Although you are a vegetarian it is still possible for you to gain muscle. It is a myth that you need to eat meat to gain muscle mass.
Of course protein is found in high quantities in meat, however, if you want to put on muscle as a vegetarian there are still plenty of ways to add protein to your diet.
How Much Protein Do You Need To Consume?
One big concern with vegetarian bodybuilding is eating enough protein to fuel your body and allow muscle repair and growth.
Protein is often only associated with foods such as meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and the like. Even protein powders such as whey and casein derive from animal products, so what are you really left with to keep your muscles going strong?
The rule is that you should be aiming to consume 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So for example, if you weight 150 pounds you should aim to consume 75-105 grams of protein.
As meat is off the menu you will have to find alternative protein sources. Some of the best sources of protein for a vegetarian include:
- Egg whites
- Nonfat milk
- Poached egg
- Roasted soy nuts
- Soy milk
- Soy burgers
- Nuts & Seeds
- Black beans
- Hemp protein
Tofu and tempeh are very high in protein content that derives from plants, so you will definitely want to find plenty of recipes that revolve around these two sources.
Then you have quinoa as well, which is a good replacement for both white and brown rice. White rice is processed, offers little protein content, and is high in simple carbs that will make you gain fat and even possibly cause diabetes while on a vegetarian diet.
Brown rice is unprocessed, contains plenty of nutrients, but is still not regarded as a significant source for protein. Quinoa has a similar texture to replace rice, contains lots of nutrients including fibre for better digestion, and also is regarded for its significant source of protein. Quinoa is essentially a complete source of protein.
Protein powders do come in vegetarian form mainly from soy origins. Men may want to look into other kinds of vegetarian protein since soy encourages oestrogen production when consumed too often.
Supplements are definitely a good idea for vegetarian bodybuilders and one of the easiest ways to increase your protein intake as a vegetarian is to consider taking some soy protein powder.
How To Choose A Protein Powder?
When choosing a protein powder there are a few things to look for to ensure it meets your vegetarian rules.
For instance, both whey and casein powders are milk byproducts, meaning they are unsuitable for vegans. They are ok for vegetarians though, right?
Well, not necessarily as often during manufacturing an enzyme called rennet is added to help with the milk separation process.
The problem is that the most common source of rennet is from the stomach of slaughtered veal calves making them unsuitable for vegetarians.
Luckily there are vegetable sources for rennet, but you will have to check the label or website to ensure this is the case with the protein powder you intend to buy.
Don't Forget Your Carbohydrates And Fats
Lack of dietary fats in the diet is pretty bad for your body.
Fats are used as a secondary source for energy after carbs, which is very much needed to prevent protein from being used that reduces muscle mass.
The fats also keep your organs surrounded in protection. This is not the bad fats we think of like vegetable oil.
You can consume walnuts and flaxseeds for omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your health. Essential also means your body does not create them, and you must consume omega-3 fatty acids from whole food sources or supplements.
Consume foods such as flaxseed oil and olive oil when it comes to receiving enough dietary fats. You can easily use them to cook with and drizzle on salad.
Carbs are another big issue because that is what a lot of the vegetarian options for foods are. Fruits and vegetables are not too big of an issue since they contain a lot of vitamins and minerals along with antioxidants to keep your immune system strong.
Simple carbs from rice and processed foods are another story because they cause blood sugar spikes that can change you into being overweight in fat instead of muscle.
Iron is also something to be cautious with. No meats mean you will be lacking in iron consumption. Talk with your doctor and see if iron supplementation is necessary for your diet and training.
Training As A Vegetarian Bodybuilder
Training is a bit different when you are on a vegetarian diet. Your protein sources generally do not last in your body long enough for extended training programs.
You can consume plenty of vegetarian-based proteins, but they do not have the “time-released” effects that proteins such as casein contain. For this reason, you need to preserve your muscles from being extracted from protein for training energy.
Your workouts would need to be short, yet intense enough for muscle building. You may even want to consider training twice a day by building up the muscle adaption to do-so. This will allow you to achieve muscle gains without worrying about losing any due to long training sessions.
Consider performing CrossFit or HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) programs since they are highly intense but lasts only 15-30 minutes.
Following training, it is vital for you to consume adequate amounts of vegetarian protein and BCAA’s to ensure proper muscle recovery and repair take place.
These two factors lead to muscle growth, which is the primary reason you are seeking to be a bodybuilder. Train smart and frequently have your blood work taken to monitor your nutrient deficiencies – especially for calcium and iron.
Other Tips For Gaining Muscle As A Vegetarian
Here are some more tips to ensure you are able to gain muscle as a vegetarian:
Tip #1: Eat well
This may seem an obvious tip, but in order to gain muscle, you need to eat. As stated already you need to consume protein, but this is not all you should be eating.
The key to health is a balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as the protein sources already listed above.
You should remember though not to fill up on the fruit and vegetables as they will not give you the gains you desire.
Tip #2 – Watch For Deficiencies
You are no doubt tired of people telling you that as a vegetarian you need to watch out for vitamin deficiencies, well I am going to be another one telling you the exact same thing.
Vitamin deficiencies can severely impact your health so it is important to stay on top of things.
Common deficiencies include:
- Vitamin B12
Iron deficiencies can be resolved by eating plenty of dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, dried peas, beans and lentils, artichokes and dried fruit such as raisins, prunes and currents
You can resolve calcium deficiencies by eating spinach, kale, broccoli and almonds. While zinc deficiencies can be resolved by eating pumpkin or sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts, fortified oatmeal and cereals.
Finally, vitamin B12 deficiencies are the most difficult to resolve as it is difficult to absorb efficiently when found in plant-based foods so it is recommended that you take a supplement.
Tip #3 – Get Adequate Rest
To gain muscle you need to feed them, push them and rest them. In the gym, you are going to be lifting heavy weights that are going to be breaking the muscle fibres.
These fibres will need to be repaired in order to grow and become stronger so you need to make sure you allow yourself time to rest after each workout.
It is certainly possible to build muscle as a vegetarian. As long as you are getting the right kinds of nutrients and are working out at 100% then there is no reason not to.
Hopefully, the above tips have given you some idea of what you should do to achieve your dream body. Good luck with your efforts!