Traditionally, doctors and physiologists alike believed meats and animal-based proteins were the only way to gain muscle. This is one way to build muscle as foods like cheese, meat, and whey protein are high-protein animal products that provide essential animal acids. But you can gain muscle with a plant-based diet, which researchers are rapidly discovering is healthier for you. In this article, we will cover:
- The best plant-based protein powder for muscle gain
- How plants can be used to help with muscle gain in humans
- How to gain muscle mass on a plant-based diet
Why You Should Consider a Plant-Based Diet
Plant-based diets are often lower in fat and high in carbohydrates. This means you can store glycogen more effectively, increasing your endurance (glycogen is used as our “emergency energy” during periods of physical exertion). Many fruits and vegetables also are high in polyphenols, which lower oxidative stress . This can increase your cardiovascular health and prevents cardiovascular disease.
Vegetable protein sources can have similar health benefits to animal protein sources, but there are pros and cons to each. Vegetable proteins may not be as bioavailable (meaning you can’t absorb all of the protein from them easily as they are digested) as animal proteins. Animal proteins, while bioavailable, are often high in fat and chemicals .
Keeping variety in your diet when possible is essential, and you shouldn’t rely on any single supplement or food to provide protein or nutrients. If you are embarking on an entirely plant-based diet, ensure you have various high-protein food sources, including chickpeas, lentils, soy products, and beans.
How to Gain Muscle with a Plant-Based Diet
Pea protein can help build your muscle mass
Move over, whey protein. In physiological studies on men and women performing eight weeks of high-intensity training, pea protein was competitive with whey protein in muscle-building potential, delivery of essential amino acids, and overall health [5, 6].
Pea protein is considered among the best plant-based protein powder for muscle gain.
Read the “Benefits of Pea Proteins.”
Soy protein can also boost your amino acid and protein intake
Soy is another protein source of protein that is readily available and can help support muscle gain while maintaining a plant-based diet .
This protein is a popular choice because not only is it plant-based, but it is easy to find at your local grocery store . Soy products come in various forms, from tofu to soy milk, and make a fantastic nutritional supplement to a plant-based diet.
Mung bean protein can improve muscle strength
Mung bean supplement is a high-protein food source that is very bioavailable compared to other plant-based protein sources. In a recent human clinical trial, vegetarians eating 18 grams of mung bean protein a day had higher muscle strength, but more work remains to be done with this protein source .
Health Advice for Starting Your Plant-Based Journey
Watch your micronutrients
Whether or not you’re an athlete, vegetarian and vegan diets mean you have to watch your micronutrients . Make sure you get enough creatine and B-alanine, which are necessary for building muscle.
A plant-based diet can boost your intake of vitamins, polyphenols, and other disease-fighting nutrients. Still, you need to ensure that you are getting your daily recommended intake [11, 12]. Apps like MyFitnessPal can help you track your micronutrients.
Do your research
Not all plants are equal . Seeking out good protein sources like beans and lentils, in addition to knowing where your fruits and vegetables come from means, you can maximize the nutritional yield.
Fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables are best for your health, though bulk-produced and frozen are available in a pinch (especially during those long winter months) .
In conclusion, how to gain muscle with a plant-based diet
So give a plant-based diet a try today. Start small by replacing a meal or snack each week with a plant-based option. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to your new and improved diet packed with micronutrients, protein, and all of the nutritional value your body needs to maximize its physical potential.
Plant-based diets have been shown in clinical trials to be healthy for all, regardless of lifestyle. Limiting your fat and maximizing your nutritional potential can reduce your risk of diseases, build muscle, and keep your BMI in a healthy range.
You might be interested in “Type of Fasting.”