Want to go vegan but don’t want to lose weight? Bulking this season and don’t want to lose muscle mass? Worried you won’t get enough protein going vegan? Common questions by gym enthusiasts that I have answers to.
Since I’ve been vegan I have gained about 10lbs of healthy weight. For the past two years, I’ve dropped my body fat percentage by 8% and my body is 80% muscle mass.
First, let’s put it out there, IT IS NOT HARD to find protein in PLANT-BASED FOODS! If you are a little bit more restrictive like me (I am transitioning to raw vegan) then you will have to work harder to find your healthy sources of protein in order to meet your mass gaining goals. If you eat pre-made/processed/packaged foods like most of the Western world, then YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO WORRY about getting enough or additional protein. Cereal, granola bars, frozen vegan “meats”, vegetables, grains, and legumes–ALL HAVE PROTEIN in varying amounts. Also keep in mind that THIS ARTICLE IS GEARED TOWARDS EXPERIENCED ATHLETES/GYM ENTHUSIASTS who have a goal of building muscle mass.
Protein Types—amino acids, BCAAs, complete protein and primary protein–four words I WANT YOU TO REMEMBER as an ATHLETE, GYM ENTHUSIAST, or vegan novice. Amino acids are broken up into two categories (essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids).
Non-essential Amino acids are aminos (protein building blocks) that can be produced by the body naturally.
Essential amino acids are nine aminos that cannot be produced by the body and need to be obtained externally (mainly through food).
BCAAs are chemically shaped differently, but are three of the nine essential amino acids that have been researched to be important for muscle recovery, protein synthesis and muscle endurance. There are few foods that contain ALL NINE ESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS, but those that do are considered to provide complete protein.
Primary protein is a source of protein that is obtained from and used in its natural state, therefore maximizing its quality to the individual that is consuming it. I always ask people do you eat animals, and if they do, I ask them what do the animals eat? In the United States a lot of them eat either soy, dead remains from other animals, or some form of grass/vegetables. So why not EAT PROTEIN from where the animal is eating it from??? The human eating the animal is getting an indirect or secondary source of protein when instead they could be eating plants which provide the primary source of the protein. CRAZY RIGHT?
Eating More vs Eating the Right Foods—So how much protein should you get? That depends on your goal. How much mass are you trying to build? What type of strength training are you doing? Do you have a deadline? Do you have health conditions that would conflict with protein uptake? All VALID questions, but let’s say you have answers to all these. According to the USDA (not my favorite source) and the Mayo Clinic, 10-35% of your daily caloric intake of 1,800-2,000 calories should come from protein. This is the baseline. If you are looking to increase your muscle mass, then you need to take more than the average recommended daily intake. See the RDI’s (recommended dietary intake) below according to author of Protein, Jaqueline B. Marcus:
Recreational Athletes: 1.1-1.4g
Competitive Athletes: 1.2-1.4g
Ultra Endurance Athletes: up to 2.0g
Athletes Building Muscle Mass: 1.5-2.0g
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine also supports up to 2.0g of protein per kg of weight.
Still need help calculating how much YOU NEED and WHICH FOODS TO EAT to achieve your goal? Set up a quick 30-minute consultation with us / send us an email so that we can provide you with a breakdown of how you should be dividing up your MACROS (protein/carbs/fats), calculating how many grams of protein you need based on your body weight/height/age/training and caloric intake. Also learn what foods you need to incorporate and other recommendations—EVERYTHING YOU NEED FOR YOUR MUSCLE GROWTH OR WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY.
Top Foods with Protein—
Soy—Complete Protein, can find it in almost any store and it’s very cheap. One myth is that soy is unhealthy and is high in estrogen. I’m not going to get into details (I might write a separate article on this) but make sure to read peer-reviewed research and credible sources anytime you are looking for information about nutrition (there is A LOT of misinformation and “research” funded by egg/meat/dairy industry and sponsored organizations).
Quinoa—Complete Protein, can be found in major supermarkets or you can buy it online. It is one of my favorite ways to fuel myself because of its high content of protein per serving. There are also many different kinds (black, red, white)
Amaranth—Complete Protein and provides MANY vitamins and minerals. I recently STARTED ADDING AMARANTH to my food regimen. It is a type of grain that is even smaller in size than quinoa, so you should be mixing it in with other foods and not eating it alone since it is low in carbs and calories so it will not fill you up.
Plant-based protein supplements—in order to increase muscle mass, I recommend taking plant-protein post workout supplements to all my clients. Additionally, plant-mass gainers are also a great way to gain mass since they are high in calories and are calorically dense. Protein supplements SHOULDN’T BE THE ONLY FOOD you eat post workout and shouldn’t be the main way you are getting your protein in. For optimal results, EAT A VARIETY of PLANT-BASED WHOLE FOODS AND take protein supplements.
What do I eat?
Okay so what does all this actually look like? If you still don’t follow us on social media @HEALINGFOODFULLY you are missing out on our daily stories/videos on what I typically eat in a day. Here is a sneak peek although keep in mind that this is SPECIFIC to my personal health and fitness goals:
My Typical Breakfast—
Fruit and Veggie Smoothie/Fresh Juice
One Plant-Based Protein Shake
Seasoned Brown Rice + Avocado + Dark Leafy Greens + Yams + Seasoned Tofu
Oatmeal + Seeds + Alternative Milk + Fruit
If you’re interested in learning more about WHAT IT FEELS LIKE EATING 100% PLANT-BASED (The Right Way), try out my 7-Day Vegan Meal Plan, NOW FOR SALE! Thank you as always for reading!
References & Works Cited:
Protein, 2019 Publications International Ltd, Jaqueline B. Marcus,