“You cannot build muscle on a vegetarian or vegan diet.”
Have you heard this before? Unfortunately, it is one of the most widely believed and often spoken untruths that meat-eating athletes utter all the time. The problem with perception about a vegan diet comes from the fact that meat delivers more protein than fruits and vegetables, by a wide margin. Nobody is arguing that. And your body definitely needs lots of protein to build strong, lean muscles, which contribute to fat burning, total body strength and toning, and a healthy body weight regulation.
Even so, vegan muscle building is possible… whether you want to tone your body or bulk up. Just one look at veteran bodybuilder Jim Morris when he was competing in his 60s is ample proof that you can build a world-class body without eating meat or animal products of any kind. (Seriously, Google the guy and check out his pics. Morris even posed nude for PETA at 78 years of age and looks incredible.)
But if protein is so important for muscle growth, and plants and vegetables don’t deliver near as much protein as meat, how is muscle building on a vegan diet possible?
Let’s take a look at the science involved.
When you eat anything, a doughnut, a cheeseburger or an apple, your metabolism gets cranked up. This increases your calorie and fat burning ability. When you eat predominantly fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you promote a slimmer, trimmer, healthier body.
A vegan lifestyle and diet is incredibly efficient at preventing heart disease, strokes, obesity, cancer and diabetes. But to build muscle on a vegan diet, you have to take in more protein than a typical diet of fruits and vegetables offer. Your body needs protein to build and tone muscle. So, what do you do?
You can get the required protein 1 of 2 ways.
1) You can eat until you have a calorie surplus each day. This means you are taking in more calories than you burn through exercise and your natural metabolic process. 2) The second way to do this is to supplement a fruit and vegetable based diet with nut butters, protein powders and other sources of non-meat-based protein.
The physiological process your body uses to tone your body and add bulk to your muscles requires calories to burn energy when you strength train, and plenty of protein to fuel muscle growth.
This means that while it is super healthy to eat lots of leafy greens and fruits, foods like seeds, beans, whole grains and nuts are going to deliver more protein. They also tend to offer more calories per ounce than other plant foods, giving you the calorie surplus that strength training requires for serious results.