Building Muscle on a Vegan Diet: A How-To & Best Foods to Eat
You want to eat a healthy diet. You love animals and think they should be treated with respect. But you also want to build muscle, and vegan diets are not known for packing on the pounds. Fortunately, you can follow a healthy and effective vegan diet to build muscle. And it doesn't mean eating twigs or raw veggies all day (unless that floats your boat). The key is ensuring you get enough protein, fats, carbs, fiber, and nutrients while not eating too much junk or processed food. This article will walk you through all the steps involved in building muscle on a vegan diet so that you'll soon have bulging biceps like Popeye himself!
A diet based on animal products may not be suitable for everyone. A diet free of meat can also yield very beneficial results, as we will show you. Consider the benefits of food selection and how this can help with muscle growth and protein requirements on a vegan diet. Don't worry! Building muscle on a vegan diet can be easy. Everyone knows that it is not easy to be vegan. We are in the minority, and most people wonder how we stay healthy. You will build muscle even as a vegan if you eat enough calories and get adequate protein.
Understand the Basics of a Healthy Diet
When you want to build muscle on a vegan diet, there are specific considerations you should consider. You want to ensure you are getting a nutritious and varied diet. This article will help you get started. People who follow a vegan diet must know that protein is essential to body structure. A healthy body has a well-balanced mixture of protein and carbohydrates, fundamental building blocks needed to maintain muscles, bones, and blood. Fortunately, most protein foods aren't derived from animal sources. A vegan diet allows individuals to keep healthy by choosing good food groups containing all the necessary ingredients.
To build muscle on a vegan diet, you'll need to ensure that you get enough protein in your meals. Protein helps build muscle mass and strengthen bone structure; it also boosts metabolism so that your body can burn more calories during activity such as:
- Eggs: 1 egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein—slightly less than 11 percent of the average person's daily needs.
- Beans: 100 grams (about 3⁄4 cup) of cooked beans contains about 15 grams—29 percent—of daily protein needs in one serving!
Eat Enough Plant-based Protein
What gets sacrificed most when you switch to a vegan diet? Your muscles. With a plant-based diet, there seem to be fewer amino acids and protein, leading to muscle loss. Well, this doesn't have to be the case.
While a vegan diet can be very healthy, it's important to ensure you get enough protein. The general recommendation is that 10-35% of your total calories come from protein.
The easiest way to calculate your daily protein requirements is by using this formula:
(0.8 x weight in pounds) + (0.35 x height in inches) - 100 = grams of protein per day
So if you're 150 pounds and 5'5", your daily intake should be approximately 108 grams of protein, which is about 45% of your total calories! That may sound like a lot—and it is! But now that you know how much you need let's talk about how to get there...
Plant-based protein sources include:
- Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flaxseeds)
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- Grains (Quinoa, buckwheat)
- Vegetables (broccoli, kale)
For the vegan athletes among us who want to know what exactly they should eat after a workout—and why—we've also got some great ideas for snacks that will help build muscle. But first things first:
You need to make sure you get enough calories in your diet. If you're not eating enough calories, your body will start breaking down its muscle tissue for energy. This is bad news because muscle burns more calories than fat, which means losing muscle mass will burn fewer calories overall.
Get Enough Fat
Many people who eat a vegan diet worry about getting enough fat. The truth is that fat is an important part of any healthy diet, and vegans can meet their daily needs by eating a variety of plant-based fats.
- Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which are essential for good health and help reduce inflammation.*
- Walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA/DHA) and other essential vitamins and minerals.* Flaxseed oil contains ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which helps protect against heart disease, stroke, and cancer.*
- Coconut oil improves digestion, boosts metabolism & helps maintain stable blood sugar levels. It also helps maintain healthy thyroid function and helps with weight loss by increasing satiety.* Olive oil is packed with antioxidants that protect against heart disease and cancer as well as reduce inflammation
Eat plenty of healthy fats, too
It's important to eat plenty of healthy fats, too. Some of the most important ones are olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish. We need these to keep our brains and hearts healthy.
But vegans tend to overdo it with omega-6 fatty acids (like those found in certain vegetable oils). This can cause inflammation in the body. So vegans should focus on consuming omega-3s as well—and in balance with their ratio of omega-6s.
It's also important to remember that nothing is off-limits for vegans. You can eat as much as you want of most foods (except processed foods and sweets). And if you're worried about calories, plenty of plant-based sources of protein, fat, and carbs will help keep you full longer than meat or dairy products.
Cut back on saturated fats and trans fats
The first step in building muscle on a vegan diet is cutting back on saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats are solid at room temperature, while trans fats are found in processed foods like margarine and vegetable oils. Hydrogenated oils, which are also bad for your heart health, contain trans fat.
All these foods negatively impact your blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you want to build muscle on a vegan diet, you must avoid these foods altogether.
Choose Good Carbohydrates
A vegan diet is low in fat but not necessarily low in calories. You can still consume plenty of carbs on a vegan diet, but you want to ensure they're good. Good carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The best way to get enough energy from your body without eating too many calories is to eat more whole foods such as sweet potatoes and broccoli instead of refined ones like white bread or sugar-coated cereal.
Choosing good carbohydrates is to get those high in fiber and low in calories. This will help you feel full longer and avoid cravings, making building muscle easier.
To choose good carbohydrates, start by looking at the number of calories per serving. For example, whole wheat bread has more calories than whole wheat pasta because it contains more flour and other ingredients. However, if you eat less bread than pasta during a meal, you may consume fewer calories overall.
Before choosing good carbohydrates, you should also look at how much carbohydrate is in each food serving. For example, eat a serving size of whole wheat pasta instead of two servings of white pasta. You'll get less overall carbohydrate intake because whole wheat pasta has less carbohydrate per serving than white pasta.
A third way to choose good carbohydrates is by choosing foods with a higher percentage of their total calories from carbohydrates rather than fat or protein.
Nix the junk food
If there's one thing that separates humans from animals, we can create and consume junk food. But the benefits of veganism have little to do with a plant-based diet; they're about eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods that will help you look and feel your best. So if you're looking to build muscle on a vegan diet, make sure your meals are loaded with high-protein options like seitan (made from wheat gluten), tofu, lentils, and beans (chickpeas are great).
These foods are low in fat and high in fiber—and they don't contain any cholesterol! They also make excellent sources of lean protein while helping you meet your daily calorie needs without going overboard. And because plant proteins are broken down more slowly than animal proteins (which means they're less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels). They're also better for diabetes who want to control their blood sugar while building muscle!
Include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet
Whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes are some of the best sources of fiber. Examples include whole wheat bread and brown rice.
- Fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients (vitamins, minerals) that have antioxidant properties that can help fight disease and reduce your risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease.*
- Emphasize whole grains. Whole grains are a great way to get fiber and protein. Some of the best sources of whole grains on a vegan diet include:
- Oatmeal (1 cup)
- Brown rice (1 cup)
- Quinoa (1 cup)
- Amaranth (½ cup dry)
Whole grains generally take much longer to digest than refined ones, so consider slowly adding them to your diet if you have digestive issues.
Stay hydrated all day long
It's easy to become dehydrated on a vegan or any diet. Here are some tips for staying hydrated:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don't feel thirsty.
- Drink more water when exercising or when it's hot out.
- Have a glass of water before and after meals to keep your digestion regular and ensure your body has enough fuel for any planned activity.
- If at any point during the day (or night!) you feel like peeing, go ahead and do so! It doesn't always mean something is wrong with you; sometimes, our bodies just need a little extra liquid to function properly. If this often happens enough, though, it could indicate dehydration, so stay hydrated all day!
If you are feeling thirsty, chances are that you need some water. It's best to drink when thirsty rather than forcing yourself to drink all day. If you notice that your urine is very dark in color, that could indicate dehydration.
Building muscle on a vegan diet is not any harder than building muscle on any other diet
Vegan diets can provide all the nutrients needed to build muscle, so you have to ensure you get enough calories, protein, and macro and micro-nutrients.
If your goal is to gain weight and build strength, then there are some things you need to consider when eating vegan:
- Calculate your daily protein needs. You need about 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Calculate your calorie needs and match them with foods that contain carbohydrates, fats, and proteins without taking too much into account.
- Do not take supplements such as whey protein powder. They are unnecessary if all the plant-based nutrients can provide everything we need for growth spurts when working out.
Eating vegan is no different from eating any other way, whether it's a meat-heavy or plant-based diet. As long as you're eating the right foods and getting enough protein, there's no reason why vegans can't build muscle mass just like everyone else!