It turns out you can make friends with salad, and it’s not just one of those casual flings where you catch up for lunch once a month. Your relationship with vegetables can be a full-blown, intense friendship that will benefit your health, strength and size like you’d never imagined. There’s no time for misconceptions about plant-based diets as we strive to develop a more ethical and sustainable society, so we’ve got the lowdown on a vegetarian diet for bodybuilding. It’s possible to gain without meat and you might be surprised at some of the places you’ll find protein!
Where to find protein:
Protein has long been linked to a big juicy piece of steak, however there are countless vegetarian staples that contain very high protein levels. Some vegetarian sources of protein include:
- Quinoa (1 cup serving = 8g protein)
- Chia (2 tbsp. serving = 4g protein)
- Tofu (1/2 cup serving = 10g protein)
- Rice and Beans (1 cup serving = 7g protein)
- Hummus and pita bread (1 whole wheat pita + 2 tbsp. hummus = 7g protein)
- Peanut butter sandwich (2-slice sandwich with 2 tbsp. peanut butter = 15 g protein)
Although beans and nuts are not complete proteins like eggs or meat, our body doesn’t need every single amino acid in every single meal. We only need a certain amount each day, which is easily achievable with a plant-based diet. Plant proteins including soybeans are complete proteins, containing every single amino acid.
Where to find essential nutrients:
Vitamin rich foods are a no brainer in a healthy vegetarian diet, however it’s also important to keep a close eye on your nutrient intake to ensure you’re not deficient in any essential nutrients. Vegetarians can often lack vitamin B12, iron and zinc, as nutrients are absorbed differently without the assistance of meat-sourced nutrients. While supplements are a good option, incorporating vitamin-rich wholefoods into your vegetarian diet is important.
- Dark, leafy green vegetables
- Raisins and prunes
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes (kidney beans, black beans etc.)
- Soy milk
- Nutritional yeast
Can I really get bigger?
The simple answer is yes. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that body builders on a carnivorous diet are bigger or stronger by any means. It may require a little extra homework to find out what plant based foods will work best for you, however if you’re looking to gain, you’ve probably already got your thinking cap on.
Vegetarianism is becoming more and more popular as body builders realise they can score an overload of nutrients from a plant based diet, without the unhealthy components of animal products. So for a cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly diet, why not try out the vegetarian lifestyle or incorporate a few meat-free days into your week. There are stacks of healthy vegetarian meals out there that, believe it or not, are satisfying too!
Some food for thought: Germany’s strongest man, who is also the vegan athlete of the year, can bench 210kg, squat 360kg and deadlift 360kg.