Can You Actually Be Vegan And Build Muscle?
Do you want a bulked-up body and defined muscles, but are vegan? If you feel – like many people – you need protein to build muscle, you are not wrong. After all, body-builders gorge on protein rich foods including eggs, meat and other high-protein foods, including supplements. How then can you be vegan and build muscle?
What Is Veganism Anyway?
You may wonder if being vegetarian and being vegan are the same or similar. Actually, the two are quite different. Vegetarians only shun meat products including eggs. They will happily indulge in dairy, butter, cheese, honey and many other foods.
Vegans take this a step further: they don’t eat anything that is remotely sourced from animals, fish or birds. So vegans will not have milk or cheese or butter or even honey (because it is got from bees). Many vegans will not even use products, even medicines that are sourced from animals, tested on animals or use gelatin.
Is A Completely Plant-Based Diet Healthy?
Whether you want to turn vegan due to ethical reasons such as animal cruelty or due to environmental concerns (since meat and its products have a large carbon footprint) or have already turned vegan, you may wonder if you can meet your nutritional needs on a plant-based diet, be a vegan and build muscle.
Let’s look at it from another angle. The USDA (US Department of Agriculture) placed greater emphasis on plants including varied colored fruits and vegetables and grains and a reduced intake of meats, particularly red meats for optimum nutrition and health and reduced risk of many life-style ailments.
So how do you cut out the animal-sourced component in a high protein diet, be a vegan and build muscle?
Protein Sources On A Vegan Diet
Everyone needs protein – it is an essential component of any diet. It may surprise you to know that there are many protein sources for vegans. You can get proteins from foods like:
- Beans: a number of beans of different kinds are available in most countries. They require soaking and cooking and can be had as part of a meal or added to salads, pastas, rice and other dishes.
- Lentils: lentils are very popular in Asian and African countries and are cooked in a variety of ways as they are a major source of protein. Whole lentils can also be sprouted and cooked (Chinese bean sprouts for example.)
- Oats: oats are high fiber and are very healthy. They can be cooked into oatmeal porridge or added to bars, cookies and cakes.
- Quinoa: this is actually a seed that resembles a cereal. It is high in protein and can be cooked in many ways.
- Peas: fresh or dried peas of different kinds are rich in proteins. The dry variety (like dry beans) needs soaking overnight and requires a long cooking time.
- Tofu: made from soy bean milk, which is heated and then curdled with lemon juice. You are left with soy milk solids that can be drained and pressed together and then cut into chunks, cubes or larger pieces. You can usually get tofu easily.
- Tempeh: made from fermented soy beans, this is gluten free and easy to digest.
- Seitan: a form of mock meat, made from wheat gluten and other added ingredients. It is also a rich source of iron.
- Spirulina: a seaweed that is rich in protein. You can get other algae as well.
- Nutritional yeast: this can be added to many dishes to augment their protein content.
- Nuts: almost all nuts are high in protein. You do have to limit your consumption of nuts because they are high in fat as well, unless you need the calories.
- Seeds: hemp, flax and chia
When you add whole-grains and their derivatives to this mix, your body gets complete and usable protein. This is of importance because if you have high protein vegan foods, but they are not complete proteins, your body will not be able to use the proteins.
So the quality and source of the protein is important for body-builders who need to have high quality proteins to build muscle.
It is not only important to get a sufficient amount of protein, but you also need to take healthy carbs and other micro and macronutrients from your diet. You also need to take in a certain amount of healthy fats to make up the calorie intake required.
How Can You Build Muscle On Plant Proteins?
Many famous body-builders, sportspeople and athletes are vegans for any number of reasons. According to an article published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) titled Fueling the Vegetarian (Vegan) Athlete, it is possible to build the body and meet its nutrient and protein needs by taking supplements and vegan protein powders as required.
A sample meal plan that is high protein goes like this:
Smoothie for breakfast: add bananas, berries, seeds, nuts and whiz it with nut-based milk. Add some protein powder and other fresh fruits or vegetables if you want.
If you are hungry at odd times, you can always add a protein shake or smoothie. To make up the calorie count and add nutrition, use some virgin coconut or olive oil to your salad dressings or even smoothies.
So you can be vegan and have well-muscled and ripped body.