You Don’t Have to Eat Beef to be a Total Beefcake! Everything You Should Know About Bodybuilding on a Vegetarian Diet.

Jon Venus, Nimai Delgado, Torre Washington, and Patrik Baboumian are famous bodybuilders who all have one major thing in common – they are vegan!

Yes, one of the biggest misconceptions about bodybuilding – that you must consume large quantities of red meat, poultry, and fish to build muscle quickly – is entirely false!

In truth, many cruelty-free, plant-based proteins can help you get beefed up (without you eating any beef).

Vegetarianism and its slightly more restrictive sister diet, veganism, is steadily gaining popularity worldwide. However, many misconceptions about these diets remain, which often stop people from adopting these much healthier diet alternatives.

One such group of people who have been heavily deterred from a plant-based diet are gym bodies looking to pack on the muscles. However, as we will see in this article, you can reach any of your bodybuilding goals by incorporating the right plant-based foods into your daily diet.

To further explore this topic, in today’s article, we will look at some examples of a vegetarian bodybuilder’s meal plan; we will provide some tips for newbie vegetarian bodybuilders and will debunk some popular vegetarian bodybuilding myths. Join us as we look at what it means to do bodybuilding as a vegetarian.

Separating Fact from Fiction: Common Myths of vegetarian bodybuilding

Myth #1: You will not get enough protein to build muscles if you do not eat meat!

Truth: You can get plenty of protein by following the ovo-vegetarian diet. Following a strictly vegetable-based diet and incorporating eggs into your meals, you can get all the protein you need to build muscle.

Moreso, even if you are completely vegan, there are other sources of plant protein you can include in your diet when bodybuilding as a vegetarian. Some proteins are beans, chickpeas, broccoli, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, and tempeh.

Myth #2: You can grow much bigger muscles much faster on a meat-inclusive diet versus as a vegetarian.

Truth: This myth is also completely false! Don’t believe me? Well, you can take science’s word for it instead.

No medical or scientific research shows that muscles built by bodybuilders on a vegetarian diet differ in definition, proportion, or even symmetry compared to those made by a meat-eating bodybuilder. Patrik Boboumian is Germany’s most muscular man and fully vegan!

Myth #3: A vegetarian diet can lead to a lack of nutrients, so you will not have enough energy to train properly.

Truth: While it is true that a restricted diet that does not include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will lead to a lack of nutrients, this is not unique to the vegetarian diet.

All diets should encompass a wide variety of foods to ensure that you can sustain your energy. Besides, there are more than enough vitamin-packed foods and vitamin supplements readily available to provide this will not be a problem!

Monitoring your food intake and taking B12 supplements are easy steps any vegetarian bodybuilder can take to keep up their energy levels so they can easily compete with their meat-eating competitors.

Let us look at some more accessible ways to succeed in bodybuilding as a vegetarian.

Tips to Ensure Success as a Vegetarian Bodybuilder: 

Eat enough!

One of the most straightforward tips for any bodybuilder, especially a vegetarian bodybuilder, is to eat enough food. Not consuming enough calories will force your body to use any protein as fuel and not allow you to store any away for the #gains. If your goal is to build muscle and not lose weight, eat enough calories daily!

Consider opting for the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

Considering your reasons for choosing vegetarianism, consider incorporating dairy and eggs into your plant-based diet. This will help increase your protein intake because, as we know, protein is essential for building muscle which is an important goal for any bodybuilder.

Variety is important.

While only eating 12 eggs a day will provide you with plenty of protein, your body will seriously be lacking in essential micronutrients and vitamins that make healthy functioning and muscle-building possible. Consuming various fruits and vegetables will ensure you have all the necessary tools to get beefy (without any beef).

Make sure you are getting enough iron.

One essential nutrient in which vegetarians have a high risk of being deficient in iron because they do not consume red meat. This essential vitamin is necessary for red blood cell development and how much energy you have to bring to the gym. Not having enough iron can mean you get fatigued much more quickly and run out of steam much faster, so consider taking iron supplements daily.

Make sure you are getting enough calcium.

Vegetarians (especially those who do not consume eggs or dairy) must ensure they get enough calcium through plant-based sources. Calcium plays a huge role in athletic performance and is needed to maintain healthy nerve and muscle functioning and ensure healthy bone tissue. Therefore, consider adding plenty of broccoli and spinach to your diet when bodybuilding as a vegetarian. 

Eggs are not the only protein available for vegetarians.

While it is true that eggs are protein-rich food, do not underestimate the power of legumes and chickpeas! These foods act as excellent sources of protein while being low-fat carbohydrates, making for a great post-workout snack.

Use protein powder to boost protein intake.

It is a brilliant idea to use plant-based protein powders to help increase your protein consumption. They also are incredibly convenient, quick, and easy to put together before or after a workout. These powders are a must for any serious bodybuilder!

Make healthy food choices

Being vegetarian does not mean being healthy. Remain health conscious and make good food choices.

Being a vegetarian does not automatically mean being healthy. It is still necessary to monitor your calories, avoid processed foods, eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, and work in the gym to ensure that you see the results you want.

Eat more frequently.

To maintain a steady stream of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, you should frequently eat throughout the day. You should also include protein in every meal if possible.

Do short and intense workouts

Prevent the loss of muscle mass by doing an intense, short workout.

The goal of any bodybuilder is to pack on muscles, and while longer workouts seem like the best way to build more muscle, this can have the opposite effect as a vegetarian.

To avoid your body using your protein to fuel your workouts instead of your muscles, make your workouts short but very high intensity. This will lessen your body’s high protein demands while elevating the impact of your workouts.

Ensure your calories

The first thing you must consider as a vegetarian bodybuilder, and one of the most important things you’ll ever do, is to ensure you are getting sufficient calories. This is something that I’ve seen many people struggle with, and it’s straightforward to fall into a calorie deficit, especially when you’re just starting.

If you eat too few calories, your body will start burning muscle tissue to generate energy, leading to weight loss and, even worse, muscle wasting. So, the first step towards building up some serious size is ensuring that you eat enough food daily.

Legumes and Chickpeas are your friends

Chickpeas and legumes are rich in fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and folate. They’re also high in dietary fiber, making them a perfect food choice for those trying to lose weight. They’re also packed with protein, which helps you gain lean mass while building strength.

The best part about legumes and chickpeas is that they don’t contain much fat. Some varieties even boast a lower amount of fat than meat. This makes them an excellent option for anyone looking to cut down on calories.

Fuel yourself with nuts

Nuts are one of those foods that everyone knows about, but few vegetarian bodybuilders eat. They’re high in calories, packed full of protein, and contain essential fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6. But did you know that nuts are also excellent fuel?

A handful of nuts provides enough energy to keep you going for up to three hours. This makes them perfect for athletes looking to push themselves harder during exercise. If you don’t have access to nuts, try adding some peanut butter or almond butter to your smoothie.

You can’t go wrong with broccoli and spinach

Broccoli and spinach are two very healthy foods that you might not know much about. They’re both excellent sources of fiber and vitamin K and are both low in calories.

But one big reason you should add them into your diet: they’re packed with calcium and iron. Calcium helps build strong bones, and it’s crucial during childhood. If you don’t eat enough of it, you could put yourself at risk for developing osteoporosis later in life.

And we all know vegetarians risk developing iron deficiencies because the iron from plant sources has lower bioavailability. Usually, iron daily intake is doubled if you solely rely on vegetarian sources of iron.

Use tempeh for more protein

If you’re looking for a meat substitute for building no-meat muscle, look no further than tempeh. This fermented soy product contains nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Plus, it tastes great and doesn’t require much preparation. Just slice it up, marinate it in sauce, and grill it. You’ll never want to go back to bland old tofu again.

Vegetarians need to watch out for nutritional deficiencies

If you’re a vegetarian, chances are good that you’ve heard about how important it is to eat enough protein. You might have heard that overeating protein could cause kidney damage.

Many people don’t know that there are plenty of other nutrients that we often overlook — ones that aren’t nearly as sexy but that play just as significant a role in our overall health and wellness.

The good news is that most of us tend to meet the recommended daily allowance for each one of those nutrients. However, some specific nutrient deficiencies are far more common among vegetarians than others.

And while they won’t necessarily lead to immediate death, they can still wreak havoc on your body over the long term. So what are the four main threats to watch out for? Let’s look at each of them and see why they’re essential.

Iron deficiency

Iron can be divided into two forms, heme, and nonheme iron. Heme iron is commonly referred to as “red blood cells” because it is found in the hemoglobin protein within our red blood cells. This form of iron is absorbed quickly by the human body, so vegetarians often lack sufficient amounts of this type of iron.

However, nonheme iron is found throughout the plant kingdom and is present in some vegetables such as beans, lentils, dried peas, dark green leafy vegetables, and nuts. Unlike heme iron, nonheme iron does not absorb well into the bloodstream and must be converted into heme iron before being used by the body.

It is recommended that iron intake on a vegetarian diet should be increased by 80 percent to make it possible to reach the advised daily intake of 14mg for females. 

Calcium deficiency

Calcium is essential for bone health. A lack of calcium can make you feel weak and tired. You might even experience muscle cramps while exercising. If you don’t eat enough food rich in calcium, your body won’t absorb it properly. This can cause low calcium levels in your blood, weakening your bones over time.

You can quickly get enough calcium in your diet without consuming milk products. Vegetables like spinach contain calcium, nuts, seeds, and tofu. You can also try adding calcium-fortified soy milk or almond milk to meals.

Zinc deficiency

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that promotes healthy growth and development throughout the body. Deficiencies can affect every aspect of health, from appetite to cognitive ability and even testosterone levels in males.

While most people know the importance of calcium, iron, and vitamin D, they often overlook zinc. But just because you don’t see it listed among the “Big 3” doesn’t mean you’re immune to zinc deficiency. Vegetarians tend to fall short on this vital nutrient since plant foods aren’t high in zinc.

However, the IOM has suggested that vegetarians might need to consume up to 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians owing to its poor bioavailability.


The best zinc sources are meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, beans, nuts, and grains. However, there are specific vegetarian options that contain zinc naturally. For example, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, blackstrap molasses, whole wheat bread, soybeans, tofu, mushrooms, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of zinc.

Vitamin B12 

Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common nutritional disorders in the world today. This nutrient is critical to our health because it helps us grow red blood cells, build DNA, produce energy, metabolize carbohydrates, support nerve function, and maintain proper immune system function.

In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, about 30 million Americans suffer from inadequate levels of vitamin B12. A study in the UK found vitamin B12 deficiency in 50 percent of vegans. If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to irreversible damage to the nervous system, including permanent vision loss and dementia.

So why do so many people struggle with this problem? For starters, plant-based diets tend to lack sufficient quantities of vitamin B12. However, even among those vegetarian bodybuilders who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, certain types of vegetarianism—and veganism—can cause problems.

Vegetarians who consume dairy products, eggs, fish, and shellfish are less susceptible to B12 deficiency. 

What Should a Vegetarian Bodybuilder’s Meal Plan Look Like?

Jon Venus, the “Hottest Vegan in the World,” is a vegan bodybuilder who recently gave an interview describing a 7-day meal plan for a vegan bodybuilder. To start, Venus recommends consuming a diet of 1,200 calories every day. Venus reminds us to remember that you (almost obviously) should be combining any meal plan with a daily workout.

A typical day of meals would likely include, for example:

Breakfast of oatmeal with fruit and some nuts, followed by a snack of fruit or vegetables, then a lunch of salad with plenty of vegetables, nuts, and chickpeas. The diet then calls for an evening snack of Greek yogurt and fruit and, ultimately, a dinner of more vegetables and sources of protein. The full 7-day meal plan can be found at this link.

Accordingly, three meals and a couple of snacks filled with various foods are the best way to ensure success as a bodybuilder.

To Sum It All Up…

It is official; this myth is busted wide open – yes, you can successfully do bodybuilding as a vegetarian!

This article shows that some myths about vegetarianism and bodybuilding are entirely false. You can build muscle, keep up with your competitors and maintain a balanced diet as a vegetarian bodybuilder.

The key is to ensure that you closely monitor your diet, get enough iron and calcium, and eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables daily.

Adopting the lacto-ova vegetarian diet is the easiest way to keep up with the high-protein demands you face as a bodybuilder. Still, even vegan bodybuilders can maintain their muscles with purely plant-based foods. The key is to eat the right foods! For more information, check out Jon Venus’ 7-day diet plan.


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