Quick About Me
I often get asked what my vegan bodybuilding diet regime is. And while I'm happy to share tips, I always have to put a disclaimer on it that goes something like this.
I'm not a bodybuilder. I just eat to maintain the physique I have, which is 83 kg in weight and approximately 8% body fat.
I never weigh food or count calories. I simply don't believe in that.
Those are unnatural habits, which, if obsessed over, can lead to psychological issues.
You don't need to calorie restrict or do ridiculous diets like Keto.
Just train hard and regularly and eat a whole foods, plant-based diet.
I lift moderately heavy weights, but don't aim to lift the heaviest I can. I do a lot of body weight exercises: pull ups, press ups, non-weighted squats, sit ups.
And I run long distance 5-10k at a time, 3x a week.
A Natural Approach to Diet & Fitness
As I mentioned above, you'll never catch me weighing out food or counting calories. I don't have the time for that.
After 30 years of playing football, running, lifting weights, doing body-weight exercises, Wing Chun (it's a martial art) and various other sports, I instinctively know what nutrition my body needs and when.
If I'm training more my body will want to eat more. So I eat more of the same good foods.
If I'm training less, then I'll naturally eat less. And if I don't because I'm being greedy over Christmas, then I know I'll need to put in more runs when I get back to routine.
I don't take steroids. What's the point? It isn't healthy.
I don't take creatine. I did in my late teens for around a year, because everyone else was. It made me feel nauseous and I got cramps. Silly. Live and learn.
I eat nutrient-dense foods to ensure my body is a disease-fighting environment. That means foods loaded with phytonutrients.
I don't obsess over protein, though I'll throw in a shake here and there. I use Nuzest.
I take a natural approach to fitness, in that I feel my way through it.
I listen to my body and Mother Nature. I'll push myself but not overtrain. Recovery is key, or injury is certain.
That said, if you are a vegan athlete with very specific fitness goals such as being a certain size or weight, then you need to consult a personal trainer or nutritionist to help you identify the plant-based foods that will best help you achieve that.
Personally, I'm happy to just let my body be the best it can be with good fuel.
I can't guarantee that eating like me will turn you into the incredible hulk, or make you win that match or race.
But with the right training, you can have a physique like the one in he photo. Probably better, since I'm 40 years old.
At the very least, I can give you an insight into healthy plant-based eating that will put you on the right road to becoming a better athlete.
My Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Plan
What you will notice about my diet is the balance of beans, berries, cruciferous vegetables, greens, whole grains and nuts and seeds.
There are thousands of plant-based recipes you can refer to, but I keep my meals pretty simple because I don't have a great deal of time for preparation.
However, as long as you incorporate these food staples into your diet, you can experiment with combinations and variations until your palette is content.
So let's start with a typical day.
Breakfast – 7.30 AM:
- Porridge or oatmeal, with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seed, brazil nuts, apricots, and a banana (or two).
- Cup of berries. Usually blueberries.
- Half a liter of water.
Option 2 (in a hurry):
- Green smoothie: Organic kale, spinach (try red sometimes too), berries (acai, blueberries, strawberries, whatever you have), banana, 2 tablespoons of flax seeds, ground brazil nuts.
- You can add plant-based milk too if you like. I really do experiment with whatever I have in the bowl/fridge.
- Double helpings of nut butter on a wholewheat toast sandwich (fresh from the baker), stacked with banana, flax seeds and raisins.
Note: Whatever breakfast option I eat, I always take my GHC B12 supplement afterwards to boost my reserves and keep my energy levels and health in tip-top shape.
Post Exercise – 10.30 AM:
- If I have a protein shake it is post workout. I will add fruit, and if I haven't had it for breakfast, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed.
Note: You don't need to worry about plant based protein like you do animal protein.
Plant-based protein does not cause the same load on the liver, nor does it cause inflammation in the body.
You don't need to go crazy on shakes though; your body can only use so much protein and it will get rid of amino acids it doesn't need.
To buy awesome organic, high quality plant-based protein choose Nuzest (see link below).
It's dairy free, gluten-free, GMO free, even soy free.
There's no maltodextrin or other artificial sweeteners, no E numbers, additives or preservatives, and no flavors or colors.
Plus it contains all nine essential amino acids.
- Homemade shake: Cashew nut milk blended with a scoop of flax seed and banana, mango, watermelon, berries, or whatever fruit you like.
Note: Why not stick to whole foods. If it is protein you want then eat a cup of mixed nuts and high protein berries like Goji.
Lunch – 12.30 PM:
- Raw green beans and spirulina noodles mixed with olives in a tomato pasta sauce.
- Lentils with brown rice and lemongrass sauce. On the side: raw organic baby tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks, with a humous dip.
Bagel or wholewheat roll with sweet chilli humous, spinach, avocado, cucumber, and lettuce.
Baked beans and jacket potato.
- Coconut water. Great for rehydrating.
- Pack of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, mixed nuts and raisins, or goji berries – depending on what I've had earlier in the day.
- Pasta, brown rice, or sweet potatoes with lentils or kidney beans, mushrooms (Cremini, Shiitake or Porcini) and spinach.
- On the side: a big salad, usually containing my go-to-green: Tuscan (Italian) Kale. I call it the flu vaccine – it's that powerful. Throw in some sliced carrot, onion, bell peppers, cress and anything else lurking in the vegetable tray and you're good to go.
Note: I generally use garlic, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of turmeric to flavour my food. I also use balsamic vinegar on my salads. I rarely use oil; it's empty calories and no good for your arteries.
Tip: If you're struggling with belly fat, cut out oil immediately. You'll notice weight loss within 3 weeks.
- Boiled broccoli or Brussels sprouts, pumpkin or butternut squash, with potatoes (homegrown when in season). I'll have organic beetroot as a side, again, if in season. As with option 1, The carbs will usually be pasta, potato, or brown rice. I grow herbs too, so I add things like parsley, thyme and oregano to pastas and sauces.
Grilled tofu slices with green lentil pasta and a vegan pesto sauce. You can add any of the veggies above to build out your plate.
Note: I pretty much always add some form of beans or lentils to my dinners. Mushrooms are an essential staple too.
For vegetable ideas, download the Dirty Dozen app here.
Pre-Bedtime Snack (if hungry):
If you get hungry before bed it is probably a sign that you didn't have a big enough dinner. However, if you are too hungry to sleep then try the following:
- Weetabix or Fruit and Fibre cereal with a plant milk like soy, hemp, cashew, or hazelnut milk.
- A piece of fruit. Apples are good for staving off hunger without putting a heavy load on your digestive system before bed. A banana before bed also works well for me (no pun intended).
The Importance of Carbs
Most people following vegan bodybuilding diet plans think carbs are the enemy.
But carbs contribute towards the maintenance of muscle (1).
They double or triple protein intake and lower carbs to a minimum.
The result is poor sleep, fatigue, brain fog and an overworked liver.
Your body is a carbohydrate burning machine. It loves carbs.
You are designed to eat carbs and lots of them, just not the processed, factory-made types that are engineered to trick your carb receptors into thinking its real food (2).
Carbohydrate is sugar. Your body is fueled by it. Your brain weighs 2-3 lbs and runs exclusively on the stuff.
Keep up your whole foods carb intake. You can't train and work without it.
People think carbs will make them fat. This is a myth.
It takes a lot of energy for the body to store carbohydrate as fat; it's simply not its preference to do that.
Since you're very active with your training, carbs will not be an issue.
If you're hungry, carb up!
And watch the video below.
Training: Sustainable, Lean Muscle
A strong natural physique of sustainable lean muscle is developed through a variety of training disciplines, not just lifting heavy sets of 3 on 3 body parts each time you hit the gym.
A large number of people you see training like this in their younger years end up heavy-set with a lack of functionality.
Mix up your training and respond to what your body needs and what makes you feel excited and happy.
Don't get bogged down in boring gym routines and following the 3x heavy sets on each body part mantra.
This is your life. Exercise should be fun, not a boring chore.
I've been trapped in that “I've got to train” mentality and it's an empty place with only your ego for a reward. It doesn't make you happy.
Sometimes I want to just run around playing football with friends, and other times I like to do a week of body weight exercises (calisthenics). And if I'm stressed, I'll work off that tension with some hard and fast weights.
I run too. 2-3x during the week and a 5k Parkrun on a Saturday too, for a bit of competitive action. My PB is 21.22 as of April 2020. Not bad for an old boy.
Okay, so you're into vegan bodybuilding, but please don't obsess over your physique and particular body parts either.
I see this from a couple of younger guys on the vegan bodybuilding Facebook book and it's really concerning.
It's an endless, soulless pursuit. A waste of a life.
Look good, feel good, yes. But know when it is enough and don't let it define you.
Simply learn about your body and be realistic.
For example: I have always found my back and shoulders put on muscle very easily, as does my chest, so I tend not to over train those parts.
However, no matter how low my body fat, my abs are genetically challenged, so to speak, and never develop much past what you see here. I tend to get a prominent 4-pack at best.
This runs through the men in my family. Get over it. Some people have no legs, one arm, can't walk…the list goes on. How selfish of me to sit around moaning that I can't get my lower abs to pop.
It's all ego BS.
What's more important than how you look is what's going on inside your head.
For many years I trained every day and people thought I was super strong and fit. But I felt fatigued all the time. Adrenaline was getting me through workouts and football matches.
My recovery was poor and my sleep was terrible. I got injured as a result.
You see, a person can be shredded on the outside but very unhealthy due to the amount of processed meat, dairy products and processed and sugary foods they eat.
Cancer and liver and kidney issues take years to develop, but in many cases are wholly preventable.
Focus on what you put in your mouth. Sleep well. Train regularly.
Beyond Training (Knowledge is Power)
I have never considered myself a bodybuilder because I don't train for size, and I don't solely lift weights.
I do enjoy weight training but I find it gets boring and I can't be doing with tracking macros (macronutrients) and rest times between sets, etc.
It's my personal opinion that people over-focus on these things instead of learning about the more important topic of nutrition, beyond the “eat protein: steaks, eggs, chicken” mantra.
If you want to improve, start learning how the human body really works in terms of nutrient absorption and digestion, and how different foods affect the body.
And be careful with scientific studies.
Not all studies are reliable information because they may be outdated, flawed by design, bias / backed by corporate interest.
You want research that is independent, carried out with a large number of subjects and over a substantial time period.
The best studies are where there is a control group, and usually blind, where information which may influence the participants of the experiment is withheld until after the experiment is complete.
Don't just rely on one study either. Look at meta analyses, which is a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple studies.
Keep learning about plant foods and you will arm yourself with the knowledge to become not just lean and muscular but super healthy inside.
If you can't be doing with that, then just eat whole foods plant-based and maximize your micronutrient and macronutrient intake. Naturally, you'll stay lean and disease and infection free.
My advice is to focus on the inside, and then the outside will naturally take care of itself.
And stay away from performance enhancing drugs!
Got a question about vegan bodybuilding or fitness in general? Leave it in the comments section below.