At times, it’s hard to wrap our protein-obsessed heads around the idea that someone can be meat-free and muscled up.
After all, the vast majority of low-carb, high-protein foods come from, y’know, animals. But between movies like What The Health (which argues that we’re slowly killing ourselves by loading up on chicken, eggs, and steak) and studies delivering the news that vegetarian athletes may actually perform better than meat-eaters, it may be time to start considering whether we really have to choose between meat and muscles.
No meat? No problem—our MF experts tell you exactly how to supplement.
Because according to a growing number of vegan athletes, you definitely don’t.
We talked to seven guys whose livelihood literally depends on being fit AF—including an NFL player, a pro wrestler, an NBA baller, and top personal trainer Joe Holder (that’s him above)—yet who eat totally animal-free.
Here’s what a day in a vegan diet looks like for the ultra-jacked.
Diet focus: “I’m usually concerned with keeping my calories up to maintain my size, though I adjust my calories depending on if I need to bulk up or cut weight. I try to limit my intake of things like soy, gluten, and overly processed foods. The easiest way to do this is by making sure I’m eating a variety of different foods every day. This also ensures I am consuming all different types of plant-based protein to cover the full amino acid profile as well as my vitamins and nutrients. I am also a huge fan of spices and condiments to change the flavor profiles of your staple foods.”
Snack: Smoothie with 1 banana, 1/4 cup steel cut oats, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup frozen spinach, 1 scoop Plant Fusion: Cookies and Cream vegan protein powder, 1 tsp cinnamon or cardamom, 2 tsp chia seeds, and water
Breakfast: Grapefruit and 2 pieces of sprouted grain bread topped with a tofu scramble and Indian black salt, which gives the tofu a sulfur taste similar to what you find in eggs
Snack (post workout): Smoothie with 1 cup frozen spinach, 1 cup frozen berries, 1 large orange, 1 scoop Vegan Smart Vanilla vegan protein powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp chia seeds, and water
Lunch: Lentil Macaroni and Cashew Cheese, which is 1 1/2 serving of lentil pasta, and 1 serving of cashew cheese (2 cups raw soaked cashews, 1 cup nutritional yeast, juice of half small lemon, 1 tsp yellow mustard, salt and pepper to taste, all blended in a vitamix with water), and 2 cup broccoli
Dinner: Pre-made whole grain pizza crust (from The Engine 2 Diet), vegan sausage Beyond Meat crumbles, frozen kale, sun-dried tomatoes, organic pasta sauce, nutritional yeast, and 4 slices Go Veggie vegan cheese slices
Snack: 1/4 cup So Delicious snickerdoodle cashew milk ice-cream and 2 Vans power-grain waffles
Macros: 3,000 cals at 62% carbs, 12% fat, 26% protein
Supplements: 5000IU D3, 2500IU B12, 1,500mg curcumin, 500mg DHA with breakfast; BCAAs, 2g glutamine, 3g creatine post-workout
Diet focus: “My focus since going vegan in November 2015 has actually never been on protein. It’s so easy to hit the requirement of 1.8g per KG bodyweight with the use of bean-based pastas, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and mock meats, whilst keeping carbs and total calories fairly low. Carbs are always the hardest macro for me to fill in; trying to reach my 600g mark daily on a vegan diet can be tough with such high-fiber foods, but I love the energy in my gym sessions and I’m really beginning to explore more with lentils and quinoa.”
Wake up: Juice (not-from-concentrate), fermented BCAAs, light coffee with soy milk
Breakfast (post-workout): Smoothie with 1 cup oats or bran flakes, 25 almonds, 3 dates, dried coconut, 1 3/4 cups soy milk, 1/2 scoop Reflex Vegan Protein
Lunch: 1 1/4 cups cooked basmati rice, 1 1/2 cups baked beans, and around 3 to 3.5oz extra-firm tofu, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and olives
Snack: 1/3 to 1/2 cup quaker oats heated with 1 3/4 cups soy milk, then topped with 2 tbsp chia seeds, 5 diced dates, handful of blueberries, sliced strawberries; and banana protein shake
Dinner: Traditional punjabi meal of roti (chapatis) and daal (lentils), topped with texturized vegetable protein, an apple, and pistachios
Macros: 4,000 calories at 70% carb, 10% fat, 20% protein
Supplements: Creatine, fermented BCAAs, vitamin D (when I don’t get out in the sun), and Reflex Vegan protein
Diet focus: “Vegan does not mean healthy—plant-based is what’s healthy. I try to stay away from all processed foods and avoid adding sugar, oil, or salt when I cook. I don’t count much, like calories or macros; instead, I understand my body and consciously monitor my intake rather than rely on measuring cups. After a workout—typically strength and conditioning in the morning and shadowboxing at night—I know if my body requires extra calories, protein, carbs, etc. Your body is an efficient machine and attains its necessary nutrition from whole foods.”
Breakfast: Oatmeal with banana and peanut butter
Snack (post-workout): Garden of Life protein shake
Lunch: Chipotle sofritas with brown rice, veggies, and black beans
Snack: Banana and peanut butter
Dinner (post-workout): Usually 50% mixed veggies and 50% meat substitute, like Field Roast sausages, a Beyond Meat Burger, or Beyond Meat Chik’n
Macros: 2,500 to 3,000 calories at 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein
Supplements: Protein powder when needed, but not every day
Diet focus: My biggest focus in my diet is just making everything as clean and unprocessed as possible, with little to no added oils and sugars. Aside from vitamins, I currently don’t use any supplements for anything—no protein, no pre-workout. I feel better just eating whole foods and getting it that way.
Breakfast: Overnight oatmeal with 1 cup oats, 1 cup cashew milk, 2/3 Tbsp. maca powder, 1/2 Tbsp. hemp seeds, 1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds, 1/3 Tbsp. cocao powder, 1 date, a dash of cinnamon and Himalayan pink salt
Snack (post-workout): Smoothie with 1 banana, 1 cup almond milk, 2 dates, 1 Tbsp. chia seeds, 1/4 cup blueberries, 2 Tbsp. hemp seeds, handful spinach and arugula
Lunch: Large portion of grains with vegetables like peas, broccoli, spinach, and legumes like black beans, chickpeas, or lentils
Snack: Raw vegetables and hummus, banana, or a cup of berries
Macros: 3,500 to 4,000 calories at 65% carbs, 18% fat, 17% protein
Supplements: Vitamin B complex, turmeric, and vegan DHA-EPA omega-3
Diet focus: “During the season, my main focus is staying healthy and feeling strong. I’ve always had a leaner frame, so balancing my intake of protein, fat, and carbs is an important focus that guides my food choices. I’ve found that incorporating plant-based protein items like Beyond Meat into my diet can deliver just as much protein, if not more, than some traditional meat items, while making me feel healthy, fit, and agile.”
Breakfast: Overnight oats with almond butter, chia seeds, and blueberries
Snack (post-workout): Protein shake with spinach, kale, banana, and vanilla plant protein powder
Lunch: Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger on a whole-wheat bun topped with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and spicy vegan mayo
Snack: Raw almonds or hummus with fresh veggies, like tomatoes, carrots, cucumber
Dinner: Mexican quinoa bowl with black beans, roasted veggies, avocado, and mango salsa
Supplements: None What 7 Elite Vegan Athletes Eat to Get Ultra-Jacked