If you’re looking to sustain a vegan diet but are concerned about challenges around strength training, there is no need to worry. Here are some of the best vegan supplements for bodybuilding and the benefits of each to ensure that you are still able to reach your goals whilst maintaining a strict diet.
Do vegans need supplements?
Firstly, it’s important to understand whether there is a need to introduce supplements into a vegan diet. Veganism is becoming an increasingly popular choice for many people for a variety of reasons, whether that’s due to ethical or religious beliefs or to reduce their impact on the environment. Previously, we have explored the most important supplements for vegan athletes where we outlined that many of the nutrients found in animal products that are vital for health and fitness are more difficult to find in a vegan diet.
To help answer the question of whether there is a need for vegans to take supplements, we can turn to The Vegan Society which states that:
“Appropriate supplementation is an important part of healthy vegan nutrition. To help ensure we get all the nutrients we need, it is recommended that we use supplements to complement a balanced and varied diet.”
What supplements should vegan bodybuilders take?
If you have ever wondered whether vegan bodybuilding is even possible, then rest assured that there are many vegan bodybuilders who are successfully competing around the world. It’s simply achieved through the right sports nutrition to support your diet. While it is possible to gain muscle and strength without supplements, you will set yourself up for greater success by introducing some of the following vegan bodybuilding supplements into your workout routine:
Occurring naturally in the body, taurine is an amino sulfonic acid that supports nerve growth and lowers blood pressure. It is also thought to play a beneficial role in diverse metabolic and physiological processes, such as glucose and lipid regulation, energy metabolism, anti-inflammatory modulation, and antioxidant actions, and as such can be used as an aid to improve athletic performance. Taurine is mainly found in meat, fish, and dairy and so those practicing veganism should look at supplementation to introduce this into their diet.
Creatine is produced naturally in the body from amino acids but is also found in meat and fish and is often used by athletes and bodybuilders to help improve strength during resistance exercises. It can also help to build lean muscle and postpone fatigue in the muscles which in turn can increase endurance for workouts. Due to those on a vegan diet not being able to produce creatine from their diet naturally, supplementation is recommended.
Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that cannot be produced by the human body and so must be obtained through diet, primarily through eggs, meat, and dairy products. The benefits of BCAAs include muscle growth, a reduction in muscle soreness/exercise fatigue, and the prevention of muscle wasting. Like creatine, to ensure vegans receive a good intake of BCAAs it is recommended that these are taken as a supplement.
Vitamin B12 contributes to the production of red blood cells and helps to pass oxygen to muscles while they are in use. It’s important to send enough blood to your target muscles to prevent damage and promote growth. Vitamin B12 is one that is naturally present in foods such as fish, meat, eggs, and dairy products, and as such vegans should look at supplementary sources to ensure that this is present in their diet.
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that can primarily be found in meat, poultry, and fish. The primary benefits of beta-alanine for strength training include increasing exercise capacity and decreasing muscle fatigue. It also contains antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties to ensure good health and less-frequent illness.
The benefits of vitamin D3 include the strengthening of bones, improving muscle function, and promoting muscle growth. Unfortunately for those maintaining a vegan diet, it is only naturally found in fatty animal-sourced foods, such as fish oil and egg yolk. It is also produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight, but this can be reduced at certain times of the year as well as by sun-protection products. For these reasons, vegan bodybuilders should consider supplementation to ensure they are getting enough vitamin D3 into their diet.
Vegan protein powder
Protein is an essential macronutrient that supports athletes looking to improve their strength-training regime by helping to build muscle, repair tissue, and make enzymes and hormones. It is also thought to aid weight loss and help tone muscles. Many people use protein supplementation as part of their workout regime and with the growth in vegan protein powders entering the market, it’s possible to include these as part of a vegan diet.
Omega 3 promotes positive heart, brain, and joint health and it is also commonly used by athletes to enhance muscle strength and range of motion, as well as reduce muscle soreness. As such, it can strengthen your workout routine. As omega-three is a fatty acid that is primarily found within fish products, vegans should look at supplementation to add this to their diet. Our recommendation is that vegan athletes take EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Zinc primarily supports the production of new cells as well as enzyme production. For vegan athletes and bodybuilders, it can also help to develop muscle and contains antioxidant qualities to protect against cell deterioration. It is also thought that zinc can improve aerobic capacity, repair body tissue after exercise, and strengthen the immune system.
Some of the best sources to incorporate zinc into your diet include meat, shellfish, dairy, and eggs. While zinc can be found in legumes, nuts, and seeds, it is recommended that vegans utilise supplements to ensure there is enough within their diet.
Iodine is an essential mineral that is primarily found in dairy products, eggs, and fish. It is an important component of thyroid function which helps to keep cells and the metabolic rate (the speed at which chemical reactions take place in the body) healthy as well as helping to regulate body temperature.
Essential for transporting oxygen to the muscles and brain via the bloodstream, iron has many benefits for vegan bodybuilders. These benefits include maintaining focus, improving stamina, and enhancing energy levels. Iron deficiency has been found to be more common in athletes than individuals who lead a less active lifestyle and so it is recommended that even non-vegan athletes should consider iron supplements to ensure that are getting enough in their diet. Iron can primarily be found in red meat, fish, and eggs, as well as nuts and seeds
In conclusion, it is entirely possible to incorporate a range of vegan bodybuilding supplements into your regime to ensure you are receiving all the nutrients your body needs for enhanced performance and recovery without the need to compromise a stricter diet.
Discover more about our sports nutrition services to gain an even greater understanding of how vegetarian & vegan supplements can help with your health and athletic performance.