDEE to get his cutting calorie goal. This gives us 2750 – 500 = 2250 calories
- For Body Recomposition: If the case at hand classifies as a skinny fat individual with no strength training history or has had a long layoff from the gym; probably the best course for him is to get on a body recomposition diet. Here, he’ll simply add 15% to his TDEE on the days he trains with weights and reduce his calorie intake by 10% (consume 90% of his TDEE) on the days he doesn’t. Meaning, for training days, his calories would be set at 2750 * 1.15 = 3162 calories and for rest days, his calories would be 2750 * 0.9 = 2475 calories.
2. Decide An Appropriate Macro Split
Basics first. Everything you eat is constituted of nutrients. It is to get these nutrients in our body that we eat food anyway (besides the fact that we feel hunger; but yeah, let it slide). Now, nutrients are classified in two broad categories; ‘macronutrients’ and ‘micronutrients’.
There are three macronutrients namely Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats. Whereas the tons of vitamins and minerals classify as micronutrients. Of these two, only macronutrients make up the total number of calories in a certain food. This implies, as far as body composition is concerned, you only need to keep a track of your macronutrients or ‘macros’ as they’re popularly referred to. Essentially, the way you split your calories and assign them to these macros dictates how your body will respond to strength training and calorie manipulations combined.
Here’s a breakdown of what these macronutrients look like in terms of calories –
- 1 gram of carbohydrates equates to 4 calories
- 1 gram of protein equates to 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat equates to 9 calories
Now that you know where exactly the calories in your vegan diet come from and how calorie-dense each of the macronutrients are, you’ve only left to decide what portion of your daily calories should come from which macronutrient so that your vegan bodybuilding diet is best aligned with your idea of a goal physique.
The following macronutrient split is deemed best for people looking to optimize their body composition and grow close to a muscular, lean and aesthetic physique.
1. Protein –
You’ll certainly need a high protein vegan diet to support muscle building during your bulking phase and muscle retention while you cut down. It’s a no-brainer. Protein is where you get the amino acids required to fuel muscle protein synthesis (MSP) after intense workouts. But just how much protein is sufficient? Or how much is too much? It’s well-established with sizeable clinical trials that you’ll need anywhere between 1.6 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram (0.7 – 1 gram per pound) of lean body weight.
Some bodybuilders may even stretch the upper limit of the protein intake to up to 2.5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight just to be sure they lose the absolute minimum lean muscle while trying to maintain a lean physique year-round. However, there’s no scientific evidence of a higher-protein diet than the above recommended range to be any more effective in terms of maximizing muscle gains (source). If anything, you’ll only be exerting unnecessary pressure on your kidneys (from the higher load of excreting nitrogenous waste left after your body metabolizes protein).
The sight of excessive protein intake is however pretty rare in the vegan bodybuilding community.
2. Fats –
Given that you’re on a vegan bodybuilding meal plan guide, I suppose it’s safe to assume that you don’t think eating fat would make you fat. In fact, healthy fats should be an integral part of your diet. There are numerous reasons why shouldn’t limit this macronutrient solely assuming that eating less fat would help you get rid of the fat reserves in your body. For one thing, dietary fat is essential for testosterone production in males. Further, healthy fats have an active role in nutrient absorption, reducing inflammation and maintaining hormonal balance among others.
A vegan bodybuilder should set his fat intake at around 20 – 30% of his daily calories. Meaning, 20 – 30% of your daily calories should come from fats.
3. Carbohydrates –
While formulating a vegan bodybuilder’s diet, it’s best to leave carbohydrate intake as the final macro to decide. Once you’ve figured your protein and fat intake, it’s as simple as filling the rest of the calories with carbohydrates.
Sample Macro Split Calculation
Extending our previous example to this subheading, we’ll work the macronutrient split of our 75 kg male friend for your reference. If you scroll up a bit, we had calculated his TDEE as 2750 calories.
Now, no matter if he decides to go on a bulk, a cut or even maintain his current physique and body composition, the macro split remains pretty much the same (percentage-wise) in each phase. Below is how you’ll calculate his exact macronutrients if he consumes maintenance calories foe a given time window.
To summarize, our subject can have a flexible daily protein intake ranging from 120 – 165 grams per day. It’s better to stay close to the upper limit if you’re on a calorie deficit and are actively trying to lose weight.
Protein: The protein intake calculation is independent of the daily calorie intake. Rather, you use the current body weight of the subject. In our case, the body weight is 75 kilograms. Knowing that he should consume protein within the range of 1.6 – 2.2 grams per kilogram of his bodyweight, we can conclude that he needs to set a minimum of 1.6 * 75 = 120 grams of protein intake per day. On the higher side, the limit can be set to 2.2 * 75 = 165 grams of protein per day.
To summarize, our subject can have a flexible daily protein intake ranging from 120 – 165 grams per day. It’s better to stay close to the upper limit if you’re on a calorie deficit and are actively trying to lose weight.
Fats: As discussed, 20 – 30% of your daily calories should come from fats to ensure optimal functioning of various metabolic activities. No matter if the subject is eating at maintenance, is in a surplus or in a deficit; the fat intake percentage stays the same across all phases of bodybuilding.
We’ve here supposed that the subject is eating at his TDEE or maintenance calories (2750 calories). This gives us the lower limit of the calories ingested from fat as 0.2 * 2750 = 550 calories. Similarly, the upper limit comes out to be 0.3 * 2750 = 825 calories. This implies that the subject can assign 550 – 825 calories out of his total daily calorie intake to fats.
Now, as we know, each gram of fat packs 9 calories, the fat intake range in grams would come out to be 550/9 = 61g to 825/9 = 91g.
Carbohydrates: Almost all of our work is done at this stage. We’ve assigned calories to protein and fats out of the total daily calorie intake. We’ve to simply work the remaining calories out, assign them to carbohydrates and calculate the corresponding quantity in grams.
Assuming that our subject prefers to consume 150 grams of protein (which lies well within the set range of 120 – 165 grams) and 80 grams of fat (within the set range of 61 – 91 grams) a day, we’ve got [150 * 4 = 600] + [80 * 9 = 720] calories accounted for. Meaning, there remains a total of 2750 – 600 – 720 = 1430 calories for carbs.
Finally, since each gram of carbohydrates amounts to 4 calories, our subject will have to set his daily carbohydrate intake to 1430/4 = 357 grams.
3. Find your Selection of Go-to Vegan Foods
Now that you’ve calculated you target calories and pinpointed your macros; you need to figure out exactly what vegan foods would you include in your vegan bodybuilding diet to actually fill in those numbers.
As simple and straight-forward as it may sound, this is the part where most people struggle the most, especially if they lack information about vegan food sources and the predominant nutrients in them. One instance where vegan bodybuilders may encounter trouble is selecting food options for high-protein meals. The fact that most plant-based foods are typically lower in protein and are deficient in some EAAs might prove to be a discouraging factor. Further, there might be a possibility of certain micronutrient deficiencies in poorly planned vegan bodybuilding diets.
It is, hence, extremely critical for you to meticulously design a vegan meal plan that includes a wide variety of plant-based foods to best compensate for respective deficiencies in certain foods. Also, this diet should be micromanaged to not only align with your calories and macro goals but should also have a rich micronutrient profile.
Macros Are What Matter Most, But Don’t Neglect the Micronutrients
If you were to be put on a typical plant-based bodybuilding diet consisting of beans, brown rice and nuts; you probably wouldn’t be compromising in terms of body composition. Why, you ask? Because you’ll likely hit your macros rather conveniently and that’s what counts when speaking of body composition. But, do you think this narrow assortment of foods will compare to the hoard of mainstream foods packed with abundant essential micronutrients. Not a chance in hell! Pardon me, but that’s the truth. You’ll need a much more diverse range of food selections to ensure you don’t deprive your body of any essential macro or micronutrient.
Following is a comprehensive selection of plant-derived foods that you must include in appropriate proportions in your diet to make it a balanced one.
Vegan Foods Rich in Protein
Not entirely contrary to popular belief; but a vegan diet can be made high in protein by selecting appropriate foods in the right amount. The centre of attraction for vegan body builders and much sought-after by other vegan athletes, here are the most protein rich vegan foods that can be conveniently included in a plant-based bodybuilder’s meal.
- Seitan: Seitan, also sometimes known as wheat meat is a popular meat substitute and is entirely made from gluten found in wheat. With 25 grams of protein per 100 gram serving, t is one of the highest protein vegan food options.
- Legumes: undoubtedly, the legume family is the centre-piece for a major chunk of vegan bodybuilders. Comprising of a wide assortment of lentils, beans and peas; legumes are truly one of the most versatile and nutritious class of plant-derived foods. Being gluten-free, lentils, peas and beans are a high-protein option that can be consumed by nearly everyone.
- Soy chunks: Left as a by-product in the soybean oil extraction process, soy chunks are undefeated for protein content per unit serving across all food options. 100 grams of uncooked soy chunks pack as much as 52 grams of complete protein.
- Tofu: Essentially made from soy, tofu is considered another complete source of vegan protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids) that goes well with virtually any meal of the day. It is made by curdling soy milk, a process resembling curdling cow milk to make cheese. A 100-gram serving of tofu merely contains 70 calories and gives you 8 grams of protein.
- Tempeh: A soy derived product, sometimes uses as a meat substitute, tempeh is a nutrient-dense vegan food. With a protein count of 19 grams per 100 gram serving, it could be a staple in a vegan bodybuilding diet plan.
- Edamame: Edamame are essentially immature soybeans that have been harvested before ripening. Constituting of adequate portions all nine essential amino acids, edamame is deemed a complete plant-based protein. An uncooked 100-gram batch of edamame gives you about 11 grams of cruelty-free protein.
- Soy milk: Imitating animal-derived milk, soy milk is a vegan alternative that’s prepared from soybeans. A 1 cup (250 ml) serving of soy milk gives you 11 grams of protein. You may drink soy milk on its own or use it to replace milk in smoothie recipes and consume that way.
- Nuts and Seeds: These tiny gifts from nature are packed with the goodness of protein, omega-3s, fibres and a hoard of vitamins and minerals. Nuts and seeds can be consumed individually beside a main dish or can be added in vegan shakes or smoothies. Being calorie-dense, these can be very well added in mass gainer shakes if you’re trying to reach a rather high calorie goal consistently.
Now, although there are ample vegan protein sources that are completely plant-based, consistently including all or a combination of these sources in a bodybuilding diet can give you some trouble. For instance, plant foods are really high in fibre. While you must’ve only heard of inadequate fibre intake up until now, there’s also a possibility of overdosing on dietary fibre; especially for vegans.
This may cause bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea and other problems. For this reason, it is advisable to always supplement you diet with a vegan protein powder that’s easier to digest and gives your gut a break.
Vegan Foods Rich in Carbohydrates
Carbs, often demonized and held accountable for fat gain are not all that bad Afterall, research says. Again, I’ll have to emphasize over the basics here. You’ll only gain fat or weight in other form only if you consistently overeat above your maintenance calories. That is the driving force for any form for weight gain and not carbohydrate intake.
However, there are these tiny factors that you can manipulate to your benefit while picking carbohydrate sources for your vegan bodybuilding meal plan. Early in the day, when you’re not about to perform any strenuous activity in the near term, it is advisable to prioritize complex carbs. Complex carbs are slowly digested as compared to simple carbs and hence instil a feeling a satiety and do not cause sudden insulin spikes. However, there’s no harm in eating a serving of simple carbs like fruits before a workout or cardio session.
Unlike protein, you wouldn’t face much trouble picking your vegan carbohydrate sources. The Vegan diet has ample to carbohydrate sources to offer and you can pick based on your taste preferences
Following are some great carbohydrate sources for vegan bodybuilders to choose from:
- Sweet potatoes and white potatoes
- Red rice
- Lentils and beans
- Whole grains
Vegan Foods Rich in Fats
I can’t help it but think of a range of nuts and seeds when speaking of vegan healthy fat sources. Packed with essential micronutrients, you shouldn’t ever have to give it a second thought to include them in your bulking or cutting vegan diet. Besides, nuts are one of the very few vegan sources of long-chain omega-3s.
In addition to nuts and seeds, there are multiple other vegan sources of healthy fats, too. Following are my go-to picks to fill in my share of calories coming from fats.
|Cashew nuts||Brazil nuts|
|Pine nuts||Olive Oil|
Vegan Foods Rich in Micronutrients
Yet again, plant-based foods are naturally flooded with micronutrients. You shouldn’t struggle to accumulate more than the recommended DV of micronutrients from a vegan diet, for the most part. Having guilt-free access to all the hailed leafy greens, root vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts; vegans can conveniently be on top of their overall health beside chasing a certain body composition goal.
However, the fact that micronutrients have virtually no role in governing how your body looks in terms of muscles and fat can lead some to think that they can get away without focusing much on this aspect of nutrition. While it is partially true, it is not at all recommended for you to try this stunt. Vitamins and minerals are integral in hundreds of critical bodily functions including maintenance of several tissues, organs and entire systems, healing wounds, bone health and strengthening the immune system among others.
Below are some of my favorite micronutrient-dense vegan foods that every plant-based bodybuilder must include in their vegan bodybuilding diet.
- Kale: If I were to choose just one green leafy vegetable for my entire life, without a second thought in my mind, I’d pick kale. A 100-gram serving of kale gives you 300%, 200% and 1000% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K1 respectively. Further, it also has high concentrations of minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, copper and manganese.
- Seaweed: Another group of humble plants that we just can’t thank enough for existing. Rich in iodine, iron and calcium, seaweed is a great source of these scarcely found minerals in the vegan diet. Beside these, seaweed also provides you with a balanced combination of potassium, magnesium and zinc.
- Other leafy greens and vegetables: Spinach, parsley, chard, brussel sprouts, asparagus, tomatoes, the list can literally go on and on. There isn’t a vegetable that just exists to exist. These are packed with a hoard of essential vitamins and minerals that would simply take the nutritional value of your vegan bodybuilding meals to a whole another level. Include a big bowl of mixed vegetable salad as or with one of your meals and you should be covered for the day.
- Berries: High in Vitamin C, fibre and antioxidant polyphenols, berries can be added in your diet in many ways. They can be eaten as they are, added on top of your oatmeal, put in shakes or smoothies, be served in a fruit salad or frozen yogurt, etc. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and Goji berries are some of the most popular and readily available berries that you should try and fit in your macros.
Alas, after all your efforts to extensively cover and include most micronutrients in your vegan meal plan for bodybuilding, you’d sadly still be short of some essential ones. Why? Because that’s the way it is! There are some vitamins and minerals that you just can’t get enough while being on a 100% plant-based diet. Below are some of most common vitamins and other nutrients that a vegan diet is typically deficient in and that you might want to supplement with:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Long-chain Omega 3s
Supplements for Vegan Bodybuilders
I’d advise you to not view supplements solely as a formula to enhance gym performance and aid lean muscle gains. Rather, a vegan weightlifter should supplement with a spectrum of synthetic nutrients (of course, the ones that are manufactured in a 100% cruelty-free manner) that they find hard to ingest through their vegan diet. Below is a concise list of supplements that should be a part of every vegan bodybuilder’s arsenal.
1. Plant-Based Protein Powder
In congruence with my tone throughout this write-up, I still firmly think that vegans can get just enough protein for their bodybuilding needs through a well-balanced and thought-out diet plan. However, given the lack of variety and rather incomplete nature of most vegan protein sources, it’s best to be equipped with a plant-based protein powder to tackle the obvious monotony. Here’s our carefully curated list of the Best Vegan Protein Powders for your reference.
While it would be unreasonable for a regular vegan to stress over their creatine intake, supplementing with creatine would certainly have a beneficial impact on vegan athletes and weight-lifters. Having completely restricted red meat consumption which happens to be the most abundant source of creatine for mainstream lifters, vegan bodybuilders are in a greater need of supplementing with this mighty formula. Have a look at our selection of the Best Vegan Creatine Supplements.
3. Meal Replacements
You can be all for bodybuilding and overall health in general, but in the end, still find it hard to micromanage all your meals to cover your calorie and macro goals. In busy times like this, a meal replacement shake or a nutrition bar for that matter can come in real handy. These meal replacement powders or bars, unlike lean vegan protein powders, constitute of a mindful blend of protein, carbs, fats and micronutrients. I’ve personally used Lean1’s Nutrition 53 Plant-based meal replacement powder and can confidently vouch for it’s effectiveness. It can be viewed as an intermedial between vegan protein powders and vegan mass gainers.
4. Vegan Mass Gainers
Vegan mass gainers or weight gainers are advised strictly for those that just can’t seem to eat enough. Look, a vegan diet can be high in volume and low on calories, based on your selection and permutation of foods. If you happen to be someone that has a hard time putting on weight despite stuffing yourself forcefully and giving it all in the gym, a high-calorie mass gainer shake might be all that’s missing in your diet plan. Given that liquid calories are easy to ingest and are also easily digested, vegan ectomorphs looking to add a little mass to their frame could use the help of a plant-based gainer. Check out this article for our top recommended Vegan Mass Gainers.
Contrary to the perceived image of a vegan diet being sufficient to cover for all daily micronutrient needs, things might not look the same when you actually start to follow one. As outlined even earlier, a vegan diet can fall short in covering certain key vitamins and minerals. A multivitamin is crucial in covering this exact gap. Further, vegan lifters that have got limited time on their hand for planning their meal prep and subsequently including a wide variety of foods in their diet can benefit from supplementing with vegan multivitamins.
Formulating a well-balanced vegan bodybuilding diet essentially comes down to figuring out three things; daily calorie intake according your current body composition goals, an appropriate macro split and the plant-based foods that will actually help you fill these numbers. Having figured these three, there’s only some testing and optimizing left to the equation that would eventually give you a plant-based diet plan that you can stick to for the long term and grow closer to your bodybuilding goals.