Can a Vegan Gain Lean Muscle? Yes, if you make a competent menu. Let’s talk about where to get protein if you are vegan.
With the growing popularity of veganism, more and more athletes are interested in whether it is possible to gain muscle mass without violating the canons of vegan nutrition. The answer is not straightforward. Vegans can get enough protein from lentils, beans, soy, and nuts. However, there are obstacles they will have to overcome on their way to gaining lean mass:
- Achieve a positive nitrogen balance to activate the mTor signaling mechanism;
- Lack of vitamin B12;
- Reducing the amount of carbohydrates in the diet to burn fat.
Veganism and the mTor Mechanism
Let’s talk about the most mysterious and most important signaling mechanism for gaining mass. – mTor. It regulates the synthesis of insulin, insulin-like growth factor IGF-1 and some amino acids.
In turn, insulin is the strongest among the known anabolic hormones. It is responsible for the synthesis and storage of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, prevents their breakdown and ensures the transport of nutrients to the cells of the body.
IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor, is a powerful peptide hormone that leads to hyperplasia (the formation of new muscle fibers). In general, this substance is indispensable for building muscle mass.
But how is nutrition related to these hormones?
Traditionally, it is believed that after exercising, you need to drink a high-carb shake to raise your blood insulin levels. The hormone will saturate cells with nutrients and start the processes of recovery and protein synthesis.
It turns out that carbohydrates can activate mTOR only when consumed in combination with proteins. Insulin alone is powerless, and instead of triggering protein synthesis and muscle growth, it causes fat to be stored.
The solution seems simple – add some protein to the shake. Indeed, even without carbohydrates, whey protein and L-leucine are powerful stimulants of insulin production and protein synthesis. But the problem is that most vegan protein powders don’t have enough or not L-leucine. Because of this, full mTor stimulation is not possible.
It is from these considerations that you should supplement with amino acids during and after training. Studies have shown that protein synthesis is not triggered by insulin, but in a state of hyperaminoacidemia, that is, when the blood is saturated with amino acids. This can be achieved by drinking a shake with 10 grams of protein. If you add more, the excess amino acids will be broken down for energy needs or simply stored as fat instead of being used to build muscle.
The conclusion is that 10 grams of protein consumed at the right time may be more valuable than 60 grams of protein ingested during the day.
Lack of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 needed for the formation of new red blood cells and cell division. Vegans suffer from a lack of it because it is only found in animal products. An alternative source of vitamin B12 can serve brewer’s yeast or vitamin complexes. The same goes for zinc. It is recommended to consume complexes of zinc and magnesium (ZMA) at night for sound sleep and active production of testosterone.
Control over carbohydrates
Almost every vegan protein source (lentils, beans, chickpeas) is high in carbohydrates and can interfere with lean muscle gain. Nuts and soy products come to the rescue. But you can’t just eat tofu!
As for nuts, they are high in fat, and this is also not an option for a vegan athlete who needs 200 grams of protein a day.
Fortunately, the supplement industry has gone to meet vegans with a wide variety of high-protein cereals and soy protein.
An example of a high protein daily menu for vegans
- 7:00 – 10 g BCAA. Then 100% cranberry juice. It is tart, but it is excellent for cleansing the liver. This breakfast will be good for all athletes, not just vegans. After all, if you have a diseased liver, then the proteins you eat will be useless.
- 7:30 – Pancakes made from almond flour with almond milk and added protein. Add almond oil if your daily calorie requirement permits.
- 12:00 – Sandwich with tofu cheese and tomato sauce, rice cakes with almond butter.
- 15:00 – Pre-workout: Almond milk oatmeal with protein, fruits and nuts.
- 17:00 – During training 10 g of BCAA.
- 18:00 – Salad with tofu, nuts and avocado. Add quinoa if your daily calorie requirement permits.
- 20:00 – Repeat any of the 7:30 or 6:00 pm meals depending on your goals.
Ideally, each meal should be supplemented with vegetables.