Is It Possible To Gain And Maintain Muscle With A Vegan Diet?
We hear a lot constantly about the vegan diet, its benefits, and drawbacks. But when it comes to gain muscle with a vegan diet, what happens to the theory when put to the test?
We often see general people or even muscled men and women, indirectly promoting the benefits of milk, poultry, beef, or any other animal products.
But if meat, dairy, and other animal-based products are so powerful, then how the most powerful creatures on planet, including elephants, oxen, and gorillas, survive (and very well by the way) with plant-based diet only?
It validates the fact that animal protein, among other things, are not essential to gain and build muscles.
Now, the question is, is it possible to gain and maintain muscle with a vegan diet? And the answer is absolutely YES!
Plant based diet does provide the required protein amount for our bodies.
So when comes to diet, keeping a sufficient caloric intake is what is left to build muscles as much as we want.
Moreover, building muscles also requires meticulous training, and the result is a blend of complete diet and adequate physical activity.
Learn more here from the National Health Service on some nutrients intake in a vegan diet you must pay attention to.
So, let us walk through the process of building and maintaining muscle while following the vegan diet.
It’s All About Calories!
If you wish to build muscles, you need to adapt to a consistent workout routine, but not just that.
You must consume enough calories to complement your training needs.
If your body is striving to get the required calories, you may not achieve the desired results. The best strategy it is to fuel up your caloric intake.
It is also essential to take a balanced approach towards your macronutrients intake.
Being on the vegan diet, and consuming foods that are high in fats or low in protein, may lead you to not build muscles effectively.
According the Washington State University, our recommended macronutrient intake is:
Carbohydrate – enough to provide 45-65% of your total daily calories
Proteins – From 0.36g to 0.91g daily depending on your regular physical activity
Fats – enough to provide 20-35% of your total daily calories
Once you understood the concept behind calorie intake, let’s find out how to get these nutrients.
Protein in the Vegan Diet
Ever wondered why all fitness lovers and gym-goers flaunt their protein shakes, smoothies, and egg bowls selfies?
Building muscles and profuse protein intake are almost synonymous as it helps repair and build muscles.
The most frequently asked question to all vegans is, “where do you get your protein?”
The answer is straightforward – if you are fulfilling the caloric intake, you are getting enough protein as the whole foods are protein-rich.
The protein needed is obtainable by consuming more vegetables, legumes, and whole-grain foods.
Foods such as tofu, lentils, almonds, quinoa, and peanuts are examples of protein-rich vegan choices.
Muscle Building Carbs
Carbohydrates are needed to accelerate the metabolism right after a rigorous workout session as they boost the post-workout recovery.
They are essential macronutrients for the muscle-building process as our body converts them to glycogen, that are stored in our muscles and supports our workout.
Carbs fulfill half of our body’s caloric requirements. Fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grains contain low-fat carbohydrates.
Moreover, quinoa, oats, bananas, sweet potatoes, and kidney beans are fantastic resources for fueling our body with carbohydrates.
Good Fats Are Vegan Fats
Fats should make at least 20% of your overall caloric intake, as per the general guideline. However, this should be good fats.
During a physical training session, these fats provide the required energy to your muscles.
Nevertheless, the serving size should be a key consideration while consuming fats so you don’t over intake.
For an effective muscle-building approach, you should focus on healthy fats sources.
Vegans can source these fats from avocados, olives, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
Significance of Physical Training
As we’ve mentioned, muscle-building is not just about diet selection.
Instead, it’s the combination of the right diet, consuming enough calories, keeping a watch on your macronutrients, and focusing on physical training.
In the absence of any of these or neglecting any factor, you may not succeed in building or maintain your muscles as you wish.
The Final Takeaway
We have thoroughly discussed the process and the science behind muscle building.
Also, we have covered how to effectively plan your vegan diet while keeping an eye in all the aspects.
Remember, building muscles is not about eating big portions of beef, stuffing dozens of egg whites, or going gaga on protein smoothies.
It is all about persistence and perseverance while following a balanced approach towards your meal plans and physical training.
If you are planning to switch to a vegan diet, you can start by increasing the portion size of your meals gradually or have multiple meals per day to satisfy your caloric need.
It is also pertinent to note that hard work and consistency will always be the factors behind gaining strength, building muscles, and leading a healthy vegan lifestyle.
- Sakkas, H., Bozidis, P., Touzios, C., Kolios, D., Athanasiou, G., Athanasopoulou, E., Gerou, I. and Gartzonika, C. (2020) Nutritional status and the influence of the vegan diet on the gut microbiota and human health. Medicina, vol.56(2) Article 88.
- Deckers, J. (2016) Animal (de)liberation: Should the consumption of animal products be banned? London: Ubiquity Press.
- NHS (2018) The vegan diet – eat well. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-vegan-diet/
- Washington State University (2021) Nutrition basics. https://mynutrition.wsu.edu/nutrition-basics
- DiNicolantonio, J. J. (2017) Good fats versus bad fats: A comparison of fatty acids in the promotion of insulin resistance, inflammation, and obesity. Missouri Medicine, vol.114(4) pp. 303–307.