Back in 2019, I was a vegetarian and still building muscle. I had dinner with friends, and one person commented, “It’s good you still have eggs and milk ’cause you wouldn’t be able to do that on the vegan diet.”
I then spent the next 3 hours explaining human physiology, and biochemistry, and why he should probably call his mum and ask to go back to school.
Vegans can be ripped — here’s how.
So What Is a Vegan Diet?
I wish this was an excerpt from a fiction novel in the 90s, and although it’s slightly exaggerated, it does still happen in some places today. With a basic understanding of biochemistry and nutrition, it’s easy to understand that you can indeed get ripped on a vegan diet.
First, let’s take a look at what a vegan diet is.
A vegan diet involves abstaining from any food derived from animal sources, whether it be from the animal itself or a byproduct of that animal — no meat (yes, fish is meat), no dairy, and no eggs.
For all intents and purposes, in this article, a vegan diet means a plant-based diet, although we do acknowledge that they’re based on different reasoning involving ethics and health.
Abstaining from animal products in your diet doesn’t mean that you can’t be healthy. Unfortunately, there’s a stereotype surrounding vegans having deficiencies and being malnourished. However, this could be the case for anyone who doesn’t eat a properly balanced diet.
This is a diet that is nutrient-dense, full of essential amino acids, fiber, micronutrients, and — of course — macronutrients: enough protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs.
All of these things are included in a well-thought-out vegan diet. This means that it’s indeed possible to be extremely healthy as a vegan. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be people, including top-tier athletes, eating a plant-based diet.
Knowing the right way to do it is the key.
More About Calories & Macros
In any diet, macros are important.
Protein helps our body build cells, recover, and build muscle. Carbohydrates and fats give our body and brain energy.
Yet, it’s important to know just how much we need as individuals. Of course, how much you need will vary from person to person and their goals.
Macros and everything you consume are made up of calories. A calorie is a unit of energy used to express the nutritional value of foods. You’re expending calories all throughout the day and all throughout the night.
A calorie deficit is consuming fewer calories than you expend during any given day, and a calorie surplus is consuming more calories than you expend during any given day.
If your goal is to get ripped and gain muscle, then you don’t have to eat meat in order to do so.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
People who can benefit from a vegan diet are those who have certain intolerances. For example, dairy can cause gastrointestinal issues in a lot of people, and eggs and certain meats can be considered allergens.
Plant-based diets have shown many benefits, which include lower blood pressure, lower risks of cardiovascular disease, and a variety of chronic conditions.
- If you’d like to lose weight, then you need to be training hard in a calorie deficit with a high intake of protein.
- If you’d like to gain weight, you need to be training hard in a calorie surplus with a high intake of protein.
- If you’d like to remain the same weight, you need to be training hard at a calorie maintenance level and eating a high intake of protein.
If the word protein hasn’t been drilled into your head just yet, it’s about to be.
Our body composition goals and our overall health are dependent on our calorie intake and our macro and micronutrient intake.
If you’d like to find out just how many calories you should be eating, regardless of whether you eat closer to a lion or a gorilla, then click here: calorie calculator.
Step 1 – Protein (Say It Like You Mean It!)
If anyone ever tells you protein isn’t that important, go home, watch 10,000 hours of Bruce Lee videos, come back, and Roundhouse kicks them in the head (discretion advised).
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 protein recipes once, but I fear the man who has practiced one protein recipe 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee (Not really, but something like that)
Okay, okay… don’t do that.
But at least educate them on the fact that protein is essential, especially if you’re looking to get shredded, as protein is the building block of muscle. A common misconception is that protein only comes from animal protein. This is not true.
Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids, 9 of these being essential amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds that are contained in both plants and meat. They’re what make proteins.
Every single cell in the human body contains protein. We need protein in order for our cells to heal and repair themselves and make new cells. This means that proteins are the literal building block of life.
So yeah, they’re a bigger deal than Tom Cruise at a Scientology meeting.
How Much Protein Should a Vegan Eat?
Complete proteins are those that contain all nine essential amino acids. These include foods like animal protein, eggs, and dairy, as well as plant-based options like soy, hemp, quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds, tempeh, and amaranth.
Granted, animal proteins contain higher amounts of specific amino acids. However, this doesn’t mean that plant proteins don’t build muscle.
General guidelines for protein intake are the same for all people and are as follows:
- Want to lose weight? 1.2 grams per pound of body weight / per day
- Want to gain weight? 1 gram per pound of body weight / per day
If you’d like to calculate exactly how much protein you should be consuming — according to the American Diet Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization — then try this protein calculator.
Keep in mind that most athletes eat well above this.
Vegan sources of protein include soy products, kidney beans, nuts, nut butter, garbanzo beans, lentils, and other legumes. The highest sources of vegan protein are tofu, tempeh, seitan, and edamame. Lentils and chickpeas are also high in protein, even though they’re considered more of a carbohydrate.
And remember folks: most protein bars have about as much protein in them as my Gran’s left calf, and that bad boy is completely atrophied.
If you’re going to be eating protein products along with your protein foods, then make sure you read the number of grams of protein in each product so that you can adjust your intake accordingly.
If you struggle with getting in your recommended protein intake every day, then why not try a vegan protein powder? Bonus: they’re often easier on the stomach due to the fact that they don’t contain dairy.
Step 2 – Supplementation
No, not super supplements. Not even creatine, the one your mom thinks is a steroid.
We’re talking about the vitamins and minerals you may not be getting in your diet.
Vitamin B12 is something that’s only found in animal foods, and, therefore, on a vegan diet, it should be supplemented accordingly, which is 2,000 mcg per week. This can be done through a supplement or fortified foods like soy milk, vegan protein powders, and nutritional yeast.
Calcium — which can be found in tofu, almonds, spinach, chia seeds, and soy milk — is also lower in vegan diets. So an effort should also be made to supplement in the same way as with the B12. The recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 mg.
Even meat eaters need to supplement. No one is immune to supplementation. Meat-based diets often fall short on vitamins D and E, magnesium, folate, PUFA, and fiber, but if you eat a varied diet, you should be good.
The fact of the matter is this: nutrient deficiencies can be found in any diet if it isn’t done correctly. It’s always wise to see your GP or dietician to get your blood work done at least twice a year. If recommendations need to be made, they should be the ones to help you.
Additionally, mixing plant proteins is advisable, considering most of them aren’t complete proteins.
It’s as simple as mixing pea protein and hemp protein together (soy is a complete protein). This way, you’re consuming the nine essential amino acids that your body can’t produce for muscle protein synthesis.
Step 3 – Know The Meaning of Healthy
So you only eat vegan foods, and you’re consistently hitting your protein target, yet you aren’t feeling like your best self. What could it be?
Vegan diets or plant-based diets don’t automatically equal healthy, just as a predominantly meat diet or omnivore diet does not automatically mean healthy. These are blanket statements.
Make sure you’re finding plant-based foods filled with key nutrients, as mentioned above. Stick to eating whole foods, leafy greens, and high-fiber vegetables.
Just because it says vegan on the box, that doesn’t mean it isn’t unhealthy.
The market has been saturated with the growing demand for vegan products in many places, and this means highly processed foods and more vegan fast food options.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t occasionally treat yourself. However, fast food has been linked to negative health outcomes, whether it’s vegan or not. So overconsuming it isn’t a good idea, whereas whole plant-based foods and soluble fiber have been linked to positive health outcomes.
Get Ripped on a Vegan Diet Conclusion
Being ripped and leading a vegan lifestyle isn’t far-fetched at all. Here are the takeaways:
- Train like a beast. Like with any diet, in order to increase muscle mass and get ripped, we need to do a form of weight training with progressive overload.
- Eat your vegan heart out. Protein is important, so make sure you’re eating enough.
- Nutrients and supplements. Adjust your diet according to your specific needs, as any diet can create deficiencies if it isn’t done right.
Remember, there are specific requirements for a diet to be healthy. You cannot rely on juice cleanses and cabbage only.
In other words, don’t fit into the vegan stereotype of eating like a goat. Rather be the G.O.A.T by doing your research, eating both the tasty foods and the healthy foods, adding some more weight onto the bar, and getting ripped.
Basically, if you want to get ripped on a vegan diet, you’ll need:
- … and to know the meaning of healthy