Vegan and Veggie Weightlifters
Sep 9, 2018
Over the years, veganism and vegetarianism have grown in popularity. From the average joe to the heavy weightlifter, people’s plates have become more colorful and rich with veggies. Studies have shown, however, that eating animal protein will increase your muscle mass more quickly than other foods which begs the question, “How can an athlete build muscle, achieve healthy lean body composition and maintain a toned physique if they don’t eat meat?” Although it is technically true that eating meat does lend to better protein absorption, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to reach your goals on an animal friendly diet.
So what’s the difference between animal protein vs. plant protein? To start, the building block for a protein is called an amino acid. There are nine amino acids that are important for building the structure of a protein. Animals and animal by-products contain all nine essential amino acids which means that they are made up of “complete” proteins. Plants don’t have all the amino acids; therefore, they carry incomplete proteins. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan that wants to bulk up for a competition or just for your own benefit, then consuming all nine essential amino acids will be key.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, there are a few concepts to remember. Learning about your veggies, finding alternative complete proteins, becoming familiar with protein supplements, and planning your meals will help foster success!
Vegetarians will have an easier time finding replacement proteins if they’re still eating seafood, eggs, and dairy products. Vegans, on the other hand, will have to be a little more creative! The good news is that both quinoa and soybeans are some of the few plant-based options that have complete proteins. Both of these tasty choices are frequently used in many dishes today, so finding recipes should be a breeze. You can also complement your veggies with different legumes and nuts that, when added together, will help you consume all nine amino acids.
Protein powders and supplements are an option as well depending on what your goals are and how aggressively you go after them. Once you’ve decided on which choices are best for your body and beliefs, then you can start doing more research on the timing of when and how often your meals should be consumed for maximum absorption and muscle recovery.
In conclusion, it’s not impossible to build muscle while maintaining a plant-based diet. It may take a little more effort with research and planning, but doing what is right for you and your goals will make the victory that much sweeter!