When you’re trying to gain muscle mass and up your game, there’s no denying that getting more protein is a key component. However, if you’re trying to follow a plant-based diet, that might sound easier said than done.
Thankfully, that isn’t necessarily the case. There are too many misconceptions about bodybuilding and plant-based foods. For years, people in the industry have been stereotyped as heavy meat-eaters, suggesting that’s the only way to reach your gain goals. But, you don’t need to chow down on chicken breast and fish every day to get the protein you need.
Whether you’re following a vegan lifestyle or just trying to cut back on your meat consumption, there are plenty of plant-based foods that will not only give you the protein needed to reach your goals but can also improve your overall nutrition and health.
Not sure where to get started? Let’s dive into how you can make a plant-based diet work for you and how you can fuel your body properly through every bodybuilding workout as you start to see the results you want.
Do Your Research on Plant Protein
The average bodybuilder needs protein in the amount of anywhere from 0.63 to 0.77 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, and that’s without attempting to gain muscle mass. While it’s easy to throw back vegan protein shakes, those can get old very quickly. It’s usually better to get your nutritional needs from real, whole foods anyway. Thankfully, there are plenty of high-protein plant-based options to choose from, including:
- Nut butters;
- Soy products.
Nowadays, because so many people are following a vegan diet, meat alternatives are more popular than ever. If you’re craving the taste of real meat, consider options like Impossible ground beef. These substitutes allow you to make your favorite dishes and enjoy some familiar flavors without giving up on your plant-based diet. The Impossible burger contains 19 grams of protein — the same amount you would find in a patty of 80/20 ground beef. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, and B12, which can improve your overall health as you work toward your goals. Sometimes many meat alternatives can also include ‘unhealthy’ ingredients, so be sure to check the ingredient list and try not to consume them too often. There are other fabulous products like Just Egg made from mung beans, which are are rich in potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber.
Focus on Whole-body Nutrition
Speaking of improving your health, it should be your top priority as you work toward your fitness goals. There are plenty of unhealthy ways to achieve big gains, but you’re not going to be doing your body any long-term favors. Instead, focus on changing or adapting your diet to fit your overall health needs.
That starts with fueling yourself properly before and after workouts. On a plant-based diet for workouts, you should focus on consuming whole grains, dark leafy greens, and high-carb fruits before a workout, and recover with some hummus and raw vegetables or a smoothie filled with greens. Getting the right vitamins and minerals will help to boost your immune system and keep you healthy from the inside out.
It’s also important to cut out or limit certain foods, not just when you’re trying to cut weight, but for your general well-being. Alcohol, for example, can make it harder to reach your bodybuilding goals. Alcohol negatively affects your body by impeding your metabolism, which can make it harder to cut. It also breaks down protein faster than your body can make it. While having a drink now and then isn’t the end of the world, consider cutting back if you’ve hit a plateau or you’re not feeling as great as you know you could be.
Keep Up Your Energy
You might think it would be difficult to keep up your energy levels on a plant-based diet, but it doesn’t have to be. Again, focusing on whole-body nutrition is the key, but there are a few “extra” things you can do if you’re feeling sluggish during your workouts or on your recovery days. Some of the best ways to keep up your energy include:
- Managing your stress levels.
- Staying hydrated.
- Avoiding too much caffeine.
- Taking supplements.
- Spending time outside.
By making these things part of your daily routine, you won’t just have an easier time reaching your goals, you’ll feel better throughout the day. As a bodybuilder, it’s far too easy to get into “funks” or hit ruts in your routine. That can lead to a lack of motivation, which can slow down your progress.
Keeping up your energy levels and striking a healthy balance between life and your time in the gym will make a big difference in how you feel and how motivated you are to reach your goals.
The bottom line? Don’t believe the myths or give in to the stereotypes. There’s no reason you can’t be a vegetarian or vegan bodybuilder and achieve just as much success as your meat-eating competitors. By focusing on getting the right amount of plant protein and maintaining a healthy diet and routine, you can reach your goals (and beyond) and feel good about the lifestyle choices you’re making for yourself every day.
Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, mental health, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter.