“But you can’t build muscle on a vegan diet. Right?”
As a vegan nutritionist, fitness trainer, and bodybuilder, this is the most common question I get. Many people just can’t believe that I built my physique on a plant-based diet. I used to be an untrained ectomorph—a skinny little kid. Everything I did and all the muscle and strength I gained I achieved on a vegan diet. Going vegan was the best thing that ever happened to me, and if I can do it, you can do it, too.
First things first: Conventional science suggests that in order to build muscle, you have to increase your daily protein intake by 1.5 to 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. Do we really need that much protein? The average human body needs 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, and the average male body needs 1.5 to 2 grams. Professional bodybuilders may increase their daily protein by as much as 2.5 to 3 grams!
Athletes often think they need to consume a large amount of protein to look better and gain muscle, but overconsumption of protein is not beneficial. This is one of the many myths established by the fitness industry, to brainwash folks into thinking they need to spend money on protein supplements, powders, and shakes—when the truth is that we can get everything we need from real, healthy, animal-free food.
It’s important to remember that all protein comes from plants. In the meat industry, plants are fed to cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals to provide their bodies with the protein that humans will ultimately consume. Why not cut out the intermediary and get our protein directly from plants, too? Quite a few delicious plant protein choices are available: lentils, peas, beans, tempeh, broccoli, brown rice, tofu, and so many more. And while protein is essential to building muscle, we still need to have a balanced diet with good carbohydrates from veggies and healthy fats from foods like seeds and nuts.
Building muscle has nothing to do with eating meat. It’s a process of breaking down muscle tissue with exercise and then repairing it with incoming protein. Essentially, it comes down to a simple process that can be achieved with enough discipline.
First, you have to break down muscle tissue. You can do this with any form of exercise, as long as you achieve an “overload,” or overstimulation of the muscles. Lifting weights is the easiest way to do this because they can be adjusted to fit your level of strength and conditioning. You can do the same thing with bodyweight exercises, as long as you’re able to reach a progressive overload.
Next, as you may have guessed, you need to eat right. Repairing your muscles with a healthy vegan diet and the right amount of plant-based protein is a vital part of any muscle-building routine. Athletes who have switched to a vegan diet to build muscle and improve their performance have noticed positive benefits and say it’s worth it.
Now you know just how easy it is to build muscle on a vegan diet. Keep up the good work, train hard, and visit my website for workout tips, nutrition facts, and plant-protein-rich recipes throughout your vegan fitness journey.
Steve Pilot is a certified fitness coach and vegan nutritionist. With over 27 years of experience and a self-tested fitness program, his mission is to have a positive influence on people’s lives and help them become the best version of themselves through personal training, sustainable eating habits, and an active lifestyle. He offers a total transformation of mind, body, and spirit. Visit StevePilotFitness.com to learn more.