Vegetarianism in bodybuilding

Vegetarianism in bodybuilding

In this article, you will learn all the pros and cons of a vegetarian diet for an athlete. Also, the possibility of combining it with bodybuilding, and other power sports. Indeed, until now, various rumors and speculations about vegetarianism and its influence on the result in sports are circulating in society.

In the history of bodybuilding, there are many eminent athletes who did not eat meat products. At the same time, they achieved excellent results in increasing the strength and volume of muscle mass, primarily:

  • Jim Morris (Mr. California, Mr. America)
  • Andreas Kaling (Mister International IFBB)
  • Bill Pearl (Mr. America, Mr. Universe)
  • Patrick Babumyan (record holder for weightlifting in powerlifting and power extreme, has the title of the strongest man in Germany)

In this regard, a question arises. Is it possible to build muscle without meat, the usual animal protein that is included in the diet of any advanced bodybuilder. To which we will try to give an answer. And also you will find out how strongly vegetarianism and bodybuilding are compatible. But first, a little history.

History of vegetarianism

History of vegetarianism

For the first time about vegetarianism, the world community started talking back in 1847 after the establishment of a vegetarian society in England. However, before him, it was practiced for thousands of years in the philosophical schools of Pythagoras. Also in countries where the following Indian religions were practiced:

  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Jainism

Moreover, India is still considered the world leader in terms of the population of vegetarians in the country (from 20 to 40%). Therefore, vegetarianism used to be called the "Indian" diet. In Europe, Italy ranks 1st in the number of people who do not eat meat (10% of the total population of the country).

Types of vegetarianism

The effect of vegetarianism on muscle growth will depend primarily on its type.

Accordingly, the more high-quality protein (from meat, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products) is included in the diet, the better for bodybuilding. For muscle growth, building materials (amino acids) are needed, which the athlete obtains from proteins. Moreover, the better the protein (it has a high biological value), the more valuable it is for the athlete.

On the one hand, vegetarianism and bodybuilding are not compatible. Everyone is used to hearing that if a person works out in the gym, then he must definitely eat a lot of meat. After all, this is a high-quality, valuable protein that is necessary for muscle growth. But is it really so?

Types of vegetarianism

Poor, unbalanced nutrition, a deficiency of vitamins and minerals in the body, inevitably affects negatively the result in bodybuilding.

Vegetarianism, to some extent, contributes to the deterioration of the nutritional quality of the athlete, making him defective. Starting from a lack of trace elements in the diet, ending with a lack of quality proteins. As a result, it becomes much more difficult for a bodybuilder to gain muscle mass, and sometimes even impossible (for example, with a vegan).

Despite this, vegetarianism is popular among athletes. For example, Corey Everson, six times Miss Olympia, has not consumed meat since the age of 17. As noted above, Bill Pearl, the US bodybuilding champion, gave up meat products in his preparation (although he was not completely pure vegan, he consumed eggs and milk).

Thus, the combination of vegetarianism and bodybuilding cannot be denied. When there are living vegetarian athletes who look every bit as good as meat-eating athletes.

Cons of vegetarianism and pros of meat

Nutrition in bodybuilding is, first of all, carbohydrates (glycogen) and proteins, in various proportions. It depends on "drying" or gaining mass. And also some fat (not saturated omega 3 fatty acids).

Carbohydrates, proteins and fats provide the calorie content of food. Accordingly, with an excess of calories in the body, the athlete gains weight. With a lack of calories, it loses. However, not only the amount of calories is important for the body, but also their quality. For example, "empty" calories (a large amount are found in fried pies, fries, soda, fast food), have nothing valuable to the body. Due to the minimum amount of micro and macro elements, in turn, they contain harmful enhancers of taste and aroma, preservatives.

If we consider proteins not only as a source of calories (1 gram of protein = 4 Kcal), but also as the main building material for muscles, then it is also necessary to know their biological value (BC). Often, it is vegetarian food that is famous for its low BC. That is, vegetable proteins, unlike animals, have an unbalanced amino acid composition (reduced amount of amino acids). In addition, they are less digestible.

Cons of vegetarianism and pros of meat

How to compensate protein?

To compensate for protein foods, vegetarian athletes consume foods high in cereals and beans. However, even under such conditions it will be difficult to supply the body with amino acids for normal muscle growth and development, as opposed to eating meat.

Weight training in the gym will start the processes of anabolism (muscle growth). However, to maintain it, you must first provide a high quality protein. That is why, for all real vegetarians, bodybuilding is very difficult. In this case, it will be almost impossible for a vegan athlete to gain a complete set of amino acids for muscle growth through plant proteins.

We recommend, to compensate for the lack of protein food, all vegetarians, regularly consume dairy products rich in valuable proteins:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Also, to fully compensate for protein and creatine, we advise all vegetarians (for whom the consumption of dairy products is acceptable) to use protein and creatine monohydrate sports nutrition supplements. In addition, due to the fact that meat contains a large amount of micro and macro elements. All vegans will benefit from taking an additional multivitamin supplement.

Vegetarian food, rich in fiber, on the one hand, is a great benefit for the body. Since in the process of digestion, fiber cleans the body of toxins and toxins. But at the same time, it absorbs useful amino acids due to the porous structure. Thus, the vegan athlete must eat an increased amount of plant foods to minimize protein loss.

Of the downsides of vegetarian food, it is worth noting that dairy fats contain saturated fats and bad cholesterol (LDL). Moreover, the higher the fat content, for example, of milk or sour cream, the more cholesterol it contains.

Children and vegetarianism

Many scientists, nutritionists, agree that the child's body should not be limited to animal proteins and meat. All this is due to the risk of disrupting the normal development of the body.

For example, in Switzerland, vegetarianism is quite widespread. Parents of their children from an early age try to wean from meat. As a result of such amateur performance, there are frequent outbreaks of childhood diseases. This is mainly due to the lack of vitamin B12, which is found in large quantities in meat. He is responsible, first of all, for the normal development of the brain and nervous system.

Pros of vegetarianism and cons of meat

Pros of vegetarianism and cons of meat

First of all, the following facts speak about the dangers of meat in the current growing conditions:

  • Poor environmental conditions, as a result of which animals absorb toxins, harmful fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural chemicals
  • The introduction of hormonal supplements in the diet and antibiotic injections for enhanced growth of living creatures. And also to neutralize pathogenic microflora in the body

Naturally, under such conditions of growing animal husbandry, there can be no question of any benefits of meat for the human body. After all, regular and prolonged consumption of such meat products can cause cell mutations. This will naturally affect human health, for example, in the form of cancerous tumors.

In addition, scientists have repeatedly proven that red meat (beef, lamb, pork) provokes cancer in humans. At the same time, statistics show that vegetarians are much less likely to suffer from oncology.

Meat is not only a source of amino acids, but also a source of creatine. It can be replaced, as mentioned above, with sports nutrition. Just imagine that one scoop of creatine is equivalent to 1 kg of beef. And this despite the fact that creatine in the form of a sports supplement is absolutely harmless. And also much lower in cost than if we bought a kg of meat.

Advice for vegetarians: the biological value of protein can be increased by combining buckwheat with milk, cereals with legumes.

It is also worth noting that plant proteins (including soy protein) are rich in unsaturated (healthy) fatty acids. In turn, meat contains a fairly large amount of LDL.

Sports diet for vegetarians

Sports diet for vegetarians

A vegetarian diet implies a correct, balanced diet. It covers in the body primarily the lack of calcium, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

An athlete should adhere to the rule of energy balance in the body. So, for example, it is believed that the average athlete needs 1 kg of weight:

  • 30-60 kcal
  • 1.6-2.5 grams of protein
  • 2-4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.8-1 grams of fat

Naturally, for each specific person, depending on the goal, this indicator will be individual.

Vegetarians who want to do bodybuilding, that is, build muscle, need to understand a few points. That if they do not eat up through fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, dairy products, micro and macronutrients, as well as the necessary calories for anabolism, then very soon the body can fail. As a result, overtraining will occur, with all the ensuing consequences.

Vegetarian menu for muscle growth

Vegetarian menu for muscle growth

A vegetarian's menu, like any athlete's, must first of all be balanced. That is, it contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, micro and macro elements. If the goal of the athlete is to build muscle, then in this case, it is worth paying special attention to carbohydrates and proteins. It is they that significantly affect the result in bodybuilding.

Carbohydrates are stored in muscles as glycogen, which is used as an energy source during strength training. Amino acids are the same proteins, only split, are responsible for a positive nitrogen balance in the body. They are the building blocks of muscle building.

You should calucalte serving size individually. Calculated based on the nutrient considerations we described above.

Breakfast (recharge with carbohydrates for energy for the day)

  • Oatmeal with dried fruits
  • Jam bun and tea

2-3 hours later (light snack)

  • Serving Protein Shake (Whey Protein)


  • Lentil soup with vegetable broth
  • Rice with vegetable gravy and carrot or beetroot cutlet + bread
  • Yogurt with grated pine nuts (walnuts)
  • A glass of freshly squeezed juice

2-3 hours later (light snack)

  • Ice cream cocktail with banana and fruit juice (can be sprinkled with protein for spice)


  • Vegetable borsch with beans and bread + cheese
  • Scrambled eggs with salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, herbs, olive or flaxseed oil) + boiled potatoes with vegetable oil
  • Curd with sour cream (yogurt)
  • Fruit juice / dried fruit compote

After 2-3 hours

  • A serving of casein protein + Greek yogurt with kiwi or apple

This diet focuses on the consumption of quality proteins. They are essential for vegetarian bodybuilders. Additionally, it will not hurt to consume vitamin and mineral complexes for vegans. This includes omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B12, D and Fe, which can be purchased at a sports nutrition store or pharmacy.

Best Foods for Vegetarian Athletes

Best Foods for Vegetarian Athletes

  • Soy (a source of quality proteins, fiber and isoflavonoids)
  • Tofu (high quality vegetable protein, source of iron and calcium)
  • Brown rice (rich source of arginine)
  • Peas (source of glutamine and BCCA amino acids)
  • Buckwheat (lowers cholesterol, supplies amino acids)
  • Chickpeas (a source of quality proteins, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, manganese, vitamin C and fiber)
  • Brazil nut (source of essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Greek yogurt, cottage cheese (rich source of quality protein and calcium)
  • Avocado, flaxseed or olive oil, walnuts (sources of omega-3 fatty acids)
  • Creatine Monohydrate, Whey Protein Isolate or Hydrolyzate, Casein Protein (A Must-Have Sports Supplement for the Vegetarian Bodybuilder)

Be sure to include the listed foods in your diet. It is this approach to nutrition that can neutralize the loss of a vegetarian. Mainly for high-quality proteins, micro and macronutrients, which are so abundant in fish and meat.

Combining vegetarianism with bodybuilding

Many people come to vegetarianism for various reasons, here are the main ones:

  • For medical reasons (for example, diseases of the internal organs)
  • For ethical reasons (pity for animals)
  • Religious beliefs (Buddhism, Hinduism)
  • Financial savings (animal proteins are much more expensive than vegetable proteins)
  • Ecological component (environmental pollution)

Combining vegetarianism with bodybuilding

However, in order to successfully combine your vegetarian lifestyle with bodybuilding, you must adhere to certain rules. In the future, they will help build high-quality muscles. And they will also help cleanse the body of toxins accumulated in the body, from the use of meat products:

  • Consume protein at a ratio of 2-2.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight, from sports nutrition.
  • Purchase creatine monohydrate from a sports nutrition store. An additional intake of this supplement will provide you with creatine, which is so abundant in meat.
  • Additional intake of omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, chondroitin, vitamin and mineral complexes will cover the nutritional deficiency during active exercise in the gym
  • Eat reusable, balanced, and avoid "empty and unhealthy calories"

The above tips in the article when giving up meat will be enough to successfully combine bodybuilding with vegetarianism. In addition, this approach to your diet will help you raise your health and longevity.

This article in no way imposes on you the rejection of meat, this is the choice of each person personally. We, in turn, guarantee that bodybuilding and vegetarianism are absolutely compatible. One has only to adhere to our advice, and you will not be inferior in the growth of muscle mass to all other "meat eaters"