The truth is that you don’t have to eat meat to gain muscle! Plant-based foods can provide plenty of protein for getting shredded. In fact, when done correctly, it can be a very tasty and healthy alternative to an omnivore diet. Let’s dive in!
Lots of Protein
The first and most obvious step is getting plenty of protein. Muscles rely on protein for repair and growth. Your body uses amino acids in the proteins to rebuild and strengthen muscles. For consistent gains, you need consistent protein. There are many plant-based options for protein, including lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts (or nut mylk), and vegan protein powders.
How much protein do you need? It depends on your goals. The average person needs about 0.0125 ounces of protein per pound of body weight, or about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68.2 kg), you need about 1.875 ounces (54.5 g) of protein every day! Higher amounts of exercise and weight lifting may increase the amount of protein needed for healthy muscles. Of course, protein needs vary from person to person, so talk to your doctor or dietitian before starting a new diet plan. Keep in mind that excessive amounts of protein will be stored as fat by the body, making your goals harder to achieve.
Plenty of Calories
While protein is an important factor, it’s not the only thing you need to put on muscle. Your diet needs to contain enough calories to power you through workouts. The more you exercise, the more calories you will need. Generally speaking, a beginner male lifter needs about 18 calories per pound of body weight, or 8.2 calories per kilogram. Going back to our previous example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need to eat 2700+ calories per day. That’s a lot of calories!
It’s also important to make sure you balance the sources of your calories. Different plants have different amino acids, and your body needs the proper mix for good muscle growth. For example, wheat and rice have lots of methionine (an amino acid), but do not contain as much lysine (another amino acid) as some other foods. Beans and peas have good amounts of lysine, but do not contain as much methionine. Nuts and nut mylk are generally low in both lysine and methionine, but contain a number of other essential amino acids. By eating a variety of foods, you can achieve a better balance that will accommodate better muscle growth.
Vitamins and Minerals
So far, we’ve been focused on overall calorie intake and protein content. However, vitamins and minerals are also crucial to having a body healthy enough to sustain muscle growth. Eating greens such as turnip greens or kale provides calcium, an important mineral for bone strength. Vitamin B12 is another critical nutrient. It supports healthy blood cells and iron retention. Nut mylk is an excellent source of B12. Other options include nutritional yeast and enriched cereals. Zinc supports the body’s immune system, keeping you in the gym and growing stronger. Pumpkin seeds and beans are both good sources of zinc. Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids keep the heart healthy and ready to work. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, soybeans, and flaxseed.
A vegan diet for adding muscle mass is achievable, healthy, and delicious! While it does take some work to make sure all essential nutrients are included, the benefits are definitely worth it. Get started by talking to your doctor or dietitian and keep an eye on our blog for more tips and tricks!