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YOU Don’t Eat Meat?! – Building Plant Based Muscle

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.

Nut Butters

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.

Protein Shakes

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.


  • Missy May

    October 31, 2017 at 12:19 am

    These are some great tips and definitely helps. I’m working on healthy living which is kinda hard as I love my carbs. Ha!! Thank you for the advice guys.
    Have a blessed week!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 31, 2017 at 1:55 am

      Haha I love my carbs too! It’s all about moderation and feeding your body the right things MOST of the time. But life is short so we say there’s always room for carbs :).
      You too!

  • Laura Mitbrodt

    October 31, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Great post, I love chia and flax seeds

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 31, 2017 at 1:55 am

      Thank Laura! We do too!

  • katie

    October 31, 2017 at 7:00 am

    this post in so insightful and well written! i had no idea about half of the benefits of these foods. i’ve been thinking about coming off meats a lot recently after having watched quite a few documentaries online so it’s something i’m looking into!

    ps. if i can get shredded abs like ben…phwoar. sign me up to a plant diet!!! haha

    katie. xx

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 31, 2017 at 11:34 pm

      Ah haha RIGHT Katie?! He’s super dedicated, but he also says that following a plant based diet has made a huge difference in his fitness level! And the documentaries are actually what began to convince him. It’s fascinating to learn about it all. Let us know if you do!

  • Stella

    October 31, 2017 at 4:31 pm

    What a great post! I have eliminated meat almost all meet from my diet and it’s great to know that this myth about protein is so not true! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      October 31, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      Thanks Stella! Go you! We’ve both been plant based for years now and neither of us have ever had issues with getting protein. It’s harder to get your fiber for most people! Keep going strong!

  • the adventurer

    November 1, 2017 at 2:48 am

    Chia seeds and flax seeds check. Protein shakes check =o) Ever since I started my yoga training I have watched what I eat and also the amount of protein I need now that I am on my mat every day. Also I got the Orgain protein powder you mentioned a few posts ago and love it! It’s so good =o)

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 1, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      YAY! We love all of this :). The Orgain is HANDS DOWN our favorite plant protein! And the peanut butter mixed with the chocolate… YUM. I bet you’ve really gotta watch your protein/nutrients intake with the schedule you’ve got going on now. Keep it up girl!

  • Brandy

    November 1, 2017 at 4:57 am

    You’ve definitely debunked some of the biggest myths and shared the best tips. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 1, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      Thanks Brandy! Knowledge is everything. It’s been years and years of watching/reading stuff to clue ourselves in!

  • Kim

    November 1, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    What an awesome post! It’s so great to know that there are many alternatives to meat! Will have to take notes and convince myself to eat more veggies haha (it’s so hard!)


    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 1, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      Thanks Kim! We’re plant based and STILL think it’s hard to get all the veggies in! But being aware is the biggest step. Little changes!

  • Zhanna

    November 1, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Haha, so familiar! People start worrying about your intake of protein only after you tell them that you don’t eat meat. 🙂 I love all kind of seeds. And yes, nut butters are amazing. Almond butter is my favorite at this time

    1. Zhanna

      November 1, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    2. Mile High Dreamers

      November 1, 2017 at 11:55 pm

      Haha isn’t it the truth though?! It’s crazy because the truth is, most people don’t get enough fiber! And almond butter is EVERYTHING. Give me a banana with some almond butter and I’m a happy girl!

  • Gabrielle

    November 1, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    I can imagine how important protein shakes must be – especially for those not consuming meat! It’s great how you’ve spreading the work about a plant-based lifestyle, and thanks 10 times over for the reminder to get more sleep. I always forget hard work in the gym is useless unless we’re repairing our bodies over night!!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 1, 2017 at 11:57 pm

      Protein shakes help SO much. I know that after I take mine post workout, I’ve gotten about 1/3 of my protein for the day. That, combined with quinoa, beans, and eggs, and we’re good to go! And sleep is SO important for recovery. We never seem to get enough of it, but when we do, you can see the difference!

  • Carly

    November 1, 2017 at 11:47 pm

    I was just talking about what being a vegetarian means with my four year old son today…..
    I definitely agree that the picture of a vegetarian that comes to mind is not usually some one with excellent muscle tone. Excellent tips on what to eat to maintain muscle mass as a vegetarian

    Carly at A Modern Mom Blog

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 1, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      It’s such a huge misconception! Some of the fittest athletes on the plant follow a plant based diet. We’re so glad you’re opening up that dialogue with your son! Kids honestly ask the best and most insightful questions. Keep it up!

  • Ankita Bardhan

    November 2, 2017 at 12:13 am

    I must say your post came right in time. I am not allowed to workout cos’ of my knee injury so maintaining my body has become really tough. Especially cos’ I eat a lot, a lot of carbs tbh. I am considering to make some changes in my diet which I never did before, I just used to work out 3x harder then. But now I need to adopt healthy eating options and sleeping schedule. I am noting down these tips and will try to incorporate them. Thank you so much 🙂

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 2, 2017 at 2:07 am

      We’re so happy that this helped! We’ve both dealt with being sidelined due to injury and it’s SO frustrating. Staying on top of your diet can make a BIG difference, and it’ll help you bounce back even faster when you do recover! Rest and good food are key. We hope these help, and that you have a speedy recovery!

  • Miriam

    November 2, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Very interesting how to build muscle on a plant-based diet – I was always wondering how it works. Nice that you also mentioned how important a good nights sleep is, I think a lot of people underestimate the importance of it!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:22 am

      Agreed! We used to be the ones pulling 4 hours of sleep and now we’re in bed by 9 haha. It makes all the difference in the world!

  • Kya

    November 2, 2017 at 11:11 am

    It’s great you shared this because it is something that is so misunderstood by so many people. 😀

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:23 am

      It honestly is! But we love that more and more athletes are becoming plant based because it shows how it’s not only possible (and easy) to build muscle on that diet, but it actually speeds up the process!

  • Katya

    November 2, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    Fantastic and useful tips, I have been hearing this a lot. I guess no diet is better than having enough sleep. Being fit is quite challenging yet super fun.

    StyleSprinter Blog by Katya Bychkova

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:23 am

      Haha we couldn’t have said it better. Fitness is one of the biggest challenges with the best payout! And sleep is the ultimate element to that!

  • Hannah

    November 2, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    I was recently having a conversation with some family about this a few days ago, as none of us are vegetarians or vegans, so we had very little idea on it. I’m glad you’ve shared this, as it’s really interesting to learn about, and I’ll be sure to share it with my family. Thanks for sharing xx

    Hannah | luxuryblush

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:24 am

      Yay! We’re so glad this provided a little bit of insight! Even if you don’t follow this particular diet, we think knowledge is power and the more you know, the better!

  • Merel

    November 2, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    Great post! I’m 90 % vegan, but I still sometimes struggle when I’m traveling.

    X Merel

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:26 am

      We do MUCH better when we’re not traveling. But we also think that experiencing a foreign cuisine is one of the best ways to tap into their culture, so it’s the perfect place to bend a little! I mean… just look at how much cheese we ate in Italy haha. It was a must!

  • wendee

    November 2, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    these are great tips
    The Glossychic

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:26 am

      Thanks Wendee!

  • Valerie

    November 2, 2017 at 11:28 pm

    This is such an insightful post! Although I do enjoy eating meat, I love the idea of incorporating these strategies into my diet! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 3, 2017 at 12:27 am

      We definitely don’t think that these are plants only tips! Any of them could be incorporated into a variety of diets. It’s all about just knowing more!

  • zarrah

    November 3, 2017 at 6:22 am

    I love chia seeds and quinoa. it helps me loose weight!
    Much Love,
    Zarrah | The Bandwagon Chic

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 4, 2017 at 12:18 am

      They’re both so good for building lean muscle! We love them too!

  • The Gluten Free Guide to Everything

    November 3, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    Great article! I was a vegetarian for a couple of years, but because I have to eat gluten free, I missed out on a lot of nutrients, but your list definitely makes it possible to skip meat more often!

    Marije |

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 4, 2017 at 12:20 am

      Being veg AND gluten free would definitely be hard! You’d have to plan your meals SO much. Even going meat free for a couple days a week makes a big difference!

  • Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    November 3, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    I didn’t know any of these things except for the sleep part, so thanks for the tips! // Unrelated but, the rainbow photo on the front page of your blog,,, Ben’s star tattoos align perfectly with the [slider menu??] which is kinda funny and kinda cool 😀 -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 4, 2017 at 12:20 am

      You’re welcome! And we noticed that too haha!

  • Nancy

    November 4, 2017 at 6:08 am

    Lately, I’ve been seeing more friends turning away meat so it became a normal thing. You definitely don’t need to eat meat to build muscle. There are other foods that can provide the protein you need to build muscle.

    Needing sleep is the most important factor. I agree with needing the calories too. Lots of people who are heavy into exercising needs to consume a lot of calories to build that body!

    Thanks for the refresher!

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 4, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      It’s definitely becoming much more mainstream to see people following a plant based diet! Especially here in Colorado. It’s definitely possible (and easy!) to get plenty of protein. It’s almost harder to get the sleep! But you’re right, lots of sleep and LOTS of food are essential!

  • Nicole @ Bento Momentos

    November 4, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Wonderful tips! I personally underestimate the power of sleep.

    Nicole @

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 4, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      We think a lot of people do! It makes all the difference in the world, especially if you’re striving to build muscle!

  • Stephanie Hartley

    November 4, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    My boyfriend has such a severe nut allergy that finding good veggie options when eating out (or in) can be really tough! I feel a little forced to keep eating a fair amount of meat because of it, but we’re trying to cut down as much as we can

    Steph –

    1. Mile High Dreamers

      November 4, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      I can’t even imagine how tough it would be to plan around a severe nut allergy, it takes so much more forethought! I think the internet has really opened up doors though, and that’s how we find a lot of our recipe inspiration. But honestly, even making little changes and being aware of your intake makes a big difference!

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