Body builders who eat a vegetarian diet benefit from low calorie and low fat sources of protein. Developing muscle mass as a vegetarian will require more planning for your diet and exercise routine, but it will be worth it. You may find bulking up to be just as easy as if you were eating meat.
Planning Your Diet
Your body building success will hinder on the quality as well as the quantity of food consumed. Healthy vegetarians in general should stray away from processed foods, but this is even more important for body builders. Your body will need to rebuild itself after difficult workouts, so it is essential to fuel yourself well with many fresh fruits, vegetables, and of course, proteins.
Soy products such as tofu and tempeh are complete proteins that include all of the essential amino acids needed for rebuilding muscle. When comparing tofu to ground beef: 100 calories of tofu yields 11 grams of protein and only five grams of fat per serving size, while 100 calories of ground beef yields nine grams of protein and 15 grams of fat per serving. Because soy and most other vegetarian sources of protein are low fat and low calorie, it is important to consume enough calories to complete intense workouts without losses. If high protein foods are the focus of your diet, your body may burn off protein during workouts once the few calories are depleted. This may leave little left to rebuild muscle mass which may result in muscle loss. To eliminate this problem, eat lots of calorie and carbohydrate packed whole grains and pastas with hearty vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and corn.
There are many other sources of protein for vegetarians besides soy products, but none of them are complete proteins like tofu. There is an easy solution to this problem –make meals mixing grains (rice, pastas, cereal) and legumes (beans and nuts). Alone, these two food groups are incomplete proteins, but they compliment one another. Therefore, it is quite easy to supply your body with all of the essential amino acids needed to rebuild muscle. Many cultures are built on this combination of foods; try stir-fries with whole grain rice and beans for a meal and a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a snack.
Great sources of protein can also be found in milk, cheese, and eggs. The meatless bodybuilder should not forget about their dairy options. While these foods are good sources of protein, they contain much more fat and cholesterol than vegetable proteins, but this may be advantageous by giving your body more fuel to burn on workout days. Dairy products are also one of your only options for a meatless source of vitamin b12 (whey protein may also contain vitamin b12 depending on the brand.) Vitamin b12 helps rebuild red blood cells and can lead to tingling sensations, numbness, and feelings of weakness if not regularly consumed. It is important to eat a variety of foods in any diet to be sure you are receiving all necessary vitamins.
To prevent muscle loss from your meatless diet, it may be a good idea to eat additional meals, or to eat more often. Carrying high-powered snacks to eat before and after workouts, or whenever is also a good idea. Any kind of nut is excellent nutritionally and they’re convenient to carry, as is dried fruit. Peanut butter is also a convenient snack to spread due to its high protein and fat, making it a good addition to your diet on workout days.
Planning Your Workouts
Since you will be working harder to raise your calorie intake, it may be wise to make your workouts short in duration, but high in intensity. Limiting work outs to a hard worked half hour can help prevent burning up all of your calories otherwise lost in an endurance based exercise routine. Because you will be exerting your body at a high level, it is of the upmost importance to warm up and cool down sufficiently to prevent injury. If you feel as though a half hour isn’t enough time in the gym, try doing two short and intense workouts in one day. If you decide to go this route, eating an extra meal and warming up and cooling down are even more important for making gains in muscle mass while avoiding losses in health. The only other rule with two a days is to separate workouts by at least six hours to allow your body to fully recover from the first work out.
In short, to be a successful body builder with a meatless diet, all you need to do is eat more and spend less time in the gym. Realistically, with a vegetarian diet, the quality of your workouts, and the quality of your food choices will determine the quality of your muscle gain.
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