Many individuals choose to consume a vegan diet for ethical or health reasons, and the nutritionists all agree that a properly planned and balanced vegan diet can provide all of the nutrients necessary for an adult to maintain health and functionality. However, vegans who venture into the gym to try to build muscle and get fit and buff often find themselves reeling in confusion; apparently, in addition to the workouts, it’s all about protein, protein, protein. Eat steak and eggs for breakfast, fish for lunch, and chug milk-based protein shakes. What is a vegan to do? Rest assured, it is possible to build muscle on a vegan diet.
Humans don’t need much protein, right?
Muscle is mostly composed of protein, and if you want to grow new muscle, you need to eat protein. Many people are quite confused about how much protein to eat per day; for example, the RDA says an average-sized healthy person needs only 60 grams of protein per day, the amount found in two cups of chopped chicken; the vegan equivalent would be one cup of nuts, one cup of kidney beans, and around half a cup of chopped tofu. Easy to consume that much protein, right?
Well, actually humans need more than that
However, the RDA is actually the MINIMAL DAILY REQUIREMENT to stay alive and reasonably healthy. In order to be a successful muscle-builder, you need a lot more protein than that per day. The American College of Sports Medicine says in order to increase muscle mass in combination with exercise, the average person should consume 80 to 135 grams of protein per day, and most exercise experts suggest consuming far more than that, around 100 to 200 grams per day.
How can a vegan consume that much protein?
You would have to eat 13 cups of kidney beans per day to get 200 grams of protein. While beans are good for you, even the most dedicated vegan might balk at that amount. However, consider that there are plant-based protein sources with higher amounts of protein than kidney beans. For example, one cup of seitan contains 75 grams of protein; add a handful of nuts and you’ve hit the 80 gram lower limit to build muscle. Lentils and soy both provide a powerful protein punch as well. So you could start your day with a hearty breakfast of seitan, have lentil loaf for lunch, snack on nuts, and end the day with a tofu stir fry and you can easily consume sufficient amounts of protein to build muscles when you hit the gym to lift.
What about protein shakes?
Protein shakes are unnecessary if a healthy diet is consumed, but they may help out on days where you were too busy to consume proper meals. While most protein shakes are based on milk, there are alternatives.
In conclusion, building muscle as a vegan is very doable. Select your protein sources and then hit the gym! Happy lifting.