More and more people and brands are embracing the vegan lifestyle. Factors such as health, animal welfare, and climate change are driving them to adopt the plant-based diet that is used to be seen as fads. A lot of misconceptions abound on veganism as it is perceived as extreme and weird and will give you a skinny body with no hope to build a muscle.
Some athletes and bodybuilders have scruples about shifting from animal-based products into plant-based ones as they fear about losing the muscles they have already gained. The most common notion that a vegan diet lacks protein, which is essential for muscle building, keeps them in their carnivore lifestyle despite the high risks to their health.
But is muscle building as a vegan really a tough or an impossible feat to achieve? If you’re a fan of sports you might have heard of athletes Venus Williams (tennis), Tom Brady (football), Kendrick Farris (weightlifting), Patrik Baboumian (bodybuilding), and Kyrie Irving (basketball). They have proven that plant-based eating boost their endurance and stamina, making them perform their best on their respective sports. These athletes swear that going vegan ups their energy and make them feel amazing about their body and building muscle is not really a struggle than most people perceived.
Interested in how they were able to shift successfully from their animal-based diet to vegan?
Let’s find out!
Vegan Muscle Building Requirements
Building muscle as a vegan requires that you follow certain rules in order to sustain the shift from a carnivore diet to a plant-based one.
1. Have the Right Mindset
Real change takes time. You must have the patience and the right mindset if you want to achieve your muscle building goal while keeping to a vegan lifestyle. You will get your desired results over time through the accrual of the daily steps you take. Don’t fall victim to the crazy transformations being hyped by people who only do this for the money. They don’t care if you’ll end up in the hospital with their harmful advice. Be wary about products that sound too good to be true, chances are, they are not actually good for you.
2. Accept that People Have Different Body Compositions
Bear in mind that each person is born with unique qualities and that includes the body composition. What may easily work on others may not necessarily work for you. Generally it is healthier to stay in your natural size and weight than try to transform into an extreme build and size. While some people can gain muscle or weight easier, others are not meant to be huge in the first place. Yet, the use of the right tools can help you come close to your ideal body.
3. Give Up Your Protein Obsession!
Getting lots of protein is a favorite topic of every bodybuilder. They believed that eating animal-based protein like dairy, eggs, and meat is a surefire way of getting the sufficient amount needed for muscle building. What they choose to ignore is that this is not a healthy approach. Animal-based products have zero fiber, saturated fat, cholesterol, antibiotics, methionine, hormones, and cancer-causing protein. These contribute to why some bodybuilders fade away too early – their health issues prevent them to participate in the sports anymore.
When you take protein it turns into ammonia byproducts which compel the kidney to work harder. To avoid overdoing it, go for the best protein source and that’s fiber-rich plant-based products that have complex carbs. The truth is, the daily protein needed by a person is not really known. The human body is unpredictable which is why the protein requirement varies daily as well. Keeping to a 10 – 15% of your daily calorie needs is enough as excess protein will not give you the extra advantage to build muscles.
How can you ensure that you meet your daily protein needs?
There are two ways that you can sustain your needed protein for body building while on a vegan diet: through simply eating or through supplements.
Eating to Meet Protein Needs
To get more protein, you just eat more food. This means that the body’s energy needs are equivalent to its protein needs. Macronutrients play second fiddle to overall calories in this case. Daily calorie counting is a tiring and challenging task that is almost impossible to maintain. This is due to the numbers are never accurate because the body’s daily needs change every day.
Supplementing with Plant Protein
If eating more to meet your daily protein needs is not easy for you, supplementing with vegan-friendly protein powders is an acceptable alternative. Though ingesting real whole plant food is more beneficial to your health, the protein supplement can help out to a certain degree. If you decide to take this course, opt for very clean hemp or rice protein powders with a protein content that is 15% or below.
One way to determine if the protein powder is vegetarian is if it’s categorized as kosher. In a kosher diet, meat and milk products are never mixed. If this information is not included in their labels or displayed on their websites, call the manufacturer up and ask directly.
Some Popular Sources of Plant Protein
This is the solid protein found in hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are also high in Omega-3s, iron, and magnesium. One serving can provide almost half of your daily fiber needs.
Considered to be the most well-known vegetarian substitute to whey, soy protein is rich in protein but extremely low in cholesterol and fat. This specific protein is more flavorful compared to other vegetarian proteins. Make sure to read the label to avoid getting the variety that has fish or milk products in it.
Liquid Egg Whites, Egg Protein, and Egg White Protein
These vegan-friendly options provide the same protein punch as whey but the ingredients are far simpler and conventional.
Thanks to renowned TV doctor Dr. Oz, the lowly pea is very popular these days. It is free of cholesterol, high in protein, easy to digest, and has a strong amino acid profile.
4. Keep Your Focus on Healthy Food
Support your body properly in order to have more energy and to build a muscle. Be smarter by sticking to clean fuel and not messing with dirty bulking as other body builders do. A plant-based diet that includes grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds will satisfy the nutrient demands of even the toughest training athlete.
Other incredible foods that will help muscle building are beans, edamame, lentils, rice, soy, peas, leafy greens, fruits, and raw nuts. In body building, carbs are your friends as they are the major source of energy for intense training and as important as protein in growing muscles. So eat up a lot of complex carbs like fruits, potatoes, oats, pumpkins, and whole grains. Wholesome vegan foods are rich in nutrients like iron, calcium, zinc, and potassium that will fuel your body and support the growth of healthy muscle tissue.
Usually, whole plant-based foods have lower calories than animal-based foods the reason why you need to eat hefty portions of the former to get sufficient energy for the entire day. Explore the various types of vegan food available out there, experience the different tastes and textures, and the amount will probably fill you up in no time at all. Work to increase your appetite not to diminish it because under-eating is unacceptable with building muscle as a vegan.
5. Monitor the Time and Type of Foods You Eat
Whatever diet you may have, it’s never a good idea to work out on a full stomach. In general, an athlete or body builder must eat two to three hours before performing an activity. This gives the body enough time to digest the food and prepare for the incoming activity without the feeling of fullness, stomach cramping, or sluggishness that can disrupt a workout. Good pre-workout food choices are fruits, vegetables, protein, and starches.
You must eat again around 30 – 60 minutes after your workout for muscle recovery. This is the time when your muscles need fuel to start the repair process. Replenish electrolytes, carbs, and proteins lost during your workout. Greens, vegetables, and fruits especially lemons will help you get out of acid state and recover.
Though your body must be well hydrated in order to efficiently burn fat, expel toxins, and keep your heart beating, drinking water must be stopped 30 minutes before a strenuous workout. This is to avoid stomach cramping during the extreme training sessions. Instead, focus on hydrating well the day and night before and after your workout.
6. Be Vigilant for Deficiencies
Vegetarians are susceptible to micronutrient deficiencies, the most common of which is an iron deficiency. But this is not reason enough to ditch clean eating jump back to the carnivore bandwagon. They can affect your health and well-being, yes, but keeping a watchful on the early signs of these deficiencies can help you take necessary measures to address them.
The four biggest threats to be cautious about are deficiencies in calcium, iron, vitamin B12, and zinc.
Calcium plays an important role in sustaining strong bones and contractions of muscles. Low intake of calcium can trigger cramping during workouts and can lead to osteoporosis and weakening of the bones. Vegan foods that are good sources of calcium are almonds, kale, broccoli, collard greens, and spinach.
There are two types of iron, heme, and non-heme iron. Heme iron is the easiest to absorb by the body and usually found in red meat. It is the type of iron that most vegetarians lack in their diet. Meanwhile, non-heme iron is found in vegetables like beans, lentils, dried peas, artichokes, prunes, raisins, dried black currants, and dried peas. Females are prone to iron deficiency due to their monthly menstrual cycle. Iron supplements can help beat iron-deficiency anemia that non-heme iron can’t do alone.
A vitamin B12 deficiency can turn serious if not worked out immediately. Plant-based vitamin B12 is not easily absorbed by the body, unlike the animal-based version. This is a real area of concern even by healthy vegetarians. To overcome the deficiency, you’ll need to choose foods that are fortified with a sufficient amount of vitamin B12 or turn to vitamin B12 product supplements.
Zinc is a vital element that supports proper growth and body development but many vegetarians overlook this mineral. The lack thereof can affect the appetite, motor skills, cognitive power, and men’s testosterone levels. Animal products are the best sources of zinc the reason why vegetarians must fight zinc depletion through consumption of natural sources or zinc supplementation. Plant-based foods with zinc are almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, fortified cereals or oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds.
7. Workout Smartly Not Extremely
In order for muscles to grow, a regular workout must accompany your right mindset and a healthy vegan diet. Manual labor, bodyweight exercise, and resistance training can tear muscle fibers and you need to eat and take ample rest to facilitate the recovery process. Both the exercise and high-calorie diet are vital for muscle recovery. They work together to produce wonderful results in fat-burning, building muscles, and proper nourishment of the body.
Find a workout routine that keeps you motivated and slowly build your form and strength. Enroll in some classes or a gym membership to intensify your muscle-building routine and take enough stretch and rest to promote muscle growth.
Need more convincing? Watch this short video that talks about how to gain muscle in a vegan diet based on experience and medical knowledge.