Vegans who are interested in gaining muscle need to keep in mind the importance of proper nutrition, smart training, and recovery.
I am a Lebanese girl and have been interested in gaining muscle for the last three years. My three years transformation was slow and progressive, with up and downs. I dropped 12% body fat and have lost a lot of weight since then. My main motivation was being at my heaviest and most unhappy weight and not wanting to feel that way. I remember seeing pictures of Michelle Lewin on Instagram and wanting to become fit. Little did I know how much commitment and patience is required in order to achieve that type of physique. I stayed consistent nonetheless and have managed to maintain 15% body fat for a few years by staying consistent with my training and nutrition.
I became a Vegan around six months ago, and this has not made any significant changes to my training, due to proper planning. Any lifestyle change will require planning, I thus recommend that if you plan on gaining muscle while following a Vegan diet, you should make the following changes:
- Spend less time at the gym. If you already are a Vegan or plan on going Vegan, I suggest that you time your workouts, spend around 45 minutes on your weight-lifting sessions. I also recommend less cardio if you plan on gaining muscle because the process of protein synthesis will not be as effective if you are burning your hard earned muscle with long stretches of cardiovascular workouts. Also, spend 5 minutes stretching in order to protect your joints and reduce your risk of injury before and after an intense workout.
- Invest in BCAA’s, Creatine and Plant-Based Protein Powder. In conjunction to proper training, rest and nutrition (which I will go into detail with shortly), I suggest that you start supplementing with the aforementioned products as they will help your muscles recover after an intense training session. As Vegans, we cannot consume animal products, because we do not wish to cause harm to non-thinking beings who do not choose their own fates. I thus remind myself that a positive approach towards fitness is completely part of an ethical choice that will benefit those who do not have a voice in their fate, animals. Creatine unfortunately is only found in animals and has a huge impact on building muscle, thus, I supplement with Creatine powder, 3-5mg a day, in order to help maintain my muscle growth and help with my performance at the gym. Also, BCAA’s are helpful with performance at the gym and help with recovery. I recommend supplementing with Hemp, Pea or Rice Protein Powders.
- Nutrition. Putting on muscle is a process that requires a lot of patience, a lot of rest and a lot of hard work. Nutrition is also highly important for this process to take place. I cannot stress the importance of eating more as your overall calorie consumption while eating plant-based foods is way less than when you eat animal products. I thus suggest snacking on almonds, cashews, walnuts and nut-butter sandwiches, etc. Fruits and vegetables are also wonderful sources of nutrients and will fuel your body just right for your next training session. I would like to highlight the importance of a probiotic supplement (as well as vitamin B12) for your digestion system to run optimally. The foods I have mentioned are fibrous therefore a supplement will help alongside your healthy and smart approach towards choosing Vegan foods. Tempeh, Tofu, Seitan, Lentils, Chickpeas are highly nutritious protein food sources . Dessert and snack options such as Peanut Butter with bananas, a Hemp Protein Shake with Almond milk and Chia Seeds are also excellent ways to put on lean muscle mass.
- Consume a Pre/Post Workout snack. If you are planning on doing any cardio, consume a protein shake 20 minutes beforehand, I would actually recommend a snack consisting of both protein and carbs before and after your training sessions to fuel your body properly. An apple and a Hemp/Pea protein shake works. An almond butter and banana sandwich is also a delicious and nutritious alternative after a heavy lifting session.
- Meditate. I think that strengthening your mind is vital for your success in building muscle as well as developing a positive attitude towards your healthy lifestyle. I thus recommend finding 5 minutes a day to meditate and visualize your success. It will help you accomplish your goals and keep you focussed as well as positive. Reducing stress also leads to better strength and muscle gains at the gym with an overall positive change in performance.