Agreed, we all need protein to grow and survive but this does not mean that we have to kill an animal to get our daily dose of muscle-building protein.
Most non-vegans argue that veganism is not proactive if one wants to build muscle mass and boost fitness so let’s first get this out of the way… you don’t need animal protein to build muscle. You just need protein – it can come from a plant-based source or an animal source.
How much protein do you need?
Experts usually recommend getting 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein for each pound of your body weight. Use this as a guide but don’t get all obsessive over it and measure each protein source you consume. Ideally, you need to consume at least one protein-rich source with every meal.
But here’s the deal; almost everything contains protein and there is absolutely no way you can be at a protein deficit, even if you are vegan.
The best vegan protein sources
Meat is a complete protein source but you can mix and match several vegan protein sources and thus, create a complete protein meal. Therefore, vegans often have a lot of a variety in their diet as opposed to carnivores.
Start exploring plant proteins. Fortunately, there are several vegetarian protein sources to choose from so you can never get bored. Moreover, most plant-based proteins are adaptable so you can have them in any way you like.
You can begin by stocking on various soy proteins, such as tofu, tempeh, soy burgers, soy milk and roasted soynuts. Nuts and seeds are often packed with protein so make sure you have them for snacks instead of that bag of chips. Beans and peas are not only rich in protein, but they are abundant in calcium too.
Perhaps the best time to pack on some protein is after exercise or a weightlifting session. Studies show that those who consume protein or protein shakes post-workout experience greater body (muscle) mass, strength and calcium levels. Protein after a workout can also prevent fatigue. Soy protein powder with frozen fruit or nuts and seeds and soy milk is an excellent idea for a post workout beverage. You can boost your diet with multi-vitamins containing iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins B12 and D.
Muscle building tips to think about
You don’t have to change your habits all at once, but one step at a time works. Here are our favorite ways to increase vegetarian protein intake:
Start using nuts and seeds for oil
Oils don’t have protein but nuts and seeds do. So instead of using canola oil, peanut oil or coconut oil for your salads and soups, sprinkle some whole nuts and seeds instead. Similarly, you can use nut butters instead of butter or margarine.
Have a simple protein shake instead of water
We aren’t suggesting that you should forget about having water completely but having just one scoop of protein powder with water along with every meal will help you add sufficient protein to your everyday diet.
Take supplements whenever necessary
It’s okay to take a few supplements if you are not able to consume certain foods. Vegetarians and vegans can greatly benefit from zinc, iron, vitamin B12, vitamin D, creatine, carnosine, carnitine, choline, taurine and algae DHA/EPA.
Remember your goal
If you are trying to gain weight or muscle mass, having bulky vegetables such as carrots and broccoli may not be your best idea. While it is awesome that you are having these veggies, having too much may prevent you from having a variety of other protein-rich sources such as nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. Ideally, you should have a serving of fruit and vegetables with every meal but make sure they aren’t your only sources of nutrition even if you are green-lover.
Have ready-to-eat beans and bean-varieties with you
Beans are packed with proteins and there are so many different kinds. Whether you choose kidney beans or soy-based protein such as tofu and soy patties, you can be sure you that you are having enough and more protein with a particular meal. Don’t be afraid of canned or frozen beans because convenience sometimes helps in the sustainability of a diet but having them fresh is always better.