Looking to build muscle, but struggling with a plant based diet? As an athlete, one of the main reasons I hesitated going vegan was not because I was going to give up meat or dairy. It was because like many athletes, I was concerned about my macronutrient balance, particular protein (Yes I know, that age old question, “Where do you get your protein?”) but more importantly my daily caloric intake.
The question lingered, could I build mass and maintain my daily caloric needs on a plant based diet?
Building muscle and mass on a plant based diet is no different than doing the same on an omni diet. The main focus is to build a caloric surplus by taking in more calories than your body burns in a day (both through exercise and what you burn metabolically). The only difference is you are going to be doing it on a plant based diet, and creating a surplus through whole foods only can be quite the challenge.
Carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and fats like seeds and nuts will quickly become go to staples in your diet. In addition, you’ll need to commit to a workout regimen to build muscle. The more muscle you build, the more calories you will need.
You have 3 macro nutrients that you need to focus on, protein, carbohydrates and fats. With your proteins, my biggest focus is to drop the fake meat and meat replacements. Focus on getting protein from nutrient dense foods, like beans and whole grains. These two food groups are also high in calories, which can help put a dent into that growing caloric intake.
Protein shakes can also help, especially post workout. Plant based proteins have been on the rise as of late, and my personal go to is actually GNC’s Puredge Vegan Protein. MRM also makes a great protein called Veggie Elite, 24g of protein and no artificial flavors or sweeteners.
Carbohydrates are going to be the primary fuel source for your body during your training regimen; Calories from carbs should be somewhere in the 60% range of your total intake for the day. Complex carbs like brown rice, potatoes, fruits, as well as all of your vegetables should be ample in both your pantry as snacks, and as the primary foundation for all of your meals. Think rice and beans.
The beauty about getting your carbs from whole foods like this is there is a minimal chance of fat gain, rather it will be that lean mass gain you’re looking for as long as your keep processed carbs to a minimum.
Fats are tricky; We hear the word “fat” and want to immediately avoid eating it. The fact is, you need fats for vitamin absorption, hormone production, as well as other essential functions. The double edge sword is that this is the easiest macronutrient to convert into adipose tissue (body fat).
Keep your fat content to a minimum, 10-15% of your calories coming from whole based foods. Remember we are cutting or limiting oils and condiments, (sorry Veganiase) and focusing on avocados, nuts and seeds as our fat sources.
If you’re looking to build mass, this criteria is a good place to start. 5-6 meals a day will keep the metabolism running and move you toward a lean, larger physique. Use an app to monitor your macros and knowing your BMR (basal metabolic rate) will really help hone in on your caloric needs. Nutrition is arguably more important than your workout routine, especially when trying to gain a little mass.
Start by cleaning up and simplifying your diet and the gains will come.