While following a vegan diet may seem simple, maintaining a balanced diet through plant-based foods can be somewhat challenging. This article looks at how to build muscle while following a vegan diet, exploring foods to incorporate to increase muscle mass.
Following a Vegan Diet
A vegan diet consists only of foods derived from plants. Vegans do not eat meat or animal products, such as eggs or dairy products.
It is possible to gain the majority of the nutrients needed for human health from a varied, balanced vegan diet, incorporating vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, iron and calcium, as well as essential omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
For individuals following a vegan bodybuilding diet, it can be useful to plan out meals in 5 to 7-day blocks. For those wishing to transition from a traditional, omnivorous diet, it is often beneficial to slowly incorporate more vegan foods, rather than suddenly switching to plant-based foods only.
High Protein Plant Foods
Incorporating sufficient protein is critical to the success of a vegan bodybuilding diet. Protein has established a reputation as the building block of muscles. A growing body of research indicates that consuming a high-protein diet has significant benefits in terms of metabolic health and weight loss.
Benefits of a high-protein diet include:
- Reducing appetite and hunger
- Improving bone health
- Maintaining kidney health
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing snacking and food cravings
- Helping the body to repair itself
- Boosting metabolism and fat burning
- Promoting fitness in old age
- Helping maintain weight loss
- Increasing strength and muscle mass
Since vegan protein sources differ widely in terms of amino acid content, it is important to consume a high amount and variety of nutrient-rich foods. Filling up on protein rich foods such as legumes, tofu, quinoa and seitan helps vegans to maximise muscle gain.
Many vegans seeking to increase their muscle mass use vegan protein powders, supplementing their protein intake throughout the day and before and after workouts.
Eating Enough Fat
It seems counterintuitive to increase fat intake in order to build muscle. The word ‘fat’ does not seem conducive to health and fitness. Nevertheless, fat is actually vital to physiological processes throughout the human body, including building muscle.
The term ‘fat’ is actually used to describe subsets of lipids, or water insoluble compounds. Lipids play an important role in storing energy, maintaining healthy hormone levels, and synthesising protein. Put simply, fat is an integral component in building muscle.
Fats comes in many different forms. Some are produced via processes in the human body, while others are derived directly from food.
Omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids are integral to human health. Omega 3 and 6 acids are both polyunsaturated fatty acids that are obtained directly from food.
Bodybuilders need to consume sufficient amounts of fat to obtain sufficient calories and amino acids to support muscle gain. The general fat intake recommendation is 0.5 grams of fat per pound of body weight per day. For a male bodybuilder weighing in at 175 pounds, this equates to consuming 80 grams of fat every day.
Drinking Enough Fluids
A vegan bodybuilding diet is high in vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits. Individuals on a high fibre diet may experience certain side effects, such as abdominal pain, bloating and gas.
Increasing water intake can help counter these complications. Experts recommend 1ml of water per calorie of food consumed. This means that a person consuming a 2,000 calorie per day diet should aim to drink 2 litres of water every day.
Maintaining a vegan diet can go hand in hand with building muscle. The key to vegan bodybuilding is education. Since a vegan diet eliminates certain food groups, it is vital to gain those nutrients from other sources, since their absence could result in nutritional deficiencies.
Fortunately, a significant rise in veganism in recent years has created an explosion in terms of research and educational resources. As a sports coach, triathlon competitor and vegetarian, Richard Mallet understands the importance of nutrition in building and maintaining fitness. With vegan bodybuilders like Dominick Thompson, Korin Sutton, and Samantha Shortkey dispelling myths and stereotypes, more and more competitive sportsmen and women are making the transition to a plant-based diet and not just surviving but thriving.