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Building muscle on a vegan diet…

First things first… because you’ve probably asked this question before like lots of people have, how do I get enough protein?If I had a pound for every time I heard this question I’d be stinking rich by now!

I think I get this question more than most personal trainers because if you didn’t already know I’m vegan! I’m .. vegan! Me Danny Mulligan a vegan in the flesh. I’M VEGAN!! Phew… just had to let you know, I was going to explode then if you didn’t actually know that I was vegan, imagine that, that’s a relief.

Seriously though one things for sure I am living proof you can build muscle and clearly get the adequate protein requirements for strength and hypertrophy gains. So why is it such a heavily debated topic and why do we have lots a skeptics saying that you don’t get enough protein?

I think the problem is people are just miss informed, you’ve either got someone at one end, let’s take the game changers documentary who say “look at what cows eat? Cows eat grass all day and they are super muscular” Well I don’t know about you guys but eating grass in field sixteen hours of the day seems pretty hard going. Also Its safe to say that grass isn’t the first on the list for high protein sources. But suppose we should give it a go?..

Or at the other end you’ve got people who think everything besides lean beef and whey protein shakes, is just carbs and your muscle will waste away just looking at a plate of vegetables.

Let’s first understand protein. So all protein is made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of which are what we refer to as essential amino acids this is because your body needs to get them from your diet and the other 11 are what’s called non-essentail amino acids because if your body needs more, it will make more. In meat and diary products you have all your essential amino acids in an even proportion so these are considered complete protein. Where as in plants they do have all you amino acids but they are in varying proportions of each amino, so basically lacking in certain amino acids, which would class them as incomplete. However this isn’t actually all true and there are few complete plant based proteins, soybean, buckwheat, quinoa, hempseed and chia seeds but I don’t know about you but a diet filled with just these seems pretty dull. So don’t worry you don’t have too.

So how much protein do we need daily? It’s recommended that for a healthy average adult(not talking about well trained individuals) 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight is perfectly fine and about 10% of diet should be made up of protein. But we are not talking about just whats healthy but what optimal? Well for athletes its recommended much higher so from 1.2 - 2 grams per kilo of bodyweight. The people that would need 2 grams per kilo would be people that do heavy lifting, or anything power based. For most people 1.2 - 1.4 is normally more than adequate. So for a 75 kilo man, he would need between 90g to 150 grams of protein. When eating meat and diary products this would be fairly easy to achieve but on a vegan diet it can be quite tough.

So how exactly do vegans do it? Well one thing I liked that James Wilks (the game changers creator) said on the Joe Rogan podcast was that if you just take the standard plate of food and replace the meat with vegetables your probably going to end up quite wrong.

Its really in the execution like any diet that we find the brilliance. The vegan diet typically in practice is higher in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, nutrients, often high in carbohydrates, lower in fat and lower in protein. I know to some this seems appealing and to the average person not interested in training, it seems to have nothing wrong with it. But what if we are interested in how to eat plants optimally for gains?

My first advice is and I think this goes for any new diet protocol, wait for it… I’m sure you’ve heard me say this one before, Is TRACK!!! Track, track, track. So this is one of my biggest criticism about the game changers documentary, there was no education. Pretty much just telling people as long as they eat plants they will be super human, jacked as hell and start becoming professional athletes. Since the documentary however game changes have made a pretty insightful website. With some really helpful information and lots of cool little recipes, for any one interested I will link in the bottom. Anyway back to tracking, tracking your food intake and calculating your protein, carbohydrates and fats each day is really how your going to see if you get enough protein. I will be the first to admit if I didn’t track, I would be under my protein requirements quite consistently. Ok I get it Dan we get it, we need to track. But what do I actually need to eat?

So before getting into the nitty gritty, I want to add that whenever I’m speaking, I’m talking about whats optimal, not just healthy but what will drive good performance too. Furthermore this is from hands on experience, So I’m not actually going to say the usual advice that lots of vegans say that is eat lots grains and legumes because I’m sure alot of you have heard that before, whilst its true I think the problem here is that both tend to be very filling and higher in carbs which usually(if you track) you’ll notice you end up being low in protein overall. Where your focus should lie, is searching out the fats like nuts and seeds. Because although we associate these foods as high is fats all have pretty good protein. You see this helps for a few reasons, the first being is per gram they are higher in calories, so when your trying to put on muscle being in a calorie surplus is important. When dealing with clients and myself when I wasn’t tracking, I simply wasn’t eating enough, even though it felt like I was because I was constantly stuffing my face but vegetable are so low in calories that in order to meet calorie intake you have to eat so many which will also mean your carbohydrate intake will be so high. Also if we take a look at the nuts and Seeds in the diagram below they all have pretty high protein.

Ok so then we have things like soyabean, tempeh and seitan which are what tend to be in most vegan meat substitutes and I think are great as they are all high in protein and make it easy to knock up a quick meal with lots of protein in. Seitan flour has a whopping 75g of protein per 100g, I myself haven't had much experience cooking with it. But I have tried it on several occasions and it makes a mean vegan chicken.

Then we have the grains and legumes mentioned earlier. So this would be things like rice with a bean chill, or rice served with chickpea curry and then if you added hummus to both those meals it would increase fats and protein to even out the ratio.

And finally we have supplements, protein shakes and protein bars are a fantastic way to increase your total daily protein intake, there also super convenient. I use protein shakes most day and I will link the protein that I use at the bottom it has 33g of 100% complete protein in it. Which makes hitting your macro target very easy.

So for todays blog I didn’t just want to give out information but actually to give you more understanding. So what I’d now like to do is actually show you and example of what one of my average days eating could look like and the break down for calories and macros. I’m going to show you my actual food dairy, being someone who eats 4000 calories on a vegan diet it’s safe to say that I’m showing you diet that is suitable for someone who trains a lot and will thrive in most performance environments.

My macro split is 40% carbs, 35% fat and 25% protein.

I weighlll 86kg so my protein requirement at the very top end would be 2 gram per kilo of body weight which is 172gram.

Monday 27th March - Day of Eating

Breakfast - 1310 Calories - Bowl of porridge

Porridge: 50g ground almonds + 50g Rolled oats + 400ml Soya milk

50g blueberries + 25g piece of dark chocolate + 70g peanut butter

Morning snack : 484 Calories - Shake and toast

Toast + protein shake

2 slices super-seeded bread, 10g vitality, SKI mix PRO vegan protein with water

Lunch : 887calories -Pasta, broccoli and sausages (sauce added because it can be boring)

280 g of paste + 5 Linda McCartney sausages. + 150g of broccoli + 30g sriracha mayo sauce

Dinner - 1198 Calories - Rice + kidney bean curry with Low fat hummus

540 g of rice (boiled) + 600 g of Kidney bean curry + 200g low fat hummus

So even at the upper end 2 grams per Kilo, I’ve managed to get way over what Is needed.

And anyone following me on Instagram will know that these are all these things that are just my typical day of eating. One thing also worth adding that if weight loss is your goal then reduce total intake down but keep protein intake high. This is only because often in a calorie deficit your body will use some of your protein for energy by transforming it into carbohydrates through a process called gluconeogenesis.

So to round things off, clearly you can get enough protein on a vegan diet however especially if your a newbie vegan then it should be well thought out. I’ll say it again one more time but track your calories. Tracking is like your self teaching tool to understand how to mould your diet to meet your needs. Things like soya products and protein shakes are super helpful to increase overall daily protein intake. Can you build muscle on a vegan diet? if you follow the information set out in this blog, then like me you too can build muscle.

Thanks for reading or listening depending how your taking it in todays blog. Please share with friends subscribe and like.

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