Building Plant Based Muscle
“YOU don’t eat meat?!”. If we had a dollar for every time someone said this to Ben in disbelief, we could probably quit our day jobs. It seems that in our society, there’s a huge misconception that in order to build muscle, you need to eat meat. This is probably linked to the idea that vegetarians have a hard time getting enough protein in their diets (don’t even get us started on that one).
While we hesitate to even put a label on it (no, we’re not those people who run around bad mouthing diets with meat) , we ARE plant based, and Ben DOES had shredded abs. So clearly, the two can go hand in hand.
Here, he gives some of his go-to tips for building plant based muscle.
Take note: it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to build up bigger muscle mass, or lean and long muscles, these tips apply to ALL people looking to up their fitness game. Whether that’s plant based or not!
Get Good Sleep
Nope, this has nothing to do with food. But it’s one of the BIGGEST factors in building muscle, regardless of your diet choices. If you’re not giving your body the rest that it needs to repair the muscles you just worked, you might as well not be working them at all.
Your body is designed to build muscle at two main points during the day: right after a workout, and while your are SLEEPING. This is because your body releases it’s biggest surge of growth hormones during REM sleep. So not only do you need to be sleeping, but you need to be getting quality sleep.
The bottom line is, you NEED sleep to see fitness results – whether you’re building plant based muscle or not. End of story. So shoot for a solid 8 hours a night. Prioritize this people.
This guy get his own category for a reason. Nut butters are an incredible source of healthy fats and protein. They pack much needed calories and nutrients into your post workout diet. I often get the ‘but there are so many calories in nut butters‘. And my answer is YES, there are. Because you NEED calories to build muscle! In order to build up muscle, you need a surplus of calories. Nut butter deliver this in a great way that also tastes great.
Throw a tablespoon or two into a smoothie for both flavor and muscle food.
Plant Based Protein
Another popular misconception with fitness and muscle gain is that you should eat less. WRONG. So wrong. To gain muscle and up your fitness level, you need to be eating. A LOT. However, you also need to be eating quality foods that supply your fatigued and recovering muscles with protein.
Some of the best plant based protein sources include quinoa, beans, and peas. Combined together, quinoa and beans are a complete protein, which means that together they contain all nine essential amino acids.
Not only are these foods great sources of protein, they also pack a ton of fiber, which is essential in a healthy diet. Keep them interesting by adding things like taco seasoning, other veggies, hot sauce, or eggs.
Muscle repair starts with protein. You should always be consuming protein after a workout, within at least an hour. This kick starts muscle repair, which in turn leads to muscle growth. If you deprive you muscle of this essential nutrient when you’re working out, you won’t see results.
A great way to get this post-workout protein in are protein shakes. The health supplement market has exploded in the past few years, and now there are more plant based protein powder options than ever. We personally love Orgain, but you can easily experiment until you find something that fits your taste.
Another secret to protein absorption is consuming a small amount of sugar before or with your protein shake. The idea is that after training (especially weight training) your body has used up its glycogen stores and is looking for macronutrients (carbs, protein, or fats – in that order) to replace them. Since your metabolism is boosted after a workout, taking your protein with some form of carbs will help your muscles absorb the protein WAY faster. You can go about this by adding sugar to your shake in the form of dextrose, or just popping a few gummies before your shake.
Chia and Flax Seeds
These tiny little powerhouse seeds not only provide fiber, omega-3s, and antioxidants, but they also deliver a huge amount of protein for their size. As we’ve said a few times throughout this post, protein is essential. Chia seeds themselves are 20% protein. In addition, they absorb 10-12 times their weight in your stomach, which makes you feel fuller longer. Throw both of these in a smoothie for a serious boost.
One thing that many people don’t know about these little gems is that you NEED to grind them up to get their full benefits. Your body has a much harder time absorbing the nutrients as a full seed. You can sometimes buy them ground up, but doing it yourself is super easy. Just throw them into a spice or coffee grinder, and store them in a jar.
Get Your Veggies
Ohhhhh HERE it is. The plant people are telling us to eat more plants. Yadda yadda. Okay, we GET the push back on going 100% meat free. And that’s fine. We’re not here to convince you of that. Be we DO know that more veggies = more fitness results. It’s just TRUE.
Part of building muscle means losing more fat. When your body has more muscle mass, you burn more calories throughout your day (that’s science talking). Veggies not only give you fat burning fiber, they also fill you up without the crap and processed nonsense. A wide variety of vegetables throughout your day will give you energy, nutrients, fiber, and support your fitness goals.
Like we said, all of these tips are applicable whether you’re on a plant based diet or not. Incorporate a few at a time into your fitness routine, and you’ll be seeing more results even quicker.