Trends are suggesting that health-conscious individuals, such as Bill Clinton and NFL's Adrian Foster, are now embracing a plant-based diet. But, aside from benefitting the environment and animals, can it help you build muscle?
Yes, it can. Eating a plant-based diet can help you create the body that you want. Many athletes (such as Serena Williams, pictured above) have already made the transition with enormous success – just take a look at some powerful herbivorous animals such as horses and oxen.This clearly demonstrates that meat is not essential for building strength and muscle mass.
To build muscle you need to consume surplus calories – which means eating more calories than you burn metabolically and through exercise. To do this, you need to put together a sensible and effective mass-gaining meal plan. Eating a plant-based diet is not different. Create an eating plan cased on healthy whole food sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans/nuts – and make sure you get plenty of protein. You will also need to create the demand for more muscle through hard training and adequate recovery. Ensure you stick to this plan consistently, daily, and for long enough that a change can take place. Great physiques take time and commitment.
It's really not as hard as you think. Protein is in whole plant foods, and you also don't need to worry about mixing and matching proteins, either. As long as you get plenty of variety throughout the day you will get all of the essential amino acids you need. Go for protein dense foods such as beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains – and stay away from processed foods and awful fake meat products! No to Facon! In addition, go for supplementing your protein intake with plant-based meal replacement shakes such as Plant Fusion.
If you are looking to build muscle and are following an intense weight training program it's a good idea to make sure you consume more of the protein dense foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These are also the most calorie dense plant foods, which will make it easier to create that calorie surplus. As for supplementing protein, there are several great protein options based on whole plant foods that will make a great post-workout or meal replacement shake.
How much protein? A good guideline for a hard training bodybuilder is one gram per pound bodyweight. This is more than an average individual needs, and in fact would cause excess work for the kidneys, but if you are someone trying to gain mass through intense training and maintaining calorie and protein surplus, more is necessary and this is a good starting point. Given that amount, divide it equally into five or six meals during the day, and you know what to shoot for at each meal. For example, a 200lb bodybuilder would have roughly 200g of protein per day, getting about 40g at each of his five meals.
Yes, fats are good. If you consume the good ones. Go for whole food based fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds –rather than oil or condiments like vegenaise and margarine. Fat is essential for many functions throughout the body such as hormone production, but it is also the easiest macronutrient to convert into body fat. Try to keep it to a maximum of 0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (or preferably less) per day. For our 200lb bodybuilder, say, this would amount to 100g of fat per day as a maximum, but preferably 70 or 80g.
Carbs are your fuel for intense training, so flesh out your meal plan with carbohydrates from foods like oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and fruit, as well as any other whole fruits, vegetables, grains. If you want to add mass, more is better, as long as it's from whole unprocessed foods. Save the occasional processed carbs, like floury and sugary foods, for your infrequent cheat meals. But keep them infrequent! Or you won't see results.
Making a meal of it
An example of what such a program would look like for our 200lb bodybuilder is:
1.5 cups oatmeal
Protein shake with 1 serving of Plant Fusion, 1 cup soymilk, 1 banana
1/2 block of extra firm tofu, scrambled with spinach and peppers
1 almond butter sandwich: 2 slices of whole grain bread, 2 tbsp almond butter
Black bean chili with 1 can black beans, 1/2 pack seitan, and veggies
1 baked sweet potato
Meal 4 (post workout):
Protein shake with 1.5 scoops SunWarrior protein, 1 cup soymilk, 1 banana
1 large spinach salad
1/2 cup lentils, cooked with veggies and spices over 1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 pound steamed broccoli
2 tbsp almond butter spread on celery sticks
Approximate totals for the day: 3384 calories, 207g protein, 512g carbs, 75g fat