Wednesday, February 3, 2021

A Beginner's Guide To Supporting Muscle Growth With Your Plant-Based Diet

 A Beginner's Guide To Supporting Muscle Growth With Your Plant-Based Diet

A common misconception in the world of fitness is that a plant-based diet cannot support muscle growth as well as a meat diet. I’m here to prove that this definitely isn’t the case! If anything, I have noticed that my fitness has reached a whole new level thanks to becoming vegan. Here are a few important things that you should know if you are considering turning vegan or you want to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet. If you’re feeling like your fitness has hit a wall, give veganism a go! 

Calorie Consumption

The first thing you need to know is you should not be afraid of eating plenty of calories. Any kind of weight lifting requires you to fuel your body properly as it burns a lot of energy, in the form of calories. You have to make sure you are eating enough to perform your absolute best and to protect your body. 

It is important that you incorporate healthy, high calorie foods into your diet in order to perform at your absolute best. This goes for any diet, not just veganism! Things like nut butters, avocado, olive oil, quinoa and seeds are all fantastic high calorie vegan foods that can easily be incorporated into any meal. 

One great way to increase your calorie intake is with a smoothie filled with nut butter, chia seeds, protein powder, fruit, plant milk and avocado. You won’t feel as full as you would if you ate another meal but you still benefit from the extra calories! Even if you are trying to lose weight and build muscle at the same time, your body needs the additional calories. 

Another great high calorie vegan snack are bagels. There are around 250 calories in a bagel and they can easily be toasted and ready to eat. I like to top mine with banana, maple syrup and walnuts, or avocado and vegan cream cheese if I’m in the mood for something savoury. This is a staple that I always have in my cupboard or freezer for when I need a few extra calories, or for the perfect pre-workout snack. 

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Finding Vegan Protein Sources

One of the biggest myths about veganism is that it is hard to consume enough protein, which is of course an issue if you are wanting to build muscle as protein is essential to support muscle growth. Yet, this simple isn’t true. Protein is found in so many different vegan foods that are so easy to incorporate in meals all throughout the day. Additionally, supermarkets have made a huge effort this veganuary to produce amazing products that are full of protein, for those days when you are in a rush or don’t fancy cooking! If you have time though, it is so simple to create something amazing yourself. 

For example, oats, nut butters, flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are all packed with protein, so when they are combined with some plant milk and fruit you will have a great breakfast. For lunch, try a quinoa salad with crispy tofu, chickpeas, spinach, peas, tahini and pumpkin seeds. Grab a bag of pistachios for your afternoon snack along with a vegan protein shake made with water. Finally, for dinner make a mixed bean chilli full of delicious kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans, served with rice.

All of these foods are full of protein and are delicious! Although some of these ingredients might seem a bit out there, like flax seeds or tahini, once you buy them they will last ages. As a rule of thumb, any soy based products, nuts, seeds, beans or pulses will have plenty of protein in them, as well as some green veg. Once you know where to find it, you realise that eating a high protein vegan diet is really simple. 

The Importance of Vitamins and Minerals

One of the benefits of a vegan diet is that it is full of amazing fruit and vegetables that provide your body with a range of essential vitamins and minerals. However, there are a few nutrients that are more difficult to consume in the right quantities. Things like vitamin B12, D, omega-3’s iron, calcium and zinc can be found in vegan foods, yet many people prefer to take multivitamins or individual tablets like multivitamins for women if they know they struggle to hit their nutrient goals. 

These vitamins that plant-based eaters may be deficient in are important in terms of energy supply, heart health and muscle repair, making them essential when building muscle. I personally believe that either taking a supplement or taking time to learn which foods contain the vitamins you need is worth it for the benefits you get out of a vegan diet. 

Diet tracking apps are great for monitoring your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake, but many also track your nutrients. You can see how much you should be having a day, as well as how much you are currently consuming. From here, you can make adjustments to your diet or use supplements to fill any gaps you think will be difficult to fill. Deficiencies in this area can cause quite significant health issues if not monitored, so it is essential that you make an effort to consume what you should be, especially when following a plant-based diet. 

Final Thoughts

I will always be an advocator for vegan diets, especially when it comes to fitness. I hope this beginners guide proves how simple it is to incorporate the calories, protein and nutrients you need to become stronger and fitter than ever before. 

Even if you start by eating a plant-based breakfast everyday or eating a few meat free meals a week, you will begin to notice the benefits and hopefully you will be converted for good! Any small change you make is a positive step forward for your health and the environment. Although veganuary is nearly over, there is no better time to start your journey. 

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