How to gain muscle on a vegan diet? Celery-munching vegans and muscular body? That sounds oxymoronic! But, wait, I heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger, the epitome of bodybuilding, has 99% of his diet entirely vegan. In fact, he prefers almond milk over dairy milk.

How did he achieve such muscle and strength? Does he cheat on the diet? Most importantly, how does he get enough protein from a vegan diet?

The concept of not getting enough protein from vegan diets is old. Instead, meat and eggs as bodybuilder’s only best friends are nothing more than a marketing campaign.

What Do the Experts Say About Vegan Diets for Muscle Building?

How To Gain Muscle On A Vegan Diet - Muscle Building

Not I, but Arnold Schwarzenegger, known for his body and muscle. Reveals how a plant-based diet isn’t a barrier to achieve strength and significant muscle. Instead, the food brings forth more vitality, energy, stamina, and health benefits your way.

Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh, emphasizes the reality that adequate protein and spreading food intake throughout the day, along with weight training

How Much Protein Should I Get Per Day?

If your aim is to increase strength, body mass, and muscle mass like professional powerlifters, research shows that 2.2 g per kg of weight is optimum.

According to Bonci, you must get 5 to 7 g of protein/pound of your weight. Along with that, you must consume sufficient calories from vegan diets, which most vegans fail to notice.

As per a study, a Romanian Olympic athlete, who consumed 1.5 g of soy protein regularly for up to 2 months experienced a fantastic boost in strength, calcium levels, and body mass. Moreover, he had lesser post-training fatigue experiences.

A perfect time to increase protein intake is before and after weightlifting. Along with protein, multi-vitamins must supplement your diet.

Why Increasing Your Muscle Mass is Important?

Whether you want to take it to an international level or simply learn it for your health’s sake, there are tons of benefits you can reap from bodybuilding. Athletes know the secrets:

  1. Greater muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate
  2. Strength training aids in making your muscles and bones stronger.
  3. You have a lower overall fat percentage.
  4. You have higher daily energy to carry out your tasks.

How to Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet?

Surprisingly, it’s a fact that people who attain the muscles mostly rely on protein powders and supplements rather than merely food. However, be ensured that protein bars are used as supplements, not meals.

Do you know that the New York Times bestselling author, Dr. James Fuhrman, mentions at The End of Heart Diseases that more and more athletes are turning vegan as it not only delivers more energy but also promotes improved sleep and can extend the career span.

For muscle building, begin with a fitness plan, drink plenty of water, and consume high-quality protein. (That’s the main criteria – not that you must have animal-based protein).

You can always achieve better health and fitness with a well-planed plant-based diet or vegan diet.

Tips to Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet

In vegan diets, protein sources are different from the meat-eaters. (At least vegans are protected from the danger of GMOs.) Here’s how you can gain muscle without feeling disappointment or weak:

1. Eat High-Quality Protein Throughout the Day

For maximum muscle growth, you must get about 30 grams of protein per meal.

Be creative with vegan meals – try out protein bars, vegan snacks, and juicing recipes. In fact, anti-diabetes juicing recipes, muscle-building juicing recipes, anti-cancer juicing recipes, and many more are out there to explore.

Vegan foods that are protein-packed include:

    • Beans

Nutritious beans have around 15 grams of protein per cup.

How To Gain Muscle On A Vegan Diet - Beans

Amazingly, the bean varieties, including kidney, pinto, navy, black, etc. are the second-highest source of protein. Beans beat the chicken food sources because they are high in fiber, low in fat, and are quite reasonable. Another interesting fact is that seeds have several other essential amino acids that are required for muscle building.

You can have half to one cup of beans per day to satiate your protein need. You can prepare vegan wraps or a bean salad to power up your body for a workout. Do these vegan substitutes sound “tasteless”?

    • Legumes

Legumes grow in the form of pods, for example, peas, soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. It is a low-fat, zero cholesterol protein source for the vegans.

Cooked lentils can add up to 18 g of protein in your diet. Green lentils can be added to salads and brown ones to your soups.

    • Leafy Greens

To make your diet nutrient-dense, kale, spinach, broccoli, peas are excellent protein sources. If you want to increase your protein intake in your meals, start adding in mustard green, spinach (Popeye the Sailor Man – he had a muscular body too), and kale.

Individually, leady greens can provide lesser protein. For example, 2 cups of spinach only offer 2 g of protein while a similar quantity of kale contains 4 g. This is not going to satisfy your daily protein needs.

Here’s a tip: have a leafy green smoothie in breakfast (there are tons of ways to add a little bit of sugar-less flavor), salad in lunch, and any leafy green cooked for dinner. By the end of the day, your daily needs would be satisfied.

    • Cruciferous Vegetables

Among the cruciferous protein sources, broccoli is the best. It’s outstanding brain food as well as your way to a healthier life.

Only 2 cups of broccoli would be filling your body with 5 g of proteins. Begin to add it to your leafy green salads or an evening snack.

    • Dairy Products

How To Gain Muscle On A Vegan Diet - Almond milk

A glass of cow milk can provide you with 8 g of protein, while half a cup of plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese can offer as much as 15 g of protein. If you follow a plant-based diet, you may prefer these particular dairy choices.

But, what if you are strictly vegan? Fortified milk is offering 3 g of protein. There are low-protein sources of milk, such as a cup of almond milk contain 1 g of protein. While soy milk can offer 3.3 g of protein.

Prepare your smoothies, fill up your cereal bowl, or have a glass of vegan milk in breakfast.

    • Soy Products

Soy milk is undoubtedly a fantastic source of protein. Additionally, soy foods such as a cup of tempeh and tofu contain over 12 g of protein.

Learn some Tofu and Tempeh recipes to supplement your diet between the meals.

    • Whole Grains

Whole grains are another super-healthy sources of protein. If you are gluten-intolerant, you must only stick to gluten-free grains such as quinoa, oats, buckwheats, amaranth, brown rice, corn, and teff.

Grains with high protein levels are whole wheat pasta, oats, whole wheat bread, and quinoa. Quinoa makes a fantastic base for salad recipes.

    • Nuts

Nuts are on-the-go energy snacks that can be roasted or eaten raw, or you may add them to your salads, yogurt, smoothies, and much more. Nuts are high-quality protein sources.

Moreover, load up your diet with these bone-fortifying ‘calcium sources’. Furthermore, a single serving of any nut provides over 160 highly nutritious calories. Nuts contain a balanced ratio of fats, proteins, and fiber. In fact, most nuts are brain booster and small energy packs.

A single tablespoon of peanut butter contains 4 g of protein, and only an ounce of almonds contains 6 g of protein.

    • Seeds

How To Gain Muscle On A Vegan Diet - Chia Pudding

Seeds are still smaller energy packs that give you high-quality protein, healthy fats, and omega 3s. Chia seeds and sunflower seeds your no-cook energy bars.

Prepare a chia pudding to boost protein intake. Only a tablespoon of chia seeds offers 3 g of protein and up to 60 calories. As for hemp seeds, 3 tablespoons of seeds can provide 10 grams.

    • Protein Powder

If you are thinking of opting for a protein powder to supplement your diet, you can go for pea and hemp protein-packed powders. They are nutritious, healthy, and contain proteins close-to-animal protein.

2. Variety is Nutritious:

Having a single protein source isn’t sufficient. Consume protein from different food sources.

For example, have almond milk or leafy green smoothie and oatmeal in breakfast; a bean salad with quinoa base in lunch; nuts and seeds for snacks; and leafy green cooking vegetable for dinner.

3. Don’t Forget Your Carbs:

Carbohydrates are essential to provide energy and stamina for the daily workout. For heavy weightlifting, you must consume tons of carbs every day.

To make it simpler, your 45 to 50 percent of the diet should be based on carbs.

4. Lift Weights and Strength Train

How To Gain Muscle On A Vegan Diet - Personal Trainer

Consuming protein isn’t the key to building muscle; instead, you must be spending hours in the gym. Maybe not hours, but consistency is the key.

All those proteins you have consumed must be benefited by regular strength training. It’s better to hire a trainer, especially if you are a beginner. A trainer can guide you about kinds of weights you can lift, in what manner, at what frequency and for how long.

Weightlifting can cause muscle damage if you are unfamiliar with the weights available at the gym.

5. Consume Complementary Protein Sources

Why the dilemma about vegans not having enough protein? It’s because vegetables mostly contain incomplete protein (that are made by the body as well). But have a low content of incomplete protein or essential amino acids (that body cannot prepare).

Except for chia, hemp, soy, and quinoa, mostly plant proteins are incomplete. To have complementary proteins, you must pair two or more protein vegan sources together.

Here are a few examples: almonds and oats; hummus and pita; nut butter and whole-grain bread; beans and rice; lentils and barley.

Final Verdict

Adequate calorie intake and high-quality proteins are your answer to how to gain muscle on a vegan diet. Vegans can fulfill their daily nutrients requirement and protein intake (including complementary protein sources) with greater awareness.

How vegan diets changed your lifestyle? Do share your experiences in the comments below.