There is the perception that you cannot be vegan and be a bodybuilder. Or that meat eaters will have an advantage over non meat eaters when it comes to building muscle. This article aims to address those perceptions.
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What Foods Should Vegan Bodybuilders Eat?
Admittedly, it is a generalization but vegans are healthier!
In sport, particularly in athletics and bodybuilding participants are turning toward a vegan lifestyle.
Some people will tell you it’s not possible to attain muscle strength and size gains on a vegan diet.
This is not true.
Although being vegan presents certain challenges, it doesn’t prevent you from making your muscles grow.
Did you ever hear the phrase “strong as an ox”? Most people are familiar with it.
Oxen are incredibly strong but they don’t eat meat.
Most gorillas live almost entirely on plant-based foods too and some estimates suggest gorillas may be up to nine times stronger than humans.
So don’t believe the anyone who tells you it’s not possible to grow your muscles without eating meat.
Many successful bodybuilders are vegan. There is no need to make animals suffer in order to compete.
Don’t Let Worries About Protein Hold You Back
Some people argue animal-based protein is better than plant protein because it’s a complete protein.
However, whether they stop to think about it or not, the meat that people eat is actually slices of muscle.
So, when someone eats a rump steak they are eating slices of muscle taken from a cow’s rump.
It is a complete protein. There’s no denying it but the cow that lost its life to provide the meat built it’s muscle by consuming plant proteins. We can do that too.
Before going any further, let’s take a look at complete and incomplete proteins. It helps to be clear about what the differences are.
Completes Proteins Vs. Incomplete Proteins
Just as the food we eat is made up of several nutrients, including protein, fat, and carbohydrate; protein can be broken down into smaller particles as well.
These are the amino acids you hear so many people talking about.
When we eat protein, our digestive organs breaks it down to release the amino acids.
These then pass through the intestinal walls into the blood, which then transports them to the muscles.
The muscles then use the amino acid to rebuild the tissue broken down through exercise and they become protein again.
The body can manufacture certain amino acids so, if your food does not provide them, it does not need to go short.
However, there are nine amino acids it cannot make. These are called essential amino acids because it’s essential you get them from food.
The 9 essential amino acids are:
Complete proteins provide all nine essential amino acids. Meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products are complete proteins.
Some plant-based proteins provide all nine essential amino acids as well, but many do not.
For instance, soy and quinoa are complete proteins but lentils and pinto beans are incomplete proteins because they do not provide all the essential amino acids.
However, although Vegans may have to think a little harder about their protein sources than other bodybuilders do, it’s important not to blow things out of proportion.
You can still get all the amino acids your muscles need by combining two or more incomplete proteins.
Good Vegan Muscle-Building Foods
The best way to make sure your diet provides you muscles with the correct balance of amino acids is to learn the composition of all the major plant proteins.
That may sound a difficult task but it’s not. Vegan is a way of life.
There is not need to learn everything at once. You have plenty of time.
A good knowledge of the amino acid strengths and failings of plant-based protein makes it easier to plan snacks and meals.
However, let’s take a look at few options.
We may as well begin with tofu because so many non-vegetarians think we live on it.
Tofu is a complete protein, it’s versatile, and it isn’t overly expensive to buy. It is also a great appetite reducing food.
So, what can you do with tofu?
Here are a few suggestions:
Caesar Salad with Tofu Croutons
This isn’t hard to do. Just cut the tofu into small crouton-sized cubes and saute them in a little olive oil until they are nice and crispy. Then toss them into your salad.
Depending on how adventurous you are, you can either buy a jar of curry sauce and use pieces of tofu instead of meat or you can adapt a recipe to utilize tofu instead of meat.
If you want a tried and trusted tofu curry recipe, a quick search of the internet will provide you with a variety of options.
Pick any popular curry option, such as chicken korma or lamb madras and you will be able to find a tofu equivalent.
Stir-fry with Tofu Noodles
You’ll need the extra-firm tofu for this one. Simply choose and prepare your vegetables in the normal way and then add your tofu noodles in the last couple of minutes of cooking.
You will have to make the noodles yourself but it’s not hard. All you need is a potato peeler. Use it to cut your block of tofu into strips and away you go.
Beans on Toast
When you want a meal that’s quick and simple to prepare, beans on toast is good option.
For extra flavor or to add a little variety to you meals you can stir some curry powder of barbecue sauce into your beans during cooking.
Beans are an incomplete protein, but the bread provides the missing amino acids your muscles need so it’s a winning combination vegan bodybuilders can take advantage off.
Lentil Curry with Rice
Combining lentils with rice is another good way to get all nine essential amino acids.
Knocking together a lentil curry is no more time-consuming than making a meat curry is. Again, you can find plenty of recipes online. Here’s one that’s both vegan-friendly and gluten-free:
Meals with Beans and a Mexican Flavor
If you search online for Vegan Chili, you will be spoiled for choice but almost any chili recipe can be modified for vegans.
It’s just as case of removing the meat and adding some extra red kidney beans to provide extra protein.
Again, a combination of red kidney beans and rice provides your muscles with all nine essential amino acids.
Kidney Beans and rice burritos is another tasty option that can spice up your life and help you to pack on extra muscle mass without meat. [source]
Vegan Bodybuilding Foods to Avoid
Unfortunately some food options that are vegan-friendly are not bodybuilding-friendly.
A lot of the vegan meals you see in supermarket fridges have more fat than they do protein.
When you are trying to improve your muscle definition, eating too much fat is an unwise move.
That’s not to say there are not a few good options, but you will need to pay close attention to the nutrition information panel.
Anything that contains mock cheeses or meats can also prove to be nutritionally poor. Such options are also more likely to contain food additives.
Vegan ice creams and candies may also cause you to gain unwanted fat because they are so high in refined sugars.
As an occasional treat, the damage is likely to be negligible but these are still options it’s better to avoid.
Vegan Bodybuilding Supplements to Consider
There are several natural supplement to consider. These can also be described as legal steroids – supplements that are designed to offer bodybuilders a safer alternative.
It is worth noting that it is highly advised to avoid anabolic steroids – there are none that are really risk free. There is no such thing as a safe steroid.
Some of the core ingredients are:
Eating Vegan offers many benefits but one of the drawbacks is we can become deficient in Vitamin B12.
This is undesirable because lack of Vitamin B12 can cause anemia and may also damage the nervous system.
The only reliable way to make sure you are getting enough Vitamin B12 is to take a supplement or eat plenty of fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.
Some milk substitutes are fortified with Vitamin B12 too.
A lot of fruits and vegetables provide iron. The problem is absorbing iron from plants is not as easy as absorbing it from red meats.
One way around this problems is to try and get your iron from a variety of plant-based sources each day. Leafy greens, lentils, peas, and whole grains are few good options.
Again, fortified cereals can help. So can supplements. If you make sure you get plenty of Vitamin C it will help too because it boosts iron absorption.
Zinc is an important mineral. One of the things it does apart from beef up the immune system is support testosterone production.
That’s a biggie for any bodybuilder who wants to train hard and stack on extra muscle.
Non-vegan bodybuilders will probably get sufficient zinc from the meat in their diet. Eggs are an excellent source of zinc too.
Whole grains, beans, and legumes provide zinc too but they contain phytic acid as well. It hinders zinc absorption.
Soaking grains and beans prior to cooking can reduce it, but it may be a good idea to consider using a supplement.
Vegan Protein Powders
No explanation needed here. Vegan protein powders generally provide a combination of plant proteins that ensure your muscles get all the amino acids they need.