Bodybuilding for Vegetarians
There are many reasons for being vegetarian. It may be due to religion, ethical, or general health. There is certainly no shortage of potential health benefits of a well-balanced vegetarian diet. These tend to be high in unsaturated fats, fibre, vitamin C, and low in saturated fats. However, good general health is not the only determinant of a successful bodybuilder or athlete.
Although a good vegetarian can be just as balanced as an omnivorous diet, there are some potential deficiencies that may be present, especially for those who are less informed. Some nutrients to watch out for include iron, zinc, high quality protein, and creatine. In the case of vegans, vitamin B12 and calcium may also be added to the list. For those new to vegetarianism, it is important that they do not simply eliminate meat from their diet without including appropriate replacements. This is a sure fire way to pick up a few deficiencies.
An important thing to remember is that although vegetarian diets can be very healthy, they can also be very unhealthy if done incorrectly. Even though saturated fat from meat can be completely eliminated, there are still plenty of vegetarian-friendly junk foods high in sugar and hydrogenated fats.
Vegetarian Protein Sources
When it comes to proteins, the general rule is that animal foods tend to have higher quality proteins compared to plant foods. However, that does not mean that vegetarians do not have access to their own excellent sources of protein. Ovo-lacto vegetarian friendly animal sources such as eggs and dairy are also excellent sources of protein. Whey protein, derived from milk is actually one of the best sources of protein for both ovo-lacto vegetarians and omnivores. It contains no meat products so if you’ve made a recent transition to vegetarianism, you will not have to give up your whey or casein protein.
Good plant sources include nuts, beans/legumes, soy, and even rice. Although some plant proteins are considered incomplete, meaning they do not contain all the essential amino acids, eating a good variety of plant proteins will help fill any potential amino acid deficiencies. Many of these foods can also be found in protein powder form for added convenience. Of these powders, soy is by far the most popular because of it is complete and has a relatively high biological value. Another benefit of these powders is that because they are not made from milk, they are 100% lactose free, which is good news for those with lactose intolerance.
Vegetarian Creatine Sources
Creatine is probably one of the most proven compounds to help with power-based exercises. Although creatine is naturally found in animal foods, such as meat, creatine supplements are completely animal product-free and are synthetically produced from chemical ingredients. Typically, omnivores have higher baseline muscle creatine levels than vegetarians, who in turn, have higher creatine levels than vegans. It has been shown in studies that because of this low baseline, they are the demographic that can actually benefit most from a creatine supplements. In other words, a vegan using creatine will typically see more improvements in power output compared to an omnivorous counterpart.
Vitamin & Mineral Sources for Vegetarians
Iron is needed for oxygen transport and is therefore vital for optimal performance. Yet, iron deficiency is particularly common among female athletes. For this group, iron supplementation is highly recommended. In general, it is important to consume a good variety of plant-based foods to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Whole grains, broccoli, pumpkin, and green leafy vegetables, and fruits are all excellent sources. In general, a multivitamin would also be a good investment, especially for those with access to a limited number of foods.
Joint Support for Vegetarians
After years of high impact sport and lifting, joints such as the knees tend to take a battering. For this reason, glucosamine is a hugely popular supplement to relieve joint pain. Unfortunately the primary sources of glucosamine are from animal sources, such as shell fish. However, it is possible to find vegan friendly glucosamine supplements made from plant sources such as corn.
If done properly, there really is no reason why vegetarians cannot build large and ripped frames. Although there is more potential to develop deficiencies, there are also countless ways to overcome them. Ensuring a good varied diet, together with supplements can help any vegetarian achieve his or her physical goals.