Can You Gain Muscle with the Vegan Diet?
Many people choose to be vegan for a number of reasons that are directly related to health, the environment, and even ethics. In this sense, one of the main arguments is to go against the industry and its methods.
Hence, the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is not seen as an option. Many vegans choose this lifestyle to promote a more humane and supportive world.
The problem for someone who follows a vegan diet will be precisely to find ways to eat for gain muscle, because unlike animal sources where they do exist, within vegans, it is necessary to seek out combinations.
Can a Vegan Gain Muscle Mass?
The answer is clear: YES
To gain muscle mass, as with any other diet or type of food, we must adjust as much as possible and look in depth at these 3 factors:
There is a fourth factor not mentioned, and that is consistency 🙂
In the first case, it’s obvious, but without the proper muscle stimulus we generate through training, you can be a vegan or the neighbourhood butcher, but you won’t be able to hypertrophy. The rest will be fundamental to let the body rest and start the machinery of regeneration and growth. We can contemplate two types:
- Rest Days
And finally, another interesting point: nutrition.
In the prologue I commented on the need to provide the essential amino acids, that is, those that the organism is not capable of synthesising, and therefore we must provide them externally. We will also see what other points are also necessary:
Rest or Recovery
Calories in the Vegan Diet
To generate new tissues, the organism must have a calorie surplus, i.e. calories, which will meet the demand arising from the energy expenditure caused by training (ATE), as well as all other daily activities that differ from this period (NEAT).
Obviously, in this process, some fat will be gained, but always try not to have it be too high. In this case, as in any other diet, there is the possibility of making a calorie cycle, as recommended by Sergio Espinar in his Muscle Gaining Protocol with little or no Fat.
Likewise, if this is not the case, and even if we maintain a different type of metabolism, the question of gaining weight is costly, perhaps we could act on another point: change training strategy, and try new systems, like a Full-Body Routine.
Fats in the Vegan Diet
The role that fats play in a diet is very important, as they offer support for the synthesis of hormones and enzymes, as well as of course their caloric role
They are involved in essential physiological functions: absorption and transport of vitamins, maintenance of cell health (cell membrane permeability), being fundamental components of brain tissues (DHA), maintenance of hair and skin health…
Carbohydrates in the Vegan Diet
Carbohydrates provide energy, or rather, our bodies use them to replenish liver and muscle glycogen stores
This energy will be used during the most intense workouts; however, if on another day we choose to do cardio or other lighter training, we will not make such an accentuated use of this macronutrient, and therefore, there is the possibility, as I mentioned before, of varying the intake and creating a caloric undulation.
Protein in the Vegan Diet
Here’s an interesting post: what proteins should a vegan athlete eat?.
Within the restrictions that occur in different diets, the protein part will always be the workhorse, although according to the “degree of restriction”:
- Lacto-vegetarians: dairy products are allowed
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: dairy products and eggs are allowed
- Vegans: animal products are not allowed
As we can see, the greater the restriction, the greater the problems in finding sources of protein, but one thing must be clear, if you are training and looking to gain muscle mass, you must make sure you get enough protein.
The requirements will be higher than those of a non-training vegan
Protein is made up of chains of amino acids, more commonly known as building blocks, and one factor that determines its quality is bioavailability of proteins. This term refers to the total amount of protein that our body will use.
Under this criterion, the tables are headed by animal proteins, although for practical purposes there does not seem to be such a big difference between plant and animal protein.
Our body does not have a “protein store”, as would be the case with glycogen for carbohydrates, or triglycerides for fat. Combining different sources of vegetable protein will be the key.
In this way, there is no need to obsess over every food regarding amino-acids, however we should think about the process overall daily.
Food Sources for the Vegan Diet
Below are the most common food sources for a vegan diet. In some cases, the type of food contains greater nutritional richness and therefore may be in several groups at the same time:
- Olive Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Linseed, chia, pumpkin seeds, sesame seed…
- Almonds, nuts, cashew nuts…
- Grains, barley…
- Tubers, like potato and sweet potato
Some sources of carbohydrates
Vegan Diet Deficiencies
The deficiencies or deficiencies that a person who follows a vegan diet may manifest, mostly include:
The organism is not capable, or is very inefficient, at absorbing vitamin B12 from vegetable sources. The best sources of vitamin B12 are of animal origin. Among the symptoms, there are some that can cause a deficit of vitamin B12 that may be quite serious:
- Tingling sensation in the limbs
It is a type of prohormone that is involved in the absorption of calcium, to contribute to the mineralization and promote the growth of the bones. Under normal circumstances, mere exposure to the sun causes its synthesis, but this fact may only be applied, to a certain extent, during the summer season. Moreover, the sources that incorporate it do so in low values, and are mostly found in animal products, such as fish, or egg yolks.
Supplements for the Vegan Diet
Supplements for the vegan diet, which may be more useful, include
They are a source of protein of vegan origin, through which the supply of amino acids will be much easier, especially at certain times, such as when you are just getting up, or before and/or after a workout. Among these we can find various raw materials: soybean, peas, rice, hemp…
Creatine is the most effective ergogenic aid, as studies confirm. Among its properties to support the athlete are those of accelerating recovery between sets, of sub-maximal effort, maintaining cellular hydration, support to muscle growth… The Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate type, which has the highest degree of purity, is available from the product catalogue.
One of the main deficiencies that can be “attributed” to a vegetable protein source is a low supply of leucine, which is closely related to the activation of the mTOR pathway and which triggers physiological mechanisms for protein synthesis, in addition to the regulation of insulin, growth factors IGF-1 and certain amino acids. Ingest 2.5-5g of Leucine before and/or after training.
If there are still doubts whether a vegan athlete can gain muscle mass or compete in any sport, here are a couple of videos of two athletes, a strongman who is also the strongest man in the world, and a lover of calisthenics and loves fitness: