My Top 10 Tips for Vegan Bodybuilders

My Top 10 Tips for Vegan Bodybuilders

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I love how often people are intrigued by the fact that I’m pretty jacked and all VEGAN! Meat eaters are always asking me what the hell do I eat and other vegans always want to know how I’m able to get so shredded and lean on a completely plant-based diet.

Well, here’s a little “top 10 list” for anyone curious about my vegan bodybuilding “ways.” Compiled below are my top 10 best tips for vegan athletes on building muscle and leaning down without consuming dead animals. Here goes!

1) I eat a TON of beans.
To all the dudes reading this, how turned on are you right now? 😉 Seriously though, if you’re wanting to build muscle, get on board the chickpea train! They’re high in protein and an awesome low-fat source of carbs. I usually eat ’em before I work out (and no, doing that is not a “problem” for me. I’ve never been a big fan of kidney beans to be honest. My faves are chickpeas, black beans and most recently, aduki beans.

2) I choose quinoa over rice.
Don’t get me wrong, I love brown rice too. In fact, I love ALL rice. But quinoa is much higher in protein not to mention it’s a “complete” source of protein whereas brown rice isn’t. The more “complete” the protein source is, the better for muscle building.

3) I am the protein powder queen!
Supplementing with a good quality plant-based protein powder will dramatically boost your protein intake. It’s also a super quick and convenient food item to have on hand and while you’re out. I’m a big fan of
Vega Sport Performance Protein (829g) Vanilla
because it’s low in fat & carbs, loaded with protein and has both BCAAs and glutamine in it– which help with recovery and muscle growth. I’m also a fan of North Coast Naturals‘ plain brown rice protein powder right before a competition because it doesn’t contain any sodium.

4) I don’t eat processed foods very much.
Processed, packaged foods (although delicious) usually mean high-carb, high-fat, high-sugar or all of the above. I really make an effort to eat a diet that contains a lot of whole grains, nuts and tons of fresh fruits & veggies.

5) I opt for tempeh over tofu.
Tempeh is another awesome protein source that often gets overlooked–perhaps because it’s harder to find than tofu (at least in Canada.) Unlike tofu, tempeh is fermented. That means the enzymes in it pre-digest the carbs, protein and fat, so it’s easier to digest and full of fiber and antioxidants.

6) I never skimp on “healthy” fats.
Everyone needs essential fatty acids in their diet and well, since I obviously don’t do “fish oil,” I get mine through good ol’ flax seed oil. I actually like the taste too. It’s awesome on oatmeal and gives me a hefty boost of both omega 3s and 6s every morning.

7) I love nut butter but don’t hog out on it.
Another good way to get some “healthy fats” and extra protein into your diet is through nut butters. If I could bathe in a tub full of peanut butter, I would. In fact, I would be content to live solely off of nut butter. But alas, too much is NOT a good thing. The calories in this creamy taste of heaven are HIGH. A teaspoon or tablespoon smeared over a banana, apple or added to a smoothie is the way to go.

8) I eat a giant green salad every single day.
Not only is a big-ass salad low in calories which tricks you into thinking you’re pigging out, it’s also super high in fiber and all kinds of vitamins and antioxidants. I usually make mine with spinach because it’s full of calcium (a nutrient that’s harder for us vegans to get) and surprisingly high in protein too.

9) I supplement with BCAAs.
I am a big advocate of branched chain amino acids. I love the PVL brand because it’s made from fermented beets and has no weird additives. BCAAs are crucial for preventing muscle loss. I always take them before my cardio and either during or after my weight training sessions.

10) And finally, I don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks/says/does.
In the competitive bodybuilding world, everyone is an expert (even though very few know anything about a vegan diet.) There will be tons of people who say you won’t see success in this sport as a vegan. Yes, it might take longer. And yes, your options may be more limited. But stay positive and keep at it. It is definitely possible and I have a first place trophy to prove it 😉

– Samantha Shorkey, Jacked on the Beanstalk

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15 comments

  • Sari: June 06, 2014

    Hey there! Thanks for the info. I eat a clean vegan diet but I getting ready for a photoshoot, I was wondering if you could tell me what low sodium foods you consume close to the day? I was planning on lotsa beans on salad but beans do contain sodium. Also, what does your water and carb consumption look like 5 days out?

  • sam: April 16, 2014

    Hi Ryan! Well my macros break down to 50% carbs, 30% protein & 20% fats. That never really changes. I NEED carbs to get me through my workouts! But my calories do drop. And things like fruit get cut down. My calories during a cutting phase are about 1800.

  • Ryan: April 14, 2014

    What do your macros & calorie count look like when you’re cutting?

  • sam: April 10, 2014

    Haha I don’t know what you’re talking about, Carre. Girls don’t fart! Be sure to read my “Kinda Gross Vegan Bodybuilding Adventure” for more on this topic. And yes, I’ve heard that re: kombu too! But I’ve yet to try it. I think your body gets used to the copious amounts of beans once you’re vegan for long enough. Here’s hoping anyway!

  • sam: April 10, 2014

    Awwwww shucks. Your comment just made my day. Thanks Angel! I actually only created this blog a couple of weeks ago so good timing! And thanks for the feedback. Don’t hesitate to let me know what else you wanna see/know!

  • Angel: April 09, 2014

    Ah! Thanks so much Sam for sharing these tips. I’ve been waiting forever to read about vegan athlete tips, (mostly just from you because you’re awesome). So glad I came across your blog just a couple of weeks ago! I’ll be stalking this page…a lot. No shame. xo, Angel

  • carre: April 09, 2014

    Thanks so much for sharing this!! Just the kind of info I’m always looking for. So, the mass bean consumption is a non-digestive-issue for you? I’m cooking a batch of soaked beans in a slow cooker with added kombu. I read it helps with the mass consumption of beans factor .. I’m hoping that’s the case. Do you also do something like that or are you just not affected by the infamous bean digestion issue? Thanks!

  • Sam: June 11, 2014

    Hi Sari! Sorry for my delayed response! I was planning on finishing an article all about this but I’ve just been so busy! Basically you want to start eating as much asparagus as possible five days away to help flush the water out from under the skin. The day before your shoot, start cutting down on the amount of water you’re drinking and don’t eat any starchy complex carbs. Just protein and vegetables! Then on the day of your shoot, eat a ton of carbs like yams or rice cakes and some almond butter. The carb loading will help to “plump” up your muscles. And be sure to do some pushups or plyometrics before you start taking pictures (if it’s a fitness shoot.) Hope this helps! Good luck!!!

  • Sam: October 10, 2014

    Hi Nathalie! Yeah those ratios are perfect— exactly what I follow! For protein, I mostly get mine from tempeh, tofu and protein powder. I consider things like beans & quinoa to be carbs more than protein so just be mindful of that when figuring out your meals. Seitan is another great vegan protein source. I just posted a recipe the other day. Check it out at http://www.jackedonthebeanstalk.com/2014/10/05/tiffany-burichs-famous-seitan-muffins/ Good luck either way! I was vegetarian for 20 years before making the switch to veganism. It should be easy enough once you get used to it and you’ll feel so much better— both from a health perspective and ethically-speaking. Happy to answer any questions or help however I can. Just shoot me an email at samshorkey@hotmail.com.

  • Nathalie: October 10, 2014

    Hello, I’m a vegetarian wanting to be vegan. I am overweight and started fitness just 2 weeks ago, I hope to get a lean fit body thanks to work out and healthy eating; In order to lose weight AND gain muscle, I was wondering what ratio you would suggest, I was thinking about something like P:30 C:50 F:20 Although trying to be vegan, I find it really difficult to reach such a high level of proteins withouth as well raising the carbs… Any tips ?

  • Jessica Guerrero: October 22, 2015

    Thank you so much for responding so quickly! I will definitely try to get in all my protein, it’s just makes my tummy hurt sometimes. I hope to get online coaching from you as soon as I feel ready for that next step.Thank you again!

  • Sam: October 22, 2015

    Hi Jessica! I know a lot of vegans think that’s way too much protein but yes, I do consume my body weight in grams of protein. And I also keep me carbs pretty low and always scheduled around my workouts. Hope this helps. Get that protein in ya and thanks for the kind words :)

  • Jessica Guerrero: October 21, 2015

    Hello! I am vegan and currently trying to build muscle and lose fat… I was wondering if the whole, 1g protein per lb of bodyweight is accurate? I was told one gram per lb of bodyweight for protein and low carbs. Any advice would be helpful! Thank you for being such an inspiration!

  • Sam: March 18, 2016

    Good for you, Veggienator (love the name by the way!) Honestly, I don’t do seitan too close to a show because I do find it makes me bloated. But then I know other vegan competitors who use it as their main protein source. But yeah, I stick to soy and powders pre-contest. And to be honest, I keep my carbs pretty high throughout the whole prep. I’ve tried doing it low-carb and was miserable and looked flat. The key is to schedule your carbs accordingly i.e. around your workouts when you need ’em most. Good luck with your show!!

  • Catalin Manea: March 12, 2016

    Hi Samantha. Do you use seitan for pre-contest? And also, how does the carb depletion and loading work on a vegan diet before a show? Competing this fall, 240 lbs now, cutting down to about 195 BOOM!

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