Build muscle vegan: myth or possible?

“Salad makes your biceps shrink!”, “Vegans can never get as muscular as real meat eaters!” or “I think it’s nonsense to build muscle vegan.”

Many people who have even started to think about vegan diets should have heard the above statements many times. Even a vegetarian diet makes many people shake their heads - and if you then tell the meat-eating bodybuilder that you even do without milk, cheese or eggs, he will probably turn away without understanding. If you, as a vegan, talk about tofu seasoned with kala namak salt or the tempeh slices, you have to be prepared for a shitstorm or at least skeptical questions with almost 100% certainty. You need protein-rich scrambled eggs for breakfast and without the juicy steak in the evening it would not be possible for the muscles that we pump up so laboriously to grow. Why should we resort to vegan substitute products when the meat is so conveniently packaged in the refrigerated section and then so cheap? And anyway: Isn't vegan nutrition characterized by deficiency symptoms anyway?

Do vegan muscle building

In addition to regular strength training, a good supply of protein is the be-all and end-all when building muscle. The German Society for Nutrition recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight - for non-athletes. If you train regularly, your need is higher: around 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram is then the guide value.

For carnivores in training, the meal plan seems to be clear: eggs for breakfast, a salad with salmon for lunch and rice with chicken for dinner. The latter is a real protein bomb with 31 g protein per 100 g and allows the muscles - if you train accordingly - to grow quickly and effectively. But: It is also possible to build muscle without supporting the terrible factory farming. Would you like an example? Check out Niami Delgado's Instagram and get inspired by his vegan fitness and ripped muscles. Rich Roll, too, went from being an overweight, fast-food-eating, heart-attack-prone alcoholic to a top vegan athlete running five Ironman triathlons in a week. He proves that building muscle is possible with a vegan diet. To build muscle, he's swapped fast-food burgers for veggie patties and alcohol for healthy smoothies. However, there are a few prerequisites for vegan muscle building: Deal with your diet. And that goes for everyone, whether vegan or not. By the way, fun fact: Some of the strongest animals in the world rely on plant power. Elephants, hippos or rhinos are all vegan - and far from lacking in protein.

The vegan muscle building: protein sources

So what can you eat if you want to build muscle as a vegan?

Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are a total of 20 of these building blocks that your body needs and of these 20, eight are essential, i.e. the body – unlike the other twelve – cannot produce them itself. So you have to get them through your food. It is important that you make sure that you take in high-quality and different amino acids when you eat vegetarian and animal foods, as well as when building muscle through a vegan diet.

Examples of healthy and vegetable sources of protein are pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, peanuts, cashew nuts. These occupy top positions with up to 35 g protein per 100 g. Nevertheless, you should consume them in moderation as they are not only high in protein but also in fat. So watch out, calorie bomb! However, they are perfect as a snack, dessert or salad topping. The real stars if you want to build muscle as a vegan are legumes. (Chick)peas, beans (also soybeans and accordingly tempeh and tofu) and lentils help your strength training pay off. Cooked soybeans, for example, score with 15 g protein per 100 g, with lentils it is 10 g protein per 100 g.

Insider knowledge: One of the eight essential amino acids is lysine. Lysine is a key player in muscle building and is found in large amounts - who would have thought? – in legumes (especially in red lentils). Does that mean that you should only eat beans, lentils and the like if you want to build muscle vegan? no way. Because: If you pack all kinds of (whole grain) cereals in addition to the legumes, nothing stands in the way of the 44 biceps! Fun - but not entirely without ulterior motives: wholemeal bread, pumpernickel, oatmeal or wholemeal pasta perfectly round off muscle building via a vegan diet. Rice, spinach or quinoa are also reliable sources of protein, especially in combination with legumes, which you should eat in order to be able to build muscle reliably. Nice side effect: You don't support factory farming.

It's all in the mix: Legumes and cereals go hand in hand

Of course, you don't have to go straight from a meat lover to a plant lover. Habit plays a big part in everything we do. But some people have already proven that it is not impossible, but actually easy (!) to cover the protein requirement through a vegan diet - see Rich Roll, which we already mentioned. Derek Simnett also regularly inspires half a million followers with recipes for vegan muscle building on his YouTube channel "Simnett-Nutrition" - his hardened body should be proof enough that building muscles works like this. Niko Rittenau, a nutritionist, even wrote an entire book on vegan nutrition (and optimal protein intake). A typical day in the life of a practicing vegan might look like this: Soy yogurt, pumpkin seeds, two slices of whole wheat bread with hummus for breakfast, whole wheat pasta for lunch, and quinoa salad with cashews and chickpeas for dinner. Tadaa - the protein requirement is covered and your strength training is optimally supported.

With our vegan dish lentils à la Provence you can also provide yourself with vegan proteins. Especially when you don't have time to cook (maybe the training was too good and you couldn't tear yourself away from the weights?), our mix of lentils, kidney beans and pumpkin is a great solution. And if you also add a portion of rice as a side dish, you're doing everything right. High-quality foods in the form of legumes and grains guarantee your body, which is stressed by training, an optimal vegan protein supply. Want more chickpeas? No problem either - with our chickpea curry you can even choose between rice and quinoa as side dishes. As you can see, vegan muscle building doesn't have to be boring or tedious. Lentils, beans or pumpkin seeds are in no way inferior to steaks, scrambled eggs or quark and let the biceps grow just as well. Don't be afraid to give a vegan diet a try. Have fun trying!