How To Build Muscle On A Plant-Based Diet
There are a number of considerations that go along with following, or thinking of following, a plant-based diet like a vegan diet. A common question that pops up is whether plant-based diets are suitable for muscle building. This is largely due to the link between protein and muscle growth — with many people wondering can you even build muscle on a plant-based diet?
Can you build buscle on a plant-based diet?
The good news is following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle or perform at a high level when it comes to your training. A well-balanced plant-based diet can provide the energy and nutrients needed for efficient training and muscle growth. Let’s look at a few things you can do to help increase muscle on a plant-based diet.
- Train consistently
- Balance your energy intake
- Get adequate plant-based protein
- Sources of plant-based protein
- Building muscle on a plant-based diet is possible
Be consistent with your training
Once you recognise the value of consistency with your training, you can be on the way to achieving the results you want. Being consistent with how often you workout, as well as how you actually train, can make a big difference. This particularly applies if you want to build muscle.
If building muscle is your goal, then you should be doing resistance-based strength training regularly. This stresses the muscle fibres and creates micro-tears which your body then repairs and rebuilds. A consistent training routine that balances resistance and rest can help you to increase your strength and muscle growth. Yep, you need time for muscle recovery as well. The good news here is that plant-based diets tend to be slightly higher in antioxidants, which may help your body to recover a little faster.
Balance your energy intake
Before you start eating to fuel muscle growth after a workout, it’s important for your body to have the energy to do that workout! That’s where carbohydrates come in.
Your body needs good-quality carbohydrates to power your muscles, as well as your brain. Without sufficient carbs, you can find yourself running low on energy, stamina and concentration. Carbohydrates are also necessary for muscle growth, as they trigger a release of insulin which can stimulate the absorption of amino acids found in the protein you eat. Aim to get your carbs from whole-food sources such as grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts to help keep up your energy levels.
Provide your body with plant-based protein
Protein is an essential component of any diet, particularly if gaining more muscle is one of your goals. It provides your body with essential amino acids, which help with the repair and rebuilding of muscle fibres. Animal proteins provide similar proportions of amino acids to what your body requires, which can make it easier for them to be used. That doesn’t mean plant-based protein isn’t effective for building muscle — it just may take a little more work from your body to do so.
How do you ensure you’re getting adequate protein? A basic guideline from the Australian Guide To Healthy Eating you can follow is the recommended daily intake of protein, which is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (there are 0.36 grams in a pound). That means a woman weighing 70 kg (approx 154 pounds) should be eating around 56 grams (just over 1.9 ounces) of protein each day. If you are looking to increase your muscle growth, or you are training regularly, you may want to increase this to 1-1.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight each day. Keep in mind this is just a general recommendation and you may have to adjust slightly depending on your level of physical activity.
Sources of plant-based protein
There are lots of ways to get the nutrients you need in a plant-based diet, particularly when it comes to protein. Some of the higher-protein vegan foods you can use include:
- Soy products
- Tempeh or tofu
- Wholegrain rice, oats and quinoa
- Nuts and seeds
- Lentils and beans (especially black beans and kidney beans).
If you like to use protein powders, there are also a number of plant-based options available, including brown rice or pea protein powders.
When you are focused on growing more muscle, protein consumption should be at the forefront of your mind. Spreading that protein intake out across the day can help ensure your muscles are adequately absorbing it. A meal plan that includes pre- and post-workout snacks can be really beneficial for ensuring your nutrition is matched with your goals.
Building muscle on a plant-based diet is possible
Following a plant-based diet doesn’t mean that muscle growth is out of reach. Eating quality whole foods and balancing regular weight training with adequate rest means it is completely possible. If a plant-based diet is your preference, don’t allow yourself to be put off achieving your fitness goals. It’s time the myth that plant-based diets can’t complement weightlifting was laid to rest.
* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.