Building muscles with a purely plant-based diet can be challenging, and this is especially true for vegans. But many people have successfully done it, and most world-famous athletes are switching to this diet because of the overall long-term health benefits it provides like better metabolic rate, reduced damages from oxidative stress, etc. More professional bodybuilders choose this diet over the traditional protein-rich meat-based diet. The purpose of this article is to explore in detail about building muscles by following a plant-based diet; read on to know more about this.
Your Calorie Needs
Building muscles by eating plant-based food requires a better understanding of your calorie and macronutrient needs. This requires real and raw data based on your physiological characteristics, and assuming or guessing them is useless. You start by finding the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) using the Harris-Benedict equation. The BMR is the amount of energy required to maintain normal body functions like temperature, respiration, and digestion at rest. It is the energy used by vital organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, nervous system, intestines, muscles, sex organs, and skin.
Next, the BMR is combined with the metabolic rate when you are involved in activities like walking, working out, running errands, etc. The total that you get is the amount of energy, i.e. calories that you spend in a day, and hence your calorie need. For instance, if you expend 2,500 calories per day, then you need 2,500 calories to maintain weight. So, for building muscles, you must get more than 2,500 calories daily from the plant-based food. However, many people find it challenging to implement this in their daily life, and this is mostly due to the low-calorie density of plant-based foods.
Calorie Density And Nutrient Density
Calorie density is the amount of calories contained in a pound of food, and nutrient density is the amount of nutrients available from it. Nutrients like amino acids, minerals, vitamins, fiber, and other phytonutrients are required for nourishment, growth, muscle recovery, and energy for the body. The best plant-based food with high calorie and nutrient density are whole grains and food products made using it. You can measure nutrient density using the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI); it is the amount of nutrients divided by calories. The higher the ANDI score, the better and vice versa. For example, junk foods like pizza, candies, fries, etc., have high calories, but lack nutrients, and hance their ANDI value will be low compared to whole grain plant-based foods.
Plant-Based Food For Bulking Up
You choose plant-based food for bulking up by weighing its calorie density against its nutrient density so that you get more calories to build muscles. Listed below are five important foods that you must include in your plant-based diet for bodybuilding.
- Beans and lentils
- Brown rice
- Bananas and other fruits
You design or plan your plant-based diet for bodybuilding around these staples as it ensures that you hit your daily calorie goal. Also, you can make variations using this framework for better overall nutrition and a balanced diet.
Deficiencies From Plant-Based Diet For Bodybuilding
Vitamin B12 deficiency is common among those who follow plant-based diets, especially vegans. This vitamin is produced by bacteria, and it is naturally found in animal-based foods like dairy, eggs, poultry, meat, and so on. But it is not naturally found in most plant-based food products. Its deficiency causes fatigue, issues with the body’s balance, depression, and confusion. So, people who follow a plant-based diet for bodybuilding must consume vitamin B12 fortified cereals and plant-based milk, mushrooms, and nutritional yeast.
Vitamin D deficiency is common among those who follow a plant-based diet, and this causes issues like depression, muscle pain, and fatigue. This can be avoided by consuming vitamin D supplements and with short daily exposure to the morning sun. Moreover, keep in mind that the main source of vitamin D for our body is the sun because the skin produces it when exposed to the UV rays found in the sunlight. Finally, the best way to avoid the risk of vitamin D deficiency when following a plant-based diet is to eat a balanced diet, and this is recommended by all nutritionists.
Protein From Plant-Based Diet For Bodybuilding
Contrary to the popular belief, you can get enough protein from a plant-based diet for bodybuilding. But you must know that unlike animal proteins, plant proteins are not complete proteins. So, nutritionists advise eating a wide variety of plant-based foods, i.e. a balanced plant-based diet for getting enough proteins. You can eat legumes and pulses like lentils, soybeans, soy-based food products like tofu, as well as plant-based protein powders for bodybuilding. Besides, the protein requirements of vegan athletes range from 0.36 to 0.86 grams per pound. However, there is an unhealthy trend of consuming high amounts of proteins among many bodybuilders, and according to health professionals, this is bad.
On a final note, the basic idea of following a plant-based diet is to eat more plant-based food and less animal-based food.