Although there are many fitness magazines and advertisers that would have us believe otherwise, in reality, bodybuilding nutrition is not simply a case of eating chicken breasts and rump steak with every meal, as there are plenty of alternatives to these very foods, and other similar foods as well. One of the most common bodybuilding misconceptions currently doing the rounds, is that vegetarians and vegans may as well not bother taking up the sport, because people believe that because of their dietary choices (especially vegans) that they would be unable to build muscle because they won’t be getting enough protein in on a daily basis. This however, is not the case at all, as there are plenty of alternatives, especially for vegetarians. Because as a vegetarian, your diet will be different, your training methods and routines may also need to be different as well. If you’re a vegetarian and are looking for effective ways of building muscle, here are six tips designed to help you do just that.
Get plenty of healthy fats
One common misconception that people seem to have regarding vegetarians is that they are always tired because they are lacking energy. This however, is more often than not, not true, especially if they are embracing healthy fats and are getting plenty in their diets. Fat is actually the body’s preferred natural source of energy, and so if given fats, the body will burn them off and convert them into fuel, which is exactly what a vegetarian bodybuilder will want. Healthy fats will not cause you to gain weight, in fact they will assist with weight loss as one of healthy fat’s many functions is to regulate and speed up the metabolism. Healthy fats have a number of vital roles to play in a number of many internal physiological processes, so basically you will need them to function. As you will be training so hard, you will obviously need plenty of fuel to get you through your workouts, which is another reason why you should make sure you are getting enough. For vegetarians, healthy fats can come in the form of egg yolks, nuts, seeds, oils, avocados, and supplements. Plus, if you are a vegetarian who eats fish, there are plenty of oily fishes such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, which are all incredibly good for you.
Make sure you get enough calories
As a bodybuilder, your primary objective is obviously going to be to build as much muscle as possible, whilst making sure to keep your body fat percentages under control. To build muscle, a calorie surplus must be achieved, so you will need to be taking in slightly more calories than you require for maintenance. Many vegetarian foods are not as rich in calories as people may have thought, so make sure you consume ones that you know are calorie-dense. The last thing you want is for your body to lack calories and to suddenly turn to protein, or stored muscle mass, for energy, as this will result in you losing size, which is the last thing you want. Again, this is another reason to embrace healthy fats.
Make use of protein supplements
If you are struggling to get enough protein in your diet through whole foods, protein supplements can prove incredibly beneficial. Vegetarians, unlike vegans, are generally okay with consuming dairy produce, so whey protein supplements will be perfectly fine. If however, you do object ethically to dairy produce, or if you simply suffer from a lactose intolerance, there are plenty of vegan/vegetarian-friendly protein supplements to choose from, with: soy, hemp, pea, and brown rice protein all being very popular choices.
Don’t forget other supplements
Protein supplements are not the only supplements that can help you to build muscle and bulk up. There are countless other bodybuilding supplements currently available, many of which happen to contain no animal-based ingredients at all. Ideally you should consider amino acids, creatine, multivitamins, casein protein, and maybe even a pre-workout supplement if you do train early, or if you simply find yourself feeling tired before you train.
Short but intense is the way to go
As mentioned previously, when you follow a vegetarian lifestyle, it isn’t just your diet that has to change, your training patterns may also need to change as well. Working on the assumption that protein is scarce, or that fast absorbing proteins are scarce, you will need to ensure that when you do train, that you keep your workouts short and intense. The reason for this is that by getting through your sessions quickly, your body will not feel the need to turn to stored muscle mass and proteins for fuel. The longer the training duration, the higher the protein requirements for the body will become, which is exactly what you don’t want. By getting through your workout quickly, you are hitting all of the muscle groups that need to be worked, and are preventing your body from entering a catabolic state, which is where it ironically gets the energy for the workout, from the proteins and muscle tissues that you have built up. Not only will this training method preserve muscle and proteins, it will also yield very impressive muscle pumps, because you will be forcing so much blood into the muscles.
Don’t forget eggs
Many vegetarians are perfectly fine with consuming eggs, and if this applies to you, this is very useful indeed. Eggs, especially organic/free range, are an absolutely fantastic source of protein, and what’s more, because they are versatile, there is no end to what you can do with them. One egg contains around 5 – 6g of protein on average, so a three egg omelette will provide around 15 – 18g of protein. Eggs are also the only food capable of boasting the fact that they provide a complete amino acid profile, of both essential, and non-essential amino acids. Be careful of too many yolks however, as although healthy, you can have too much of a good thing. Ideally you should aim for a maximum of 4 egg yolks per day, although egg whites are a different story altogether, so you can really go to town with them.