20 Tips for Vegetarian Athletes, Body Builders & Fitness Models
Posted Jul 02 2011 2:02pm
As some of you know, I announced last week on facebook that I would be going full on Vegetarian when I get back back to CA. Well I am here now and so far so good! I am not craving meat and am still working out with the same intensity and same energy levels. I am going to try my Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian diet (milk and eggs ok) for 6 weeks, see how I feel, and see whether I want to try Ovo Veggie (eggs ok) or Vegan. I like to use my body as a test center and experiment with different diets and routines.
I am going Vegetarian as a personal challenge, a new lifestyle change, and to cleanse my body. I will be doing tons of research on proper nutrition for vegetarian fitness competitors and will be sharing what I will be doing with you all. More pictures of veggie dishes and sample meal plans for sure. You can follow along with me if you’d like, maybe just try being veggie for a day!
As a kickoff, I have compiled the top 20 tips for Vegetarian Body Builders adapted from BodyBuilding.com. Keep in mind that these are tips for people showcasing their bodies in fitness competitions, so they are a bit intense, but we can learn from what they do and apply it towards our daily lives as needed.
1. Get Sufficient Calories
The very first thing you must do as a vegetarian bodybuilder is make sure that you get enough calories. If you don’t take in enough calories on a regular basis your body is much more likely to turn to incoming protein for fuel and you very well may see a deficit forming.
2. Consume Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Second, be sure that you are taking in plenty of fruits and vegetables. These are going to supply you with a high quality source of nutrients as well as all the antioxidant protection to keep your immune system feeling strong.
3. Don’t Neglect Chickpeas and Legumes
For vegetarians looking to build muscle, one of the key sources of protein they need to be looking into are chickpeas and other legumes. These will also be a good low-fat source of carbohydrates as well and make for a great snack before a hard workout.
4. Swap Rice For Quinoa
If you’re in the habit of always eating brown rice with your meals, swap that up for some quinoa instead. Quinoa tastes much like brown rice (a combination of brown rice and oatmeal) and is higher in overall protein content than the brown rice. On top of that, quinoa is actually a complete source of protein, whereas brown rice is not. This is important for the process of muscle building to take place.
5. Utilize Egg White Or Soy Protein Powders
Fifth, it’s a very wise move to make use of egg white protein powders, if you eat animal by-products, or soy protein powders if not. These will dramatically help to boost your protein intake and are quick and convenient for when you need them. As long as you do make sure to mix them up with other sources of protein, they are definitely a ‘must-have’ for your daily diet. Soy Protein Isolates are low in fat and sugars, cholesterol-free, and loaded with protein. As one of the few complete vegetable sources, soy proteins are suitable for vegetarians and contain all of the essential amino acids in levels sufficient to help support muscle growth and development. Soy proteins have the added benefits of supporting heart health too.
6. Avoid A Heavy Reliance On Processed Foods
One big mistake that many vegetarians make is relying a great deal on heavy, overly processed foods. Don’t do this. Remember, being vegetarian doesn’t mean you get free range to eat as many high-carb snack foods as you want. You still do definitely have to be eating healthy and making an effort to maintain a fresh diet that contains whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
7. Keep Your Workouts Short But Intense
When it comes to your workout, as a vegetarian you should aim for short but intense workouts. This will help prevent muscle mass loss from taking place and your body relying on protein to get through those workouts. If you were doing very long workout sessions that’s when your protein needs will be really elevated, which could get more difficult being on a vegetarian diet.
8. Be Sure To Vary Your Food Choices
Also be sure that you’re taking the time to vary your foods in your diet as well. As a vegetarian you may find that it’s easy to gravitate to the same foods over and over and over again. Try to prevent this if you can. By making sure to take in a higher variety you will prevent nutrient deficiencies and have better luck with your diet program.
9. Make Use Of Tempeh
Another protein source that’s highly beneficial for vegetarians is tempeh. This one is one that is often overlooked so start finding creative ways to add it to your diet today. Many people find they prefer this over tofu, which is the other main vegetarian option.
10. Consider Going Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian
One thing that you may want to consider, and this will highly be based on your personal beliefs, is going lacto-ovo vegetarian. What this means is that you will include both egg and dairy products in your diet. This will dramatically boost your protein options since then you can include egg and egg whites, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, and milk. It will definitely make your life as a vegetarian bodybuilder easier.
11. Utilize Nuts For Fuel
Another great food that you’ll want to take in are nuts. Nuts provide a healthy source of fat and will provide a long-lasting form of energy as well. One handful will significantly boost your calorie intake and help make muscle gain that much easier.
12. Take In Plenty of Flaxseeds, Walnuts, and Flaxseed Oil
For your essential fatty acids, since you likely won’t be consuming fatty fish or fish oil, turn to flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts. These will have to be your primary sources for this must-have nutrient.
13. Start Adding Peanut Butter
Another good way to boost your fat content is to start smearing natural peanut butter on as many foods as you can in your diet. This will also help to boost your overall calorie intake as well, which is obviously important when aiming to build muscle. Smear some peanut butter over your bananas, apples, mix it into oatmeal, or add it to any fruit smoothies you may be preparing.
14. Consider Iron Supplementation
One nutrient that you may fall short in without eating any red meat is iron. Since iron is responsible for good red blood cell development, it’s not one you want to risk being low in. If you do, you’re going to find you’re fatiguing a lot faster in your workouts as well. If you plan on carrying out a vegetarian diet for the long term, consider adding an iron supplement to your day.
15. Focus On Broccoli and Spinach Intakes
Two other vegetables that you’ll definitely want to think about adding in higher quantities as well are broccoli and spinach. These both will contain nice doses of calcium, which is another nutrient you may fall short in. In addition to both of these, also think about using a calcium supplement.
16. Don’t Let Others Get You Down
Unfortunately one thing that many vegetarian bodybuilders deal with is others telling them they won’t see success. Try and block this out as best as possible. If you want to really pack on the muscle, you need to stay in a healthy frame of mind - and their negative influence is definitely not going to help you do so.
17. Eat More Frequently
It’s also important that you’re making sure to eat frequently throughout the day. Since you won’t be taking in as much protein with every meal you eat as someone who isn’t a vegetarian, by getting in regular meals you’ll help ensure that you do always have that steady stream of amino acids going into the muscle tissues.
18. Monitor Your Body Fat Levels
Since one thing many vegetarian bodybuilders are concerned over is muscle mass loss, be sure that you’re regularly monitoring your body fat levels. This will give you a better indication if you are losing muscle mass so that action can be taken to help prevent this.
19. Supplement With Branched Chain Amino Acids
Another important supplement that you’ll want to use is branched chain amino acids. These you should specifically take immediately before and after the workout is complete as they too will help to safeguard against muscle mass loss.
20. Stay Positive
Finally, the last tip is to stay positive. It may take slightly longer to build muscle as a vegetarian, but if you stay positive and keep working towards your goals, you definitely can get the results you’re looking for.