Before even diving into vegan, vegetarian or non-vegetarian diets and lifestyles, one must know what the muscle is built of and what it needs to grow, in order for it to show up as gains.
Muscles are made up of fibres of proteins that contract in harmony to give you a contraction and thereafter, movement. Each protein, on the other hand, is built up of small molecules we call amino acids that assemble together in diverse formations and arrangements to give each protein a unique structure. The protein building blocks aka amino acids can be further categorized into essential and non-essential. It’s easy to understand the difference if you think about it. You had muscles when you were born, right? And muscles ae made up of protein, which is made up of amino acids. So, there must be some amino acids that your body can make on its own, right? Answer is yes. And because the body can manufacture a few amino acids independently, such amino acids are called non-essential amino acids (because your body is making it anyways). Contrarywise, essential amino acids need to be ingested in order to fulfil your body’s needs. Why is all this important? You’ll know soon.
Not only the proteins, but the amino acids you choose to take affect greatly how much and how quick you build your muscle (in conjunction with your hard work in gym and your metabolism). If you’re a gym rat you must have also heard of BCAA’s that’s short for branched chain amino acids. What they do is that while you try to get ripped and shredded and reduce the caloric intake to get rid of that pooch, BCAA’s maintain your muscle integrity so that your body doesn’t start breaking down muscle for energy. Conclusion: adequate protein intake is the only way to gain muscle, especially the essential amino acid containing ones.
There has been incessant chatter and endless controversy revolving around vegan lifestyle about how it deprives a person of essential nutrients with it being treated as fad diets are. Although, there are undeniable certain benefits that come along meat and whey consumption, a lot of people find it unnecessary and unethical to subject animals to cruel behaviour for personal gains. Especially, when there are alternatives to non-vegan sources of proteins.
Vegan lifestyle is a very personal choice, as is any other lifestyle. you wouldn’t judge a person for having a different taste in clothes, would you? same.
Vegan protein sources:
With meat and whey out the window, you’d think that major protein sources are off-limits, right? Wrong! It only opens up a new world of protein-rich foods, responsibly sourced and at the end of the day even if vegans can’t share a plate of animal protein with non-vegans, the latter can always opt for vegan options when they want a change of taste on the plate.
Nature has hidden proteins in many unexpected places like soy protein, chia seeds, flax seeds, legumes, quinoa, seitan, tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chick peas, kidney beans, yeast, spelt, hempseed, green peas, spirulina, sprouted grains, oats, wild rice, nuts, asparagus, artichokes, Brussel sprouts etc, just to name a few. You can cook with these, change your meals up, add them in a salad, make a cauliflower steak, the possibilities are endless!
Just naming names doesn’t cut it, you need to know what is in it too! Rightly so. So, coming right up.
Soy is a plant-based protein that can be used to make milk and work as an alternative to cow’s milk. Soy itself is a versatile food and can be used in a multitude of ways in innumerable recipes.
Chia seeds or Flax seeds:
The seeds are not only rich in proteins but also contain vitamins, minerals and other health promoting compounds. Just add a tablespoon in acai or your green smoothie and you’re good to go!
Legumes are easily put beans packed with plant-based protein and your easy way to maintaining a positive nitrogen balance in the body to ensure muscle building and minimize muscle breakdown.
Nutritional powerhouses that are rich in proteins, fibre, plant-based easily digestible carbohydrates for energy and satiety. Make a soup and voila!
Although not as well-known as previously mentioned counterparts, hempseeds are rich in complete and highly digestible proteins as well as omega fatty acids in optimum ratio for human consumption.
These are just a handful of examples out of the bunch, each mentioned food is packed with plant-based protein that will unlock the muscle gain realm for you without compromising your vegan lifestyle.
The Vegan meal plan:
before diving into the meal plan itself, anyone self-educating or aspiring to build a muscular body must know that there is no way around adequate and healthy nutrition. Small and frequent meals encourage muscle building as it maintains a positive nitrogen balance (essential for protein building). A take home-message to those who avoid carbs like the plague, carbs are not always your enemy. You need some sort of non-protein energy source to run your body through the day because protein was never meant to be the primary source of energy and in order to make your body not break down muscle to run your body, take those healthy carbs too!
Granola/rolled oats/muesli 2/3 cups
Soy milk 2 cups
Soy meat/ seitan 4 oz
Soy cheese 2 slices
Sprouted grain bread 2 slices
Protein bar/protein shake 20 gm
Rice protein/quinoa 20 gm
Organic soda/green smoothie 8 fl. oz
Small apple 1
Tofu 6 oz
Salad 100-150 gm
For any diet to work, you must remember that moderation is key. Some pro tips to help you along the way is get to know your body, observe what satisfies you more, what makes you feel better, modify your routine to your needs, hydrate-hydrate-hydrate and incorporate greens to alkalinize your body’s pH.
Change things up, try new recipes, look up new foods, use your local produce and most importantly, take days off and enjoy life!