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February 09, 2023
When you think of a high-protein bodybuilding diet, it's likely that images of gigantic slabs of meat immediately come to mind. In fact, since the start of bodybuilding time, many people have believed that the only lifters who could achieve an extremely muscular physique were hardcore meat eaters.
But as we continue to learn and research more about nutrition and bodybuilding, new facts and information continue emerging, many of which are countering some previously believed notions. For example, you can 100% eat only vegan meals and still pack on the muscle.
In fact, the vegan bodybuilders we are about to highlight prove that you can build a fantastically muscular physique while only eating plant based foods.
Competing and winning bodybuilding competitions is a feat in itself. But it’s even more impressive that these 10 competitive bodybuilders did it following a vegan lifestyle. Bodybuilding following vegan diets may not be the norm, but these impressive bodybuilders are proof that it can be done.
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Even if you've never considered becoming vegan, it's likely these 10 vegan bodybuilders will have you working more plants and fewer animals into your daily diet.
Here's a look at the top 10 vegan bodybuilders.
At 5'7 and 168 pounds, Torre is 48 years old, has been a vegan since 1998, and is fully committed to a live-off-the-land lifestyle. Torre, nicknamed The Vegan Dread, saw his bodybuilding career take off in 2013 when he won his pro card at an SNBF event and won in the open category at Musclemania Universe.
An animal rights activist who is also known for his work on the fitness app Centr with Chris Hemsworth, Torre's favorite veggie protein sources include foods such as tofu, pea protein, lentils, beans, rice, and oats. It's no surprise he also eats tons of produce, emphasizing leafy greens, smoothies packed with fruit, and Japanese sweet potatoes.
"I don't use the word diet," Torre explained his thoughts on eating plant-based in an interview with Insider. "I'm not here to die — I'm here to thrive. It's a lifestyle."
SuzAnne has an impressive resume as a female vegan bodybuilder competitor and has competed in over 25 bodybuilding shows. She is a four-time natural pro figure competitor, NPC bikini winner, and ISSA-certified Master Trainer.
By winning the Figure Open at a Natural Fit Federation competition, she earned her NFF pro card. She also won the Domestic Figure Open to earn her NGA card and the Figure Open for the trifecta to earn her ANBF pro card. She credits her vegan diet as the reason she is still winning competitions at the age of 52.
SuzAnne's daily vegan bodybuilder meal plan go-to's include steel cut oats, fresh fruit, seitan, high protein nuts and seeds, lentils and beans, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition, the vegan athlete adds hemp, pea, and brown rice protein powder to give her morning oats a protein boost.
“I was convinced that my life would be richer, fuller and more healthy if I no longer consumed animals. My prime motivation was my health and longevity of life," SuzAnne told Great Vegan Athletes. "After studying vegan nutrition and reading many books on the health benefits of eating a plant based diet I was hooked on being the best version of me possible. That wasn’t possible if I were adding to the suffering and destruction."
Patrik has been a vegetarian since 2005 and became vegan in 2011. At 5'7, the 43-year-old began his career by winning the IFBB Junior Bodybuilding championship in 1999 and the Overall Junior champion at the Gießen Campions-Cup in 2002.
Patrik is even more famous for being Germany’s strongest man and quite possibly, the strongest man in the world. He competes in IFSA strongman competitions. Patrik has also been featured in a PETA animal rights campaign.
Patrik describes himself as an ethical vegan, meaning he switched to a plant based diet with animals' best interests in mind. Patrik eats a diverse diet and takes both vegan vitamins and supplements. He drinks smoothies that contain fruit and greens, has meals that include falafel and vegan sausage, and also eats plenty of tofu, potatoes, and vegetables.
"Don’t listen to those self proclaimed nutrition gurus and the supplement industry trying to tell you that you need meat, eggs and dairy to get enough protein," Patrik said to Great Vegan Athletes. "There are plenty of plant-based protein sources and your body is going to thank you for stopping feeding it with dead food. Go vegan and feel the power!”
In 2022, Leah won a pro card with the bodybuilding competition Ms Fitness Australia in the figure classique and followed that with a pro win at the nationals. This qualified her for the fitness universe competition, where she won again in the pro class, receiving the title Figure Universe Champion.
To add to her list of accomplishments, she has also started a women's vegan health and fitness coaching business.
In 2014, Leah switched to veganism primarily for health reasons. She had previously struggled with hypermobility, which causes joint issues, that had resulted in her undergoing multiple surgeries for her shoulder. Leah credits her vegan diet, along with bodybuilding, as the reasons she is no longer in constant pain.
Leah's favorite vegan go-to's include protein oats and fruit, protein chocolate pancakes, and simple meals consisting of vegetables, lentils, rice, tofu, and plant-based chicken. Her favorite snack? Dates with peanut butter.
“I believe that fueling your body with life-supporting plant-based foods not only prolongs your life, but adds to its depth and breadth as well," Leah told Great Vegan Athletes. "When you live with integrity, your whole world opens up and you can explore what you’re truly capable of."
Shelli got a later start than most in the vegan bodybuilding world when she started competing in her 40s. Her notable pro wins include first place in Fit Body and Master’s Figure in the Washington State Natural Puget Sound Pro Am.
At 49, Shelli is turning heads as a competitive bodybuilder who competes as a natural vegan (and wins!). She chose to make the switch to a vegan lifestyle as she was recovering from an umbilical hernia repair surgery and needed to detox her body.
She suffered from skin problems prior to switching to veganism, which she says has completely cleared up since changing her diet. Some of Shelli's go-to's for meals include spinach, kale, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, pepper, tempeh, blueberries, apples, grapefruit, quinoa, lentils, garbanzo beans, nut butter, and brown rice.
“When we look to the largest land animals on earth and the plant diets they consume," Shelli said in an interview with Great Vegan Athletes, "it is no wonder that as humans we too, can achieve great physical outcomes simply by eating plants alone."
Nimai grew up in Mississippi and has actually been a vegetarian since birth. He grew up in a strict religious household that taught him to have compassion for the suffering of animals.
He turned to a completely vegan bodybuilding diet in 2015, and although he worried it would stunt his growth, it seems to have done the opposite. Nimai earned his IFBB pro card at the 2016 NPC USA Championships in Las Vegas and competed in the 2018 Arnold Sports Festival's physique category. He has even graced the cover of Muscle & Fitness magazine.
Weighing around 175 pounds, Nimai eats a wide variety of foods in his vegan diet, including tofu, tempeh, beans and lentils, edamame, hemp, seeds, rice, quinoa, potatoes, and lots and lots of vegetables. His go-to for shakes is a pea and hemp protein powder, and his favorite snacks include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oatmeal, fruit, veggies and hummus, and avocado toast.
"The volume and variety of food you can eat is what makes it so fun to go vegan," Nimai said in a Muscle & Fitness interview. "Usually when I talk to other bodybuilders, they’re really sick and tired of eating fish and asparagus leading up to their shows. Meanwhile, I’m over here eating 300 carbs a day.”
At 5'1 and a competition weight of 116-118 pounds, Jehina is a legend in the vegan bodybuilding world. After winning the NPC Eastern USA Bodybuilding Championship in 2013, she was awarded her IFBB pro card in 2014 at Team Universe, her first international show. Jehina, who has been a vegan since birth, began competing when she was just 19 years old.
Interestingly, even though she and her entire family are strict vegans, she trains with a non-vegan coach who supports her lifestyle.
Jehina enjoys a wide range of vegan foods, mentioning potatoes and tofu as good options before a workout and options like cous cous and vegan chicken, or another vegan protein and broccoli as some of her favorites for post-workout. Some of Jehina's favorite foods are nuts, particularly cashews, and meals that incorporate lentils.
"I never was curious or wanted to change my lifestyle as animals in my opinion were not meant to be eaten, animals have never been a food choice to me," Jehina told Great Vegan Athletes. "What motivates me to continue being vegan is proving to the world that you can be strong and healthy without eating animals. I’m living proof!”
Maayan is a 40-year-old Israeli bodybuilder whose career took off in 2018. This is when she competed in - and won 1st place - in the Israeli national NABBA Bikini division Over 30 category.
Shortly after, she earned her WNBF Pro Card by winning the WNBF Israel in the fit body and overall fit body category. She also won a powerlifting competition pulling a 135 kg deadlift, proving that she is just as strong as she is muscular.
Maayan made her switch to veganism several years ago, following a scooter accident. She was looking for alternative ways to heal from her accident and deal with serious inflammation, and after a therapist suggested a plant-based diet, she switched to a vegan bodybuilding diet plan and found that it helped significantly.
Maayan, a strict vegan, doesn't consume any honey or animal products in her diet. She eats a lot of seitan, tofu, peanut butter, and legumes, particularly lupine, chickpeas, and lentils. Mayan enjoys making gains following a plant based diet to show others there's a healthier way to build muscle.
"In bodybuilding, protein and low-carb diets are a big deal," Maayan told Great Vegan Athletes. "Wherever I go, people refuse to believe that the results I reached on a plant-based diet can be achieved. That gives me even more motivation.”
Ivan is fully immersed in the fitness lifestyle as he is a certified exercise physiologist with a master’s degree in exercise physiology. In 2013, Ivan switched to a vegan diet for weight loss to shed unwanted body fat, in addition to wanting to improve his overall mental and physical health.
It paid off as the now 46-year-old was able to medal at the Garden State Pro Show (2013 and 2015), Central Florida Classic Pro Show (2014), and the NGA Western States Championships (2016).
At 5'8 and a competition weight of around 162 pounds, Ivan also competes as an endurance athlete and has won several triathlons. He credits going vegan as a great way to lose fat and improve overall health, stating that he is able to maintain a relatively low body fat percentage year-round due to his vegan diet.
Ivan lists some of his favorite pre-workout foods as oatmeal and fruit, nuts and seeds, and green tea. As for post-workout, Ivan explains that garlic, dark leafy greens, papaya, turmeric, and ginger are some of his favorites. In general, he sticks with four main food groups: fruits, veggies, beans, and nuts and seeds.
"I look at animal products as robbers of opportunity to create more diversity with our consumption of veggies. But by and large, regardless of what anyone thinks about a vegan diet, the one thing it undoubtedly does, is it increases one’s consumption of fruits and veggies." Ivan said in a Great Vegan Athletes interview. "A vegan diet literally forces us to eat healthier because we have to replace animal products with more health-promoting food."
After growing up in a small hunting village outside of Ottawa, Ontario, Samantha was too in love with the land and the animals who lived there to continue to eat meat. She went vegan in 2011 and became the first ever vegan World Naturals (WNBF) Bikini Pro.
She tries to inspire people to follow her lead and even coached a meat eater turned vegan who won $200,000 in a 12-week transformation challenge by beating out 345,000 other contestants.
At 5'7 and 125 pounds, 40-year-old Samantha enjoys quinoa, spinach, tofu, and beans. She eats plenty of vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit, and consumes flax oil, olive oil, and Vega EFA oil for healthy fats.
"I always suggest baby steps first," Samantha told Evan Bodybuilding & Fitness. "If you're a meat eater, try going vegetarian first or incorporate just two or three vegan meals into your diet every week. And if you're already vegetarian, try to only eat vegan at home and allow yourself cheese or milk when you're dining out or as a 'special treat' only. That's how I began the transition from vegetarian to vegan and I found it was quite easy."
Feeling inspired to shift toward a plant based diet? Let's answer some frequently asked questions regarding being a vegan bodybuilder.
Despite popular belief, eating meat is not important or essential to bodybuilding. These 10 bodybuilders are proof that you can build muscle following a diverse vegan bodybuilder diet consisting of whole plant foods.
Absolutely! It is not only possible to be a competitive bodybuilder, but as these 10 lifters show, you can be a successful competitive bodybuilder following a vegan diet.
The foods you eat remain the same regardless of whether you're a vegan bodybuilder or a non-lifter following a vegan diet. However vegan bodybuilders need to pay attention to the amount of food they're eating, for cutting and bulking purposes, as well as ensuring they're consuming a wide enough variety of plant foods in order to consume the 9 essential amino acids, necessary for muscle growth.
A vegan diet is equally beneficial for both men and women.
Vegans can ensure they're getting enough daily protein by eating a wide variety of plant foods daily and supplementing, as needed, with vegan protein powder.
Arnold has been about 80% vegan for the past five years.
Plant foods improve your gut health and immune system, reduce inflammation, stabilize your blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels. Your digestion will improve as will your post-workout muscle recovery. By switching to a vegan diet, you're promoting heart health, preventing diabetes, and reducing your risk of cancer.
This list of bodybuilders who continue winning titles and high-level competitions should be an obvious sign that it is possible to successfully gain muscle as a vegan. And the formula to follow is simple enough.
Hard resistance training + a proper plant based diet and adequate recovery = Serious muscle-building results.
Vegans still need to hit their calorie surplus with the correct macronutrients to build muscle, just as meat eaters do. They simply choose different foods to hit those targets.
The biggest concern for vegan bodybuilders is not getting enough protein. Many plant options exist to achieve this, but most lack at least one of the nine essential amino acids. In fact, there are only a few sources that have all 9, which include quinoa, buckwheat, and soy.
To solve this, vegan bodybuilders need to eat a variety of protein sources to ensure they are filling in their essential amino acid gaps. In addition, vegans also often lack proper creatine levels, since that has the highest doses in animal products. Supplementing with a quality creatine supplement will fix this problem.
And if you're feeling overwhelmed about how to best make the switch to a vegan bodybuilder diet, we recommend starting with our 7-day vegan bodybuilding meal plan. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the best foods and meal ideas when you're first dipping your toes into vegan food options.
If you are considering starting a vegan diet, start small. As a first step, read our Ultimate Guide to the Vegan Bodybuilding Diet, which will explain everything you need to know to gain muscle on a plant based diet.
Then, start slowly cutting out animal products. The easiest first step is to cut out red meat. After you adjust to this, you can eliminate everything except chicken and dairy. Continue taking animal products out of your diet until there's nothing left to remove.
This includes swapping out your existing supplements with vegan-friendly options. This means finding vegan pre-workout supplements and switching from whey protein to plant protein powders. You may even find it helpful to supplement your diet with a vegan protein bar.
Begin with basic meals and easy vegan recipes, consisting of vegan staples, such as oatmeal, fruit, and protein powder for breakfast, and beans, tofu, and vegetables for lunch or dinner. The more comfortable you become with a fully plant based diet, the more you'll begin experimenting and discovering recipes and food combinations you truly enjoy.
And if you're ready to become a vegan bodybuilder but don't want to worry about grocery shopping and meal prep, you've still got great options! These 7 Best Vegan Meal Delivery Services will do the heavy meal prep lifting for you, so you can spend less time in the kitchen and still enjoy delicious vegan foods.
Photos courtesy of athlete's Instagram accounts.
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