Looking to build some lean muscle but don’t want to resort to eating animal foods? Don’t worry – you don’t have to! I’ve studied nutrition and dietetics for over 10 years, and though I’ll admit that lean proteins from animal-based foods will help you build lean muscle, there’s no reason to give up being vegan just to get the body you want. I believe it’s more important to eat in a way that feels natural to you and your body and is made from a heartfelt decision – not a superficial one based off of physical appearance. Whatever you choose to eat, know that there are vegan foods that can help you build lean muscle and are some of the top foods many vegan athletes and vegan bodybuilders consume. With these options in your diet, you won’t only help build lean muscle mass, but you’ll also protect the planet, reduce inflammation, and enhance your heart health too.
No matter which of these foods you choose to eat, be sure to get a variety of veggies in your diet, which are some of the best foods for your muscles of all. Veggies help keep your body lean and they prevent inflammation while the foods below help preserve and build lean muscle. What’s your favorite source of vegan protein?
Vegan Protein Powder
Obviously, one of the best options is to use vegan protein powder, specifically one that contains hemp if possible since it’s incredibly easy to digest and full of protein. Sprouted brown rice protein is another popular choice as well. If you can find a blend of different vegan proteins in one powder, that’s even better. Opt for sugar-free varieties. Sugar is one of the worst foods to promote lean muscle mass and a healthy body weight of all. Vegan protein powders are specifically formulated to help athletes or everyday people preserve lean muscle mass and obtain enough essential amino acids.
Oats are one of the most unique grains out there. You’ll get five grams of protein in just one half cup of rolled oats along with a host of vitamins and minerals for your metabolism and muscles. Many bodybuilders start their day out with oats in some form or another because they help promote lean muscle mass, fight abdominal weight gain, and keep you full for a long time. They’re also lower on the glycemic index than brown rice or wheat, so they’re better for your blood sugar. Plus, oats are overall lower in starch than most other grains making them a leaner option.
Quinoa contains all essential amino acids, along with plenty of B vitamins and iron. It’s also a top source of magnesium and phosphorus, just like oats are. You can opt to have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even eat some as a snack since it’s a complete protein.
Chia seeds are full of iron and potassium, which your muscles need to function properly. They’re also a great source of omega-3 fats and are a complete protein. Omega-3 fats help prevent inflammation and aid in protein synthesis. They have also been linked to lower risks of heart disease and a healthy mood. Add some chia seeds to your morning oats, include them in a homemade energy bar, or toss some in your smoothie. I love to have them before and after a workout for the best effects.
Leafy greens don’t just keep your skin looking great; they also keep your muscles looking lean too! Leafy greens are packed with iron for optimal oxygen circulation during exercise and they contain a good amount of protein to help build muscle even further. Add them wherever you can and rotate them to get the best variety. Spinach and kale have a higher protein content than most other greens, but all of them are great options to include in your plan.
If you like tofu, it’s a great lean muscle food. Tofu is packed with protein, is low in fat, and contains no saturated fat at all. It can be grilled, added to salads, made into vegan tacos, or you can even add the silken varieties to a protein shake since it’s tasteless.
Lentils are a fantastic source of nutrients. They’re packed with fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, iron, and one cup contains eight grams of protein. They’re also fat-free and a great way to get antioxidants into your diet. Plus, they make a mean stand-in for meat in vegan chili or tacos!
The humble green pea is also bursting with protein to help sculpt lean muscles. Though all legumes and beans are great sources of protein, green peas contain the specific amino acid known as leucine. Leucine is rarely found in vegan protein sources in such high amounts outside of protein powders. It’s extremely critical to help build lean muscle mass and help preserve it once it’s formed. Add one half cup green peas to your diet each day or at least four times a week for the best effects.
Almonds are one of the best nuts to consume for their protein content and their influence over lean body mass. Almonds are high in magnesium which lowers your cortisol. They contain B vitamins for you metabolism, and they’re a rich source of potassium to prevent inflammation. They contain seven grams of protein per serving, making them a fantastic source of amino acids. Use them raw and unsalted for the healthiest options and remember to keep portions in check if you’re trying to lean out.
Peanuts are one of the best foods to eat for their protein content and one of the most delicious! Per serving of roasted peanuts, you’ll get 12 grams of protein plus plenty of iron, B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. Peanut butter is also a great option, but be sure to choose an unsweetened variety and limit your portions since it is high in fat.
Hemp seeds are packed with protein, with 13 grams in just two tablespoons. These little seeds are also packed with iron, magnesium, chlorophyll, fiber, and Vitamin E. Add them to your oatmeal, salads, or make energy bars with them. They’re also amazing in smoothies and dips too so feel free to get your fill however you like.