When you think of the food of someone who is trying to gain muscle mass, you probably imagine a lot of chicken fillet, eggs, and red meat, food that is not in the diet of a vegetarian (vegetarian diet), you immediately think that your diet will not help you gain muscle mass or gain weight.
Although this is the standard diet for those who are bodybuilders and want to gain muscle mass, the good news is that you can gain more muscle mass on a vegetarian diet. And contrary to popular belief, eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be difficult or require the use of dozens of supplements.
Is the vegetarian diet deficient?
All proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which are produced by our own body and others must be obtained from the diet. Vegetables are capable of supplying all the amino acids we need without the need to add animal proteins.
Therefore, it is possible to gain muscle mass with a vegetarian diet because it covers the protein needs of those who practice muscle. But you have to pay attention to some points to avoid nutritional deficiencies.
In many cases, what happens is that vegetarians suffer from a protein deficiency by not consuming the adequate amount of calories they need every day and by not maintaining a varied vegetarian diet. It is not uncommon to find people who do not eat meat but eat salty foods, sweets, breads and a very limited amount of vegetables, fruits and cereals.
The secret, therefore, to gain muscle mass with a vegetarian diet is to have a very varied diet, which includes legumes (beans, lentils, soybeans, chickpeas), whole grains (rice, quinoa, wheat and oats), nuts (chestnuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds), as well as other foods that offer a good amount of protein, such as vegetables, mushrooms, algae and seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin).
How Much Protein Should I Eat Every Day?
Intense trainers must consume a greater amount of protein to guarantee the amino acids necessary for recovery and muscle hypertrophy. The daily protein needs vary according to age, gender, level of physical activity and genetic characteristics, but it can be said that an adult man should consume around 100 grams of protein per day to ensure muscle mass gain.
The following table shows the amount of protein in the main foods of a vegetarian diet. And, as you can see yourself, there are several good options to fit into your diet without having to repeat the same food every day.
Now that you know that you can gain muscle mass with a vegetarian diet, check out some tips to ensure success in training and achieve your goals:
Consume the ideal amount of calories
Eating less than your body needs to maintain metabolism will force you to use your muscle stores as a fuel source, causing catabolism and making the task of gaining muscle on a vegetarian diet more difficult.
Since vegetables are less caloric than foods of animal origin, it is important that you regularly consume a good amount of calories to guarantee the proteins and other nutrients necessary for the regeneration and growth of muscle fibers.
Do this by prioritizing whole legumes, nuts, grains, and seeds, which tend to be higher in calories than vegetables and fruits.
Don’t let fruit and vegetables be missing from your menu
Remember that you don’t only need protein to build muscle tissue: vitamins and minerals play a key role in the process and should be part of your daily diet.
Swap the juice or soda for a protein shake
Add a scoop of vegetable protein powder to your water and have it with every meal. Without realizing it, you will have added 20 grams of protein to the vegetarian diet quickly and conveniently.
Isolated protein from rice, soy, artichoke, and hemp are some of the plant-based protein options you can include in your shakes.
Include grains and vegetables in all meals
Whoever does not eat meat and is trying to gain muscle mass cannot in any way neglect the consumption of vegetables and whole grains. Remember that they will be your main source of protein in the vegetarian diet, and they are also low in fat, and it is a great option for post-workout.
Add quinoa to your diet
Quinoa is a grain of the highest nutritional quality, considered more complete than soybeans and with a protein content higher than most cereals (23%). A consumption advice is to alternate brown rice with quinoa every day, because the flavor is similar and quinoa has the advantage of being more complete, nutritionally speaking, than rice.
Eat good fats
Since you will not be consuming fish or omega 3 supplements, add other sources of good fats to your vegetarian diet: olive oil, flaxseed, avocado and coconut oil are all excellent energy source options.
Don’t overdo it on industrialized foods
In addition to not consuming an adequate amount of protein, vegetarians often make another big mistake: excessive consumption of highly processed foods.
As tempting as it may seem, not eating meat does not mean a free pass for you to eat whatever you want, as long as it is not of animal origin. Stuffed cookies, frozen pizzas, sandwiches and sodas are poor in nutrients and steal the space of the healthy and nutritious foods that we can include. Not to mention that they will surely increase your body fat levels and hinder muscle definition.
Look beyond soy
Another very common mistake among vegetarians is to believe that soy should be the main source of protein in the diet. Although tofu, tempeh and soy milk are excellent sources of essential amino acids, the presence of isoflavones and antinutrients makes soy a food that is consumed in moderation, especially by men.
Supplement when necessary
For those who cannot reach the minimum amounts of protein or who have difficulties to change their diet, an addition to BCA’S can be a good option to combat muscle catabolism.
It is also important to pay attention to the deficiency of B12, the only vitamin found exclusively in animal products. You can find it in capsules or in the form of injections.
Since vegetarians do not consume dairy, calcium can be a problem for those who need the nutrient for important organ functions, including muscle contraction. However, if you regularly include cabbage, broccoli, almonds, and spinach in your diet, you won’t need to add more calcium.
Do short and intense practices
Nowadays, it is already known that spending hours in the gym is not the best option to gain muscle mass. Long workouts cause increased muscle catabolism, making it difficult to maintain and gain lean mass.
Try adding super set bodybuilding workouts to your routine, which focus on intensity and reduce rest between sets. That way, you not only shorten the session but also get maximum intensity with minimum time and without wasting precious proteins.