Tips For Gaining Muscle On A Vegetarian Diet
There is this pointless, negative stereotype of vegetarians being frail, out of shape, weak, and non-athletic. It is completely untrue, and is not based in reality. People believe that just because you refuse to eat meat you can’t gain any muscle. That is inherently untrue, and we will explain why in this article.
Namely, it is a fact that vegetarians do have a harder time getting the protein they need through their diet. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, far from it. So, if you want to gain some extra muscle through a vegetarian diet, you have come to the right place.
Understand the relationship between protein and muscle
There are two factors needed for muscle growth. First, you need adequate amounts of protein, and second, you need to work out. For now, we will deal with protein, something that is more relevant to vegetarians. Namely, when we work out, we create micro tears on a microscopic level in muscular tissue. Once we rest, refuel, and get enough protein in our systems, these tears will heal and become stronger on the following day. This works by having the amino acids, which make up protein, essentially “rebuild” and “heal” these micro tears, making them stronger.
So, your first goal will be to get enough protein. The actual source doesn’t matter. It can come from egg whites, or fish, or beef, but also from legumes, peanuts, broccoli… Your body doesn’t know nor cares where this protein source is coming from.
So, we advise you take in anywhere from 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. If you’ve noticed that this is a rather broad range, you have a good eye. First of all, this really depends on your level of physical activity, but also how much muscle mass you actually have compared to your body fat. So, physically active male with a low body fat percentage lifting weights should have more protein than someone who is overweight and sedentary. Also understand that this is a spectrum, and that you will achieve success as long as you are within this range. It will just be faster and more efficient if you work towards that higher level.
Accept that its harder, but not impossible
Now, the main issue that makes this harder for vegetarians to build muscle is that there is less protein in plant-based foods when compared to meat. Another issue is that you need all the essential amino acid in order to build muscle. So, lysine, methionine, leucine are vital. However, you can circumvent this issue by simply getting as much protein as you can from a variety of plants, not just focusing on one type.
Get the right foods
A big part of getting the right amount of protein (and so building muscle) on your vegetarian diet is knowing what foods actually do have the amount of protein you need.
So, first, good old tofu (and tempeh and edamame). All of these came from soybeans, and they are a very complete, tasty source of protein. Edamame is green soybeans that you need to boil or steam, and are great in soup. Tempeh is a cooked and slightly fermented soybean creation, and we all know what tofu is. You can expect an average of 15 grams of protein per 100 gram of any of these.
Next, other types of beans. Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas… These are all delicious and they give you a nice amount of protein as well. Furthermore, they are full of fibre, iron, folate, potassium…
We advise you also get spirulina, hempseed, and spelt. These are not as easy to come by, but are great sources of protein. Now, spelt is a type of wheat and it does have a gluten. However, if you can handle it, you get an excellent source of protein that you can get from baked goods. Hemp seed does come from the cannabis plant, but it’s completely legal, and doesn’t have any of the effects marijuana does. Finally, spirulina is rather specific. It’s a blue-green algae that not only gives you a boost for your protein intake, it also improves your immune system.
Finally, if you eat it, cheese and milk are great options as well. They also give you an excellent amount of calcium, keeping your bones healthy and strong.
Make smart food choices
Now, we understand that calculating and cooking can really be a chore on your daily life. We suggest you get a good vegetarian pack delivery system going on. There are many professional companies that deliver food right to your door. Furthermore, these meals are high-quality, high-level and can be custom tailored to your needs.
The other option is making smart food choices when eating out. We understand that you sometimes lack the time to make a good meal, while ordering out is also not an option. Maybe you went out, or just have so many obligations throughout the day outside your home that you can really sit down, and just need to grab a bite.
We suggest you go with a salad or veggie burger instead of vegetarian pizza. If you eat fish, a fish burger is a great choice. Always choose peanuts or sesame seeds instead of chips and snacks. A mix of walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, and raisins is packed with protein, and is delicious as well. Always go with protein-heavy options, and have them help you push until you can make a full meal.
Finally, taking into account the food options above, you can always replace some things in your regular meals with their protein-heavy vegetarian equivalent. So, pasta made from spelt, or making chilli with soy and extra beans is just what you need to get your muscles growing.
You can gain muscle as a vegetarian, and don’t let anyone ever tell you different. As long as you understand how much protein you need, and make good food choices, you will be in the clear. Learn what foods have the most protein, and slowly introduce them to your diet and replace regular stuff. Remember to workout and to eat a varied diet, and you will be good to go.