How To Grow Muscle While Following A Plant-Based Diet

These days, a lot of people have changed their diets by eating more plant-based proteins. Athletes and people who want to get in better shape by building muscle can get enough protein on a plant-based diet. Keep reading to learn our quick tips on how to grow muscle while following a plant-based diet.

Key takeaways:

Examples of plant-based diets

There are several definitions of plant-based eating. At its most basic, though, a plant-based diet means eating as many whole, unprocessed plant-based foods as you can. You can eat a plant-based diet and still eat meat (in smaller amounts), but some people choose to not eat any animal products at all.

Here are some popular examples of different types of plant-based diets:

Plant-based dietRestrictions
Flexitarian or semi-vegetarianEats plant-based proteins most of the time, and still eats small amounts of animal protein and animal byproducts.
Pesco-vegetarianEats fish, animal byproducts, and plant-proteins.
Ovo-vegetarianEats eggs, other animal byproducts, and plant proteins.
Pollo-vegetarianEats chicken, animal byproducts, and plant-based proteins.
VeganEats only plant-based foods.

You’ll need to pick a plant-diet pattern that aligns with your health goals, cultural food staples, and, most importantly, makes you feel happy after eating.

If you follow a diet that cuts out whole food groups, you may not get enough of some nutrients. Take regular blood tests to determine your levels, and only take supplements as directed by your doctor.

Muscle growth

You must be physically active and increase your protein intake to grow muscle. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends eating 1.2–1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests an even higher intake of 2.0g of protein per kilogram.

Let’s review an example of how to calculate protein needs; we’ll use an average value of 1.5g of protein per kilogram. A person weighing 85kg will need approximately 128g of protein daily. We calculated this by multiplying their starting weight by our protein factor: 85kg x 1.5 g/kg.

The exact amount of protein you’ll need is highly individualized and will be influenced by your goals, weight, age, and activity level. A dietitian can calculate the right amount of protein for you.

What to eat

Popular plant-based protein sources include:

  • Lentils
  • Kidney bean
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Soybeans
  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Nuts and seeds

If you eat animal byproducts, you could also add other dairy products to your menu, including Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, two great protein sources.

  1. Comforting lentil soup with 1.5 cups of dried lentils will yield 19 grams of protein per serving. Add your favorite vegetables, such as carrots, celery, onions, and garlic. Season with spices and your favourite stock.
  2. A black bean quinoa bowl with hummus dressing will yield 20 grams of protein per serving. Add your favorite toppings, such as cilantro, red onion, tomato, and diced bell pepper.
  3. A silky tofu smoothie with milk will yield 15 grams of protein per serving. You can swap to soymilk if you prefer a non-dairy ingredient. Add frozen fruits, cinnamon, and a spoonful of hemp hearts.

Quick snacks to keep on hand include a trail mix with your favourite nuts and roasted chickpeas. If you eat small amounts of animal products, you could also have small, plain tuna cans or hard-boiled eggs.

Protein powders

Protein powders are dry mixtures blended with water, dairy, or dairy alternatives. Many people drink them after a workout because they’re convenient and hydrating.

Two common protein powders are:

  • Pea protein, which offers 20–25g of protein per scoop
  • Whey protein, which offers 25g of protein per scoop.

Whey protein is made from dairy and isn’t appropriate for people following a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products. However, anyone following a flexitarian diet could use this product.

The FDA doesn’t regulate protein powders or supplements, so they aren’t tested for quality. Be vigilant when choosing a product and ask your healthcare provider for safe recommendations.

When to eat

Literature suggests that eating protein within one to two hours after working out is beneficial. During this brief window, your muscles crave glucose to replenish glycogen stores (a primary energy source) and protein to begin muscle recovery.

Nutrition Tip
Depending on the intensity of your workout, you may not want to eat immediately after. If this sounds like you, make small snacks that are easy to eat, like fresh cut fruit with peanut butter.

Eat foods high in protein every four hours during the day. Protein is highly filling, so you will want to spread your intake over several meals as it is not practical or comfortable to eat a lot of it at once.

Muscle growth takes time

It can take four to eight weeks of consistent training and compliance with your nutrition plan to see muscle growth. If you’re struggling to stay on track, you may need to revisit your plan and create smaller goals. If you need support, reach out to a professional trainer or coach.

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