When people imagine bodybuilders sitting down for lunch, they generally tend to picture a hulking great brute of a man, tucking into mountains of chicken, steak, eggs, fish, and various other forms of meat and animal-derived proteins to hit the daily macros.
Protein, an essential macro-nutrient for bodybuilding and indeed for general health and well-being too, does not necessarily have to come from animal sources. Of course, all meats, fish, and seafood are great sources of protein, but what about people who can’t eat these foods – vegans and vegetarians, for example?
A vegan bodybuilding diet needs to contain plenty of protein and there are different forms of plant-based, vegan-friendly, high-protein foods that make up a staple part of vegan bodybuilders’ diet.
Some people have gone as far as to make ridiculous claims such as “vegans can’t be bodybuilders as they don’t get enough protein.” To clear things up once and for all, this is 100% false; there are many professional vegan bodybuilders that look just as good, if not better, than their meat-eating counterparts.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular foods that these bodybuilders use:
One cup of cooked quinoa contains around 9 grams of protein.
Quinoa is rich in protein and is known as a super food as well, which is why it’s vastly popular all over the world. Quinoa puffs up and becomes light and fluffy like rice and can be cooked similarly like rice, but it is actually a seed.
Although the body requires essential amino acids, it cannot synthesize them naturally; so they must be consumed from dietary sources. What makes quinoa especially beneficial from a bodybuilding standpoint is this:
- It contains all 9 essential amino acids required by the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. So naturally, the more we consume, the more protein we get.
- It is a great source of carbohydrates, providing a sustained release of energy as the food is digested and broken down in the stomach.
- It is also known to help promote the production of muscle-building hormones within the body, such as IGF-1, and testosterone.
Although protein is hugely beneficial and essential for bodybuilding, other important micronutrients such as fat are also just as important for providing a complete nutritional profile, which is why seeds are so popular among vegan and vegetarian bodybuilders.
Some popular choices of seeds are pumpkin, flax, chia, sunflower, and sesame seeds.
Not only are these seeds full of goodness with essential fatty acids but also full of taste and texture. Given here are some of their benefits:
- Reduce inflammation
- Boost brain power
- Lubricate and strengthen the joints
- Increase metabolism
They’re also a good source of protein and amino acids, although eating them alone would probably not provide enough protein. Most vegan bodybuilders add them to protein shakes, smoothies, salads, and various other dishes to bump up the protein and nutrient content and to provide a pleasant crunchy texture to the foods and beverages being consumed.
Tofu is a firm favorite derived from soya beans and is often the high-protein alternative to meat for many bodybuilders.
One cup of tofu contains around 20–22 gm of protein, making it a good source of natural protein content.
Not only is it rich in protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants but also in isoflavones, which have been found to stimulate new muscle growth.
Many vegan bodybuilders like to start their day by making a tofu scramble, which is extremely similar, in look, and texture, to scrambled eggs.
4. Ezekiel Bread
This is considered by many as the ultimate bread loaf when it comes to nutritional value. Containing lentils, barley, beans, wheat, spelt, and millet, this bread is healthy and effective for bodybuilding and natural energy production.
Some of the key benefits of Ezekiel bread are given here:
- It contains both slow and fast-absorbing carbohydrates
- It is packed with amino acids.
- It is also full of dietary fiber, minerals, and vitamins, which help improve its digestibility and strengthen the immune system.
For the ultimate vegan bodybuilding diet breakfast, start your day with a tofu scramble served on a couple of slices of toasted Ezekiel bread, topped with a few sunflower seeds and your veggies of choice.
Hummus is made by blending chickpeas with a little garlic, lemon juice, and a few other seasonings to make a delicious and nutritious dip. Chickpeas are naturally rich in protein and contain large quantities of lysine, which is a very important amino acid for bodybuilding.
Two heaped tablespoons of hummus contain around 4 grams of protein.
Chickpeas have a very impressive amino acid profile. As a result, some vegans opt to make hummus from different legumes such as edema or cannellini beans.
Hummus is delicious when served on bread as well as when used as a simple dip with carrot, celery, and various other vegetable sticks and batons.