The Bodybuilding Vegetarian: Real Gain Without the Meat

Written by Dave Rich

On June 2, 2012

If you’re a vegetarian and you’re trying to pack on the muscle, you’ve probably gotten a few jabs from your friends. After all, how can you build muscle without the meat? Believe it or not, it’s not as hard as you think. Bodybuilding vegetarians can build muscle just as well as their meat-eating buds. They just have to get the right nutrition for bodybuilding and follow a few secret tips!
Top 10 Foods for the Bodybuilding Vegetarian
In order for vegetarian men to get the best nutrition for bodybuilding, they have to know which foods to eat. Here are the top 10 foods for vegetarian bodybuilders:
1.      Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are healthy sources of vegetarian protein for bodybuilding vegetarians. They’re versatile because they can be eaten as a meal or a snack before and after workouts. Beans and legumes with the highest amounts of protein include:

  • White Beans (17 grams per cup)
  • Lentils (17 grams per cup)
  • Red Kidney Beans (16 grams per cup)
  • Black/Navy Beans (15 grams per cup)

2.      Eggs
The incredible, edible egg. Perfect for the lacto-ovo bodybuilding vegetarian, each large egg contains 6 grams of pure protein. Eggs can be eaten alone or paired with fried beans for a protein-packed breakfast that will give you energy to burn!
3.      Tempeh
Tempeh (Pronounced Temp Ay) is another excellent protein source for vegetarians. Tempeh is low in sodium and has a pleasant, nutty taste. It can be stir-fried, sautéed, stewed or baked. In addition to protein, tempeh provides essential nutrients such as magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, and copper.
4.      Quinoa
Unlike brown rice, quinoa is a source of complete protein. It can be eaten as a side dish, for breakfast or as a snack before or after workouts. Quinoa is also an excellent source of iron, potassium, folate, and calcium.
5.      Dairy
For the lacto-ovo vegetarian, dairy products can be an excellent source of vegetarian protein. Whole-food dairy protein sources such as hard cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt make great snacks when you’re on the go.
6.      Nuts
Nuts are another great snack food for the bodybuilding vegetarian. Not only are they loaded with protein, they are also rich in good fats and inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids.
7.      Peanut and Almond Butters
Peanut and almond butters are not only great for sandwiches; they’re excellent sources of protein. Try banana slices and peanut butter or apple slices and almond butter for a healthy, high-energy snack between meals.
8.      Fruits and Vegetables
While you’re concentrating on protein, it’s important to round out your diet with fruits and vegetables. In order to get the most nutritional benefit, vegetables should be eaten raw or steamed.
9.      Flax Meal/Seeds
Since most vegetarians do not consume fish, it is important for you to get your omega-3 fatty acids from flax meal and seeds. Flax oil is another option but most people agree it’s not the best tasting stuff. Milled flax seeds can be tossed into a salad, added to a protein shake, or sprinkled into yogurt.
10.    Millet
Millet is a gluten-free grain rich in protein. There are 20 grams of protein in every 1 cup serving. It is also a rich source of stress-busting B vitamins. Millet is most commonly eaten as a breakfast food or side dish.

5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Vegetarian Bodybuilding
The bodybuilding vegetarian needs to do things a bit differently than his meat-eating counterparts. Here’s a list of 5 helpful tips so you can get the most out of your workout:

  1. Do Short But Intense Workouts

When you’re on a vegetarian diet, you might still not get all the protein you’d get if you eat a meat-based diet. This is why the key to success is keeping your workouts short but intense. Short workouts will ensure you burn calories and add muscle without losing mass.

  1. Avoid Processed Foods

A lot of vegetarians have a tendency to snack on high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Avoid the temptation to do this. Instead, cut fast foods from your diet while you’re training. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some French fries or potato chips every once in the while, but now while you’re trying to pack on the muscle.

  1. Vary Your Food Choices

Eating the same foods over and over again can result in unintentional malnutrition. To avoid this and boredom, change up your food choices regularly.

  1. Eat Frequently

Eating regular meals will help you get enough protein and nutrients to sustain you during the hard training periods. When you’re a bodybuilding vegetarian, you don’t want to go hungry for long periods of time.

  1. Supplement

Sometimes vegetarians still don’t get enough of the nutrients they need in their diet. That’s why you might want to look into adding some supplements. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Iron – If you don’t eat red meat, you run the risk of becoming anemic. Thankfully, you can fix this by adding an iron supplement to your diet. If you get really fatigued after working out, you may need iron.
  1. Branched-Chain Amino Acids – To safeguard against loss of muscle mass, supplement with branched-chain amino acids. These should be taken right before and directly after a workout for best results.
  1. Creatine – Some vegetarian bodybuilders aren’t interested in adding creatine because it needs to come from an animal source. Creatine is complete nutrition for bodybuilding as it helps in building the energy source required for those intense workouts.
  1. Calcium – Strict vegans who do not consume dairy often lack calcium in their diets. Calcium aids in proper muscle contraction, which can help improve your muscle gain.
  1. Krill Oil – Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to bodybuilders and krill oil provides it without going rancid as quickly as fish oil. Krill oil contains alpha linolenic acid, which serves as a primary energy source for the heart.

Now that you know the secret to vegetarian bodybuilding, you can get out there and prove those haters wrong. You’ve got this. Just remember to keep your head up, think healthy, and stay strong. You’ll have the body you’ve been after (and she’s been dreaming about) in no time!

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