Just like on a meat diet, you can build muscle on a plant-based diet.
Protein is protein, regardless of the source.
A lot of people still think that a vegan diet and muscle building aren’t compatible.
However, there are many vegan athletes out there in the world that have figured out that it’s not only possible to build muscle on a plant-based diet but it can be efficient and even health promoting.
Here’s the thing, you can build muscle on almost any diet, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be healthy or be able to sustain that muscle growth.
You want muscles that has been built on highly nutritious plant food.
Now, it’s important to understand that you become your food.
I’m sure you don’t want muscles that come from poor quality foods such as highly processed ones.
Because I’m not only talking about muscle here. I’m talking about health and fitness.
And we want both right?
So here are my top 7 tips for bulking up on a plant-based diet.
1. Increase The Quantity Of High Quality Calories
Now many people think that more of any calories equals gains.
That just isn’t true.
Proper nutrition equals gains and that’s macro and micro-nutrients.
The thing is animal products are higher in calories per serving than their plant-based counterparts. Many new vegans find themselves in a pretty low caloric deficit because they are eating in the same portion sizes as if it was animal-based foods.
In order to gain muscle, you have to eat enough calories to support muscle growth and that may mean increasing the portion sizes of the plant foods you’re eating.
But if you don’t focus on getting your micro nutrients as well, your progress could be less efficient and you could be jeopardizing your health.
So, what’s the proper amount of food for you? Well, there is no set answer.
But in the process of learning what works for you, you can become a more intuitive eater and know what your body needs.
Before you know what the appropriate amount is, ask yourself a few questions first.
- How are you responding to your current diet?
- How do you feel and are you making some gains at least first?
I recommend cleaning up your diet.
If you haven’t yet, make majority of your diet have nutrient-dense foods.
It provides you with polyphenols, chlorophyll and omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and speed up muscle recovery after a workout session.
Foods such as berries, apples, greens, nuts and seeds.
You want to track your nutrition on apps like MyFitnessPal to see how much you’re eating.
But you should be in a calorie surplus if you’re trying to consistently gain muscle.
So how do you know you’re on a calorie surplus?
Well, you’ll be gaining weight.
And if you’re working out intensely and regularly enough and getting the proper nutrition and rest, then most of the gains should be muscle.
2. Change Your Workout Routine
The intensity and style of your training should be such that it forces your body to adapt.
So, if you’re going to the gym three days a week and doing the same 3 sets of 10 reps that you’ve been doing for the last six months or a year then you shouldn’t expect anything different than what you’re getting.
You see, the body is a magnificent machine.
If you give your body something different than what it’s used to and change it up again, as soon as your body adapts, then you should be seeing regular progress and growth.
Muscle growth is not all about lifting heavy weights.
Although that is a part of it, muscle growth is about engaging all the muscle fibers fast and slow, and continuously increasing the intensity at which you train.
So, if you’re doing heavy weights with low reps and long rests in between sets, then change it up and do higher reps with lower weights with less rest in between sets.
And on the opposite side of doing higher reps with lower weights.
Give your body a new reason to adapt and grow.
As you feel you’ve adapted to the current training program, you can change it up by changing the tempo at which you train or try focusing on slower movements.
That creates more time under tension.
Try changing the angle at which you train a muscle group and give more emphasis to different parts of the muscle.
Make sure you’re training in a way that has you gradually strengthening the muscles, the joints and tendons at the same rate as your muscles.
Because if you start going to the gym and throwing around heavyweights your muscles could get bigger, but you could be risking joint and tendon injury.
And that could set you way back. So, train smart!
3. Push Your Limit
We all have our limits but most of those limits are self-imposed.
We feel a certain way at the end of a set and we say “I’m done” when we actually could have done a few more reps.
You see, the intensity at which you train plays a direct role in how much muscle you build and it’s usually on the other side of our mental limits that the magic occurs.
It’s hard to get a pump like that when you’re doing just regular 3 sets of 10 reps.
When you’re training ask yourself, “Am I giving all that I can at this moment?” and if the answer is no, well, this may be where you’re lacking.
So up your game by upping your intensity.
Push just a little bit farther than you’re used to every time and you should see results.
And of course seek the help of a personal trainer so that you can learn proper technique and prevent injury.
4. Eating Enough Plant-Based Protein
To grow muscles, you need to increase the amount of high-protein plant foods that you’re eating.
To make sure you’re getting enough protein to meet your body’s new demands and getting enough of the branched-chain amino acids.
Some of the plant foods that are highest in protein with branched-chain amino acids are soybeans, edamame, beans, and lentils.
Sea animal products come with a much higher concentration of the BCAAs then plant foods, but they also come with a lot of other unwanted such as saturated animal fat and environmental toxins, large amounts of hormones and antibiotics.
That’s a pretty big price to pay for some protein.
So the price people on a plant-based diet have to pay to grow muscle is to either eat a much greater volume of food, especially those foods containing higher amounts of the BCAAs or take supplemental BCAAs from a clean vegan source.
But I recommend especially, if you’re just starting out to get your diet in order and see how your food affects you before you start taking supplemental nutrition.
5. Time Management
If you want to build muscle on a continuous basis, you have to be consistent.
If you start and stop and start and stop, your body will not adapt.
But if your training is consistent your body will adjust by building more muscle.
Now consistency requires time management. You have got to set aside a certain time of day where you say to yourself “I just have to get this done”.
Create a rhythm where your training becomes a necessary part of your day.
Now if something comes up like family matters or travel, just take it as a rest day and move on, just don’t let it come in the way of your routine. Stick with your program and be disciplined enough to see it through.
Manage your workouts the same way that you’d manage your finances.
6. You Must Have A Strong “Why”
If you want to be bigger for the sake of getting bigger, then your motivation won’t last.
Your purpose could be spreading the good news about a plant-based diet and what it can do for human health.
Or how it can help the planet. A true purpose will give you the passion and motivation that overrides the occasional desire to sleep in or put the weights down.
So, align yourself with a purpose that’s larger than you and you’ll find that you have the reason and strength to achieve your goal.
Without a commitment to something that’s greater than you, the journey will become monotonous.
7. Feed Your Workout
If you’re training hard, make sure you eat enough AFTER your workout to feed the work that you’ve done.
So, let’s say you just finished training, make sure you have a calorie-rich and nutrient dense meal ready to restore depleted glycogen or blood sugar and to promote that anabolic effect by giving your muscles what they need to grow.
For example, if I eat 3500 calories a day, I may eat up to 50% of my calories in the following meal and snack after my workout and then eat a bit lighter for the rest of the meals.
And to get to my target calories, I have to eat around five to six times a day.
That way I’m ensuring that the glycogen that I’ve depleted is restored and the muscle fibers that I’ve micro damaged have what they need to begin their repair process without my body tapping into its own resources for energy.
You see training creates a higher demand on the body. It burns some fat and lose some glycogen, therefore, the body is more receptive to nutrients post-workout.
So, we want to feed our bodies according to its demand. Now that you’ve created the demand give your body what it needs, but if you haven’t created the demand be careful not to overeat which can create unnecessary amounts of body fat.
Start Adding Muscle On A Plant-Based Diet…
By putting these hacks into action you will definitely start seeing results from your efforts!
A Proud Vegan Enthusiast!