It’s no secret that a plant-based diet provides a number of remarkable health benefits. Those who adhere to plant-based diets experience a much lower risk of obesity (and the whole range of health risks that come with it) than the national average. And given that research suggests connections between red/processed meats and shortened life expectancies, vegans and other plant-based dieters are more likely to enjoy not only healthier lives, but longer lives too.
The facts speak for themselves: Veganism and other plant-based diets are good for the body.
But are they good for the bodybuilder?
The common whole-food plant-based dieter/vegan stereotype isn’t very flattering — a perpetually tired, rail-thin, gaunt faced wisp whose nutrient deficient body barely has enough protein in it to stay standing, to say nothing of actually gaining muscle tissue. It’s not a nice image, and it’s also not anywhere close to accurate.
In reality, plant-based dieters (particularly whole-food plant-based dieters) that eat a range non-animal foods — such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and whole grains — enjoy a more complete nutrient profile overall than those who consume a standard American diet. That means that vegans and other plant-based dieters are actually less likely to suffer from nutrient deficiencies.
Ok, but about protein?
It’s true that on average plant-based dieters consumes less protein than meat eaters. Does that validate the idea of the vegan stereotype? Not even close, because whether or not you’re eating meat, there’s a good chance that you’re still getting almost twice the daily protein that your body needs.
Sure, meat eaters generally get a few more grams per day, but even the strictest herbivores still end up with significantly more protein than they need (too much animal protein, by the way, has been linked to some serious chronic diseases). Also, it’s worth noting that despite the flawed public perception that plant protein is somehow inferior to animal protein, research has proven that plant protein actually contains the same complete amino acids you find in meat and dairy. The bottom line is that if you’re building your meals around a variety of plant foods, you’re getting enough usable protein.
Of course, when it comes to protein for bodybuilding, some folks think enough is rarely enough. Can whole-food plant-based/vegan bodybuilders really give themselves the nutrients they need to push their muscles to herculean extremes?
Let’s find out.
A plant-based or vegan bodybuilder may fly in the face of the vegan stereotype, but it’s not actually all that uncommon. For example, a quick Instagram search will reveal a number of certified, IFBB vegan bodybuilders — each one demonstrating the ripped physique of traditional weightlifters, while still following a plant-based/vegan lifestyle. A few of our favorite vegan bodybuilders include:
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. As more people begin to recognize the advantages of a plant-based lifestyle, vegan bodybuilders are becoming less and less rare. That’s because far from being detrimental to bodybuilding, the plant-based and vegan lifestyles are actually very well suited for those who are looking to gain muscle (and we mean really gain muscle).
It’s actually not surprising when you think about it; if your workout is pushing your body to its limits, you want to make sure that you’re consuming a nutrient-rich fuel source and avoiding nutritionally empty junk. That’s exactly what a whole-food plant-based diet offers.
Of course, to make the dream of the vegan bodybuilder a reality, one may feel they need to become fully with vegan protein for bodybuilding.
We mentioned above that on average vegans and those on plant-based diets get more than enough usable daily protein, even without supplementing or checking nutrition labels. So, when it comes to vegan fitness knowing where and how to get that protein is just a matter of knowing what plant foods are rich sources of it, and then figuring out how much protein your new bodybuilding plant-based/vegan lifestyle needs.
Rest assured that by avoiding animal products and processed foods, and heavily incorporating protein-rich plant foods into your diet, you’ll be giving your muscles what they need while living the whole-food plant-based/vegan lifestyle.
And you may be wondering, do you have to up your plant-based protein intake to become fully prepared for an intense workout? Studies suggest more protein doesn’t actually mean more muscle. So you can stop counting every macronutrient you put on your plate. The most important thing is to listen to your body. If your workouts are making you feel sluggish and drained beyond what you expect, it may not be protein you’re lacking per se, but calories so consider eating more. It won’t take long for you to get an accurate idea of how much food you need to achieve massive gains.
The whole-food plant-based and vegan lifestyles offer some extraordinary benefits, and that includes benefits for plant-based and vegan bodybuilders. If you want a physique like a Greek god, don’t waste your time with animal products and supplements. Grow your muscles with what grows from the earth, and show the world how powerful a plant-based diet can be.
Your nutrition questions answered.