Contrary to popular belief, it is actually possible to gain muscle while on a vegetarian diet. Many people still think that the supposed lack of protein in a vegetarian diet does not allow for sufficient results in the gym. However, this is nowhere near the truth.
Whether you’re eating meat or not, building muscle involves a strict dietary regimen designed to optimize the quantities of the nutrients your body requires. Your diet should include minerals, fiber, vitamins, and of course protein to ensure you get the desired results.
Similar to non-vegetarian fitness enthusiasts, vegetarian gym goers need to follow a prescribed dietary regime and have a good understanding of their body. If you optimize your diet, you shouldn’t have any problems building muscle while eating vegetarian.
Types of Vegetarians
There are four different vegetarian categories and each involves different dietary habits. It is important to have a clear understanding of which category you belong to because it can largely determine your gym diet. All vegetarians can generally be classified into the following four categories:
- Pescetarians, who eat fish
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians, who eat dairy and eggs
- Lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy products
- Vegans, who are solely on a plant-based diet
There is a unique set of challenges for each category when it comes to maintaining a healthy vegetarian diet and exercising. For example, many vegetarians who exercise regularly wonder if it is safe to supplement with casein and whey powder. These dairy by-products might be good for lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarians but what about pescetarians and vegans?
Well, casein and whey powders are obviously not appropriate for vegans and pescetarians, but other vegetarians should steer clear from them as well. Some of these powders may contain rennet, an enzyme that usually comes from slaughtered calves’ stomachs.
Still, the question of how to supplement for protein while eating vegetarian remains. A simple answer is to resort to plant-based protein.
Find Your Perfect Plant Protein
Similar to a omnivore gym diet, building muscle while eating vegetarian should include a sufficient protein intake. As mentioned in the previous section, plant protein is the way to go.
Thus, adding protein-rich plants to your diet is an absolute must. There are also plant-based powdered supplements that provide the same results as whey and casein, but they are completely vegetarian-friendly.
These are the proteins you should consider if you are building muscle while eating vegetarian.
Pea protein has recently come under the spotlight because it was officially recommended by Dr. Oz. Famous or not, hard-core vegetarians know pea protein quite well.
This seemingly simple plant protein can be great for your vegetarian gym routine because it contains branched-chain amino acids. On top of that, it is completely cholesterol free and won’t upset your stomach.
Soy protein is probably one of the most common and widely used plant-based protein supplements. Vegetarian fitness enthusiasts who go completely dairy-free use soy protein as an excellent substitute for whey.
These supplements are full of vegetarian-friendly protein and have very low cholesterol and fat levels. Soy protein supplements come in many different flavors. However, you need to make a careful selection because some of them might contain dairy or animal-based ingredients.
This vegetarian protein supplement is one of the newest additions, but it has quickly amassed a huge following because of its nutritional properties. Apart from being an excellent source of plant-based protein, hemp also provides a lot of unsaturated fats and fatty acids.
Hemp protein can deliver almost all the fiber you need in a day and is an excellent source of minerals and vitamins. On top of that, you won’t have any troubles digesting this protein either.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Now that you know what kind of protein is required when building muscle while eating vegetarian, you may wonder how much protein is enough. In reality, you would need much less protein than you might think because building muscle is not only about protein intake.
As a rule, healthy people who don’t exercise need about 0.8 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight. Since your goal is building muscle while eating vegetarian, you would need a bit more than that. The general recommendation is around 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for those who exercise regularly.
Nutritional Deficiencies You Should Know About
Quite a few non-vegetarians believe that certain micronutrient deficiencies are the number one killer of vegetarians. Luckily, this is not true. Still, these deficiencies can seriously affect your health, especially when you exercise regularly, so you shouldn’t write them off completely.
These are some of the most common nutritional deficiencies you need to be mindful of:
Vitamin B12 deficiency is probably one of the most serious, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your body does not absorb plant-based B12 the same way it does the one obtained from animal-based foods.
However, there is a way to overcome this. The healthiest option is to consume foods that are rich in plant-based B12. Fortified non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, and meat substitutes are good vegetarian sources of B12.
This mineral is crucial for keeping your bones strong, especially when you are on a strict gym routine. If you don’t have enough calcium, your body will underperform, thus resulting in unsatisfactory muscle gains.
Lacto-vegetarians are not in great danger of calcium deficiency because of the dairy intake. On the other hand, other types of vegetarians should add kale, broccoli, almonds, and spinach to their diet to compensate for the lack of dairy products.
When you are pumping iron, you should have enough of it in your bloodstream to neutralize the stress your body suffers. More than a few vegetarian foods contain sufficient amounts of non-heme iron that can keep your gym performance at optimum levels.
Your diet should include a lot of leafy greens, artichokes, dried fruits, and peas. These fruits and vegetables can be easily mixed into a tasty vegetarian power shake and consumed before or after a gym session.
Although many tend to disagree, building muscle while eating vegetarian is not only possible but it yields some surprising results. Any prejudice people might have regarding a vegetarian diet and exercising thus doesn’t hold water—but you should know that dietary habits are only part of the story. Your perfect beach body will be the result of months of perseverance, blood, sweat, and tears on top of your healthy diet.