When it comes building muscle, diet is key – especially eating enough protein and carbohydrates, and keeping food in your stomach throughout the day. However many bodybuilders get their protein from animal sources – in particular eggs, dairy and meat. So can you get enough protein and carbs from a primarily plant-based diet to build muscle? Absolutely!
But first, let’s define vegetarian and the associated variations to the basic term: A person that does not eat meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, or crustaceans or by-products of slaughter. The definition can further be broken down into these four variations:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Eats both dairy products and eggs
- Lacto vegetarian: Eats dairy products, but not eggs
- Ovo vegetarian: Eats eggs, but not dairy products
- Vegan: Does not eat dairy products, eggs or any other animal product
If you are vegan, you have fewer choices in protein selection than other types of vegetarians. As a vegan, you know you are mainly limited to beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, soybeans, tofu and whole grains. However, because most vegetables are not complete proteins, you must eat a good mix of fruits and vegetables to get in all of the amino acids, instead of focusing on eating just a few select foods.
If you are lacto-ovo, you have it easier because of the protein in dairy products and eggs. But, because ovo vegetarians and vegan choose not to eat dairy, they can’t use whey protein powder. However instead, they can use in their protein shakes one of the many vegetable protein powders available.
If you need a vegetable protein powder, you can choose from ones made from soy, peas, hemp, or brown rice, just to name a few of vegetable-based sources. Rice protein not only tastes great, but also supplies lots of digestible protein. Mix in a scoop of powder in almond or coconut milk and you have a protein shake that rivals one made with whey, but without the possible allergen and bloating that can occur with dairy-based powders.
If you are training to build muscle, then you need at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This is entirely doable by eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day. A good post-workout snack could be a handful of almonds, hummus on crackers, or almond butter on toast. Or mix up one of your great vegetable protein shakes!
In the end, it is fairly easy to build muscle from eating only vegetarian or vegan. It just requires a different mind-set as far as diet and having the discipline to eat a good variety of allowed foods to get in a complete diet.