Vegan diets are becoming increasingly popular in health conscious societies around the world.
But many bodybuilders are fearful of making big changes to their diets. This is due to the common misconception that those on a vegan diet cannot possibly remain serious about bodybuilding, due to the loss of proteins provided by meat and dairy. It just isn’t true.
Protein is protein and it doesn’t matter if it comes from meat, dairy or vegetables, as long as you consume enough to support your training routine. There is more than enough protein to be found from vegan-friendly food sources — so don’t fret about losing your muscle mass if you decide to go vegan — take a look at what’s out there.
Whole grains like brown rice, barley and grain bread are low in fat, very affordable and a great source of protein. The star of the show though has to be the new grain on the block — quinoa.
Quinoa has been used in South America for centuries and is the complete protein. Not only does it contain all of the essential amino acids, one cup of quinoa contains a massive 24 grams of protein and 12 grams of fibre.
Whether you’re an omnivore or a vegan, protein powders and protein shakes are a really important part of a bodybuilder’s diet as they provide protein on tap. The good news is that not all protein powder comes from milk sources, so there are now protein powders to suit all dietary needs.
Vegan protein powders, made from soy or hemp for instance, contain all of the essential muscle-building components needed to reward all the hours spent in the gym.
Beans, beans are good for your heart, the more you eat them, the more protein you digest. Black beans, kidney beans, butter beans … the list of bean varieties goes on and on, they’re also cheap and in abundance.
Add lentils and pea varieties to the list and you have many flavours to work with and lots of flexibility with the types of dishes you can prepare (if you have a good cookery book). Protein levels are impressive too — one cup of kidney beans contains about 43 grams of protein.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts are amazing, unless you have a nut allergy. Seeds and nuts are highly nutritious and bursting with an impressive variety of essential vitamins, fats and protein. Cashews, almonds, walnuts, squash seeds and pumpkin seeds are all heavy on protein — and don’t forget peanut butter!
Go easy with the nuts though as they tend to be quite high in fat — it is the friendly fat, which is good for you, but it is fat all the same, so watch your portions. Nuts are best for a post-workout boost or to provide a snack.
Soy, tofu and tempeh
These three are all technically beans as they all come from the soya bean, but such is the popularity and flexibility of soy we think it deserves it’s own category. Typically any soy-based food like soya milk and soya yoghurt is protein-rich and tasty, it’s also fortified with lots of essential goodies like calcium, vitamin B12 and iron.
Not to be mistaken for a London rapper, Tempeh (and also tofu) are naturally occurring variations of soy and both can easily be flavoured and textured to resemble all kinds of food from meat-like burgers to crisps. Protein levels are normally high and one cup of tempeh would provide around 31 grams of protein.
Something a bit more exotic, but with crazy levels of protein would be sea-based vegetables and seaweeds.
Used by the Japanese for over 10,000 years, sea vegetables contain some amazing stuff and tend to be far superior — nutritionally — to many land based vegetables.
The proteins found in kelp are comparable to animal proteins; the red sea plant called, nori has a protein content of 50%, and dulse is not only rich in protein, but owns 50 times more iron than wheat. It really is a dietary treasure trove down there.