Realistically, when we talk about wanting to lose weight, or be skinnier, we’re talking about losing fat. What we don’t often consider is that a huge part of this process is building muscle. When people go to the gym to lose weight, they get discouraged when the pounds don’t immediately start shedding. You can’t get in a good sweat shesh and just lose fat, you’re going to build muscle too. There’s tons of content out there that shows that a plant based diet will not only help you lose weight, but improve your health in general. But… will a plant based diet help you gain muscle? Absolutely!!
The very first response you get any time you tell someone you’re a vegan is,
“But where do you get your protein?”
My (somewhat snappy) reply is always, “the same place the animals you eat do, plants.”
Without really getting into it, protein is made up of amino acids, and our bodies use those amino acids to grow muscle. The foundational question here is – are plant based amino acid protein chains enough to grow muscle? The American College of Sports Medicine published a study about athletic performance on a vegan diet stating that – with proper planning, even for athletes on an entirely vegan diet, it’s not difficult to reach protein requirements. We only need 1 gram of protein for every 2 pounds of body weight. This means that roughly, you need to be eating about 50-60 grams of protein a day.
But what if I’m actively trying to build more muscle, don’t I need to eat more protein, Emma? Nope, more protein does not equal more muscle – it honestly just means more digestive work for your body… Additionally, consuming only protein is bad for your too. Your body uses carbs and fats for immediate energy (i.e. during your workout). Eating a protein dense diet means your body is less reliant on its natural energy source. Long story short, you could end up using protein stored in your muscles to fuel your workouts, depleting gains.
So, we know we need protein, and we know how much… but the original question still hasn’t been answered. WHERE do you get your protein. There’s the standard, stereotypical, vegan option – tempeh. Soybeans get fermented and mushed together, making a ridiculously healthy blend of plant based protein, probiotics, and calcium. That being said, no one eats plain tempeh, it’s a pretty boring white spongy food that requires lots of prep and a recipe knowledge base. Jackfruit, on the other hand, is super semblent of the texture of chicken or pork, and really just needs a little barbeque sauce to taste like your favorite sloppy sandwich. Additionally, there’s plants that don’t have to act as the centerpiece of a meal- beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, mushrooms… Even broccoli has 4 grams of protein.
But for those of us who don’t want to give up the convenience of chicken nuggets and a juicy hamburger, Gardien and Beyond Beef make phenomenal alternatives. This super Thrilling article is a rated list of non meat substitutes by a meat eater, for an unbiased opinion. Meat substitutes, and plant based options, not only help vegans fulfill their daily protein requirements, but also provide many nutrients that meat itself, cannot. If this article wasn’t compelling enough for you to switch to plant based gains, check out my other article on the effects of the meat and dairy industry on our planet- here.