I’m honored to have my friend Robert Cheeke as a guest today.
He’s written an informative post on vegan bodybuilding and has even sent a list of High Protein Vegan Foods.
Robert Cheeke is pretty much the antithesis of what one thinks of when one hears the word “vegan.” He definitely helps squash the stereotype that vegans are scrawny and sickly and protein-deficient. Let me introduce you to Robert:
Don’t mess with vegans!
And now I’m going to give the blog over to Robert Cheeke, the world’s most-recognized vegan bodybuilder and author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet. Below, Robert’s guest post:
Building Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet for Any Sports Interest
It might not be common knowledge. But many vegan and vegetarian athletes consume adequate, quality protein on a plant-based diet and thrive with high levels of health and fitness.
Building muscle on a vegan diet should not be considered a challenge, an oxymoron or an improbable task deemed for failure. Like anything else in nutrition, getting enough protein in your diet comes down to the basics, and common sense.
- Eat frequently
- eat quality whole foods
- consume an adequate quantity to elicit the kind of muscle gains you’re looking to experience
If your goal is to build muscle, it must be understood how muscle grows in the first place. You can’t expect to pack on muscle without understanding how the process works: For starters, you have a basic minimum caloric need just to maintain your weight, muscle and health. This is determined based on your age, size, weight and gender, and primarily based around how many calories you’re expending (burning) each day.
You burn calories in everything you do — from sleeping to walking to exercising. And the more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. Due to the nature of physical activity, athletes burn far more calories than non-athletes. So they require more calories through the consumption of food than their non-athlete counterparts. We know we need to eat well and eat often. But what we eat — and what we choose not to eat — are also important factors. It’s pretty common for an athlete to require 0.8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to maintain muscle.
To build muscle often requires the consumption of 1.2 – 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. It may seem like a lot. But thousands of bodybuilders and athletes — who dedicate their personal or professional lives to building muscle — have found that this system is effective. It’s just the way the body works. It is a system which supports any sports interest from tennis to running to lifting weights. We break the body down through exercise and need to build it back up through sound and adequate nutrition.
You’re probably not used to consuming this volume of food. But it’s also one of the main reasons why “vegetarians” as a group get the reputation for being underweight. It’s not a baseless stereotype and it’s something that I work hard to eradicate through my Vegan Bodybuilding lifestyle.
Of course, it’s not just consuming a lot of food that is important. It’s also an exercise program that supports the food intake. Muscle grows as a result of the micro-tears that happen within a muscle following resistance training, usually weight training. Lifting weights or putting your body under physical stress in other ways (such as manual labor or bodyweight exercises) causes the muscle fibers to tear.
The food you eat, supplements you take, and ensuing rest you get all help in the recovery process that builds you back up bigger and stronger. Without exercise, you’re likely to gain fat eating a higher than usual calorie diet. That’s because the caloric consumption will greatly outweigh the caloric expenditure. When put together appropriately, they work harmoniously and create outstanding results of proper nourishment, fat-burning and muscle building. You can “have your cake” and burn it off too.
Consuming a gram to two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight isn’t an easy task. If it were, we’d all be walking around as muscle-bound citizens mimicking cartoon super heroes. Of course that image isn’t the goal of many, but recovering properly from any type of exercise is our primary goal.
It usually requires the consumption of six to eight meals a day with the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats throughout the day. Regardless of your sports interest, consuming smaller meals throughout the day keeps you constantly nourished and fueled for a run, a tennis match, cycling, swimming or anything else, providing important nutrition to start the day, throughout the day and pre and post-exercise.
The percentage breakdown for an active person may look like this:
- 50% of calories from carbohydrates
- 30% coming from protein
- 20% coming from fats.
The exact percentages may change daily based on diet. They also vary per individual based on factors such as your food preference, your rate of metabolism (your body’s ability to burn fat) and your specific athletic goals.
Though it’s not an easy task to consume enough food, it’s also not extremely challenging either, it just takes some dedication, focus, planning and preparation. I personally enjoy eating frequently throughout the day. My meals tend to be a bit smaller and I get to incorporate a lot of variety, flavors, themes, etc. because I am eating more frequently than just three or four meals a day.
In general fruits are the easiest to digest and are often best eaten alone rather than combined with other foods such as proteins. Consumed at the same kind could slow down digestion in many people so some people choose to eat fruit by itself and consume other carbohydrates with proteins in other meals throughout the day.
Sample Muscle Building Nutrition Programs from my Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness Book:
Active Women Sample Muscle-Building Nutrition Programs
Click for: Sample Meal Plans (for women)
These programs have been created for women and the quantities of food are based on approximately 125-150- pound active women. They are just samples and exact foods and quantities can be altered based on interest, size, age, and activity level. Keep in mind these are designed for active women who are burning more calories throughout the day due to exercise/sports than a sedentary person, and require extra nutrition (calories) to recover from exercise.
Men’s Sample Muscle-Building Nutrition Programs
These nutrition programs are for an average 170-pound male looking to maintain and build muscle, but the themes throughout are consistent for any gender, any size; just tailor your own programs to your individual caloric needs. These are simply examples and have not been approved by the FDA or other governing body. They are purely based on my experiences and observations as a competitive and champion vegan athlete over the past 15 years. Listed after these meal programs from my book are custom made meal programs for women based on general fitness, not bodybuilding per se.
Click for Sample Meal Plans (for men)
I’ve found that the more enthusiastic you are about supporting your active lifestyle with a sound nutritional program, and the more meaningful your reasons for doing so, the greater your success will be. That’s just the nature of enthusiasm. In general, the more you care about something, the harder you’ll work to achieve it. Exercising and eating well is a lifestyle decision that allows me to live, work and play as a vegan bodybuilder.
My career opportunities, interests, and long-term goals are all dependent on my ability to stay motivated. The harder I work, the more success I experience, and the more personal fulfillment I achieve.
What are YOUR unique reasons for wanting to build or maintain muscle? Why do you care about it, and what does it mean to you?
Click for Robert Cheeke’s tips: List of High-Protein Vegan Foods
Enjoy the Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness lifestyle and get the most out of it. All the best in your own journey to outstanding fulfillment and amazing results!
Author, Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet
Thank you so so much, Robert, for taking the time to write such an incredible guest post!