28th January 2016
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Is it possible, really possible, to increase muscle mass on a plant based diet?

When using trusty ‘Professor Google’ to search for answers, you may become excited to read  ‘Yes.’ Vegetables and muscles are, apparently, good friends that work synergistically with one another and not as mutually exclusive as you may have once thought.

 Yet disappointment lurks around the corner. The same ‘Yes’ article re-directs you to the vegetarian body building sample diet plan. You are greeted with some vegetables, but also with 3 meal replacement shakes that are full of sweeteners and nasties (but that also contain copious amounts of amino acids and protein.) The vegetables become the buffer for the protein hits found in your morning and afternoon shaker. Plus, some people can just not tolerate protein shakes and pills stuffed full of sucralose, stevia and fructose.

So again, we are left asking; is it possible, really possible to increase muscle mass on a plant based diet?

Well, my answer is yes. But do not expect it be easy. And also, a little bit no…

You can, but I still feel vegetables need a little helping hand here and there (as great as they are.)

Protein is found in many vegetables. Vegetables are the elixir of life. They contain wonderful antioxidants, nutrients and basically, the building blocks to keep us healthy and alive. They do, however, contain much less protein per gram than our coniferous alternatives such as chicken or fish. They also have a high level of starchy carbohydrates, especially in those more high protein greens.

If trying to get our protein needs purely from fresh vegetables, then expect to eat a lot. And, as great as vegetables are for you, expect your carbohydrate macros to start soaring. The carbohydrate to protein ratio will out of balance and you will start to hate the site of your broccoli side dish.

The suggestion is to

1) Select high protein vegetables such as broccoli, kale, edamame and spinach (we knew this already) and keep the portion sizes relatively large.

2) Supplement vegetables with high protein fats. Nut butters, chia seeds, flax seeds. Just adding one tablespoon of high protein fats (or diary fats if you are not vegan such as cottage cheese) will send your protein intake soaring compared to a lonely plate of vegetables. No more than portion at each meal however as these tend to be much higher in calories.

3) Alter the taste of your vegetables with vegetable protein powders. Still vegetables, no artificial, digestion disturbing additives, just ground but condensed vegetables. ‘Pulsin’ have a wide range but there are many available. 30g of Pea protein offers around 20g total  protein. Hemp protein and sunflower are other alternatives and all provide different flavours suitable for cooking, sprinkling or drinking.

4) Don’t forget your Essential Amino Acids and Branched Chain Amino Acids around your work out. Supplementing here and there with quality supplements from quality retailers can help in your goals of a better bicep.

5) If you are not vegan – bring on the egg whites! Low in calorie, high in nutrition and packed with proteins. You can enjoy high volume egg white omlettes, add egg whites to your stir fry and even carry some poached egg whites on their own in tuperware for a quick protein fix between meals.


So yes, a vegetarian can build muscle and in theory, yes this can be done with vegetables alone. But some modern cons such as ‘condensed’ protein powders help enormously. They are also good for you and contain loads of fibre and omega 3s. Something many vegetarians are deficient in.

As a non-vegan (lacto-ovo vegetarian) with the addition of cheese and eggs – there are definitely no excuses!



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