Whether you’re an athlete, bodybuilder, or just like to keep fit and build muscle, the assumption is that this can only happen with animal protein sources.
But can you gain muscle on a vegan or plant-based diet? This is a question that constantly comes up by those looking to reduce their animal protein consumption and move into more of a plant-based lifestyle.
This podcast will give you the full breakdown on everything you need to know when it comes to gaining muscle whether you’re vegan, or plant-based with the occasional animal protein thrown in.
Let’s take a listen:
Why You Would Choose To Go Vegan or Plant-Based
Before we look at the specifics regarding how to gain muscle while being vegan or plant-based, we need to take a quick look at why you may want to consider this style of eating in the first place.
I narrow it down to two main areas:
1. It’s Better For The Environment
We are getting a much better understanding these days on the damage that happens from commercial feedlot factory farming. This style of beef production has detrimental effects to the environment and uses a massive amount of resources in the process.
The land usage alone just to grow the crops that the animals eat takes up an extraordinary amount of land, not to mention water, transportation, and power usage. This is causing a huge amount of air and water pollution and also leads to deforestation.
The runoff from the feedlots can also pollute water systems, and all of the pollution can impact the local and surrounding areas. Then there are the issues of the animals themselves.
Cows give off a lot of methane gas and this also has a detrimental effect on the warming of the environment. National Geographic makes note of this, as do many other scientific outlets. All of these cattle are leading to an increase in greenhouse gases and the warming of the planet that comes from it.
2. The Health Reasons
So not only is all this factory-farmed beef causing environmental damage, it’s not exactly the healthiest thing you can eat. These animals are so pumped full of hormones and antibiotics that they become very inflamed and overgrown at a young age.
This is, of course, to get them to a higher value weight in a quicker amount of time. But the end result is an animal that is not healthy, does not get to move around, and eats a diet that is unnatural.
These animals eat – at best – grains and corn. If you know anything about ruminants, they are not designed to eat high energy feed of this sort. They are grazers and need to spend their day eating grass which they breakdown into fatty acids due to their bacterial fermentation digestive system.
This is why they have four stomachs – they extract every ounce of nutrition out of that grass. So now you have an animal that is full of synthetic hormones, unnatural food, and not living as is intended. and it all results in a very sick animal. And if you eat a sick animal you can’t expect to be as healthy as possible.
Switching to a vegan or plant-based diet may also help with things like:
- Heart disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Skin conditions
Can Switching To A Vegan Or Plant-Based Diet Help With All This?
Making the switch to this style of eating will definitely help environmentally, and also in avoiding a hormone-filled, sick animal. But if you do like animal proteins, there is another way around this.
Choosing to eat organic, farm-raised, grass-fed – and finished – will allow you to eat the cleanest source of protein possible. These are also animals that are allowed to roam naturally while still consuming a grass-based diet.
The act of eating grass could also be a way to combat the effects of climate change caused by the factory farmed version. And the other big appeal is that these are animals that have higher amounts of omega-3’s, and also CLA or conjugated linoleic acid. CLA can help boost muscle mass, decrease body fat, and control type 2 diabetes.
So that is a few of the reasons why someone would switch to a vegan or plant-based diet, but if you are looking to gain muscle and strength, how do you go about this?
Where Do You Get Protein To Build Muscle On A Vegan/Plant-Based Diet?
This is always the main question that will come up when you’re looking to build muscle but not eat animal products. It will take a little planning – and some more food – but it’s still possible.
And this means looking to consume plants that have the complete spectrum of amino acids. The big problem with veganism is that many of the choices are incomplete meaning you’re not getting all 21 (or some say 22) amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and when you don’t have the complete form of them, building muscle becomes pretty tough.
Fortunately, there are some plants that have complete proteins to them including:
- Nuts and seeds
- Ezekial bread
- chia and hemp seeds
The next thing you can do is to combine incomplete proteins together to make complete proteins. A few examples of this is to match rice (which is incomplete) with beans (which are complete)
You can also have a wholewheat pita and then add in some hummus to make a complete protein.
How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Muscle?
Whether you are consuming animal products or trying to gain muscle from a vegan or plant-based diet, how much protein should you be aiming for?
This can get complicated, but it might not be as much as you think. The American College of Sports Medicine states that 10-35% o your calories each day come from protein. Another way to look at this is to get 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
This is a wide range but you want to make your determination based on your activity level, size, age, sex etc. If you are not a large person, and spend all day sitting at a desk and then work out for an hour, you can be on the lower end of the scale.
On the opposite side, if you are larger, and work a physically demanding job – you may want to be on the higher side for protein consumption.
Wrapping It Up
So if you’re looking to gain more muscle, but wanting to take a vegan or plant-based approach, the good news is it’s still possible It may take a little more planning – and a bit more food – but you can make it happen.
It may be a healthier option while also having positive effects on the environment. No matter what approach you take, muscle gain still does come down to consistency, adherence, and discipline to make it happen.
Muscle growth takes time, effort, and commitment, but you can have a plan in place that will make it much easier to accomplish.