Vegetarian Bodybuilding – Bulking and Cutting Fundamentals

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A vegetarian diet is the most popular diet involving the restriction of one or more food groups or ingredients. Simply put, a vegetarian consumes a plant-based diet and does not consume animal flesh, fish, or poultry.

More specifically, an individual can be a lacto vegetarian and consume a plant-based diet and dairy products or lacto-ovo vegetarian and consume plants, dairy products, and eggs. [1] A pescatarian does not consume meat, poultry, dairy, or eggs but does consume fish. A pollotarian consumes no meat, dairy, or fish but does consume poultry. [2]

Related – Plant-Based, Vegetarian Protein Powders

Vegans do not consume any animal products, period. That means no milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, gelatin, or honey. This article focuses on recommendations for those consuming a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

Most individuals consume a vegetarian diet for religious, health, environmental, ethical, or economic reasons. [3] Unfortunately, the restrictive nature of a vegetarian can increase the risk of developing deficiencies in critical macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals like protein, iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, and Omega-3 fatty acids. [2] With proper planning, a vegetarian diet can offer virtually all the macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals you need to live a healthy life.

A complete guide to vegan bodybuilding by Marc Lobliner.

The following dietary recommendations are designed for lacto-ovo vegetarians but may also be applicable to other styles of the vegetarian diet. To increase your protein intake, incorporate plant-based beans, tempeh, tofu, wheat gluten/seitan, and a soy protein powder. [3] Vegetarian-friendly animal products high in protein include cottage cheese, Greek and traditional yogurt, eggs, as well as high-quality egg white and whey protein powders.

Bump up your iron intake by consuming spinach, beans, tempeh, chard, bulgur wheat, and iron-fortified cereals. [3] Dishes with acidic fruits or juices cooked in a cast iron skillet will also increase your iron intake.

If you struggle to consume enough calcium then focus on dairy products like yogurt and milk as well as plant-based foods like broccoli, collard greens, fortified soymilk, and fortified orange juice. [3] Wheat germ, wild rice, dried pumpkin seeds, beans, sunflower seeds, and oats offer notable amounts of zinc for vegetarians. [4] Iron, zinc, and calcium are critical minerals for maintaining blood, bone, and hormonal health.

Vitamin B-12 is one of the most challenging micronutrients for vegetarians to consume. Vitamin B-12 is water-soluble which means your body cannot store it in fat tissue, unlike fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Thus, regular consumption of vitamin B12 is a must for preventing a deficiency.

The foods with the largest quantities of this vitamin are not vegetarian friendly – organ meats, beef, and seafood. Thankfully, you can obtain good quantities of vitamin B-12 from raw cheese and milk, cottage cheese, and eggs. [5] If you still find yourself struggling to consume enough vitamin B-12 then consider using a high-quality B-12 or B vitamin complex supplement to meet your target intake.

The Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are virtually impossible to consume if you do not consume fish. Thankfully, some manufacturers fortify soy milk and supplement products with DHA.

You can also obtain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another Omega-3 fatty acid from plant-based foods like flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans, and walnuts. [3] Unfortunately, the body poorly absorbs ALA so much of it passes through the body with minimal benefit.

Vegetarian Bodybuilding – Sample Meal Plans

The diets laid out below provide a framework to reach your muscle building or fat loss goals without animal flesh, fish, or poultry. These diets are designed for a lacto-ovo vegetarian since they include both eggs and dairy products. If you do not have or do not like the taste of one of the foods below then feel free to swap it with a comparable option.

The meal plans below are based on a 180-pound male with the goal of consuming at least one gram of protein and 0.4 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight. The remaining calories come from a mixture of high quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Sample 3,200 Calorie Diet for Adding Mass

Breakfast

  • 1 cup of 2% milk fat Greek Yogurt
  • ½ cup of granola
  • 1 cup of sliced pineapple
  • 1 cup of soy milk

Mid-Morning Snack

  • 1 cup of carrot strips
  • 1 tablespoon of ranch dressing
  • 1 ounce of almonds
  • 2 large hardboiled eggs

Lunch

  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup of cooked black beans
  • 6 ounces of tofu
  • 1 cup of roasted tomatoes

Pre-Workout Snack

  • 1 scoop of egg white protein powder
  • 2 tablespoons of cashew butter
  • 1 large red delicious apple
  • 1 cup of toasted oat cereal

Post-Workout Shake

  • 2 scoops of soy protein powder
  • 1 cup of 3.25% milk fat cow’s milk
  • Creatine

Dinner

  • 1 large (6.5-inch diameter) whole wheat pita bread
  • 3 tablespoons of hummus
  • 4 ounces of cooked tempeh
  • 1 cup of roasted sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups of steamed broccoli

Totals: 3,200 calories, 222 grams of protein, 338 grams of carbohydrates, 120 grams of fat, 60 grams of fiber

Vegetarian Bodybuilding

Sample 1,800 Calorie Diet for Losing Fat

Breakfast

  • 1 cup of 1% milkfat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup of blueberries
  • 8 ounces of soy milk
  • 2 tablespoons of flax seeds

Lunch

  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 1 ounce of feta cheese
  • 3 ounces of tempeh
  • 2 large hardboiled eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of raspberry balsamic vinegar dressing

Pre-Workout Snack

  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1 scoop of egg white protein powder
  • 1 cup of sliced strawberries

Post-Workout Shake

  • 2 scoops of soy protein powder
  • Creatine

Dinner

  • 8 ounces of tofu
  • 1 cup of chopped red peppers
  • ¼ cup of chopped onions
  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • Soy sauce to taste

Totals: 1,800 calories, 180 grams of protein, 151 grams of carbohydrates, 73 grams of fat, and 25 grams of fiber

References

1) “Vegetarian Diet.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 15 Feb. 2017, medlineplus.gov/vegetariandiet.html. Accessed Mar. 2017.
2) “Vegetarian diet: How to get the best nutrition.” Nutrition and Healthy Eating, Mayo Clinic, 2017, Accessed Mar. 2017.
3) “Vegetarianism in a Nutshell.” The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), 2017, www.vrg.org/nutshell/nutshell.htm. Accessed Mar. 2017.
4) Ludlow, Nick. “10 Zinc-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating Now.” Tiger Fitness, 2016, Accessed Mar. 2017.
5) Axe, Josh. “Top 10 Vitamin B12 Foods.” Dr. Axe, 2017, Accessed Mar. 2017.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.