Is it Possible to Be a Vegan Bodybuilder?
When most people think of a bodybuilder diet, they think of "GOMAD" (Gallon of Milk a Day), tuna fish, or chicken and asparagus. The idea of someone being a vegan and a bodybuilder can seem quite absurd to the uninitiated. Vegans are usually, in the public's eyes at least, lean and wiry people, not bodybuilders.
However, this doesn't have to be the case. It is entirely possible to be a vegan and a successful bodybuilder – whether you are thinking of competing in natural shows, or in some of the bigger federations.
Possible But Not Easy
The reason that most people don't think of vegans as being bodybuilders is because the vast majority of casual vegans do not have a good understanding of nutrition, and they therefore struggle to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Succeeding as a vegan in any sport requires planning, attention and a knowledge of nutrition beyond what the average person has.
Protein and Vegans
The general perception is that vegans do not eat enough protein. However, this is not down to simply the fact that they are vegan, but rather that the most convenient vegan foods are low in protein. It is entirely possible to eat enough protein to build significant lean muscle mass as a vegan, and to get all of the amino acids required for a complete protein profile from plant sources. This will take effort, however, and it is much easier to just eat a lot of chicken and tuna, and drink dairy-based protein shakes.
There are soy protein shakes available, and other vegan-friendly supplements, however these are frowned upon by some bodybuilders because of fears that soy is estrogenic. Another issue that vegan bodybuilders face is, quite simply, getting enough calories. Protein is just one part of the equation when it comes to building muscle – you need to eat enough calories to sustain your workouts, and you need enough fats to support hormone production and supply your body with fat-soluble nutrients. If you are lacking in those areas then you will struggle to work out as hard or as efficiently as someone who eats a more traditional diet.
However, with smart supplementation and good meal planning these issues can be overcome, and you can get a lean and strong looking body with a purely plant based diet. Vegetarians and meat eaters may enjoy more diversity, but the goal of low body fat percentages and a large amount of muscle mass can be achieved regardless of where the micronutrients and macronutrients come from.
Vegans will need to research the supplements that they take carefully, however, because animal products can be added to a huge number of different foods, and the way that a lot of things are manufactured is not vegan friendly. Look for products that explicitly promote themselves as vegetarian or vegan if you want to follow one of those diets and still take supplements – that is the only way to be confident you are getting a suitable product.
See this Vegan Bodybuilder video