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A lot of people think that one can’t be a vegan and build muscle at the same time. They believe that you need to eat meat to bulk up.
The truth? They’re wrong. You totally can.
But you must know exactly what to do. How exactly vegan muscle building works.
A primary reason many plant-based dieters have a hard time muscling up is that vegan bodybuilding is difficult. More so than the approach used by traditional omnivores. And to make things more complicated, studies show that plant-and-meat eaters tend to have higher muscle mass index.
There’s also the long list of myths about copious amounts of protein only being present in meat. The truth is, you can acquire plant-based protein in high doses too. Given you know which ones hold the most.
And that’s where we come in. We’ve listed eight tips to help you in your vegan muscle increasing program.
1. Understand the Vegan Diet in Terms of Muscle Building
First thing first: You need to first have a complete understanding of the vegan diet. Of how it affects muscle building.
If you don’t, you won’t have the ability to address its potential drawbacks and restrictions. You’ll have a hard time making your vegan muscle building regimen work. And of course, you’ll most likely end up with results far from what you desired and expected.
The key is to develop a bodybuilding regimen consisting of the right plant-based meals. And that means rich in protein and calcium-packed dairy substitutes. Then, combine it with the right exercise.
From there, you can make the correct adjustments and pave your way to being buff and strong.
The first part - the bit about protein - is the biggest influencer in the success (or failure) of your muscle building program. But it’s also one of the most misunderstood areas of the vegan diet. And why a lot of would-be vegan muscle builders never get to see the results they wanted.
Because when it comes to building muscles, there are specific diet and exercise aspects more crucial than the rest. For instance, to maximize your muscle-growing program, you need to:
- Always keep calorie deficiencies at bay
- Continuously overload your muscles
- Have a compound exercise-centered program
- Reduce cardio exercises
- Load up on carbohydrates
- Supply your body with more protein
Again, that last part about protein is the most important. Because protein, as you’ve learned in school, is the building block of life. Without it, enzymes, hormones, organs, and tissues will fail.
Without it, you won’t have muscles. You basically won’t have muscles to build in the first place.
This is why the first crucial step to taking your vegan body’s muscles to a whole new level starts with understanding plant-based diet.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Let’s face it. No matter how many people tell you just to embrace your current body, it’s something hard to do. We all want to look the best we can be, and in many cases, that can mean slimming down or buffing up.
Also, if building muscle is what you want to do, why let people tell you otherwise? It’s your body, and so long as you’re not harming it and you feel happy, then by all means, get it bulked up.
Anyway, the point here is you first need to set realistic expectations. This applies not just to those who want to take up vegan muscle building regimens, but to everyone who has fitness goals.
You need to have a realistic take on which level you can build your muscles to. There’s no point in attempting to have a body like that of Dwayne Johnson if your body composition itself can’t go to that level.
Once you instill these achievable expectations, then you can go ahead and start planning for your plant-based muscle building program.
3. Know How Much Protein You Need for Your Vegan Muscle Building Regimen
So… According to the National Institutes of Health, a sedentary individual needs about 0.36 grams per pound (or 0.8 grams per kilogram), a day. But that’s for people who don’t do a lot of moving and perspiring.
For someone who wants to go on a vegan muscle building program, this amount goes up to anywhere between a daily 0.6 to 1.2 grams per pound. The exact number depends on a lot of factors, from how active you are to what your exact goals are (more on this later).
Here’s a better guideline for you to follow in terms of protein intake, seeing as this one comes from the International Society of Sports Nutrition:
- Recommended protein intake for exercising individuals is between the range of 0.64 grams and 4.4 grams per pound (1.4 and 2.0 grams per kilogram a day)
- For those focused on endurance exercises, recommended protein intake is at the lower end
- For those doing intermittent activities, recommended protein intake is around the middle of the range
- For those engaged in strength or power exercises, recommended protein intake is at the higher end
Whichever the case, one thing remains true though:
You’d need to bump up your protein intake since we’re talking about building muscles here.
4. Understand that Not All Plant Proteins are Great for Muscle Building
This is one of the most common myths rampant in the vegan muscle building community. It’s time you forget about it.
Instead, acknowledge that not all proteins are equal. And that not all of them can help you in your muscle building regimen.
Because we’re talking amino acids here. If protein is the building block of life, then amino acids are the building blocks of protein.
So, without amino acids, we don’t have protein. And without protein, we don’t have tissues, muscle tissue included.
To keep your body alive and kicking, it needs 21 types of amino acids. 9 of these you need to get from food. They’re what we call “essential amino acids.”
One of these, leucine, has a lot to do with muscle building. Simply put, it triggers protein synthesis that allows you to grow your cells. And from cell growth comes bigger muscles.
It’s for this reason research found that how much leucine a meal contains impacts protein synthesis that follows. And it’s why you should build your vegan diet around meals with higher leucine content.
So for instance, when deciding between 100 grams of hemp protein and 100 grams of pea protein, know that the latter can help you better with its higher muscle-building potential.
5. Know Which Plant Proteins the Body Absorbs Easily
“You won’t get all essential amino acids from plant proteins!”
This isn’t true. Plant proteins aren’t incomplete as many people believe. But this doesn’t mean you can easily get all you need for your vegan muscle building regimen.
What makes building muscles in vegans harder than in omnivores is that some plant proteins don’t easily allow the body to absorb their amino acid content. Some of them also have lower contents of vital amino acids.
To counter this, you need to make sure you’re supplying your body with easy-to-absorb plant proteins. The good news is, there are several of them. And here are your top picks:
- Grains such as oats, rice, and wheat
- Organic tofu, edamame, and tempeh
- Legumes and veggies including black beans, lentils, lima beans, peas, and potato
- Nuts such as peanuts, almonds, pistachios, and walnuts
- Seeds including buckwheat, chia, chickpeas, and quinoa
Basically, you want to get at least 70% of your daily protein intake from these sources. Because the body easily absorbs them. And that means building your meals around these top-notch protein sources will help you do well.
6. Plan Your Meals from the Food List Above
Now that you have more knowledge on how plant-based proteins work and which ones offer the best in terms of absorption and content, you can finally plan your meals!
This step is easier since, by this time, you already know your body composition and have set realistic expectations. Here’s a four-step plan for building the right meals:
- Consider your needed calories
- Factor in macros
- Don’t forget to time and size your meals properly
- Make sure you have a variation
Variation is significant in vegan muscle building, folks. And while many people think that vegans have very limited choices, it’s just not true. There are so many recipes you can choose from, starting with the tastiest breakfasts to easy-to-make lunches and even grand dinners.
You need variation because it’s a critical motivator to helping you stick to your muscle building regimen.
7. Keep an Eye Out for Possible Deficiencies
Whether you’re a newcomer to the plant-based life or a veteran, you most likely have heard people warning you about iron deficiencies. And how it can put you in a life or death situation.
This doesn’t mean that you should already give up your veganism or your muscle building plans. However, this shouldn’t also mean you can shut out these warnings and totally ignore them. Micronutrient deficiencies can happen, so make sure you watch out for them.
Vegan Muscle Building is Completely Possible
There you have it. If the only things keeping you back from starting your vegan muscle building program are those myths, then you know now that they’re just that. Simply myths.
So, go ahead and start planning! And to help make your meals become more exciting, check out our blog! It’s filled with the tastiest, protein-rich recipes you can make any time of the day.