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Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet: 6 Science-Backed Ways

There’s no shortage of stereotypes that surround a vegan diet. But the outdated notion that vegans are all skinny, tree-hugging, tofu worshippers is hopefully on it’s way out, as veganism continues to boom in popularity.

Perhaps one of the most prominent vegan stereotypes? That it’s hard to get enough protein, and therefore build muscle, as a vegan. Not so!

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As a body builder who has eaten a vegan diet for years, I’m here to shed some light on the common question of how to build muscle on a vegan diet.
 

Here’s How to Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet

If you’ve been curious about how to build muscle on a vegan diet, or even caught yourself wondering if it’s possible, read on! We’ll dig into the science and some key dos and don’ts for anyone who wants to eat more compassionately but still get jacked.

 

1. Get Enough Calories

It’s impossible to stress enough how important it is for building muscle, as a vegan or not, to eat enough! Your body needs to be in a caloric surplus – that is, taking in more calories than you burn in a day, to grow mass and strength.

To know what that ideal number is for you, don’t rely on overly simplified online calculators or what your favorite Instagrammer is eating.

Hire a coach to help or log your calories in an app to figure out your current baseline, then shoot to consume an additional 10-20% above that baseline to really start growing!

2. Don’t Fear The Carb

Hitting that surplus of calories can be a struggle when eating a plant based diet, full of foods typically quite low in calories such as fruits, veggies, and legumes. Think of it this way: to get 500 calories from a salad, you’re talking about a big salad!

So make sure you’re consuming enough to fuel your gains, it’s wise to track your calories and perhaps even more importantly, don’t fear the carbohydrate!

It’s a key macronutrient for a reason and essential for energy, strength and hitting those caloric goals!

Your body needs to be in a caloric surplus – that is, taking in more calories than you burn in a day, to grow mass and strength.

 
Healthy carbs like brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread and pasta, fruits, veggies and legumes should be a cornerstone in your daily diet. Say goodbye to the old diet myth that carbs are bad, and remember you can’t grow without ample fuel!

The timing of your meals matters, too. 7 Perfect Pre-Workout Snacks for Long-Lasting, Healthy Fuel

 

3. Get Protein, But No Need to Overdo It

Speaking of getting enough calories, your protein intake also matters if you want to build muscle. But if you’ve worried getting enough protein is impossible on a vegan diet, relax! The old stereotype is simply not true.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein for an average, healthy adult is actually quite easy to surpass. If you want to build muscle, you’ll need a bit more.

The rule of thumb is to shoot for between .7-1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight.

By loading up on combinations of protein-rich vegan foods such as lentils, beans, tofu, seitan, tempeh (shoot for a protein serving in every meal plus a snack) you’ll easily get enough.

And outside of the main suspects, don’t overlook humble foods like oats, bread, peanut butter, or nutritional yeast – all food has some protein, and it adds up!

If you want to give your protein intake a boost with a protein powder, go for it – but you can absolutely hit your protein goal from just the regular food on your vegan diet – promise.

These 5 Vegan Foods Are High In Protein and Should Be In Your Plant-Based Diet

4. Lift Heavy Weights

What you eat plays a massive role in your ability to build muscle as a vegan, but of course, so do your workouts. If building muscle, and serious muscle, is your goal, you’re going to want to get familiar with the weight rack.

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Ladies – you won’t bulk up – you simply don’t have the testosterone for it! You can lift heavier than you think you can, and you want your muscles to feel challenged each and every workout.

In a pinch or on the go? Resistance Band Workouts are your best secret weapon for still getting a serious burn, sans weights.

5. And Then Rest Like You Mean It

Workouts are important, but for anyone who wants to build muscle, you gotta get serious about your rest.

Muscle isn’t built when we’re pumping the iron, but during periods of rest, which is when your body secretes muscle-building growth hormones and rebuilds the tiny micro-tears created during your workout, which is what makes muscles grow stronger over time.

Muscle isn’t built when we’re pumping the iron, but during periods of rest.

 
In other words, give yourself off days, sleep like it’s your job, and know that more is not more!

6. Be Patient … Seriously!

As a vegan or not, anyone with the goal of building muscle better learn to flex their patience muscle. This is truly a marathon, not a sprint! A natural bodybuilder (that is, without the use of steroids) can expect to only build one to two pounds of muscle, per year!

Building muscle and changing your body composition takes seriously hard work, in the gym and in the kitchen, and even more patience. If you’ve seen someone with your “goal body” on Instagram or at the gym, you can bet they’ve been lifting for many years.
 

Building Muscle on a Vegan Diet Is Only Getting Easier and More Popular

Building muscle on a vegan diet is not just possible, it’s becoming more and more popular and mainstream all the time. Numerous pro athletes, bodybuilders, NFL players, wrestlers and others are adhering to a plant based diet and performing at their peak.

A Vegan’s Guide to Protein: 20 Protein-Dense Foods You Should Add to Your Diet

As the vegan diet continues to pick up steam, so do the resources out there. Follow vegan athletes on social media, read the studies, watch the documentaries, consider hiring a coach knowledgeable about the vegan diet and learn from those who have gone before you.

A vegan diet has so many benefits from the standpoints of health, sustainability and animal welfare. There’s no reason why, with a little practice and patience, you can’t also have your goal body on a vegan diet.

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