Being a vegan is a choice made by many, however due to your dietary choices.
Most muscle building programs will involve eating plenty of meat, due to the number of complete proteins they contain.
This is not to say that you cannot build muscle as a vegan, as if you can design your diet correctly you will still be able to get enough protein into your diet through plant sources alone.
Building Muscle As A Vegan
Meat eaters can easily be categorised into 2 kinds, carnivores and herbivores. Vegans are those individuals that have absolutely no consumption of any animal products.
This is how they differ from vegetarians and many other groups of people with special dietary concerns.
As vegans do not consume any form of meat or dairy products, then how can they keep themselves nourished and on the path of bodybuilding?
The rule is that you should be aiming to consume 0.5-0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
So for example, if you weight 150 pounds you should aim to consume 75-105 grams of protein.
Since these individuals do not get their natural source of protein (found in meat), they can suffer from malnutrition, but there is a substitute that can help them out. This is called whey.
However, whey is a by-product of milk, so for vegans, it is off-limits until and unless the milk substances are removed from the rest of the whey. This is possible with the presence of an enzyme known as Rennet.
In order to find the right and appropriate whey, so that you can use it as a substitute during workouts for muscle building as a vegan, make sure you read the labels and do some research.
For those vegans who want an alternative to rennet and who want more sources of protein, they should actually consider other products which contain protein sources.
Some of the popular substitutes amongst vegan bodybuilders include the following:
This one is jam-packed with helpful Omega-3 and is pleasantly high in magnesium and iron too. This stuff can be called a half dosage of the fibre that you require in an entire day. Pretty good stuff, right?
Peas are considered to be a very high source of protein intake.
That’s not all, they are also very easy to digest, and are even cholesterol-free, giving all vegans out there, a branched-chain amino acid.
This is one of the most commonly used alternatives by vegans who are trying to build up their muscle mass.
Muscle building as a vegan is not easy, but it’s not as hard as it seems either. You simply have to know what to eat and when.
Soy protein is very low in fat and cholesterol, which is a win-win for all vegans, but read the labels carefully as some of these soy proteins may contain milk products and fish products as well.
Vegan Muscle Building Tips
Here are some vegan muscle building tips you should follow if you are a vegan who wishes to gain muscle mass:
#1: Get Plenty Of Calories
Whether you are a vegan or not to build muscles you need to eat, simple as that.
If you do not eat enough your body will start to burn the protein you need to build muscle, in the worst scenario your body will start to break down muscle tissue for fuel.
#2: Eat Plenty Of Fruit And Vegetables
Both fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. They also provide your body with antioxidants that can help to keep your immune system strong.
#3: Eat More Chickpeas And Legumes
Both of these food sources are high in proteins while low in carbohydrates, making them a great snack food before a workout.
#4: Swap Rice For Quinoa
Quinoa tastes similar to brown rice but has much higher protein content.
#5: Use Soy Protein Powder
If you drink a lot of water then an easy way to increase your daily protein intake is by adding a scoop of soy protein powder to it.
#6: Keep Your Workouts Short But Intense
Rather than working out for an extended period and potentially risking the burning of essential proteins you should stick to a short but intense workout instead.
#7: Vary Your Diet
It may be difficult as a vegan to vary your meals but you need to try so that you are getting high protein meals without becoming bored of them.
Here are some high protein foods that you can choose from:
- Roasted soy nuts
- Soy milk
- Soy burgers
- Nuts & Seeds
- Black beans
- Hemp protein
#8: Flaxseeds, Walnuts And Flaxseed Oil Are Important
As a vegan, you are not going to be eating fish so you may not be getting all the essential fatty acids you need.
Eating flaxseeds, walnuts and flaxseed oil will provide you with this all-important nutrient.
#9: Consider An Iron Supplement
Due to your choice not to eat meat you may have low iron levels, which can lead to you becoming fatigued faster in the gym during workouts.
By taking a supplement the iron will be able to prevent this from occurring.
#10: Supplement With Creatine
Maintaining strength is essential to keep making gains in the gym. One of the most important chemicals for that in the body is creating which the body naturally produces and stores in your muscles.
During intense lifting, the creatine stores become depleted as the body uses them to give you more energy. When the stores become depleted they need to be refilled. Whilst the body produces creatine it’s usually not enough and so dietary creatine is important.
As animal meat (specifically red meat) is the best source of creatine, vegans are often deficient and need a supplement to refill their stores.
There are many types of creatine which fancy abbreviations and names like Creatine HCL but the truth is good old fashioned Creatine Monohydrate is the best and it’s the cheapest.
You can either take 5 grams per day for 28 days to build up your creatine reserves (the long way) or supercharge the loading period by taking 20 grams per day (4 x 5g servings through the day) for the first 5 days and then moving to 5 grams per day thereafter.
#11: Eat Plenty Of Broccoli And Spinach
Both of these vegetables will provide you with calcium, which is another nutrient you may be lacking.
#12: Ignore Negative Stereotypes
You will often hear people in the gym saying how it is impossible for you to succeed at your goal of gaining muscle mass due to your choice to be a vegan.
The truth is it is certainly possible for you to achieve your goal, so just ignore the doubters.
#13: Eat More Often
As you are going to need to eat more calories you should consider eating more often too. Just make sure that you eat some protein each mealtime.
#14: Consider a BCAA supplement
BCAA or Branched Chain Amino Acids are important for guarding against muscle mass loss.
You may not be getting enough of these in your diet so you may want to consider taking a supplement.
#15: Stay Positive
Although building muscle as a vegan may be a slower process than those who choose to eat meat, if you stay positive and focus on your goal you can certainly reach them with the right nutrition, by pushing yourself in the gym and by getting adequate rest.
#16: Watch Out For Deficiencies
If you are not careful with your diet then vitamin deficiencies can impact your health.
Common deficiencies to look out for, include:
- Vitamin B12
If you start eating more dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, dried peas, beans and lentils, artichokes and dried fruit such as raisins, prunes and currants then iron deficiencies can be resolved.
Calcium deficiencies can be resolved by eating spinach, kale, broccoli and almonds. While zinc deficiencies can be resolved by eating more pumpkin or sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts, fortified oatmeal and cereals.
Finally, if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency then my suggestion to you would be to take a supplement. This is one of the most difficult deficiencies to resolve.
#17: Use A Multivitamin
While many of your necessary vitamins and minerals will be consumed through your diet you may be missing out on vital nutrients if you are not careful.
This is why I would recommend a multivitamin alongside your diet to fill in any missing gaps.
Multivitamins are cheap to buy and offer various benefits.
Tip #18: Get Plenty of Rest
To build muscle you need to eat enough, plus you need to train hard. You also need to recover adequately from these workouts.
Your muscles will only grow bigger and stronger if they are allowed time to heal.
I would recommend avoiding working out every day, or to at least give yourself a 48-hour break before working the same muscle group.
Having a good 8 hours of good quality sleep is incredibly important too.
Even though you are a vegan this should not stop you from building muscle effectively.
If you follow the tips given above, and above all stay motivated towards your goal then there's nothing to stop you.