January 10, 2019 | By: Amanda Aguzzi
When I started my fitness journey I was often told it would be near impossible to build muscle on a vegetarian diet. For 15 years I’ve lived without meat and fish. In the last 4 years I’ve focused on a couple of key factors to build a foundation of muscle entirely sourced from non-animal protein.
These changes to my diet and lifestyle have helped me pack on an insane amount of muscle and coach myself to become an IFBB Bikini Pro.
So, can you live an active lifestyle and meet your fitness goals on a vegetarian diet? Can you build muscle on a vegetarian diet?
The answer is yes, absolutely.
But, simply taking meat out of your diet won’t make you any healthier. It takes work to make this diet work. The good news is that with the right protein, macronutrient balance and supplements you can live a healthy life and meet your fitness goals.
PROTEIN & BALANCE
The most important factor in living a healthy vegetarian lifestyle is replacing meat with other substantial forms of protein. Protein is an essential macronutrient to gaining muscle tone and mass.
I’ve found that people like to ease into a plant-based diet by reducing their animal protein to just one source a day. This is great, however protein sources need to be replenished properly. Good sources of protein are eggs, greek yogurt, tofu, meat substitutes, whey/protein powders, beans and nuts.
A nutritionally wholesome diet consists of a favorable balance of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates & fats). This balance is up to the individual and his or her body. It is different for everyone and it can change according to someone’s health and wellness goals. You’ll find that many of the vegetarian protein sources are also significant sources of carbohydrates and fat. Find a ratio that works for you. Remember, carbohydrates are not the devil and essential fatty acids are necessary to help facilitate your body’s absorption of certain vitamins.
Calculating macronutrients with goal specific tools like iifym.com and tracking them with apps such as My Fitness Pal or Chronometer will help steer you in the right direction.. If you’re not about that life then just being mindful of ratios will work for you! I make sure to get enough protein by following the ISSN Guidelines on protein requirement. I also continuously plan, meal prep and track to stay on top of my game.
TIP: Be sure to include protein in every meal or snack.
TIP: Choose carbohydrate and fat sources high in protein.
The ISSN Guidelines on Protein Requirements
.8g / kg of bodyweight
1.0-1.6 grams/ kg of bodyweight
Intermittent Sports Athletes
1.4-1.7 grams/ kg of bodyweight
Strength Training Athletes
1.6-2.0/ kg of bodyweight
(Campbell et al., 2007)
VITAMINS & MINERALS
Extra care must be given to replenishing vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin b12. Getting in the right amount of iron, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin b12 without meat can be tough. Supplementation helps to ensure you’re getting it in.
TIP: Take NutraBio Multi Sport Multivitamin, vitamin D, vitamin b12, zinc, supplements AND eat whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals.
If you’re physically active your body will need more aminos and supplemental protein. Additional sports supplementation will not only aid in recovery time but it will also help build lean muscle.
My go-tos to help me feel the best, build muscle and recover quickly are NutraBio:
TIP: Establish a routine to ensure you are getting in your supplements.
Campbell, B., Kreider, R., Ziegenfuss, T., La Bounty, P., Roberts, M., Burke, D., Landis, J., Lopez, H. and Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), p.8.