Written by Jamie Bantleman
10 Top Tips For A Vegan Bodybuilder
Bodybuilding is considered as being one of the hardest sports due to the difficulty of the general aim of the sport:
#1 Increase Muscle Mass
#2 Decrease Body Fat
Often when we aim to gain muscle we are looking at muscular cell growth rather than aiming to decreasing body fat to get as lean as possible. However, in bodybuilding you are looking to do both at the same time. Therefore we are actually pushing scientific barriers to their limits and our bodies to places the vast majority of people will never go.
Lets start the article by presuming we are discussing a natural athlete (drug free). We are focusing on those vegans and/or vegetarians that genuinely want to either go into competitive bodybuilding or take part in trying to get into the shape of a bodybuilder by training and dieting in the way someone going into competition would do without the help of synthetic hormones.
10 Top Tips
#1 Increase Amino Acid Profile.
Vegans usually have a very low amino acid profile. This is due to the low protein intake, therefore I would recommend a protein source at every single meal. When preparing someone for a bodybuilding show I would usually have my athletes take 5-6 meals per day deepening on their calorie requirements and length of time they are awake for. For example, if you are awake at 6am and going to bed at 10pm and you have a reasonably active job you are looking at keeping calories higher due to the output of calories also being high.
#2 Supplementing your Protein Intake
For a vegetarian or vegan, vegan blend is a staple in your diet. Taking 2-4 scoops per day. With protein intake being low, I would advise a shake with your breakfast and lunch to bump up grams of protein. For example, for the average 90kg bodybuilder looking to gain muscle mass and continue to lose body fat would be looking to consume just less than 300g protein per day (297g actual figure) if we worked it out by 1.5g of protein per lb of bodyweight.
Therefore if you break that into 6 meals that person would be looking at eating approx. 50g of protein per meal (49.5g actual figure).
#3 Take Care Of Your Gut
When you are consuming high protein products which are hard to digest you are going to struggle with the processing of them in your gut. If your gut does not utilise the fuel in which you are feeding it your body will not get the full effect of the diet in which you are working so hard to maintain. Furthermore, you will begin to see little results and for the hard work in which bodybuilding entails, this will be mentally detrimental.
#4 Use Of Amino Acids
Amino Acid deficiency will cause a lack of protein synthesis.The building blocks of protein production are a vital source of gaining lean muscle tissue and maintaining a positive hormonal profile. Therefore I would be using amino acids throughout the day. The BCAA 1500 post workout and throughout the day is ideal for the body to produce more protein via its high levels of BCAA (branch chained amino acids) and EAA (Essential Amino Acids).
#5 Testosterone Levels
Natural production of testosterone has been found to be lower in blood profiles of a vegan.Therefore, certain supplements can be used to help this issue. Firstly, I would always recommend seeing a qualified doctor or endocrinologist for hormonal issues, however, it has been found that both Zinc and Vitamin D can improve testosterone readings in those that are deficient in the particular vitamins and minerals.
#6 Vitamins And Minerals
Once you have achieved a high vitamin and mineral level in the body you should look to maintain these levels by including other good quality supplements. I often use Magnesium to help reduce cortisol in the body (the stress hormone that in effect attacks the muscle cell and breaks it down, causing muscular atrophy).
#7 Omega Intake
Another source of both protein and healthy fats that is not being consumed is fish. I would always recommend Vegan Omega as it is recommended for a vegetarian diet.
#8 Use Of Essential Tools
– Weight training
While weight training, sleep and diet is a staple throughout, these are the things I would try to use to get as close to the goal as is possible for a vegan. This is due to recovery may not be ideal due to the lower levels of protein in the body and a possible decreased testosterone level (refer to point number 5).
When coming close to show date, possibly 6-8 weeks prior to stepping on stage, utilise cardio more often when your body has fully adapted to the stresses of bodybuilding you can add in an extra workload if needed to bring your final bits of body fat right down while keeping cortisol exposure low.
#9 Sleep And Rest
Sleep is a vital component to bodybuilding due to a natural production of growth hormone being produced while the body is at complete rest. This will aid with muscle growth and recovery to train again at the same high intensity as you did that same day. To help with sleep, using the magnesium and 5-HTP will be able to limit cortisol exposure and help with rest.
#10 Carbs v Fats
A regular issue with vegan diets is that they are predominantly based around a high carb and high-fat diet. This isn’t advised when the goal is hypertrophy and/or fat loss. Usually, it is one or the other. If you are keeping carbohydrates reasonably high, I would advise you to use them effectively and efficiently. To do this, it is all about timings. Carbs used post workout is found to have the most effect for those who are aiming towards to this particular goal.
After this, low to moderate GI (glycemic index) sources of carbs are advised to go alongside your protein sources, such as white or sweet potato. If you are incredibly lean and want to maintain a higher level of carbohydrate intake foods such as rice and oats can be beneficial.
On the flip side to this you may be on a higher fats diet. Essential fatty acids are from the breakdown of fats in our diet. Fats such as healthy oil, nuts and avocado. One of the most popular way of consuming fatty acids is by supplementation of fish oil. Fats should be used when on this diet throughout the day, however even if this is your preferred method I would always look to use carbohydrates post workout to aid recovery and replenishment.