Patrik Baboumian is the 2012 European Powerlifting Champion for the 140kg division. He has held the world’s log lift record in the 105k division since 2009 and holds the title of “Germany’s Strongest Man”. Patrik has been a vegetarian since 2005 and became a vegan in 2011.
That information about Patrik was shared in the hopes of dissuading a few misguided gym rats from mouthing the “real men eat meat” bit. Patrik can easily outlift and outpower 90% of the world’s population on his worst day and he easily busts the myth that vegetarians are a just bunch of scrawny individuals.
Standing 5’7 inches and weighing a powerful 230lbs, Patrik is far from being scrawny. This busts another myth yet again that it will be impossible for vegetarians to bulk up because of their diet. While the vegetarian diet may pose a few challenges for bodybuilders like the lack of iron for instance, supplementation and replacements can easily address such challenges.
Before proceeding with this article, it must be noted that there are several types of vegetarians. The lacto-ovo vegetarians consume both dairy products and eggs. Lacto vegetarians and ovo vegetarians are pretty much self-explanatory based on the first type mentioned. Strict vegetarians are called vegans and they are the ones who keep away from any food derived from animals.
Protein source is of course the main issue for those looking to gain muscle mass when it comes to the vegetarian diet. It may come as a surprise for some that there are quite a number of vegetarian foods that are excellent sources of protein and some are even packed with more protein than red meat. What is even better is that these vegetable sources of protein come without the trans fat, LDLs and other unhealthy components that comes with meat sources.
The truth is, studies show that vegetarians consume more protein than what the body requires on a daily basis. This means that in order to gain muscle mass effectively, a vegetarian only needs to amp up on his protein intake from his regular sources.
Protein supplementation will be a big help to the vegetarian bodybuilder in as much as it is to regular bodybuilders. Consuming whey protein and casein will not be an issue for lacto and ovo vegetarians, while vegans on the other hand can supplement with soy protein powders.
Now what about their regular meals? Vegetarians who are looking to bulk may want to consider the following vegetarian foods in their menu.
- Cheese. For lacto-ovo vegetarians, cheese would be a very good addition to whey and egg whites. 100 grams of cheese is packed with whopping 41 grams of muscle building protein. Be wary of the sodium levels though as it can shoot through the roof in some varieties of cheese.
- Whole grains. Whole grains like quinoa for instance have surprisingly high protein content. One cup of quinoa already contains 18 grams of protein and some 9 grams of healthy fiber. In addition to the protein, whole grains are also rich in carbohydrates for the much needed energy while working out. Try quinoa instead of rice.
- Beans. For vegans, beans are at the top of the list as their best source of protein. Mature beans can have as much as 39 grams per cup. Even regular chickpeas, black beans and kidney beans are also packed with approximately 18 grams of protein per cup.
- Soy products. While soy is technically a type of bean, its versatility makes it deserving to have its own place in the list. Tempeh is a soybean derivative that has been getting much attention lately because contains more proteins per gram than tofu and there are those who think that it has better taste and texture as well. Other soybean products include soy milk, soy yoghurt and yes, even soy ice cream. Soy products are also rich in essential nutrients that the vegetarian bodybuilder needs like calcium, iron and vitamin B12.
- Nuts. Apart from being fortified with protein, nuts are a healthy source of essential fatty acids. Nuts can also provide a long-lasting energy boost and it also increases the caloric intake which is essential in order to bulk up effectively.
- Greens. We all know that green vegetables are rich in essential nutrients like calcium. What most people may not now is that some are rich in protein too. Asparagus, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are some of the excellent green leafy sources of protein.
- Fruits. Juices and smoothies can add variety to a vegetarian bulking up diet. Loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, fruits can also help ensure that the vegetarian bodybuilder is getting enough calories. Adequate calorie consumption helps prevent the body from going into a catabolic state where it starts burning lean muscle as a source of energy.
Bodybuilding Food Basics
The more nutrients you put into your mouth, the greater will be your gains of muscle mass when working out, the faster your recovery and the greater your muscle building away from the gym.
What are good nutrients? To find out, we need to know the good carbs, fats and protein.
Complex carbohydrates are essential for good health. Broken down in your body into glucose (sugar), your brain’s and muscles’ fuel, carbs produce the energy and endurance you need at the gym to work out and should form the backbone of your daily diet. They also help you feel full so you don’t overeat and become too lethargic to want to engage in physical activity.
Good Carbs/Bad Carbs
Bad carbs come from refined, processed, sugary food and raise blood sugar too quickly and should be avoided. Good carbs come from whole foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds and cause small fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels. To put on serious muscle mass, you need to load up on good carbs and pass up the high carb junk food snacks.
The Glycemic Index (GI) is your guide for knowing what carbs to fill up with and what carbs to avoid. The (GI) describes the difference between carbohydrates by ranking them according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. It measures how fast and how far blood sugar rises after you eat a food that contains carbohydrates and other nutrients. For an example, white bread and short grained white rice are converted almost immediately to blood sugar, causing it to spike rapidly. They are classified as having a high GI. Brown rice, in contrast, is digested more slowly, causing a lower and gentler change in blood sugar and has a lower glycemic index.