Vegan Protein for Bodybuilding – Why it Makes Sense


Vegan Protein for Bodybuilding – Why it Makes Sense

When most people think of bodybuilding, they think of steak for breakfast, bowls of chicken and rice, and huge whey protein tubs. However, a vegan diet is a legitimate way to build muscle. More and more athletes and bodybuilders are switching to a cleaner way of eating, enabling them to perform their best (perhaps even better!)

The proof is in the tub; it is absolutely possible to build muscle on a vegan diet, and vegan bodybuilding is becoming increasingly popular. The principles are the same; you need to eat the right amount of calories with the right macro balances. If you do that with a plant-based diet, you may find that you have more energy, you recover quicker, and you are ready to tackle new challenges.

All that being said, if you are a vegan bodybuilder, then it becomes even more important to supplement with a vegan protein powder. An extra protein boost that your body can easily absorb could be essential to your vegan diet, especially after working out. What are you waiting for? Ditch out the whey for pea and rice protein. If you are looking for a quality, all-natural product, I recommend National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein.

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Benefits of Vegan Bodybuilding

There are increasing health concerns about dairy including its implications on heart health, digestive health, and even the likelihood that someone develops cancer. Evidence-based research has also shown that contrary to what the dairy industry has been telling us, it has little to no effect on bone health.

Reduction of Digestive Stress

Dairy is a source of digestive stress for many people, for the simple reason that we are not made to consume it. Milk is full of growth hormones and fat, meant for a baby calf, and most humans would fair better if they cut it out of their diet.

Many whey and casein protein powders result in unexpected side effects such as feeling bloated, gassy, and low on energy. If you are bulking up, then you need a protein supplement to reach your peak performance. However, it is important to have one that is easy to digest and allergen-free.

Diet Diversity

Getting proteins from a vegan diet means a wide variety of nutrition. Vegan protein contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, fiber, fatty acids, and a range of probiotics. Most high-quality vegan powders are also organic, non-GMO, soy-free, and gluten-free.

On the other hand, meat and dairy can contain harmful chemicals and antibiotics unless you can commit to a strict grass-fed meat diet, which is very expensive!

Health Benefits

So long as you reach your macros and consume a healthy vegan diet with sufficient protein, you should notice more energy, less inflammation and pain, and quicker recovery. One study comparing vegan and omnivore gut-microbiota showed that vegans had fewer pathobionts and a greater abundance of protective species as well as reduced levels of inflammation. (1)


Vegan bodybuilding is also more sustainable and ethical. Production of vegan protein uses less water, fuel, and land than animal protein. (2)

dumbbell hip thrust

Whey Protein Vs. Vegan Bodybuilding

Whey protein is an animal protein derived from milk, it is widely accessible, and you can find plenty of cheap products in a wide range of flavors. Whey contains branched-chain amino acids such as isoleucine, leucine, and valine, building blocks of muscle. The bioavailability of these amino acids is optimum for protein synthesis and enables faster muscle building, leading to muscle mass gain.

This is great if you don’t suffer any of the nasty side effects of whey, such as gas, diarrhea, and bloating. And while there are many great flavors available, this is usually because of artificial sweeteners that are often harmful. They are usually heavily processed, which depletes the nutritional quality, especially in cheaper products. This, paired with the dairy industry’s devastating effects, has left many people looking for alternatives.

Plant-based protein such as pea, hemp, soy, and brown rice are great alternatives. A clinical study in 2013 showed that brown rice protein was equal to whey when measuring strength gain, and recovery. (3) They are much less likely to cause negative side effects and are often created with more natural ingredients.

Whey has a complete profile of amino acids, whereas plant-based proteins can be lacking. No one plant can give the same nutrition as meat. As such, the variety is required. However, protein powders containing both pea and brown rice proteins will provide you will all of the amino acids found in whey, which makes vegan bodybuilding possible.


How to Make Sure You Get Enough Protein With Plant Foods

Whether you are eating meat or not, your protein intake should be the same if you want to put on sufficient weight per day. Although the amount of protein you need depends on how active you are, your individual muscle mass and body weight, and your health and fitness goals. On average, you need around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. (4). If you really want to see gains, it is a good idea to create a meal plan to ensure that you are getting enough protein throughout the day.

It is difficult to succeed at weight loss and, at the same time, gain muscle. Most bodybuilders will first gain weight and then cut down while easing enough protein to retain muscle. If you are trying to gain bodyweight without animal-based products, you will need to eat a lot to get enough calories. It is also a good idea to take a vitamin B12 supplement, as vegans are often deficient and it has many benefits.

On average, you could be aiming for around 25 grams of protein per meal, and your macronutrient percentages should include around 25-30% calories from protein. This is easily accomplished with animal products, but for vegan bodybuilders, this can pose problems. Although there are plenty of protein sources in vegan foods (oats, lentils, beans), they tend to be carb-heavy. This means it is difficult to get the macros optimal for vegan bodybuilding.

There is also debate on the bioavailability of vegan protein (how well your body absorbs it compared to meat protein.) Including plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet can help your body to absorb protein. Green foods like broccoli and spinach are particularly effective. To be a high protein vegan, it is a good idea to supplement your meal plan with a plant-based protein source to maximize muscle. This helps you avoid the carb-heavy downsides of other vegan protein supplements while still maximizing your muscle without eating meat.

Top 3 Vegan Proteins

National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein

National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan is designed for bodybuilders to hit their goals faster. A 100% natural and organic powder, this will work for a number of benefits like muscle growth and recovery, as well as enhancing overall performance.

National Bodybuilding Co. Full Prep Vegan Protein offers a blend of Pea Protein and Rice Protein to provide a full profile of amino acids, allowing for optimum muscle repair and recovery.

Designed for bodybuilders, athletes, and gym-goers, it has been tested and formulated using the highest quality ingredients. It stimulates muscle growth and recovery and aids your metabolism to help you burn fat.

The ingredients are:

Organic Pea Protein (12,5g) – Organic pea protein sourced from yellow split peas. Pea protein has an abundance of BCAAs: valine, leucine, and isoleucine.

Pea is a healthy and effective source of protein and promotes feelings of fullness and cardiovascular health. (5) (6)

Organic Rice Protein (12,5g) – High in protein and low in calories, rice protein, is ideal for building muscle and staying lean. Studies have shown that rice protein is as effective as whey at improving muscle growth when taken after weight training.

Transparent Labs Organic Vegan

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Transparent Labs Organic Vegan is a 100% vegan protein powder with 24g protein that is easy on your digestion system. With no artificial additives, this is great for weight management and muscle growth.

Transparent Labs Organic Vegan is 100% vegan with a great protein base of 2:1 rice to pea protein. Packed with 24g of protein and 4g of fiber, this is easy on your stomach and great for muscle growth, recovery, and weight loss or management.

With two great flavors in French Vanilla and Chocolate, this protein has zero artificial flavors and sweeteners and is USDA Organic Certified. A transparent and honest label lets you know everything in this great vegan protein.

Kaged Muscle Plantein

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Kaged Muscle Plantein is a premium vegan protein that builds muscle like whey without the dairy. Superior texture and taste is matched by 300% more absorption so those nutrients hit you harder.

Kaged Muscle Plantein is a great plant-based protein powder for those looking for a clean, naturally flavored supplement. Building muscle like whey, this has 300% absorption so those nutrients hit you harder.

Great flavors and a complete profile of EAAs and BCAAs, this protein is free of soy, dairy, lactose, and gluten giving you a great plant-based option for all athletes.

Wrap Up

Plant-based and vegan proteins are great options to rival whey protein for those sensitive to dairy, following a vegan diet, or just curious about other protein options. The right protein powder will give you great benefits to growth, recovery, and weight loss and these vegan powders are perfect for athletes of all sports.

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  1. Glick-Bauer, M.; Yeh, M.-C. The Health Advantage of a Vegan Diet: Exploring the Gut Microbiota Connection. Nutrients 20146, 4822-4838.
  2. David Pimentel, Marcia Pimentel, Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 78, Issue 3, September 2003, Pages 660S–663S.
  3. Joy, Jordan M et al. “The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance.” Nutrition journal vol. 12 86. 20 Jun. 2013, doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-86.
  4. Layman, Donald K et al. “Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 101,6 (2015): 1330S-1338S.
  5. Smith, C., Mollard, R., Luhovyy, B., & Anderson, G. (2012). The effect of yellow pea protein and fibre on short-term food intake, subjective appetite and glycaemic response in healthy young men. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S1), S74-S80.
  6. Sara María Martínez-Sánchez, José Antonio Gabaldón-Hernández, Silvia Montoro-García, Unravelling the molecular mechanisms associated with the role of food-derived bioactive peptides in promoting cardiovascular health, Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 64, 2020, 103645.

Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.