Veganism has seen a huge worldwide growth over the past few years, even in the world of bodybuilding. This article on Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Prep, will show you how you can make gains with zero animal products.
The growing number of vegans is especially true in the USA. Over the past three years alone studies have shown a 600% increase in people who identify as vegan.
There are a number of reasons as to why someone would make the lifestyle switch. These include:
- Animal rights beliefs
- Environmental concerns
- Dietary issues
- Potential health benefits
- Potential sporting benefits
But, how the hell on Hulk Hogan’s green earth does eating plants all day transfer to bodybuilding? Do these puny protein deficient weaklings even have the ability build any kind of muscle?
Apparently, it’s not too complicated with a little know how, hard work and time spent in the iron house. Just ask these guys…
Today more and more athletes seem to be turning plant based eating and pulling in the veGAINS. These include endurance runners, pro football players and even NBA stars.
There has also been a surge in the amount of dudes working hard to build meat free muscle. Here’s five vegan bodybuilders currently changing the game with their animal-free approach to eating:
- IFBB Pro Bodybuilder
- Online Fitness Coach
- Vegan Since 2015
- Never eaten meat – ever.
- Professional Bodybuilder
- Fitness Model
- Known as the ‘Vegan Bodybuilder’
- Vegan since 1998
- Professional Strongman
- Vegan since 2011
- Set the yoke carry world record at 550kg in 2013
- Vegan Athlete of the Year 2012
- Won German Junior Bodybuilding Title aged 20
- Leading voice in the plant based athlete movement
- Multi Sport Athlete
- Competitive Bodybuilder
- Competes in 10+ endurance races per year
- Personal Trainer
- YouTube Star
- Social Media Personality
Building Meat Free Muscle
Put down your same old brown rice, chicken breast and broccoli for just one moment, bro. Let’s take a look inside this modern plant based phenomenon with something us gym rats can all relate to…
Nah, not the mind tingling sensation of one too many morning scoops of pre-workout. We’re talking meal prep.
Just like with any meat-based bodybuilding diet, plant based athletes must also focus on hitting their macro needs.
We’re taking healthy whole food carbs, fats and proteins. The latter being the most controversial and conversational part of a vegans diet.
That’s because there’s two ‘P’s that’re essential for maximum muscle growth – Protein and Progressive Overload.
Without an effective amount of either, it’ll be hard for any bro to reach his lean mass building potential.
So, let’s talk plant based proteins.
People can indeed get their RDA of protein and the rest of it from plant based sources. That’s a fact.
Hell, just ask Torre Washington, who in the documentary movie From The Ground Up tells the haters; “Do I look like I’m not getting any protein?”
However, due to plants not being the most commonly used source of aminos, many of us are uneducated on how to use them for muscle development.
It’s just not your usual gym activity to talk about tofu and tempeh. Unless that’s the weird name of some new hot chick.
Fortunately we live in a world full of information and the sharing of ideas via the internet. Especially via visually driven social media platforms like Instagram, where many physique models like to hang out.
Getting the most bang for your buck(wheat)
As with animal products, not all vegan protein sources are created equal. Some like Hemp Quinoa and Soy pack a serious protein punch. Others however, just down right suck in comparison.
The healthiest approach any vegan bodybuilder can adopt is the consumption of wholefoods over refined products. Just because you’re now ‘plant based’ doesn’t mean you can eat all the Oreo’s in the store.
So, when it comes to protein, think beans, grains and pulses over highly processed supplement bars or sugary sports drinks.
It’s all about bagging enough of the essential macros, without overdoing it on any unnecessary junk or preservatives. Essentially meaning you get the most bang for your dietary calorie buck.
For example, Torre Washington’s three main protein sources are; beans (tofu and tempeh), lentils, and seitan. All of which are easily available foods, that’re rich in muscle building aminos and low in nasty bullsh*t.
Here’s some of the most commonly consumed plant based proteins:
|Source||Protein per 100g|
|Soya Protein Isolate||88g|
Grams for gains
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) say that guys looking for make genuine muscle gains need to consume between 1.4-2.0g of protein/kg body weight/day.
To work out your optimal amount, jump on a set of scales and multiply the number of kilos you weight by anything between 1.4 and 2.
We’d say head to the top end of the scale for muscle building, as the lower numbers are more suited to mass maintenance.
For example, if you currently weight 95kg, aim to consume around 190g or just above whilst bulking. Oh, and throw some actual weight on the bar and go get some, bean-cake!
The ISSN also suggest that protein should ideally be evenly distributed every three to four hours. For a vegan athlete, this window can even be shortened, as a plant based digestive system and metabolism can often move quicker than a carnivores.
Also, the book now seems to be closed on the whole rush to fit protein into the 20 minute post-workout anabolic window. It’s simply just not true, and is something bros seriously need to stop losing their minds over.
A more realistic number is now considered to be one hour. However, optimal protein consumption in relation to time is all down to your personal tolerance. It’s definitely not optimal if your 30 second post workout shake sends your stomach into a frenzy.
The anabolic effect of exercise can actually last for at least 24 hours. Therefore, it’s a pretty good idea to consume protein throughout the day and at every meal up to 40g. Especially for vegans.
Getting the complete picture
Remember earlier when we said not all plant based proteins are created equal? Well we weren’t just talking about gram per calorie or taste.
One of the most important factors to consider as a muscle building machine is whether or not we are getting a complete amino acid profile throughout the day. This right here, could be the difference between legit vegains and pathetically puny pins.
The 9 Essential Amino Acids
|Isoleucine||Helps body produce iron carrying haemoglobin|
|Leucine||Stimulates lean muscle growth|
|Lysine||Essential for muscle repair|
|Phenylalanine||Turns into tyrosine which plays a part in making proteins and thyroid hormones|
|Methionine||Contains sulphur to help healing
Key role in muscle growth
|Tryptophan||Turns into serotonin|
|Threonine||Helps the immune system|
|Histidine||Is important for brain health and neurotransmitters
Produces red and white blood cells
|Valine||Important for optimal muscle repair and growth|
As a bodybuilder, your first port of call should be to consume all nine essential amino acids. Not six, or seven or sometimes five – they’re called essential for a reason!
They body needs to harness all nine before it can properly put the remaining aminos into good use. It is possible to supplement with EAA and BCAA products, but with the right diet they can be found naturally in vegan foods.
Here’s a short list of complete plant based protein sources:
- Complete protein drinks and bars
- Vegan friendly EAA supplements
Okay, maybe there’s not an abundance of complete protein sources in the plant based world. That’s why many vegan athletes like to combine their proteins to form dishes that cover their tracks and their micros.
Common examples include:
- Beans and rice
- Hummus and pita
- Peanut butter toast
- Seitan cooked in soy sauce
No meal prep would be complete without carbs. We all love ’em, some a little more than others. Let’s assume for this meal prep you’re not in the middle of a cut or a ruthless shredding program.
Our muscles primary source of fuel in the iron house is stored glycogen. So, to keep our pythons pumping it’s a good idea to include complex carbohydrates into our diet – vegan or not.
Some athletes are more sensitive to carbs than others. Therefore, rather than give exact fixed figures we say it’s best to play around with them. Between 30%-40% of your total macro amounts should be good (for bodybuilding).
Ultimately, on your hard training days you’ll need more high quality carbohydrates than on say a rest day. Because, obviously, you won’t be burning through as much fuel.
Complex Vs. Simple
Just like all proteins aren’t created equal, not every carbohydrate deserves to be on your plate.
As a bodybuilder looking to eat in the cleanest and most effective way possible, you should aim to stick to complex carbohydrates.
Complex carbs are also known as starches; think grains and potatoes.
They’re not as sweet as their simple sister, but are much suited to a bodybuilders performance.
This is because they’re made up of complicated chains of glucose molecules. Meaning the body takes much longer to break these polysaccharides down and therefore release energy slowly.
A slow release will help to keep you satisfied and energised throughout the day. Simple monosacharides like table sugar and canned soda will leave you crashing after a sudden burst of energy. Which down right sucks for bodybuilders who’re working hard through long ass workouts.
Take a quick look at this table to get familiar with a bunch of complex and simple carbs:
|Sweet Potato||Table Sugar|
|Beans and lentils||Glucose|
Refined Vs. Unrefined
Plus, it might not shock you to learn that refined carbs like white bread and cookies are pathetic in the nutrient department.
Most are low in good fats, have a high calorific density, contain hardly any vitamins and cause adverse effects in insulin response.
On the other hand, unrefined carbs can be a bodybuilders best friend.
They contain; naturally occuring sugars such as glucose and fructose, antioxidants, varying amounts of healthy vitamins and minerals, good doses of dietary fibre, and even traces of amino acids.
When carrying out your own prep or grocery run, take a look at this table to make an informed decision.
|Beans and legumes||White Rice|
|Whole Grains||White Bread|
Fats have had a bad rep for a long time, which is quite unfair. Especially when they have awesome functions like helping the body to absorb vitamins, keep our skin healthy and protect our internal organs.
As bodybuilders it’s important we include a bunch of healthy fats into our diet to keep us performing at our best. We should aim to find our fats from the best natural sources we can.
Healthy good fat fuelled foods vegan bodybuilders should include in their diet are:
- Coconut oil
- All natural peanut butter
- Hemp seed oil
- Flax oil
- Udos oil
Nimai Delgado will often even eat a whole avocado as part of his favorite breakfast.
Meal Prep Example
Now for the bit we’ve all been waiting for – a complete meal prep example to keep a plant powered bodybuilder fuelled for a full day.
We didn’t throw this in at the beginning because it’s important to know why we’re eating certain foods. Bodybuilders are athletes first and foremost, not mere skinny limb’d mortals.
|Breakfast||Breakfast Smoothie||1 scoop of Plantbased Protein
1/2 cup of oats
1 tbs of nut butter
1 ripe banana
1tsp of milled flax seeds
|Mid-Morning Snack||Post-Workout Recovery Smoothie Bowl||1 scoop of plant based protein
Handful of frozen berries
1 cup of frozen acai
1/2 cup of
1 Tbsp of Almond Butter
45g chopped Walnuts
|Lunch||Black Bean Bowl||1 cup of curried green lentils
1 cup of spiced baked tofu
1/2 cup of steamed broccoli
1 cup of steamed greens
|Mid-Afternoon Snack||Peanut Butter Stacked Rice Cakes and Protein Shake||2x Rice cakes covered in 100% peanut butter
1/2 tsp chia seeds sprinkled on top
1 scoop of plant based protein with almond milk
|Dinner||Smoky Tempeh and Spicy Sweet Potato Plate||90g of grilled tempeh marinated in paprika and liquid smoke
90g of sweet potato chunks tossed in spices, wrapped in foil and baked in the oven
60g of chopped kale sauted in garlic with 50g mushroom and 1 tsp of coconut oil
1 cup of mixed quinoa with drizzle of lemon juice
|Evening-Snack||Night time oatmeal with nut milk, protein power and fresh berries||2/3 cup of oatmeal
1+1/3 cup of almond milk
1 tsp of chia seeds
Handful of blueberries and raspberries
1/2 cup of honeydew lemon
You may notice we have not included additional supplements aside from protein powder in the example prep. That doesn’t mean we don’t recommend any though, as there are some vegans can certainly benefit from.
One of these is supplemental creatine. An amino acid that speeds up muscle growth, helps muscle cells produce more energy and may even fight neurological diseases.
Most dudes bag a sufficient dose of creatine through the consumption of meat and fish. However, as vegans, meat-free muscle builders will need to source theirs from elsewhere.
Choose a vegan friendly product and consume as directed by the manufacturor, typically post exercise.
Finally, grab yourself a multi-vitamin. Starting the day with your RDA is a sure fire way to ensure your body doesn’t face depletion. Especially when it comes to energy boosting and muscle developing B and D vitamins.
Final Food For Thought
“Sell yourself short on nutrition and you’re selling yourself short on maximizing your physique development.” – Ernie Taylor – IFFB Pro Bodybuilder
The key point to remember in all of this is that it ain’t just what you do in the gym that counts. Nail nutrition and you’ll make all the gains your hard work under the bar deserves.
Eat clean, train hard and be smart about what you put into your body. That way you’ll be the henchest herbivore in the jungle.
See you in the iron house, bro.