Veganism is now big business, with more and more people switching to a plant-based diet as a source of sustenance. Unsurprising really, with many of our favourite recipes now coming in a vegan form which not only leaves us with more energy but tastes amazing too.

Athletes are also switching to the vegan lifestyle which leaves some skeptics asking how an athlete can both perform well and build muscle just like a person with an omnivorous diet would do.

Here are the best ways for vegan athletes to build their muscle.

Protein

Protein is the key ingredient in building muscle and yes, a lot of protein can be found in lean meats which is why people believe that you need a lot of meat in your diet to gain muscle mass. However, there are a lot of vegan alternatives out there packed with protein; think lentils, pulses, spinach and even vegan alternatives to meat such as the Impossible and Beyond Burgers.

Calorie Intake

Another factor we need to consider is calorie intake. If you’re building lean muscle, this formula suggested by Men’s health will help you to calculate your daily caloric needs if you’re wanting to build muscle. However, many plant-based foods are naturally low in calories so many feel that it’s difficult to achieve such levels of calorie intake. However, there are a higher calorie, vegan-friendly foods that athletes should be stocking upon. Nuts are very high in calories as are bananas so be sure to incorporate these kinds of snacks into your day

Carbs

Yes, carbs are important too, but they need to be healthy, complex carbs such as wholewheat rice, pasta, and bread. Carbohydrates that are also rich in fiber are great for vegans trying to bulk up. A spokesperson for canadiangentleman.ca and fellow vegan, Jake Bennett, said he swears by oatmeal; a healthy and complex carb that he teams with soy milk and fruits rich in antioxidants such as blueberries for the perfect start to the day. On an evening he includes legumes such as chickpeas and black beans into his daily intake.

Creatine

Creatine is a natural compound found in each and every one of our bodies and helps our muscles to produce energy when doing exercises such as weightlifting. Creatine is mainly found in red meats and fish which means that vegans don’t consume it. Nevertheless, there are a plethora of creatine supplements on the market today and they’re perfect for supplying energy to the body parts that need it during workouts. As with any saturated market, it can be difficult to decide which creatine will be the best performer for you so it’s good to do some research beforehand.

Other Supplements

It’s always great to get a helping hand from supplements, especially when you’re a vegan. Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 fatty acids which are common in fish, for example, are usually at low levels in vegans. Luckily you can take these supplements daily to ensure your body is getting all the essential nutrients it needs to perform well.

A Solid Workout Routine

In addition to all the things we listed above about what you put into your body, physical training also has a huge impact on how you can build your muscle mass. Vary your routine and don’t just do the sport that you’re trained in. Team up training sessions with gym workouts and regular heavy weight lifting. Having a mix of both HIIT and low impact workouts in your routine can ensure that your stamina remains high whilst making those all-important gains.

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