Looking for a definitive guide to the vegan bodybuilding diet? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Us vegans don’t eat animal-based food products due to a number of personal, social and environmental reasons such as health issues or ethical concerns. The use of this plant-based diet has been increasingly gaining popularity over the years. This is due to its effectiveness in not only being earth-friendly, but promoting healthy weight management as well. In addition to that, this diet enhances your general wellbeing.
But did you know that you can use a vegan diet for bodybuilding? Well, if you effectively incorporate various plant-based foods and ensure that you eat an adequate amount of calories daily, then this is one of the best diets for bodybuilding.
Let’s get stuck in.
What to Eat on a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet
For successful bodybuilding, you need to take care and keep track of your micros and macros. So, what are some of the core components of a healthy vegan diet for bodybuilding?
A vegan diet for bodybuilding must incorporate protein. However, you need to know the best plant-based sources. Some of the best sources of protein suitable for a vegan diet for bodybuilding include legumes such as peas, beans, and lentils. Besides those, you can occasionally add in oats, chickpeas, hempseed, tofu, and quinoa among others.
Protein is important for maintaining and managing all the body tissues. In fact, it’s considered as the building block for the development of lean muscle. For optimal muscle growth, it’s important to incorporate these plant-based proteins into your diet.
If you’re serious about building muscle, then it’s generally good to aim for at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is important for muscle recovery and repair. Besides that, you need strong bones and healthy organs while working out. The best thing about protein is that it helps to make bones stronger and nourish different body organs.
Vegan-friendly sources of fat include nuts and seeds such as:
- Brazil nuts
- Flax seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Sesame seed
- Pumpkin seeds among others
Generally, seeds and nuts are important additions to any vegan diet for bodybuilding. They are excellent sources of fat that are rich in nutrients. This includes vitamin E, minerals, essential fatty acids, fibre, and protein. Nuts, for instance, have other numerous health properties apart from being instrumental for bodybuilding. Some studies show that they have anti-cancer properties and can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease.
Note: It’s super easy to eat a large amount of nuts in one sitting, but try to count your calories as nuts contain a high amount of calories due to their high-fat content. You can always use flax seeds as an alternative!
Don’t neglect your carbs! Every vegan diet should have a good space for carbs. Complex carbs are great for bodybuilding because they take longer to digest and help to fuel those gruelling workouts. The digestive system will process them at a lower rate and they also help to gradually increase your body’s carbohydrate intake.
But why are carbohydrates such an important component of bodybuilding? Carbs mainly increase the production of energy. They are the primary sources of energy in the body. This is great for those who exercise frequently. Besides that, vegan-friendly carbs have lots of fibre, so they help to reduce unnecessary hunger pangs or binge eating that may lead to fat gain. They are great options for those who want to manage or lose fat.
By promoting bowel regularity, complex carbs help to support digestive health. It’s worth mentioning that proper digestive health is essential for bodybuilding and general wellness. Other benefits of complex carbs include regulating blood sugar levels as well as cholesterol. The best sources of carbs to include in a vegan bodybuilding diet include:
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
- Whole-wheat pasta
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are essential components for any type of healthy diet. Those who are interested in using a vegan bodybuilding diet have to exercise caution when implementing their meal plans. This is because any slight mistake can lead to nutrient deficiency. To counter this, it’s important for vegans to eat nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. Some of the vegetable varieties that you can include are:
- Kale and spinach.
- Red cabbage
- Bell peppers
- Green peas
On the other hand, your fruit list should comprise of:
- Pineapples, etc.
Note: if you want vegetables with a meaty texture, then eat mushrooms or aubergines. Leafy greens usually have high amounts of calcium and iron minerals while mashed bananas can be great additions to baked foods and ice cream recipes.
Core Elements of Vegan Bodybuilding
Now that you have a good understanding of what you should be eating, your next step is to understand how to implement it. So, how can you successfully implement a vegan bodybuilding diet to attain your wellness goals?
Well, here is what we recommend.
1. Know Your Recommended Calorie Intake
Calorie intake is important, regardless of the type of bodybuilding you are focusing on. If you want to lose weight, then your calorie intake should be lower than what your body needs. On the other hand, if you want to gain weight, then you need to eat more than what your body needs.
You can calculate your basal metabolic rate online and the results depend on your weight, age, and height. Additionally, your level of activity is important. Are you engaging in extremely high activity, light activity, or living a sedentary lifestyle?
2. Know Your Macros
It’s clear that bodybuilding is all about building muscle. So, if you are to do this effectively, then you need to know your macros by tracking your food intake on a daily basis. We recommend using MyFitnessPal.
There are a few simple rules that you need to follow:
- Know the type of macros you need in your vegan diet and the percentage split between them (a typical macro breakdown for fat loss and muscle gain is 40 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent carbs.).
- Make sure that you lift weights regularly. However, it’s important that you don’t overtrain. Your body needs time to recover and repair worn-out muscles.
- Your calorie intake should match your bodybuilding goals.
- Remember that getting adequate sleep is important for your productivity and health.
3. Implement a Relevant Eating Plan
You need to have a versatile vegan recipe plan that you can use to prepare your meals. If you want to create a diverse meal plan, then you can always search for new recipes online. Just make sure that your daily meals consist of a range of fats, protein and carbohydrates. Besides that, you can supplement your intake with vegan-friendly powders, capsules, and bars.
4. Monitor and Moderate Your Progress
Monitoring your vegan bodybuilding progress is essential in determining if you are making progress or not. There are various apps that you can use to track your wellness. Most of them usually offer comprehensive analysis regarding your calorie intake, weight gain or loss, and blood markers.
Supplements for Vegan Bodybuilding
Supplements are important additions for a vegan bodybuilding diet. First, they help to fill in nutrient gaps that may have been left by using a vegan diet. Additionally, they help to enhance workout performance by working as energisers and enhancing the post-workout recovery period.
The best types of supplements that you can add in any vegan diet for bodybuilding are mostly protein-dense varieties and those that contain algae-based omega-3. Omega-3 contains the right amount of the needed fatty acids. On the other hand, protein-rich supplements help to reduce food cravings and enhance the development of lean muscle mass.
Vegan Supplements: Our Top 5 Picks
There are a wide variety of vegan-friendly supplements. These products are made by numerous brands and they, therefore, contain different nutrition content. Whether you are a newbie or an experienced lifter, finding the right vegan supplement isn’t easy. Apart from the wide product range, these products also come in different forms. So, this can make the selection process quite complicated.
To ensure that you choose a vegan supplement that suits your needs, here is a review of our top 5 picks.
- Contains to the reduction of tiredness & fatigue
- Contributes to the maintenance of normal bones, teeth, hair and skin
- No Artificial Colours or Flavours
- GMO Free
- Easy Swallow Tablets
This vegan-friendly multivitamin tablet is definitely one of our top picks. Manufactured by Nutravita company, the versatile multivitamin is suitable for both men and women thanks to its wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. A serving of this product comes with minerals and vitamins that are active, such as selenium, iron, thiamin, vitamins K, E, A, B1, and D3 among others.
Note that Nutravita is one of the most popular brands in the food supplement industry. The UK-based company was first established in 2014 and we’ve seen it grow steadily over the years. It has become one of the most trusted food supplement brands thanks to its premium products. Everything that comes from Nutravita is not only effective but also certified.
This is a product that has been tried and tested by us. So, we are confident that using it will provide you with a wide range of health benefits. Whether you are new to bodybuilding or you are a veteran, using multivitamins such as this will certainly take your wellness goals to a whole new level.
But what’s the quality of the ingredients that are used to make Nutravita multivitamins and minerals? Well, we understand that this brand has a dedicated and well-experienced team of chemists, pharmacologists as well as research scientists who work hand-in-hand from the source of ingredients until when the products hit the shelves.
We can attest that this premium supplement is GMO-free and it has no artificial flavours or colours. In addition to that, it’s free from allergens, nuts, lactose, and wheat. Generally, using Nutravita multivitamins and minerals can help to significantly reduce fatigue and tiredness. This vegan bodybuilding supplement can also improve the health of normal bones, skin, hair, and teeth. For those who want to develop lean muscle mass, this nutrient-rich supplement provides a great foundation.
- High-quality and nutrient-rich supplement that’s vegan-friendly.
- Minimises the levels of fatigue.
- Improves digestive health and general physical appearance.
- May cause digestive discomfort initially.
- 34g of plant-based protein
- Dairy-free and suitable for vegans
- Zero sugar formula
- Enhanced 100 Percent plant-based blend
- High protein contributing to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass
- Anti-workout fatigue: Each serving contains vitamin B6, B12 and magnesium to help reduce tiredness and fatigue
For starters, SCI-MX is renowned for its amazing products that effectively supplement a vegan diet for bodybuilding. Whatever your fitness goals are, we can assure you that using their supplements will give you value for your money. This is one of the top brands that make amazing products that facilitate the development of lean muscle mass and improve overall physique.
But why is their Pro V-Gain supplement among our top picks? We can tell you for free that this is a 100% plant-based formula. So, it’s even suitable for vegans who are conscious about what they consume.
The top-selling nutrient-rich supplement contains a premium blend of rice, pea, and soy protein. This combination forms a creamy and tasty blend that comes in a variety of flavours to cater to different tastes.
Pro V-Gain is rich in protein. A single serving of this supplement comes with 34g of protein. We find this amount great in not only repairing muscle but also facilitating the growth of new lean mass. This product has a formula that contains essential BCAA’s, minerals, and vitamins. As a result, it can easily enhance the natural production of energy, leading to improved gym performance.
If you are a gym enthusiast, this is a perfect pre or post-workout supplement. The best thing about Pro V-Gain vegan bodybuilding supplement is that you can prepare it in less than 5 minutes. You can whip SCI-MX Vegan powder using water and enjoy it from anywhere, including in between classes, before and after hitting the gym and while you are on the move.
We’ve written a full review of SCI-MX Nutrition Pro V-Gain – click here to read it.
- Has a good nutritional profile.
- High protein content, helping to contribute to the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass.
- Sugar free.
- Perfect after intense workout sessions.
- Not a great meal replacement due to low carbohydrates.
- Taste isn’t that great when mixed with water only.
- 100 percent natural
- Vegetarian society vegan approved
- 20 g protein per bar
- Low sugar
PhD is a performance nutrition company based in the UK. We have sampled some of their products and, therefore, we know that they believe in enhancing everyday performance. At PhD, smart thinking, especially when it comes to creating high nutrition supplements, is key. Since it was established in 2006, PhD has taken a different approach when it comes to sports nutrition.
The innovative company uses organically cultivated plant products. With innovative techniques, the brand uses clean packaging to store its tasty and effective formulations. The Smart Plant Bar is high in protein. Therefore, it quickly and steadily facilitates the development of lean muscle mass. Besides that, the plant bar is low in sugar, hence a great alternative to sugar-rich food products.
Even with its efficiency when it comes to performance, the PhD Smart Plant Bar doesn’t compromise its taste. It’s available in multiple great flavours: choc toffee popcorn, dark choc brownie, choc peanut caramel, choc coconut and cashew. This protein bar delivers on all aspects while still maintaining its great taste.
- Low sugar and gluten-free.
- Approved by the vegetarian society.
- Wide range of flavours.
- Not suitable for those who are sensitive to nuts.
- Some may find the taste a little dry.
- 100% VEGAN & VEGETARIAN CAPSULES – Made from farmed marine algae oil and contain no fish or gelatine.
- 400MG OMEGA-3 DHA PER SERVING – The European Food Safety Authority recommends a minimum daily intake of 250mg.
- PREMIUM QUALITY – Our manufacturing is compliant with GMP, HACCP, ISO 9001 & Global Food Safety standards so you won’t have the heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs and other toxins often found in fish oil!
- EASY TO SWALLOW – 500mg capsules that are small and easy to swallow.
- A BRAND WITH REAL VALUES – We believe that being healthy shouldn’t cost the Earth! Join us on our mission to take on the mighty fish oil industry and stop the unnecessary overfishing of our oceans, by opting for a sustainable alternative.
Omvits is a brand that knows real values when it comes to making supplements. We have no doubt that incorporating the Omega 3 supplement in your routine will bring benefits to both your health and general wellbeing. The brand believes in making consumer-friendly products and these soft gel capsules are no exception. What makes us love this brand even more is that they use packaging materials that are 100% recyclable.
A bottle of Omvits Omega 3 contains 60 soft gel capsules. The 100% vegetarian and vegan capsules are made with marine algae oil. This is a completely plant-based food supplement that’s free from gelatin and fish.
Omvits considers the quality and safety of their products of the highest importance. Their Omega 3 is no exception. It has met the requirements of Global Food Safety, HACCP, and GMP. We understand that each product batch is normally tested independently. Thus, the capsules are non-GMO and free of harmful toxins, microbes, and heavy metals.
For those who struggle to take pills, these soft gels are very easy to swallow. They are small enough and easily pass through the throat. It should be noted that the 500 mg capsules can also be used by expectant women. This is because Omega 3 by Omvits sufficiently supplies the body with prenatal DHA.
- Non-GMO and allergen-free.
- Independently tested to verify quality, effectiveness and safety.
- 400mg of premium bioavailable DHA with two capsules.
- Some people may struggle with the taste.
- Opening the bottle can leave a ‘fishy’ smell.
- Perfect pick-me-up snack
- Gives lasting energy
- Ideal for sports and fitness fans
- Great for a nourishing and filling snack
Our top 5 picks wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Trek! We have tried their products and we can verify that their protein bars are indeed unmatched. Trek specializes in making gluten-free and vegan products made with all-natural ingredients.
They use plant-based and quality protein to make a broad range of snacks. Most of these are usually used energy boosters, so they will absolutely keep you going regardless of how hectic your day is. Do you have a demanding work schedule or have an intense gym session? Well, Trek protein bar is here to help you to attain your personal best when it comes to energy levels and protein content.
The protein energy bars contain around 10g of protein. To ensure that dieters have long-lasting energy production, this vegan bodybuilding product contains all-natural ingredients. They include protein crunchies, oats, and fruits. Each bar is a wholesome snack that is ideal for fitness. Besides, taking this supplement helps to satiate unwanted food cravings and nourish the body.
- Long-lasting energy.
- Lots of flavours.
- Gluten, wheat and dairy-free.
- High in protein.
- Wholefood ingredients with no added sugar.
- Heavy peanut taste with the peanut flavour that some may dislike.
- Quite dry.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet for Bodybuilding
There are many health benefits of a vegan bodybuilding diet. It’s because of this that its popularity continues to soar. Some of the advantages of the vegan bodybuilding diet include:
Promoting a Sense of Self-Control
When you are strictly following a vegan diet, there is an aspect of self-control involved. What you need to know is that it takes dedication and commitment not only to implement different meal plans but to stick to them. Research shows that sticking to a meal plan gives you the ability to be aware of themselves as well as their surroundings. Its ability to enhance self-control is because it minimises the chances of binge eating or impulsive eating issues.
It Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease
The risk of heart disease has increased significantly over the years, promoted by unhealthy eating habits involving refined foods with too much fat. The high intake of saturated fats, as well as cholesterol, can easily lead to heart complications.
On the other hand, a vegan diet can help to reduce this risk. This is because the food varieties involved have low amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol. In addition to that, these foods have high fibre content that helps to minimise the risk of stroke. As a result, they help to reduce the level of bad cholesterol i.e. LDL that normally contributes to heart complications. Furthermore, studies show that vegans usually have low blood pressure compared to the rest of the non-vegan population.
Note: by lowering the blood cholesterol, a vegan diet for bodybuilding can also reduce the harsh symptoms of type 2 diabetes. A report from the Diabetes Voice indicates that it helps to reduce the level of LDL. This has a direct impact on the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Provides the Body with Antioxidants
A vegan diet is a great source of antioxidants. The wholesome foods which feature whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are all rich in antioxidants. This makes them effective in eliminating damaging radicals that cause many chronic health complications.
Reducing the Risk of Cancer
Unlike animal-based diets, this vegan bodybuilding diet can reduce the risk of certain cancers. Vegan foods have a wide range and a high amount of phytonutrients, fibre, and micronutrients. These food varieties have anti-tumor effects and are therefore effective in preventing certain types of cancer.
Note: it has been established that soy can help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. On the other hand, colorectal cancer has been linked to animal-based food varieties such as red meat.
Disadvantages of Using a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet
You can take it from us that one of the best ways to stay fit is by using a vegan diet. Generally, this diet plan is usually effective and leads to noticeable results within a few weeks. But just like most things in life, using a vegan diet for bodybuilding comes with some downsides such as:
The Diet Change is Normally Radical
Going fully vegan is not something easy and that’s why a lot of people quickly give up on it. It involves a radical change and it’s for this reason people tend to abandon it midway. Note that all your proteins, fats, and carbs will only come from plant sources. This change is not something that most dieters can adapt to, hence its sustainability can be tricky.
This is one of the main challenges that most vegans face. Following a vegan diet for bodybuilding can deprive your body of vital nutrients needed for growth and development. By omitting certain food varieties such as animal products means that your body may end up getting deprived of certain essential nutrients, such as Vitamins D and B12. On top of that, your intake of omega-3s, zinc, iron, and calcium could be quite low.
To counter this, you may need to take highly nutritious vegan supplements. They include omega-3 and multivitamin supplements such as the ones mentioned in this guide. Besides that, there are also fortified foods like fake meats and soy milk that include these minerals and vitamins.
Not Suitable for Those with Underlying Medical Issues
Plant-based food materials are usually good. They have the best sources or raw and unrefined nutrients. However, going fully vegan can interfere with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes and osteoporosis. This is because you will be depriving your body of some of the essential nutrients needed to regulate blood sugar. In addition to that, a lack of certain minerals can make your bones become weak. All the more reason to take those supplements mentioned above very seriously.
The Diet Can Be Monotonous
Can you imagine eating a strictly plant-based diet for months? This is a challenging process that can quickly become monotonous if you’re new to the vegan bodybuilding diet. The presence of animal-based products in any diet plan helps to add variety in terms of taste, nutrients, and texture. Generally, people easily get bored with such a diet because the taste of food starts to become bland. However, dieters can counter this by looking for new interesting recipes to try out.
It Makes Dining Out Difficult
There are so many restaurants these days that serve pure vegan meals, but the majority of them are fairly repetitive and bland when it comes to taste and choice. This is somehow restrictive, especially if you want to dine out with friends and really enjoy your food. This is even more impacted when you’re following a vegan bodybuilding diet, as it’s even more important to hit your macros. In these circumstances, it might be worth taking a snack afterwards.
It’s Not Easy to Meet the Daily Caloric Needs
Generally, a vegan bodybuilding diet mainly consists of high-fibre food varieties that are rich in nutrients. However, it’s not very easy for a dieter to attain their daily calorie intake. Without proper research and the right diet planning, you may soon find out that you are actually eating less than the daily recommended calorie intake.
Therefore, if you’re struggling to hit your daily calorie intake and want to eat more calories, you might need to eat more than usual and supplement your meals with vegan snacks, protein powders and other plant-based supplements.
So, make sure that you carefully plan your portion sizes. Additionally, they should be large and contain healthy fats. It’s important to note that you can choose to focus on eating cooked instead of raw vegetables. This helps to significantly increase your portion sizes because you will be able to eat more veggies in one sitting.
Excess Fibre Content
If you are going to fully focus on a vegan bodybuilding diet, then you need to physically and mentally prepare yourself for the excess fibre content. Nearly every food you eat will have fibre. While it is usually considered great for supporting regularity, too much fibre can be bad for you.
Clinical reports indicate that taking excess fibre can cause digestive issues. This includes abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and bloating. Those who want to lose weight usually eat fibre-rich foods. This is because it reduces food cravings by increasing the feeling of satiety. However, this effect can be detrimental to bodybuilding.
A vegan bodybuilding diet is good for supporting wellness. But to reduce the risk of unwanted side effects, we recommend that you should first consult your doctor. They will definitely provide you with all the necessary details you need before you start out. Besides that, some of the things you need to take note of include:
- Making your transition gradual instead of abrupt. This helps your body to adjust accordingly without being subjected to shock.
- You need to learn how to cook high protein, vegan meals to ensure you’re getting enough protein in your diet.
- Make sure that your daily diet plan consists of all the essential nutrients.
- When buying food products or supplements, check the label to identify the ingredients used.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re a vegan or not, the vegan bodybuilding diet can be one of the healthiest, most successful diets you can choose to help build lean muscle mass and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is a nutrient-rich type of diet that features wholesome foods. Additionally, the food products are not usually refined hence they’re free of harmful additives. Generally, vegan bodybuilding food varieties promote overall wellness.
However, dieters are usually advised to be cautious when using this plant-based diet and supplements. Using them without proper knowledge and planning can easily cause nutrition deficiency. In some instances, they may complicate symptoms of underlying health issues. So, before using a vegan bodybuilding diet or supplements, be sure to consult with your doctor first.
Ready to get started? Super!
We’ve summarised everything you need to successfully manage your vegan bodybuilding diet below:
Calculate your required calorie intake
Use a BMR calculator such as this one to calculate your resting calorie requirements per day. To build muscle, you’ll need to be in a caloric surplus of between 10% and 20% above your BMR.
In other words, if your BMR is 2000 calories / day, you’ll want to be taking in between 2200-2400 calories to build muscle.
Download the MyFitnessPal App
MyFitnessPal is used by millions worldwide, and will provide you with the ability to track your macros quickly and easily, ensuring you stay on track.
Once downloaded, set up your macros. A typical macro breakdown for fat loss and muscle gain is 40 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 30 percent carbs.
You’ll now have your exact nutritional requirements needed to build muscle on a vegan bodybuilding diet. Be sure to track all of your meals to stay on target.
Supplement your diet with our expert-recommended starter pack
You’re going to need to supplement your diet. We’ve done the hard work and provided you with the perfect starter pack of tried-and-tested supplements which we recommend for every vegan bodybuilding diet.
The 5 products we recommend are:
- SCI-MX Nutrition Pro V-Gain Protein Powder
- Nutravita Multivitamins & Minerals – 365 Tablets (Vegan & Made in UK)
- PhD Smart Plant Bar – Pack of 12
- Omvits Omega 3 (Vegan – 60 Capsules)
- Trek Protein Energy Bar – Pack of 16
Follow one of the many muscle-building workouts available online
There are countless muscle-building workouts to choose from. Whether you’re a newbie or an expert lifter, you’ll get some great ideas and plans from the following places:
- ATHLEAN-X YouTube Channel
Probably the most important step. Remain consistent in your workouts and stick to your nutritional goals and you’ll make great progress.
If you have any questions regarding the vegan bodybuilding diet, nutrition, or anything vegan, leave a comment below!