If you’ve ever thought about doing a vegan bodybuilding diet plan, you may have wondered if it was even possible. You know that protein is at the heart of any good muscle building plan and if you attempt to go vegan, protein becomes hard to come by.
While there’s no doubt that anyone eating a plant-based diet will likely be taking in fewer grams of protein each day than someone on a classic carnivore bodybuilding diet, this doesn’t necessarily have to mean a lack of results.
Do keep in mind that many people already overshoot their protein intake on their bodybuilding diet considerably, so you may not really need as much protein as you think you do, making a vegan bodybuilding diet more feasible.
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You actually need more protein when you are trying to cut fat and are in a hypocaloric intake than you do when attempting to build muscle because the body has a higher chance of using incoming protein as a fuel source. When you’re focusing on building muscle, your calorie intake will be in a surplus, therefore you can be virtually guaranteed that 100% of the protein you consume goes towards helping assist with lean mass building (along with other roles that protein has in the body). It’s not being used as fuel.
So this said, let’s walk you through how to set up the perfect vegan bodybuilding diet plan.
Understanding Your Best Protein Choices
The first thing you need to do is take note of the top high protein foods that you can serve on a vegan bodybuilding diet plan. These need to always be forthright in your mind so that as you plan your meals, you can try and work around them as best as possible.
Remember that many vegan sources of protein do come with carbs and/or fats, so you may need to actually scale back on how many extra carbs and fats you include so that your macros are in proper alignment.
The good sources of vegan bodybuilding diet protein include:
- Nutritional yeast
- Rice protein powder
- Hemp protein powder
Note that while soy protein powder is out there, this is not especially recommended for men to use on a regular basis as it may interfere with testosterone production1, which would then impact the overall results you see with building muscle.
How much protein do you need to eat on your vegan bodybuilding diet plan? While classic advice is to aim for one gram per pound of body weight and you can certainly try and take that in, most people will struggle to get to that level.
Therefore, aiming to achieve 0.7-0.8 grams/lb. of body weight should be still sufficient to see good rates of muscle growth provided you are in a sufficient calorie surplus2. Remember, this is for a vegan bodybuilding diet only. Not a vegan weight loss diet plan.
Choosing Your Carbs
The next thing you’ll want to think about is your carbohydrate sources. Protein is the only focus when building a vegan bodybuilding meal plan because the carbohydrates you choose can also provide additional protein sources if chosen correctly and can help ensure that you get complete proteins into your day.
Some people make a big deal about getting in complete proteins and think that you must eat beans with rice for instance, however what’s more important is that you simply get in the full spectrum of amino acids over a 24 hour period. Food pairing isn’t as key as some make it out to be, so you don’t need to stress too much about it.
What you do want to focus on however is getting wholesome sources of carbohydrates into your day, ensuring that you are not relying on heavily processed foods. Some people who adopt vegetarian and vegan diet plans think that as long as they are animal-free, they’re fair game. Basic nutritional concepts for a good bodybuilding diet still apply, regardless of whether it’s vegan or not.
You also don’t want to be adding too many fresh fruits and vegetables either. Contrary to what it may seem, these foods are very low in calories and very high in fiber, and too much of them, while healthy, can also cause a decrease in testosterone levels in men3. Get some in to ensure your nutritional status stays where it needs to be but then also be sure to prioritize getting sufficient fat into your diet plan. Fat is what will help keep your testosterone levels up to where it needs to be, so will help balance out the fiber you are eating.
Additionally, if you eat to many of these foods, you’ll have a hard time meeting your requirements on your vegan bodybuilding diet plan, so that can also pose a potential problem as well.
The best carb sources to focus on include:
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Moderate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables
Figuring Out Your Fats
Finally, the last macro you’ll want to be taking note of is dietary fat. As mentioned above, dietary fat will be very important on any vegan bodybuilding diet plan because it not only helps to increase your overall testosterone levels, but also helps ensure that you are getting optimal calories into the picture as well.
You’ll want to rely primarily on unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids as these are the ones that will keep your body healthy, boost insulin sensitivity to encourage leaner muscle gains4, and help promote optimal brain health. Trans fats should be avoided and saturated fats should be eaten in moderation.
If you are doing a good job at avoiding deep fried and processed foods, you’ll naturally be turning to healthier sources of fats because most unhealthy fat sources are found in animal based foods.
The best healthy fat sources to include are:
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Almond butter
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Coconut (including coconut water)
- Olive oil
- Flaxseed oil
Because it becomes very hard to get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet when on a vegan bodybuilding plan, it’s also a good idea to take an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. While you likely won’t be using fish oil, you can instead use DHA/EHA instead.
So now that you have your food line-up ready, let’s show you a sample meal plan.
Sample Meal Plan
5 oz. pan-fried tofu served with 1 cup sweet potato hash browns, ½ cup sautéed mixed vegetables and half an avocado
1 banana combined with 2 tbsp. natural peanut butter and 1 scoop hemp protein powder mixed into a shake on the side.
1 cup chickpeas mixed with 1 cup brown rice and ¼ cup kernel corn. Mixed together with some salsa, ½ diced fresh tomato and freshly chopped cilantro.
½ cup raw oats mixed with 1 cup almond milk, 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter, 1 tbsp. slivered walnuts, 1 tbsp. dried cranberries and 1 tbsp. unsweetened dried coconut flakes
5 oz. stir-fried tempeh with 1 cup mixed vegetables sautéed in 1 tbsp. coconut oil, soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Served over 1 cup cooked quinoa. 1 cup berries on the side.
1 scoop rice protein powder mixed with 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1 tbsp. natural almond butter and 1 cup frozen strawberries.
Take the time to plan out your vegan bodybuilding diet, ensuring you have the right foods coming to hit your macros and you will have no problem realizing success if coupled with intense training.
- Gardner-Thorpe, D., et al. “Dietary supplements of soya flour lower serum testosterone concentrations and improve markers of oxidative stress in men.” European journal of clinical nutrition1 (2003): 100.
- Lemon, Peter WR. “Dietary protein requirements in athletes.” The journal of nutritional biochemistry2 (1997): 52-60
- Hämäläinen, E. K., et al. “Decrease of serum total and free testosterone during a low-fat high-fibre diet.” Journal of steroid biochemistry3 (1983): 369-370.
- Akinkuolie, Akintunde O., et al. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Clinical nutrition6 (2011): 702-707.
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