When we talk about muscle building, many people immediately think of protein intake. How can vegans gain muscle mass if they’re not getting protein from meat? That is just one of the most frequent questions people ask. It is a common misconception that vegans have nowhere to take protein. However, there are ways for you to build muscle even if you’re on a plant-based diet. Here is how you can do so and which foods are good for you if you want to gain muscle mass.
Get into the Right Mindset
Before even starting to work on your new diet plan, you need to get into the right mindset. You need to be aware that any kind of progress in life takes time. You need to be patient and cherish every step you make along the way towards your goal. Taking daily steps and building consistency is what will eventually lead you to your desired goal. Don’t get carried away by all of the crazy over-night transformation and weight loss that people in the fitness industry tend to promote all the time. Those are some pretty extreme and in some cases not so healthy transformations that include messing around with portion sizes, dehydration, and lightening.
In addition to that bodybuilders and generally, people who go through these intense transformations often take some very questionable “supplements” or even inject substances such as growth hormones, testosterone, or steroids. That is why you should never compare yourself with them. You need to start your journey with your mind in the right place. Keep your eyes on the goal and trust the process.
You also need to be aware that everyone’s body is different. Some may find it easier to put on weight or muscle, yet for others, it can be more challenging. No matter how your body takes it, it’s always a healthier option to progress within a natural weight and size of your body than to overwork yourself trying to reach some extreme measurements. Some people are simply not meant to become as big as those bodybuilders. With the right mindset and tools, as far as you can go is to get as close as possible to what your ideal fit body is.
What most people fail to notice is that muscle mass is actually often hidden under the body fat. That is why you need to tackle both of these areas. You need to work on growing muscles as well as losing fat at the same time. Also, don’t solely rely on your scale to track your progress. Muscle weighs more than fat and you will probably find yourself slimming down while gaining weight as well.
Don’t lose hope if you don’t see any immediate results and progress. As already mentioned, this kind of progress takes time. Keep up your enthusiasm and remember, the more meaningful your reasons for this journey are, the more satisfying the success will be.
Lastly, try to surround yourself with people who inspire you. Work towards the same goals together and you will be more enthusiastic and optimistic about your journey.
Focus on Healthy Vegan Food
Building muscle isn’t just about physical activity, though. In order to build muscle you also need to support your body properly and supply it with lots of energy. Some people opt for dirty bulking. However, it is a lot healthier and smarter if you stick with the clean fuel a.k.a. healthy food.
If you want to properly satisfy your body’s demanding nutrient, protein, and calorie needs, you should create a well-rounded whole food plant-based diet plan. By this, we mean a diet full of colourful fresh foods such as nuts, seeds, grains, veggies, and legumes.
You need to take in a healthy dose of protein that will support your muscle growth in foods such as lentils, peas, soy, and rice, but more on that later.
Carbs are your friend. Remember that they serve as a main source of fuel for your intense workouts and that they are as equally important as protein. Look for healthy sources of carbs and implement them in your diet.
The Best Protein Sources
The first one on the list and the most popular source of protein for vegetarians and vegans is seitan. This protein source is made from gluten and it resembles the look and texture of meat when cooked more than any other soy-based meat. It is also commonly known as wheat meat or wheat gluten.
Seitan contains 25 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces, thus being the richest plant-based source of protein on the list. Apart from that, seitan is also a good selenium source and it also contains iron, phosphorus, and iron in small percentages.
You can easily find seitan in almost any health food store, or you can choose to make your own version of it by using vital wheat gluten. This meat alternative can be pan-fried, grilled, and sautéed which means it can be incorporated into your diet in several different ways. However, if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you might want to avoid it.
Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame
Tofu, tempeh, and edamame are all great options too. They originate from soybeans which are considered to be a whole source of protein. Tofu, tempeh, and edamame provide the body with all of the possible essential amino acids it requires to function properly.
When it comes to edamame, there are several ways in which they can be consumed. You can choose to boil them, steam them, simply eat them on their own, or add them to your salads and soups. They have a sweet and slightly grassy taste.
Tofu is made in the process of bean curds getting pressed together, while tempeh can be made by cooking mature soybeans that are later fermented and pressed into a patty.
Tofu is pretty much tasteless. However, it can easily absorb the flavour if you add the right ingredients. On the other hand, tempeh has a very distinctive, nutty-like flavour.
Both of these protein sources can be used for numerous different recipes. You can make burgers, chili, or even soups with them. They are also high in calcium and iron as well. Edamame is also a great source of folate, fibre, and vitamin K, while tempeh has a huge amount of probiotics, minerals, and vitamins.
Lentils are a great source of protein and they can be used for many tasty dishes. You can use them for your salads, soups, stews, and so on. Lentils are also high in slowly digested carbs. A single cup of lentils contains approximately 50% of the recommended daily dose of fibre.
The type of fibre that lentils have feeds the good bacteria in your body which promotes a healthier gut. Lentils can also help reduce any risk of diabetes, heart diseases, excess body weight, and even several types of cancer.
Apart from that, lentils contain high amounts of manganese, iron, and folate as well as numerous antioxidants and other healthy plant compounds.
Chickpeas and Most Varieties of Beans
Most varieties of beans such as kidney, black, pinto, and others contain a lot of protein. Chickpeas, also commonly referred to as garbanzo beans, are also considered to be a great protein source.
They both have about 15 grams of protein per cooked cup and they contain high amounts of complex carbs, iron, folate, fibre, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, and some other very healthy and beneficial plant compounds.
You can easily add beans to your meals by making a bowl of chili, adding them to your burrito, or even sprinkling some of the turmeric on roasted chickpeas.
Implementing protein powder into your pre-workout shakes and breakfast smoothies is one of the best ways to consume more protein throughout the day. Some of the protein powders out there are products of animal origin. However, there are still many plant-based protein powders you can find both in stores and in many online shops. For instance, BCAA powder is one of the healthiest plant-based protein powders that contain amino acids extracted from plants that help the human body build muscle over time.
Nutritional yeast can often be found as a yellow powder or in a form of flakes, and it is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast. With its cheesy flavour, nutritional yeast makes a great ingredient for dishes such as scrambled tofu and mashed potatoes. Apart from that, nutritional yeast can be sprinkled on pasta and consumed as a topping for popcorn.
Nutritional yeast is an amazing plant-based source of protein that provides your body with 7 grams of fibre and 14 grams of protein per ounce.
Consider trying fortified nutritional yeast as well since it contains a lot of magnesium, copper, zinc, manganese, and all of the B vitamins.
Hempseed is made from the Cannabis sativa plant, famous for being in the same family as the marijuana plant. However, there is nothing to worry about. Hempseed contains only a small trace of THC, so it doesn’t really have the marijuana drug effect.
Hempseed may not be that well-known as other seeds, yet it’s very healthy, and more people should implement it in their diets. It contains 10 grams of protein per ounce which is 50% more than the amount of protein than chia seeds and flaxseeds provide. Besides protein, hempseed is also high in iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium. Not only that, but hempseed also contains a lot of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in just the right amount the human body needs.
Some of the studies also prove that hempseed contains a type of fats that can reduce inflammation and symptoms of PMS, menopause, and even specific skin diseases.
One of the easiest ways to implement hempseeds in your diet is by adding them to your smoothies or breakfast muesli. You can also use hempseeds for salad dressings and even protein bars.
Green peas are also great if you want to have a larger protein intake throughout the day. Just by serving them as a side dish, you can get up to 9 grams of protein per cooked cup. A serving of green peas has about 25% of the recommended daily dose of fibre, vitamin A, C, K, folate, manganese, and thiamine, if not even more. They also contain large amounts of magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, phosphorus, and several different B vitamins. Some of the delicious meals you can make using green peas are pea and basil stuffed ravioli, pea and avocado guacamole, or a Thai-inspired pea soup.
Spirulina is a very healthy type of algae and it is a nutritional powerhouse. Not only does spirulina cover your daily dose of protein, but it also has enough iron, thiamine, and copper to satisfy your body’s daily needs for those nutrients as well.
Apart from that, spirulina is also known for containing magnesium, riboflavin, manganese, potassium, and some other nutrients that are healthy for your body such as fatty acids. Spirulina also contains antioxidants as well as many anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
There are many health benefits to consuming spirulina daily. For instance, implementing spirulina in your diet can strengthen your immune system and reduce your blood pressure. It can also improve your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Amaranth and Quinoa
Lastly, amaranth and quinoa are considered to be “pseudo cereals.” They don’t grow from grasses as other grains do. However, they can still be prepared or ground to become flour similar to other, more popular cereal grains.
They both provide a good amount of protein (somewhere between 8 and 10 grams of protein per cooked cup). Also, they are complete sources of protein which is rarely found among grains. Additionally, amaranth and quinoa have a large number of complex carbs, iron, fibre, manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.
All things considered, there are many ways you can build muscle when you’re on a vegan diet. It all comes down to being physically active within your body’s limits and eating healthy food.