Vegan and Vegetarian Bodybuilding

Article by James Collier BSc (Hons) - Moderator and Contributor to Muscletalk as an Expert in Nutrition

It is often said that you cannot be a successful bodybuilder and vegetarian. Well, I know lots of folk who build great physiques on a vegetarian diet, it just takes a little more consideration, especially in regard to protein quality. Now, here I am talking about proper vegetarians, i.e. lacto-ovo vegetarians, not those folk who eat tuna and still claim to eat a vegetarian diet!

Generally, vegetable proteins are of poorer quality than animal proteins. Milk and egg proteins can be eaten, so you may still take advantage of HBV proteins. The key to obtaining good protein quality lies in combining different protein sources.

True vegans will avoid all products of animal origin, so an adequate bodybuilding diet is really difficult. For a vegan bodybuilder, a strict regimen will need to be followed, especially to ensure that a varied diet is still consumed. Remember also that many quality supplements are derived from animal products, for example creatine, whey protein and meal replacement powders (MRPs), so you will have to avoid these. If you are in doubt about any product, check with the manufacturer. As there are so many exclusions in the vegan diet, I strongly feel that isolated soya protein is an absolute must for the vegan bodybuilder.

Other great protein sources which vegetarians and vegans can enjoy are mixed beans, baked beans, hummus, tofu, quorn, textured vegetable protein (TVP), soya, coconut, oat and rice milk, and many more. Often these products do have a reasonable carbohydrate content too, useful for gaining weight, and are low in fat. Vegans would be wise to include seaweed or a vitamin B12 supplement daily, as without animal products their diets may be insufficient in vitamin B12.


Plan 1: Example menu plan for a vegetarian wishing to gain quality weight.

TimeFoodProtein
Wake 7:30 am  
7:301 scoop whey protein in water20g
 
8:00 breakfastlarge bowl wholewheat breakfast cereal with 1/3 pint skimmed milk + sugar15g
 2 slices wholemeal bread toasted + olive oil spread 
 ½ portion weight gain drink with water and multidextrose powder22g
 100ml orange juice + 1 tblsp olive oil 
 
10:30½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk27g
 fruit 
 
12:3012.30 ½ scoop whey protein in water10g
 Low fat cottage cheese (100g)12g
 or soya cheese (80g)15g
 4 slices wholemeal bread + olive oil spread 
 salad 
 low fat yoghurt7g
 
15:00Full portion MRP made in half water + half skimmed milk48g
 fruit 
 
17:00½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk and multidextrose powder27g
TRAIN  
18:30
(after training)
2 scoops whey protein in water40g
 
19:30Quorn burger (150g)18g
 Baked beans (150g)8g
 Reduced fat cheese (50g)14g
 either 2 medium jacket potatoes 
 or 200g boiled brown rice 
 or 350g boiled wholewheat pasta 
 vegetables 
 low fat yoghurt7g
 
22:00½ portion weight gain drink with skimmed milk25g
 
23:301 scoop whey protein in skimmed milk25g
23:30 - BED  
Total Protein   340g


Plan 2: Example menu plan for a vegan bodybuilder wishing to gain quality weight.

TimeFoodProtein
Wake 7:30 am  
7:301 scoop isolated soy protein in water20g
 
8:00 breakfastlarge bowl wholewheat breakfast cereal with 1/2 pint soya milk + sugar9g
 2 slices wholemeal bread toasted + olive oil spread 
 1 scoop isolated soy protein with ½ pint oat/coconut/rice milk and multidextrose powder26g
 100ml orange juice + 1 tblsp olive oil 
 
10:301 scoop isolated soy protein with ½ pint oat/coconut/rice milk and multidextrose powder26g
 fruit 
 
12:30½ scoop isolated soy protein in water10g
 Hummus (200g)15g
 Mixed beans (200g) & salad15g
 4 slices wholemeal bread + olive oil spread 
 Soya yoghurt (150g)7g
 
15:002 scoops isolated soy protein with ½ pint oat/coconut/rice milk and multidextrose powder46g
 fruit 
 
17:001 scoop isolated soy protein with ½ pint oat/coconut/rice milk and multidextrose powder26g
TRAIN  
18:30
(after training)
2 scoops isolated soya protein in water40g
 
19:30Bean/soya burger (150g)18g
 Baked beans (150g) + tofu mince (100g)16g
 either 2 medium jacket potatoes 
 or 200g boiled brown rice 
 or 350g boiled wholewheat pasta 
 vegetables 
 soya yoghurt7g
 
22:001 scoop isolated soy protein with ½ pint oat/coconut/rice milk and multidextrose powder26g
 
23:301 scoop isolated soy protein in water20g
23:30 - BED  
Total Protein   327g

*MRP stands for meal replacement powder.

Want more vegetarian meal plans and recipes?

IMPORTANT - remember both plans are merely a guide and must not be stuck to rigidly. You must eat a variety of different protein sources, complex carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables every day, and drink plenty of water. If you are still not gaining sufficient weight, increase portion sizes of protein and carbohydrate foods; if you are starting to hold a little body fat, reduce portion sizes of carbohydrate foods slightly. A little bit of junk food now and again will do no harm.

I hope these plans help - if there are any questions or points on vegetarian diets or any other nutritional questions or comments, please post in the 'Nutrition' forums of MuscleTalk. Please DO NOT email me.