Practical Guidelines for Vegetarian Bodybuilders

It does not matter how and why a person becomes a vegetarian – the reasons can be very different. From taking care of your health to religious motives. But now you are fond of bodybuilding, and the question arises before you: remain a vegetarian and have difficulty gaining muscle mass, or change yourself and start eating meat? This article is intended to help all those who are not ready to renounce their ideals overnight in building a perfect body without the use of meat food.

Vegetarianism, as you know, has 5 main moral stages. We list these “steps of the ladder of perfection”: the rejection of the “bloody” red meat of warm-blooded animals, the exclusion of bird meat from food, the rejection of fish and seafood, the exclusion of bird eggs from food, the rejection of dairy products, that is, eating exclusively food of plant origin (strict vegetarianism – “veganism”).

All of the above levels of self-restraint are not an obstacle to building muscle mass at the desired level. The evidence is simple and convincing: the whole vast set of macro- and microelements necessary for our body to grow muscle mass can be included in the “strict vegetarian” menu in sufficient quantities.

Below are macronutrient dosages for vegetarian bodybuilders looking to build muscle, as well as recommendations for combining them.


For maximum growth of muscle mass, a person should eat proteins in an amount of 1,5 and sometimes even up to 5 g per 1 kg of his own “dry” body weight. Usually this is about 200-300 grams of protein daily. This protein must be complete – its molecular structure must include all 8 essential amino acids: valine, leucine, isoleucine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, lysine.

The problem of “strict” vegetarian bodybuilders is the inferiority of vegetable proteins. Indeed, foods such as nuts, peas, beans, beans, grains, vegetables, can contain up to 35% protein, but the structure of the protein molecule will not include all the essential amino acids.

The secret of strict vegetarians – “vegans” – is the principle of complementarity (mutual complementarity) of vegetable proteins. This principle involves taking two or three different types of plant foods, each of which partially contains essential amino acids.

Amino acids that are lacking in one plant protein source can be obtained from another. For example, a breakfast of lentil soup and wholemeal bread contains complementary amino acids to form a complete protein. Other examples are rice and beans, corn porridge or cornbread and bean stew.

By eating a dish made from properly selected plant ingredients, the athlete will receive a complete protein, and he will not need any animal products to form protein. However, such food is rich in carbohydrates, which is good for gaining muscle mass, but is a negative factor during the period of work on the relief.

Fortunately, the existence of soy products and sports supplements in the form of soy protein can be considered a solution to problems with excess carbohydrates and nutritional complementarity, since Soy protein is absolutely complete and contains all the essential amino acids. The absence or deficiency of essential amino acids leads to stunting, weight loss, metabolic disorders, and in acute deficiency – to the death of the body. And if your muscles grow, then there is no question of any inferiority of the plant-based diet.

If you are not a “vegan”, you can supplement your menu with high quality “non-meat” animal proteins.

Low fat dairy products for lacto vegetarians

Low-fat cottage cheese is a great product for building muscle mass. A favorite dish of vegetarian bodybuilders, many of them consume from 500 grams to 1 kg daily! I myself have been leading this practice for 10 years now, and I treat cottage cheese like bread. 100 grams of quality dry cottage cheese contains about 18 g of complete protein, 0 to 5 g of saturated fat, and no more than 2 g of carbohydrates.

Skimmed milk – Have you ever heard the story of how Sergio Oliva prepared for the Mr. Olympia contest, while working hard at a construction site and eating almost exclusively bread and milk? 100 grams of non-fat milk contains 0 to 1 g of fat, 3,5 g of protein and 3,5 g of milk sugar. You can also use any other low fat dairy products.


The traditional “builder” diet for gaining muscle mass assumes that 20% of the total caloric intake will consist of fat. In terms of biochemical composition, fats can be divided into three types: saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated.

Bodybuilders are advised to reduce the percentage of saturated fat in the diet as much as possible, relying on unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats., because it allows you to effectively solve problems with high cholesterol and excess subcutaneous fat.

A vegetarian can easily provide their body with the necessary amount of unsaturated fat by including avocados, peanuts and cashew nuts, olives and olive oil in the diet. Foods such as almonds, walnuts, sunflower, corn and soybean oils are excellent sources of polyunsaturated fats.


If an extra portion of protein will only benefit you, then an excess of carbohydrates will not be slow to transform into disgusting fat, which will reliably mask the abdominal cubes. It is well known that the best sources of sugars in the diet of bodybuilders are plant products that have a low glycemic index and are rich in fiber. First of all, these are products such as rice, buckwheat, potatoes, pasta made from dark flour and wholemeal bread.

I do not recommend eating large amounts of sweet fruits rich in fructose and eating sweet foods in general., justifying himself with the phrase “I’m now in a period of work on the mass, and I can afford to eat anything.” You will never be able to build powerful, quality muscle mass if you do not tightly control the amount and quality of carbohydrates in your diet. Usually, for muscle growth, it is enough to take from 2 to 4 g of sugars per kilogram of body weight daily, dividing this dose into several portions, and eating these portions between 9.00 and 18.00. However, these figures are strictly individual and should be calculated based on personal data.

If you don’t want to swim in useless fat, start counting and controlling your daily carb intake. Determine for yourself the exact daily dosage of sugars. Once or twice a week, in the morning, measure your waist circumference as you inhale and exhale, as well as the volume of your arms, legs, and chest. Keep a diary of your strength training data, anthropometric data, and carbohydrate intake. Draw the right conclusions from the data. If there is no increase in strength and muscle volume, slightly increase the daily amount of carbohydrates.

If the addition of sugars does not increase the results, but only increases the amount of belly fat, calmly cut back on carbohydrates and start looking for your mistakes. Try increasing the amount of protein or healthy fats in your diet. Rethink your training system. Eliminate the possibility of overtraining, focus on basic exercises while reducing the duration of the training and reducing the frequency of training.


This element is not able to significantly affect the growth rate of the bodybuilder’s muscle mass, since it is not a macronutrient, that is, the main component of nutrition, such as proteins or carbohydrates. Why is there such a fuss around this, in fact, quite an ordinary trace element, when it comes to vegetarianism? Is it really impossible to have a normal level of iron-hemoglobin without meat, bear and give birth to a normal child, raise children or build up powerful muscles? Practice proves the opposite, and we will dwell a little on theory.

Iron is a component of hemoglobin, which delivers oxygen to every part of the human body. Recommended daily doses of iron are around 20 mg for women and 10 mg for men. There are two types of iron: hematogenous and non-hematogenous. Hematogenous types of iron are found in fish and meat, non-hematogenous – in plant products.

Only 10% of the iron eaten is usually absorbed from food, which speaks, first of all, about the careful attitude of our body to this microelement. The claim “iron supplements are good for your health” is actually one of the most dangerous myths. It is assumed that the cause of this myth is the “iron boom” of television advertising that took place in America 50 years ago. The advertisement sounded like this: “Are you suffering from a lack of iron in the blood?”, which became a universal diagnosis for any manifestations of fatigue in Americans.

At the same time, iron, although useful in small doses, is a real threat to human health at higher doses. Everyone has heard about the benefits of antioxidants to slow down the aging process and reduce the chance of cancer. At the same time, no one suspects that iron is a pro-oxidant and stimulates the production of free radicals. A high ferritin level (iron level) makes a person more susceptible to various diseases, including various types of cancer, such as cancer of the lung, colon, bladder, and esophagus. It also increases the risk of tissue damage in heart attacks and strokes.

Vegetarians are proud to be 70% less likely to get cancer, since they have a slightly reduced ferritin level, however, it is quite sufficient to maintain all physiological functions at a normal level.

Bottom Line: If You Don’t Eat Meat, Eat Other Iron-Rich Foods Periodically (spinach, dried apricots, apricots, raisins), but avoid mindless abuse of artificial iron supplements.

Benefits of Vegetarianism

1. Reduce the risk of coronary artery disease 2. Reduce blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol) 3. Lower blood pressure 4. Reduce the risk of a variety of cancers 5. Reduce the risk of obesity 6. Reduce the risk of non-insulin-dependent diabetes 7. Less disorders of the gastrointestinal tract 8. Reversal of atherosclerosis 9. Reducing the risk of nephrolithiasis


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