Every time there is a discussion about getting fit, you might have heard about the importance of a well-balanced diet. But the true implementation of a well-balanced diet is almost only found in airplanes. If you are someone looking to improve your body in terms of its fitness, you will have to work on this. A way through which you can achieve fitness is with a vegetarian muscle-building diet.
The main nutrient that helps you gain strength within your muscles and get fit ultimately, is protein. Now protein is more commonly known to be found in meats. This is why it shocks people when they find out that you can gain loads of proteins through a purely vegetarian diet. There are certain things you have to consider when you go for a protein-intensive vegetarian diet. First of all, there are different requirements of nutrients each body has, depending on your body weight among other things. Secondly, there are different types of vegetarian diets as well. Let’s jump into each of those queries one at a time and see how you can achieve a well-balanced diet that is a good muscle-builder.
Why is protein important?
In chemical terms, protein is a nutrient that is an amino acid residue, found in all living organisms. It has many biological compounds that make it a complex substance. In terms of our diet, there is a certain quality of protein that we require in our diets for it to affect us positively. The importance of protein comes entirely from its amino acids. The ratio of amino acids in a protein compound makeup for its quality and how important a food might be due to its protein quality. This is the reason dairy products are usually recommended for protein-intensive diets, they contain the right amount of all 9 essential amino acids for our body. To determine the ratio of a protein’s amino acids use the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) method.
After you’ve recognized what makes proteins so important, you need to find out what your body’s requirements for protein are. Not everyone has the same nutritional requirements. You need to adjust your meals according to your body type and what it requires, according to your fitness goals. According to the standard by the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), the protein requirements of your body are 0.8 grams per kilogram or 0.36 grams per pound. Now depending upon your weight, you can just multiply that figure with your body’s weight to find out your requirements.
Moving on, let’s find out how to get started with a vegetarian muscle-building diet.
What does a vegetarian diet involve?
People often misunderstand what a vegetarian diet involves. And it is rather more likely because different people follow vegetarian diets differently. Some do not consume anything that comes from animals, some only avoid direct meat but are fine with products like eggs, milk, or cheese. This is in terms of what people prefer in their diets. A good vegetarian diet can include a good combination of vegetables, soy products, grains, nuts, lentils, seeds, beans, and other such foods that don’t come from an animal. A vegetarian diet can however include certain animal-related products, depending upon the type of diet. Have a look at these types below:
This is the strict type of diet you think of when you think vegetarian in that sense of no other foods than leafy greens. But even in vegetables alone there are so many varieties you can explore and get creative with for your meals. This excludes everything that is even slightly connected to an animal, yogurt, milk, cheese, any kind of poultry or dairy product at all.
This type is a little more lenient because although it still says no meat in bold, it allows you to consume dairy products, for the sake of protein. So except for meat, fish, chicken/other birds, and eggs, you can consume dairy products.
This one is an even more lenient form of the type above. Among other dairy-related things, this one also allows eggs to be included in your diet. So for those who cannot give up on eggs, but want to eat consciously, this is the one you’re looking for. You can still do good for your body and the planet, without giving up all your favorite food items.
These choices are invented by humans, so you can do your own thing too if you want, backed by enough research of course. Ultimately, if you are choosing a vegetarian diet to build and maintain muscles in your body, you will need to have a sustained form of protein intake. Make sure you choose the right diet plan for that.
What are the steps I can take for conscious protein consumption?
Onto the implementation part of this article, ultimately you need a guidebook for which foods within the vegetarian category can help you achieve strong muscles.
We are sure many of you might not know about the different types of vegetarian diets there are for you to follow before you started this article. And much of it is understandable, it can get confusing to follow something that makes its way in front of us through all kinds of media. The excess of information at the wrong time can put you off something, without your intention. But getting actively educated about something you are interested in, whether it’s following a diet or how your clothes are made, can be highly rewarding.
Just as with any seriously restrictive diet such as keto, a vegetarian diet that is focused on protein, can cause deficiencies of other nutrients in your body, if you don’t know what you are doing. Being educated is beneficial to you in a way that it helps you know your way around what you’re putting in your body. There are many resources out there that can help you get started on the necessary nutrients your body needs, and how to balance them out perfectly. Learning and re-learning are part of the process.
Something you can benefit from, vegetarian muscle building diet required or not, if you are a busy-bee and deciding what to eat is your kryptonite. Often we are flustered and left with no appetite just by thinking about what to cook. This indecision combined with wanting to eat a specific diet can be deadly for your motivation. Not just the motivation to whip up a meal but also to continue on a very specific vegetarian diet.
Two words that can make your life a lot easier, meal plan. You might have seen someone or other over the internet making food in bulk and packing it away in different containers for different days of the week. That is essentially meal planning. The entire process seems overwhelming at first but is very fun when you come down to it.
After you are done educating yourself about what your body requires and which food items can give you that, you can plan your meals for a week or more ahead of time. There are hundreds of tutorials for this on the internet, both in the form of readable guides and videos to follow through. You can tweak them as you like and make your customized meal plan according to your preferences. This takes away the entire labor from having to consciously cook up something protein-intensive and vegetarian whenever it’s time to eat.
Diversify your protein intake
Goes without saying, but an ideal way to not get fed up with something is to keep yourself excited and on your toes, trying new ways to get around it. Instead of getting bored with the same meals, you should pick the options you have and round them out in a way that keeps you excited about your meals. Diversifying your meals. Here are some options.
This includes all things bread-related. Whole grains as opposed to refined grains have a lot more nutrients along with protein elements that make your diet good in terms of muscle-building. Along with bread, you have pasta, oats, and quinoa which all can add a great deal of variety to your meals. You can alternate between salad, pasta, and any of the hundred things that are made with bread.
Fruits and Vegetables
This one didn’t need mentioning but for the sake of listing things, fruits and vegetables make part of any vegetarian diet. They’re also common in both weight loss and weight gain diets. You can make almost any dish, main course, or dessert with them but for a fully realized potential of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, it is recommended that you eat them as uncooked as possible. Because the cooking process of boiling/frying/steaming/baking breaks away the nutrients within them.
Nuts and nut butter
Nuts are a great source of protein among vitamins and many antioxidants too. And nut butter such as peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, and any of its other kinds are great for fats that are healthy for your body’s nutritional needs. You can add them to salads, eat them as snacks, the nut butter for breakfast, or in desserts.
Seeds are closer to nuts in terms of their place in meals and they are packed with complementary nutrients to fill you up. They are delicious to consume on their own as snacks and used as an ingredient in salads/bread among other things.
This is a different category despite whole grains because sprouted grain bread is quite different in terms of texture and taste when cooked. They have whole grains that are sprouted/germinated before being made into bread. They have a higher protein content due to this reason too, you can easily replicate your recipes of regular whole wheat bread with this one.
Beans and legumes
You can make lentils and beans, different kinds too, in so many ways, there is no scarcity of recipes. They are fulfilling, nutritious, and incredibly versatile to get creative around and try different recipes with. If you need inspiration, look up Indian food, that is largely vegetarian, even if not, they use lentils and beans a whole lot in their meals. They are a great source of not just protein but also fiber.
This is a bit unconventional for those who want their entire vegetarian diet to be natural products and ingredients. And protein powder is however not artificial, it is still processed enough to not feel as good as these other options can in a meal. You can make drinks/smoothies/shakes from this easily, for a good dose of protein without whipping up a meal. If you want to keep it natural in terms of the meals, you don’t have to include protein powders in it.
Oatmeal, the good old food that transgresses age. Oats and oatmeal are full of fiber and proteins. They’re easy to make, without much planning or fuss. If you are tired someday, not knowing what to make that would keep you on the diet too, this is your way to go.
There has already been a discussion about different kinds of vegetarian diets, therefore, the consumption of dairy products depends on which type you choose. But even for those that cannot eat dairy completely, there are options of vegan dairy products, such as milk made of nuts; cashew milk, almond milk, and oat milk. There is a vegan option for almost every food now. So you have options for dairy despite your vegetarian diet.
The last vegetarian option we have is anything soy. The creative alternatives to meat, cheese, and other such regular food items by soy are great for people who are actively trying to consume vegetarian food. Soy milk, tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy protein powder are examples of soy products that can easily replicate your everyday ingredients in recipes.
Complementary nutrients Carbohydrates/iron
For all the protein you are putting in your body to work as you are hoping it would, in building muscle strength, you need to balance the other nutrients. Carbohydrates and iron are specifically good to help you bring energy for your workouts that help define your muscles. Limiting other nutrients is no good if you want enough energy to actively exercise.
A good second reason to not forget complementary nutrients in your food is because of the ratio of amino acids in plant-based/vegetarian foods. The protein elements in almost all but a few plant-based foods are not complete, i.e. including all 9 amino acids required by your body. While the meat alternatives do mostly have a complete protein component. This is why you must include other nutrients in your diet to make sure you are balancing your required amino acids correctly.
Make snacks a part of your day
Not many snacks are as protein-focused as you would like most snacks or meals that are small enough to be snacks are full of carbs only. However, it is very easy to put together snacks that you can eat throughout the day made with protein. Many of the foods listed above in the diversifying your meal section can be used to make quick and delicious snacks. From nuts, seeds, fruits, to eggs, cheese, and anything else you feel you’d enjoy as snacks from the above list.
Keep track of everything
Last on the list of things to do or steps to take in your journey to gain muscles through a vegetarian diet is a rather general instruction, is to take note of and track everything. Whether it’s your weight, the meals you eat per day, the nutrients you are focusing on, or the improvements you notice in your body and mood. Sometimes the food you are taking can be appropriate vegetarian food and still be lacking in appropriate nutrients you need. When you track your food intake you can quickly go to what you ate and make changes where they are needed.
These were the steps we thought could help you get started on your vegetarian muscle building diet in an informed manner. This is an exhaustive list but it’s still not entirely complete or concrete enough for you to follow. You can make changes to this as you go, or completely choose another dietary guideline to follow, just make sure you use credible sources to back your decisions. Our health is our greatest asset and as someone who is actively working towards improving it, you can keep that as the centerpiece of all your dietary decisions.