Building muscle, no matter what diet you follow, is no easy feat. However, understanding how muscle growth works and the nutritional factors that contribute to growth will help you start seeing results! Here, we’ll explore how to build muscle on a vegan diet. It’s time to get pumped up on plants!
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Muscle Building 101
Whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore, if you want to get “ripped,” you have to eat and work out correctly. Sounds simple right? Not quite.
Muscle growth occurs when you consistently work out and challenge your muscles by increasing the level of resistance or weight. This process, known as muscle hypertrophy, will create micro-tears in the muscle fibers. The only way to repair the damage is if you eat enough calories. But it can’t just be any kind of calorie, such as ones that come from candy or processed food. You have to make sure those calories contain amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. They also aid in muscle recovery, as well as repair and grow muscle tissue.
If either of those two elements are missing from the equation—as in not eating enough or not working out enough—you won’t gain muscle.
Getting proper nutrition is essential to any fitness regimen, and building muscle is no exception. If your diet is made up of pizza, fries, cookies, and other processed foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients, reaching any fitness goal is going to be a challenge.
When you eat a vegan diet that consists of whole plant foods, you’ll not only be able to reach your muscle-building goals, but you’ll also be fueling your body with important nutrients that promote good health. It’s a win-win!
In addition to eating the right foods, you also need to make sure you get enough calories and eat the right macronutrients.
Understand Your Caloric Needs
One problem vegans face, especially those who are more active, is undereating. Fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are not only lower in calories, but also more filling. If you aren’t eating enough calories, your body won’t be able to build muscle.
To make sure you’re consuming enough calories, you need to determine your basal metabolic rate or BMR. BMR is the number of calories your body needs to perform basic, life-sustaining functions, such as breathing, circulation, nutrient processing, and cell production. This number is based on your gender, age, height, and weight.
Say that your BMR is 2,000 calories. That means you need to eat 2,000 calories a day just to maintain weight. If you want to gain muscle, you would need a calorie surplus of 10-20%. So, using the same 2,000 calorie BMR, you would need to consume an additional 200-400 calories every day.
If you want to gain muscle on a vegan diet, it’s important to focus on foods that have a high caloric density, like nuts, nut butters, avocado, dried fruits, and seeds. You can easily add these foods to protein shakes or smoothies or enjoy them as snacks.
Eat Enough Protein
Protein is synonymous with muscle building because your muscles are made out of protein. Without it, it would be impossible to bulk up. There’s a common misconception that protein equals meat, but contrary to popular belief, you can absolutely get enough protein on a vegan diet.
Although plant foods are low in certain amino acids (the building blocks to protein), as long as you eat a variety of options from each food group, you’ll be able to build big, strong muscles. Some vegan items that are richest in amino acids include legumes, beans, mushrooms, and quinoa.
So how much protein do you need to build muscle on a vegan diet? It all depends on your fitness goals. However, research suggests that most athletes need between 1.2 and 2.0 g/kg of protein. If you want to build muscle mass fast, you may want to eat as much as 2.2g/kg of protein. But protein isn’t the only macronutrient responsible for muscle growth!
Don’t Forget Carbs
Protein usually gets all the credit when it comes to building muscles, but carbohydrates are just as important. Thanks to trendy low-carb diets like Atkins and Keto, carbs have become somewhat of a dirty word. But when it comes to gaining muscle, carbs aren’t your enemy—they’re your friend!
When you work out, your body needs energy to power through all those reps and lifts. This energy comes directly from carbohydrates! However, not all carbs are equal. Unlike simple carbohydrates, which are found in foods that contain sugar and flour and provide a short-lived energy spike, complex carbohydrates provide sustained and long-term energy. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include oats, beans, quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes.
Carbohydrates do more than just fuel your workout. They also regulate muscle glycogen depletion, prevent muscle loss and weakness, aid in muscle recovery, and repair muscles. All in all, if you want to build muscle on a vegan diet, eat your carbs!
Visit Beyond Sushi in NYC
We hope you have a better understanding of how to build muscle on a vegan diet. When you’re ready to fuel up on a nutrient-rich, vegan meal, choose Beyond Sushi as your vegan restaurant of choice. We’re best known for our innovative, plant-based offerings and globally-inspired menu that will leave a lasting impact on both your palette and the planet. Dine-in with us or order takeout or delivery today!