I remember going to the gym on my first year of university. The basement (because that is what it was) hidden in a small building at the edge of campus had a narrow set of stairs that would take you to the equipment. Going down would be a workout in itself and what was always so disconcerting was the massive poster of massive Arnold looking down at you with muscles and veins popping out of his tiny tank top. When I think of bodybuilders its that image of a shiny tanned imposing Arnold looking at me that comes to mind. While it may be alarming to see anybody with that much muscle, people should appreciate the work others put into transforming their body so drastically.
Honestly, I do not think bodybuilders get enough credit for the amount of commitment and hard work that goes into their craft. Not only do bodybuilders have to train like crazy but focus on proper nutrition.
The whole point of it is to build up on muscle mass but no fat, and that can be really tough. Not surprisingly, some might think that it could be an even harder time for vegetarian bodybuilders but the good news is that meat is not a necessary ingredient for a big bulk up. Your hard work is. So here is a list of 5 things for vegetarians to consider before starting bodybuilding.
1. TAKE THE BAD STUFF OUT OF YOUR DIET
Clear your cupboards of processed and sugary foods. To build muscle and not fat, you need to eat clean! Since cravings will come, you don’t want a box of oreos haunting you from the cupboards or worse, making you lose self control. Eat foods like fruits,vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains. These foods will not only make you feel great but are perfect for mass snacking!
2. DON’T BE AFRAID OF CARBS
Carbs are one of your main sources of energy when building muscle mass and its the key ingredient for any workout. So my advice to you is, carb up! You can find more protein in some carbs that others but you shouldn’t worry too much about what carbs you are eating unless they are processed. Eating processed carbs are guaranteed way to gain fat.
3. GET FAMILIAR WITH ALTERNATIVE PROTEINS
The average person is supposed to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram in their body daily. Obviously this increases when you want to get bigger. Protein is responsible for helping build and repair muscles. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of weight is necessary for weight gain (consuming more than 1.8 grams per kilogram is a moot point). This may mean a daily dedication to sourcing out alternatives to meat and fish but luckily there are so many available. There is tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, quinoa and protein shakes… if you eat eggs and dairy you have even more options! Here is a link to easy sources of vegetarian protein.
4. YOU ARE GOING TO NEED TO EAT MORE, A LOT MORE
Calories are just as important as protein when it comes to bodybuilding. In order to gain weight and keep your energy levels up, you are going to have to increase your calorie intake. Since you are also going to be working out more intensely, you are going to need more energy and therefore calories. According to Shannon Clerk’s article on Bodybuilding.com, to gain muscle mass you just multiply your current weight per pound by 15-17 calories. Up your calorie intake by drinking soy or whey protein drinks with meals and by eating more frequently throughout the day. Trust me, you will want to do this after working out so much.
5. START, PLAN, SET GOALS and LOG YOUR SUCCESS
Since bodybuilding takes dedication, you need to start at some point but do it a good time. Do it when you have time to plan your grocery shopping list and meals and when you have time to commit to working out. Try and set goals to where you want to be by a certain point, this may require research. If you do not reach your goal, do not get too down on yourself because you can learn from your mistakes. Most importantly, track your success and treat yourself. When you track your progress, you see what’s working for you and what’s not. When you reward yourself, you are making the effort to acknowledge what YOU have done for YOURSELF, to me that’s one important aspect for vegetarians and omnivores alike.