Veganism, a dietary and lifestyle choice that excludes all animal products, has seen a surge in popularity over the past decade. However, misconceptions remain, particularly when it comes to building muscle on a vegan diet. Today, we’ll debunk some of the most common myths about veganism and muscle-growth.
Myth 1: It’s Hard to Get Enough Protein on a Vegan Diet
This is perhaps the most common misconception about veganism. There are numerous plant-based sources of protein available, and they can easily meet the protein requirements for most individuals.
Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and many more are packed with protein.
Whole Grains: Quinoa, oats, barley, and brown rice offer a significant amount of protein.
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flaxseeds are great sources.
Soy Products: Tofu, tempeh, and edamame beans are rich in protein.
Seitan: Made from gluten, the main protein in wheat, seitan is a protein-rich vegan meat substitute.
While it’s true that many plant proteins are considered “incomplete” because they don’t provide all the essential amino acids, combining different sources (e.g., beans and rice) ensures a full amino acid profile. The body can also mix and match amino acids from different foods to make complete proteins over a day.
Myth 2: Plant Proteins Are Inferior to Animal Proteins
The difference between animal and plant proteins lies in their amino acid profiles. While animal sources typically contain all essential amino acids in one package, this doesn’t make them superior.
In fact, recent research indicates that plant-based protein sources are equally effective as animal-based ones when it comes to muscle protein synthesis, as long as total protein intake is sufficient.
Myth 3: You Can’t Build Muscle on a Vegan Diet
Muscle-building results from a combination of resistance training, adequate protein intake, and overall caloric consumption. Vegan athletes and bodybuilders have repeatedly shown that it is entirely possible to build and maintain muscle mass on a plant-based diet.
The key is to ensure that you’re consuming enough calories and protein, just as you would on an omnivorous diet. The vegan diet can provide all the necessary nutrients for muscle growth, including vitamins and minerals that support metabolic processes.
Myth 4: Vegans Struggle to Recover After Workouts
Recovery is influenced by several factors including sleep, stress, hydration, and of course, nutrition. When a vegan athlete puts in the effort to consume enough protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, their recovery is just as effective as that of non-vegans. Some plant-based foods, like tart cherries, have even been found to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation.
Myth 5: Vegan Diets Lack Creatine and Carnitine, Which Are Vital for Muscle Growth
While it’s true that vegan diets don’t provide direct sources of creatine and carnitine (primarily found in animal products), the body can produce these compounds. For those concerned about optimizing levels, especially athletes, there are vegan supplements available.
It’s also worth noting that not all omnivorous athletes get enough of these compounds solely from their diet and might still choose to supplement.
Building muscle is a result of consistent training, adequate nutrition, and recovery. A vegan diet, when properly planned and balanced, can provide all the necessary nutrients for optimal muscle growth and health. Just as in any diet, planning and education are key to achieving your goals. It’s always a good idea to consult with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure all nutritional needs are being met, whether you’re vegan or not.