Guide to Building Muscle on a Vegan Diet
Looking to learn about how to build muscle on a vegan diet? You've come to the right place. Continue reading below to see our guide to building muscle on a vegan diet, which includes the importance of protein when working out, protein needs for muscle growth, and much more.
Table of Contents
What is the importance of protein when it comes to working out and trying to build muscle?
If you’re looking to build muscle, consuming enough protein—like that found in our vegan pea protein—is absolutely essential. Consuming more protein than the recommended daily amount, whether or not you’re vegan, will provide you with long-lasting energy for exercise. Protein is also necessary for maintaining or building strong muscles. When you eat protein, our digestive systems break it down into amino acids. Your body can use amino acids for a range of functions, and these include muscle building.1
Building muscle also requires a sufficient intake of other dietary macronutrients, including carbohydrates, healthy fats, and, of course, calories. This can be done by consuming meals and snacks comprised of whole foods and products such as our plant-based pea protein. If you are restricting calories, you will not build muscle. Consuming whole foods such as plentiful vegetables, plant-based proteins, a bit of healthy fats, fiber, and other macronutrients, you will have energy, feel nourished, vital, and feed your body systems.1
In addition to building muscle, protein has been proven to support growth, repair, and recovery. Increasing the amount of protein that you consume while training will help you to increase the recovery and growth of muscles via promoting protein synthesis. It’s also worth noting that the pairing of carbohydrates with a protein source produces a greater anabolic response—so adding whole food carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables to your protein shake is highly beneficial.1
While you’re consuming adequate levels of protein and calories, activities such as resistance band-based workouts, lifting weights, and climbing stairs will result in the stimulation of lean muscle development.1
It’s been proven that doing resistance-based activities and consuming higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein intake will stimulate lean muscle development.2
How Much Protein Do You Really Need for Muscle Growth?
When it comes to protein constitution and building muscle, there is still a fair amount of controversy. The proposed protein upper daily intake, which is the recommended amount for those who are looking to build muscle, is 2.2 g/kg/day, However there is long-held misperception that there’s a limit to how much protein can be absorbed by the body.3 This limit is suggested for efficacy and safety as too much protein can be taxing on the liver.
When your body ‘absorbs’ nutrients, they pass from the gut into the systemic circulation. During protein synthesis, amino acids enter the hepatic portal circulation of the body. The liver absorbs many of these amino acids. The amino acids that are not used by the liver then enter the bloodstream, and they are used by the tissues—which is how we build muscle.4
When you’re performing resistance training, more protein is recommended and is likely necessary. With that said, experienced athletes may require slightly less protein, and all needs are determined by the intensity of the resistance training. A person’s body weight also determines the amount of protein that they need. You can determine how much protein you should be consuming, based on your age, body weight, activity level, and desires (i.e. building muscle or weight gain).5
Plant-Based Protein vs Animal-Based Protein for Muscle Growth
Many people believe that in order to build muscle, they should be consuming some sort of animal-based protein—and recent test results indicate that ingesting plant-based proteins in soy and wheat actually results in a lower muscle protein synthetic response in comparison to ingesting proteins derived from several animal-based sources. It’s possible that the lower anabolic properties of plant-based protein sources may be explained by the lower digestibility of plant-based protein sources. In comparison to animal-based proteins, when it comes to plant-based proteins, there is also an increased splanchnic extraction, and then a urea synthesis of plant protein-derived amino acids compared. This may be related to there being a bit of a lack of specific essential amino acids in plant-based proteins, as opposed to those which exist animal-based proteins. It’s also worth noting that most plant-based proteins are relatively low in leucine. This can reduce their anabolic properties even more, when held in comparison with animal-based proteins.6
Is this true, though, of pea protein? Good news—no! According to a scientific study conducted over eight weeks of subjects performing strength training exercises, the consumption of whey and pea proteins produce similar outcomes in measurements of body composition, muscle thickness, force production, performance, and strength.7
This means that whether or not you are vegan, consuming pea protein is just as effective as consuming whey protein when it comes to building muscle.
Vegan Nutrition for Muscle Building
Veganism is becoming a more popular lifestyle choice and more accepted in the world of sports and in the health and fitness industry.
Because many essential nutrients are only (or more frequently) found in animal-based food sources, vegans can have a tough time when it comes to being adequately nourished. Vegans often do not consume enough protein, B12, iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, and vitamin D, or the n-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. However, vegan athletes can consume adequate amounts of each of these essential nutrients by strategizing their diets and supplementing appropriately.8
Studies have shown that many vegans consume less protein than their omnivorous and vegetarian counterparts—but this needn’t be the case. It’s important for vegans—and for all of us—to focus on both the quality and the quantity of the protein that we consume, particularly if they’re having difficulty consuming sufficient protein from plants and other whole foods. This is especially important because when it comes to selecting a plant-based protein powder, many of the options on the market are lacking in some essential amino acids.8
Protein supports repair muscles after working out, so a shake made with Clean Lean Protein is delicious and beneficial enjoy before or after strength training exercises.8
Which Protein is Best for Muscle Building?
It’s important to keep in mind that everybody is different, and therefore requires different things, in varying amounts. With that said, studies have shown that the amount of protein is more crucial than the type of protein (whether the protein is sourced from protein or animal) consumed when building muscle.9
Higher dietary intakes (more than 0.8 g/kg per day) of total, animal and plant protein, regardless of the ratio of animal-to-plant protein, are associated with greater skeletal muscle mass.9 Given this information, it’s crucial to select and supplement with sources of protein that work for you.
Many products on the market, whether they’re made from whey, egg whites, collagen, soy, pea, rice, or other proteins, are made with lots of fillers. Clean Lean Protein is not—it’s made from the highest quality pea protein and is free of gums and fillers. Fillers are often comprised of common allergens such as dairy, gluten, and corn.
Pea Protein for Athletes: Yes or No?
Consuming protein is crucial when it comes to muscle growth. If you are an athlete or are participating in strength training exercises, it’s recommended that you consume more than the RDA of protein. The quality of the protein is essential whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or omnivore, you pay attention to quality as well as quantity. Clean Lean Protein is a suitable alternative to help fuel you for exercise and support muscle health, no matter which diet you follow.
- Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL: Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2009.