Vegan Muscle Building Myths Debunked
In today’s world, we see many athletes who are so great, they seem unreal. They have mastered their sport and they have the kind of body that we ourselves dream of one day having. Venus Williams is a 4-time gold medalist for the Olympics. Patrick Baboumian is a well-known vegan strongman, and Davide Haye has won multiple world championships in boxing. So what do all of these successful athletes have in common?
Each one of them follows a vegan diet.
Many believe that you can’t be a great athlete if you’re on a vegan diet, and yet, there are so many vegan athletes that have risen to fame and success with their high performance. If you’re considering turning to a healthier lifestyle that revolves around a plant-based diet and rigorous exercise plan, this article may answer some of the questions you’ve been wondering about. There are many misconceptions surrounding veganism, athleticism, and muscle-building, and these are simply not true at all. So we’re going to debunk those myths for you so you can stop worrying and start focusing on your goals.
Myth 1: You Won’t Be Getting Enough Nutrients
As a heavily meat-driven culture, you might face people who are concerned that you won’t be getting enough to eat, and that you’ll become nutrient-deficient. This could not be further from the truth.
In fact, an article in the Toxicology Letters estimates that half of the American population is deficient in at least one important micronutrient. Micronutrients include vitamins, minerals, and more - and plant foods are very rich with them.
Roger Davidson from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends adding iron, B-12, and zinc supplements to your diet. These will help round out your vegan diet so you can perform at your maximum potential.
If you want to see how a plant-based diet affects populations, just take a look at India! India has a high concentration of vegetarians and vegans due to religious practices, and their lifestyle diseases are lower than in Western countries, according to the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine. This is likely to do with their increased intake of micronutrients. They play a much larger role in our health and well-being than we usually give them credit for. Micronutrients can help us fight off illnesses as minor as the common cold. They can also prevent aging, as stated in the Toxicology Letters Journal. So you could see better results in the gym and be able to pack on more muscle by simply having to take fewer sick days away!
Myth 2: You Won’t Be Able to Perform as Well
You may have heard that those that follow a plant-based diet are weaker and can’t perform as well. This myth is partly due to the stigma that meat is important for building strength, and the fact that vegetarians and vegans tend to have a lower body mass, on average. But a plant-based diet is not an indicator of lower athletic performance in any way, as supported by David C. Nieman from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In the Journal of Nutrition & Intermediary Metabolism, they also find that meat-eaters do not perform any better than plant-based eaters by any standard.
The human body is built to run off of sugar as energy. Sugar comes from carbs, and the more complex those carbs are, the longer your body is going to be able to use it as energy. The vegetarian/vegan diet is usually heavier in carbs than an omnivorous diet, making more energy readily available for you to use. Gregory Cox from the International SportMed Journal supports the idea that vegetarians may be able to utilize that energy more efficiently, discussing how the energy stores could be more readily available in vegans and vegetarians.
So, you might be able to push yourself further while working out on a plant-based diet. Again, just think of all the successful vegan athletes - you could be one of them!
Myth 3: You Won’t Be Able to Get Enough (or the Right Kind of) Protein for Proper Muscle Building
Finally, we have reached the most common concern that people face when first going vegan - and it’s also the easiest to answer. There are plenty of plant-based sources to get your protein from while building muscle, and they’re actually much healthier for you. Grains, nuts, and many vegetables are fantastic protein sources that also provide carbs, healthy fats, and plenty of micronutrients. Not to mention the wide variety of high protein products that are readily available out there now, as well as high-quality protein supplements such as VEGANMASS™ or VPLANT™ protein powders that can help fuel your workout.
In fact, most Americans consume too much protein, so removing meat-based protein from your diet could be a good thing. The daily recommended amount for the average man is 56 grams a day, and for women, it’s 46 grams. This may differ due to body weight, the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein ranges from country to country, but the US and Canada recommend; 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
For a 80kg person:
0.8 x 80 = approximately 66 grams/day
For a 176lb person:
0.37 x 176 = approximately 65 grams/day
The average American adult, according to Victor Fulgoni in “Vegetarian Nutrition – Comparing Physical Performance of Omnivorous and Vegetarian Athletes,” consumes a whopping 91 grams. For the average person, that’s almost twice as much as they need. The point here is that getting enough protein in your diet is not a hard thing to do.
Athletes - especially those who are focused on muscle-building - need more protein to build muscle properly. Strength athletes and bodybuilders looking to build muscle can require twice as much or more protein than the average person. Depending on individual goals and genetics, a strength athlete or bodybuilder should consume 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight or .73-1 grams per pound of bodyweight.
For a 80kg person:
2.2 x 80 = approximately 176 grams/day
For a 176lb person:
1 x 176 = approximately 176 grams/day
Yet another common misconception is that animal protein is ideal for muscle building because it is a more complete protein. But that does not mean that it is a better form of protein. Hoffman and Falvo from Journal of Sports Science and Medicine help back this up. Plant-based protein sources have shown incredible effects for training and muscle building.
If you find yourself having trouble cooking or having readily available meals to keep yourself on track, we recommend supplementing protein with VEGANMASS™ or VPLANT™! VEGANMASS™ is specially formulated to give you the perfect combination of 30g of top quality protein and 31g of low-glycemic carbs for ultimate muscle gain and increased performance - making it the perfect vegan/vegetarian protein supplement for athletes looking to build muscle. VPLANT™ is the perfect plant-based isolate protein, delivering 20g of top-quality protein.
Now that we have debunked the myths above, click HERE to read our tips to building muscle on a Vegan diet!
Ames, Bruce N. “Micronutrients Prevent Cancer and Delay Aging.” Toxicology Letters, vol.102-103, 1998, pp. 5–18., doi:10.1016/s0378-4274(98)00269-0.
Bagchi D, Nair S, Sen CK. "Nutrition and Enhanced Sports Performance: Muscle Building, Endurance, and Strength." London: Academic Press; 2019.
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Fulgoni, Victor L. “Current Protein Intake in America: Analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003–2004.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 87, no. 5, Jan. 2008, doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1554s.
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Hoffman, Jay R, and Michael J Falvo. “Protein - Which Is Best?” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 3 Sept. 2004, pp. 118–130.
Nieman, David C. “Physical Fitness and Vegetarian Diets: Is There a Relation?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 70, no. 3, Jan. 1999, doi:10.1093/ajcn/70.3.570s.
Rogerson, David. “Vegan Diets: Practical Advice for Athletes and Exercisers.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, vol. 14, no. 1, 2017, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9.
Sihna, R, et al. “Cancer Risk and Diet in India.” Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, vol. 49, no. 3, 2003, pp. 222–228.