Sunday, March 20, 2016

Vegan Bodybuilding Diet: Effective For Muscle Growth?

The question being: can you build muscle and gain strength effectively while following a 100% plant based diet that excludes all animal products. So, no meat, no dairy, no eggs, no cheese, no whey protein, just pure plants sources only. It seems we're, sort of starting to see more and more discussions about vegan diets popping up in the YouTube fitness community. It's something I've personally been researching and it's something that a lot of people have asked me as well, so in this video I just want to address, nothing to do with the ethical side, but just in terms of bottom line effectiveness. 

How does a vegan bodybuilding diet stack up against a diet that includes both plant and animal sources? The simple answer that I would give is that as long as you're tracking your diet with reasonable accuracy, meaning that you're consuming the proper amount of calories each day to support muscle growth and you're getting a sufficient amount of daily protein and fat, then I don't see any reason why you can't build muscle and gain strength just as effectively while following a plant based diet, pretty much as simple as that. 

Nutrition is really just a numbers game when it all comes down to it and as long as you take the time to planned things out properly, then yes, you can use plant based foods sources exclusively to meet all of your nutritional needs for building muscle and gaining strength. Now the main area that people get concern with here is when it comes to protein, but the reality is that there are actually plenty of high protein plant based foods that you can eat that will pretty easily allow you to get all the protein and amino acids that you need to optimize muscle growth as long as you planned things out properly. You've got things like beans, lentils, tofu, quinoa, tempes, seitan, nuts, whole-grains meats substitutes, these are just a few examples and if you're planning out your diet properly it's actually pretty easy to hit your daily protein needs using those types of foods, and then on top of that there are also plenty of vegan protein powders out there that are going to give you just as much protein per scoop as whey and if you throw in a scoop or two of that per day then hitting protein needs is really not a problem at all. 

Not to mention that most people actually require far less protein than they think. Now I've traditionally gone with the 1 gram per pound of body weight figure, but realistically 0.8 grams is probably enough for most people. That is something that I'm going to revise moving forward in my recommendations. Not that going a bit higher is a problem, but 0.8 grams is likely enough if you do want to bring that figure down a bit, and that's going to be about 140 grams of protein for a 175 pound person which isn't really much when you start adding everything out throughout the day. Now in terms of carbohydrates, that's obviously no issue whatsoever on the vegan diet, and then when it comes to fat intake, again, not a problem. Nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, healthy oils, tons of options to choose from there as well to make sure you're getting enough fat to control your appetite and keep hormone levels optimized. Now the one point that I would make is that for those who are wanting to follow a vegan bodybuilding diet and who want to fully maximize their muscle gains, then tracking your food intake does become increasingly important here. The reason being that most plant based foods are on average going to be lower in protein by default, lower in calories by default and if you're just trying to wing a vegan bodybuilding diet without planning things out in advance, then there is a reasonable chance that you could end up too low in total calories or too low in total protein or even fat. 

If that happens obviously that is going to compromise your results. That's why on average, if you took the total vegan population versus those who do consume animal products as well, vegans will be, again, on average thinner and less muscular, but that's not because of vegan diet is inherently inferior for gaining muscle, it's just that the average person out there doesn't really track their diet in terms of calories and macro nutrients, and by default those who follow an entirely plant based diet are going to be getting in fewer total calories and less protein. That's why people tend to, sort of have this image of vegan's being weak and skinny, and they think that it's not possible to build muscle that way. But again, it's not the diet itself, it's just the fact that it does take a bit more work and a bit more planning to specifically [inaudible] a muscle growth. However as long as you do plan things out and you can say that,"This is how many calories I need to maintain a surplus for building muscle. This is how much protein I need. This is how much fat I need and this is how many carbs I need, and these are the foods in quantities that I'm going to use to meet all of those needs", then it really shouldn't be an issue because, again, it is just a numbers game at the end of the day. With proper planning all of those needs can be met using plant based sources. It's just a matter of putting in the work and planning things out in advance, it's really as simple as that. 

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