As the New Year approaches, you might be starting to think about your 2020 goals. Maybe you want to run your first 5K, adopt Meatless Mondays, or build more muscle mass. Building muscle mass can be a lofty task, especially if you are a woman. Building muscle mass can be even more difficult for vegetarians, but perhaps most difficult for vegans. The most protein-dense sources of food are almost always animal products. Plus, animal-sourced proteins usually contain all essential amino acids while plant-sources do not. However, with a little protein planning and food pairing, vegans can increase their protein intake and build muscle mass similarly to meat-eaters. Here are 4 ways you can support your muscle building goals on a vegan diet.
1. Calculate your protein needs
In order to start building muscle mass, you first need to set a daily protein intake goal. As a general rule of thumb, you should consume between 0.8-1.2 g per kg of body weight each day to build muscle. Don’t forget to convert kilograms to pounds before you calculate your needs: 1 kg is equal to 2.2 lbs. For example, a 170-pound man should consume between 62-93 grams of protein per day.
2. Prioritize meal pairing
For the body to create complete proteins you need to consume all essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the amino acids the body cannot make itself and must be obtained from food. The essential amino acids include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Unfortunately for plant-based dieters, most plants do not contain all essential amino acids like meat or animal products do. However, pairing just a few foods together can create a complete protein (one that contains all amino acids). The American Society for Nutrition1 has created a simple chart for protein completion to use as a tool at each meal. Here are foods you can pair together to ensure you are eating all essential amino acids.
|Food||Limited Amino Acid||Complement|
|Beans||Methionine||Grains, nuts, seeds|
|Vegetables||Methionine||Grains, nuts, seeds|
3. Train consistently
Workouts that boost muscle mass should be sustainable and consistent. For the best, long-term results, you should increase weight load in a consistent and slow manner, rather than skipping multiple workouts and loading heavy weights to make up for lost time. If you are new to muscle building, you can also benefit from hiring a trainer at your gym who can show you how to lift with proper form and reduce the likelihood of injury. Set a realistic lifting schedule that you can stick to; try lifting three days per week for 30 minutes to start. Focus on working all muscle groups each week. Once you are comfortable with your routine, you can increase the amount of days you include resistance training, or the length of time of your lifting sessions.
4. Support training with supplementation
If you adhere to a vegan diet, you should be supplementing regardless of your physical activity goals. At the least, vegans should ensure they are receiving vitamin B-12, vitamin D, and for women, iron. For vegans who are weightlifting, supplementing is essential to supporting the basic nutrient needs for muscle growth. Look for a well-rounded and highly bioavailable Vegan Multivitamin. In addition, if you have a hard time consuming the amount of protein you need from food alone, you can supplement with a plant-based protein powder. Remember, your body can’t build muscle without first fulfilling its basic nutrition gaps.
These tips, along with a personalized vitamin program, can help you build muscle on a vegan diet. Take our free online assessment to see what else your body needs. Ready to find the right vegan supplements for you? Take the assessment
- ASN Staff. Protein Completion. https://nutrition.org/protein-complementation/. American Society for Nutrition. Accessed December 19, 2019.