Many moons ago, bodybuilding diets were all about eating vast quantities of meat.
And it would have been quite a challenge to find top athletes, bodybuilders or sports people that did not consume meat-rich diets.
But times change and along with them, so does the research. And now a large number of elite athletes actively promote vegetarian and vegan diets, arguing that their meat-free diet plans are of no hindrance to their physical performance and achievements.
In fact, many believe that it is a vegan or vegetarian diet that helps keep them in top condition.
So if you have cut out – or are thinking of cutting out – meat from your diet but you still want to get actively involved in bulking up, we take a closer look at some of the best vegetarian bodybuilding diet tips.
The fundamentals of a good bodybuilding diet
Building muscle is the cornerstone of any bodybuilding plan.
Bodybuilding diets focus on bringing together foods which actively help to support muscle building, so that training can develop muscles as efficiently and effectively as possible.
A calorie surplus is also considered beneficial for gaining muscle mass, but protein is the real focus of any bodybuilding diet plan.1
The amino acids found in protein foods are essential to rebuild your body’s cells, especially muscle.
So, a protein-packed diet and bodybuilding go hand in hand.
According to research, the optimal protein intake level for professional bodybuilders is between 0.7 to 1g of protein per pound of lean muscle.2
Building muscle on a vegetarian diet
A vegetarian diet can be full of protein, though it might take some planning.
Finding the best vegan and vegetarian protein sources will take some thought, since easy to go for options such as chicken, red meat and eggs are obviously not suitable here.
Top vegetarian protein sources include dairy products (especially cheese), eggs, soya and soya products such as tofu and tempeh plus nuts and seeds.
Check out the 5 top vegetarian protein sources for key foods to look out for.
And do not forget that there is no one source of vegetarian food that will provide all your protein requirements.
Rather, it is important to eat a wide range of different protein foods, in order to get the right range of amino acids required for your body’s needs.
How do I get enough vegetarian or vegan protein?
As well as seeking out and preparing meals made from the best vegetarian food which is high in protein, the British Dietetic Association’s Azmina Govindji talks about protein powders, saying, “Users may choose to take them before, during and after training to enhance performance and support recovery.”3
Protein shakes can be a great complement to a bodybuilding diet as well as being instrumental in helping you to lose weight.
And the good news is that many of these shakes – often made from protein powder combined with milk or water – are now available for both vegetarians and vegans.
Rather than being made from the more traditional animal sources, these shakes are derived from food stuffs such as rice, hemp, pea and soy.
However, it is important to remember that protein powders and supplements will not contain all the nutrients needed for a balanced diet, so you may want to include plenty of protein-rich foods into a veg diet for body building.
Vegan and vegetarian meal plans for bodybuilding
Maybe you are exploring options for a vegetarian diet for weight loss or you are hoping to bulk up on a vegetarian meal plan full of protein.
By including protein-rich foods alongside your training programme, you can find a vegetarian diet to suit you.
As well as focussing on vegetarian protein sources, there are also foods that you should limit in order to get the best results. These include alcohol, added sugars and deep-fried foods.4
One of the most famous vegetarian bodybuilders has to be actor turned politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Well known for his bodybuilding successes, he has more recently been promoting a vegan diet plan.
Arnie follows an almost completely vegan diet himself now, and loves to share his nutrition tips with wannabe bodybuilders and vegans alike.5,6
If a vegan diet sounds interesting to you, you might like to read more in our article ‘Complete vegan bodybuilding diet plan’.
Bodybuilding food – meals and snacks for before and after a workout
If you are already into bodybuilding, you will know that what you eat before and after your workout is critical to muscle building.
Your body recovers after a workout and builds that all important muscle. Check out our best post-workout recipes and these 6-post workout meals and snacks for vegans, or three easy protein packed vegan recipes.
You are sure to find a delicious and easy recipe or two, which include a selection of vegetarian protein packed foods such as nuts, oats, eggs, soy mince, beans and lentils.
A key amino acid to include in your protein diet is l-glutamine, which is often used in bodybuilding to maintain muscle and growth by increasing the rate of protein synthesis.
If you have any concerns about your diet or exercise plan, it is always advisable to discuss these first with your GP or dietician.
Last updated: 31 December 2020