A vegan diet has many long-term health benefits, such as low levels of cholesterol and sodium, and reduced likelihood of type 2 diabetes, and evidence indicates a plant-based diet also protects against cardiovascular disease.
However, as a vegan bodybuilder, your body needs help. This is because you are using up more nutrients when you begin a weightlifting regimen. High-quality supplements for vegan bodybuilding are the most cost-effective and convenient way of ensuring your body has everything it needs for optimal health and muscle building.
Here are seven vital supplements that will help you gain muscle, stay healthy and ensure you don’t run out of energy when you need it most.
Your body needs increased levels of complete protein when you start a vegan bodybuilding program, especially one that is built around strength training. A lack of protein causes serious problems for bodybuilders, such as longer recovery times and the breakdown of muscle tissue. Include at least one high-quality source of protein with every meal and snack you consume; vegans must compensate with extra protein every day, as plant proteins aren’t as easily digested as animal protein.
You also need to ensure you’re in a calorie surplus at all times so that the protein you consume supports muscle building instead of providing energy. Soybeans, nut butters, and tempeh are all excellent natural sources of protein, although it can be hard to match proteins to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids you need.
It’s worth bearing in mind that certain studies have indicated that protein needs may be greatest at the start of an intense program of weightlifting, when you experience the greatest increases in size and strength. This will eventually plateau, and your protein requirements will drop slightly. A high-quality and easily digestible vegan protein powder is an essential part of your supplement kit; rice or yellow pea protein are both good choices, as are hemp and flaxseed.
Recommended Daily Intake: You should be aiming to eat at least 1.3 to 1.8 grams of protein daily per kilogram of bodyweight. Protein shakes and bars can be used before and after your workout to ensure your body has adequate amino acids. This will ensure maximum hypertrophy, while reducing recovery time by repairing damaged muscle quickly.
Calcium is important for building strong bones, which weightlifters need to support growing muscles. Vegan bodybuilding diets are often lacking calcium as it’s found mainly in dairy products, so a daily supplement is recommended. Some foods and beverages are fortified with calcium; soy and almond milk are particularly wholesome.
Recommended Daily Intake: Take one calcium citrate tablet per day.
Iodine is found mainly in seafood and dairy products, so vegans must get a steady daily supply through a supplement. Plant foods can contain iodine, although the levels are inconsistent and therefore can’t be relied on. The levels of iodine in the soil that the plants are grown in dictates how much they eventually will contain. Iodine is vital for assisting your thyroid, which in turn is responsible for regulating your metabolism. Without sufficient iodine, you may experience fatigue and gain unwanted body fat, even on a strictly controlled diet.
Recommended Daily Intake: A daily supplement tablet is recommended. If you take a daily multi-vitamin and mineral tablet, check the label as it may already contain sufficient levels.
4) Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine is incredibly important for bodybuilders, due to the way it provides energy for intense bursts of exercise. It ensures that the muscles that increase the most in size (fast-twitch muscles) are fed efficiently during your workout. A lack of creatine leads to increased muscle fatigue, as there is no fast, reliable source of energy to power your workout. In addition to helping you to work out longer, creatine is important for improving brain function and maximizing cell volume and anaerobic capacity. As it’s found only in animal meat, vegans are required to take a supplement to ensure their levels are adequate.
Recommended Daily Intake: During the first week, take between 15 and 25 grams daily; this is known as the “loading phase.” After week 1, take 5 to 10 grams daily to ensure your muscles are fed consistently. If you experience an upset stomach during the first week, drop your dose by 15 grams per day. Gastric distress is fairly common when starting creatine supplementation, so don’t worry. For the best results, take your supplement with a carbonated drink after your workout.
Branched chain amino acids must be taken in through food because the body can’t synthesize them. They’re essential for building muscle and protecting against catabolism, the breakdown of muscle tissue through lack of protein. BCAAs are also vital for decreasing recovery times after workouts; without them you’ll notice increased muscle soreness and even cramping in some cases.
Recommended Daily Intake: If you already consume a quality, easily digestible protein shake after your workouts, your amino acid requirements are more than likely being met. You can also take a tablet to ensure your amino acid needs are fulfilled on a daily basis.
6) Multi-Vitamin/Multi-mineral supplement
Vegan bodybuilding diets typically contain vitamins and minerals; however, you’ll need increased amounts to stay healthy once you start lifting heavy weights. There may also be times that you’re not able to eat the quantities of foods you normally do, such as when you’re dieting for a show, so a daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement is the easiest way of ensuring your body gets everything it needs. Check the labels, as not all brands are vegan-friendly. Vegan bodybuilders should take special care to monitor their intakes of:
. Vitamin B12 — B12 is only found in animal foods so vegans must get their supply from supplements and fortified foods. As the impact of a deficiency can have severe, long-lasting health implications, you should speak to a nutritionist or health professional if you think your B12 supply is a problem.
. Vitamin D — This is required for ensuring muscle strength is optimized, and improving anaerobic capacity and performance. The recommended daily intake is quite high (1,000 IU per day,) so a supplement will be required. Certain foods such as breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D.
. Iron — Sufficient iron can be a problem for vegans, as it is more efficiently absorbed through meat. Iron is vital for ensuring that your muscles get enough oxygen by keeping your red blood cells healthy. A lack of iron leads to fatigue during workouts, and eventually will cause anemia.
Recommended Daily Intake: The easiest way to ensure that you’re getting everything you need is to choose a daily multi-vitamin and mineral tablet that contains 100 percent of your RDAs. Nutritional yeast can also be used as an extra supply of vitamin B12.
These are essential fatty acids that assist many functions within the body, including:
- Brain health
- Reducing inflammation
- Supports immune system
- Rebuilds damaged cells
Insufficient levels of these fatty acids cause particular problems for bodybuilders. Inflammation causes muscle soreness, and recovery time is substantially increased. Damaged muscles are also slower to repair themselves as they don’t have all the nutrients they need.
Recommended Daily Intake: For optimum health, a bodybuilder requires 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA combined per day. Take your supplement tablets with a meal.
A plant-based diet is typically quite wholesome and can protect against many health problems. However, it may not contain sufficient amounts of the nutrients your body needs when you begin weightlifting. Your body will use up its available nutrients more quickly than it normally would do, so ensure you’re getting everything you need by using high-quality supplements. Always check the labels, as some supplements aren’t suitable for vegans. If you feel your diet isn’t wholesome enough and it’s affecting your energy levels or overall health, it may be beneficial to see a nutritionist.
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