How to build muscle with a Vegetarian diet?

How to build muscle with a Vegetarian diet?

“You need animal-based protein to build muscle.” Umm, no you don’t!

If I did a push-up every time anyone told me something like this, I’d be ripped even without hitting the gym.

A general myth floats around the fitness industry that vegan or vegetarian diets are not sustainable in the long run. The truth is that you can hit all macros and micros while on a vegan or vegetarian diet. The only condition is that you need to be aware of what you are eating and how much you are eating. This article will provide you with an in-depth knowledge of how you can be fit and build muscle while being on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

I have done this for 7 years!

Before you ask me how I know about all that I’m going to preach, let me tell you about myself. I am an avid workout buff. I have dove deep into fitness over the last 7 years. My journey started as a 15-year-old chubby kid who wanted to lose ‘fat’ and gain muscle. Like everyone who starts working out, my definition of fitness back then was being extremely shredded while having huge arms. I am both now and can manipulate my body to give me the look I want at will! 

During this journey I realized that looking fit and being fit are two different things. You can look fit but be really unhealthy!Being fit means understanding your body and its needs. You can be fit and healthy by consuming the right kind (and ratio) of macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). A vegetarian or a vegan diet can get you most of what you need to build and lead a healthy lifestyle, but there are some specific nutrients that you will have to include in your diet. I will tell you all about them.[1]

By understanding your body and knowing how to manage your diet, you can change the way you look and function at all levels. So, let’s understand how you can make yourself a vegetarian or a vegan diet that is sustainable and beneficial. 

The Game of macros

Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins together form macronutrients[2]. While each has its functions for the body, you should know that these are the primary sources you get your calories from. Depending on your body type and caloric goals, you can calculate how much of these macronutrients you can consume (let’s discuss this after you understand macros). The nutritional value per gram of these macros plays an important role in computing their quantity to be consumed. Let's discuss macronutrients in brief: 

Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates or “carbs” are a primary source that fuel your body with energy. Your body breaks down carbs into glucose, which cells, tissues, and organs use to function efficiently. Although carbs are sometimes wrongly seen as the bad guy, they are equally as important as proteins and fats.

Carbohydrates, in general, are made up of short and long chains of carbon molecules. Based on the length of the molecules, there are two types of carbohydrates; simple carbs and complex carbs.

Simple carbs have smaller molecules that can be easily broken down. They are also called monosaccharides (one sugar unit) and disaccharides (two sugar units). These are broken down in your small intestine and absorbed quickly into your bloodstream, which causes your blood sugar to spike. 

These kinds of carbs provide you with instant energy in a short span of consumption.

Complex carbs are made from sugar molecules strung together in complex and long chains. These are groups that include starches and fiber. Maltodextrin would be an example of a complex carb. Starches are formed from hundreds of simple sugar chains. Fiber (both soluble and insoluble) does not get digested but has a lot of other benefits[3][4[5][6]. This group of carbs release blood sugar comparatively slowly, ensuring you are provided with energy for a longer period.  

It is always best to consume complex carbs over simple carbs. The slow absorption property keeps you energized throughout. The best sources of carbs are legumes, whole grains, unprocessed starchy foods (sweet potatoes, corn, potatoes), beans, dairy foods (such as milk, yogurt, cheese), fruits, and vegetables. You need to avoid fruit juices and refined/processed starches (foods with high sugar content like cereals, cakes, cookies, soda, candies, white bread, french fries, chips).

In my world, Carbohydrates make up 50-60% of my daily calories. They carry a nutritional value of 4 calories per gram.   

Fats: Dietary fat has always been linked to heart disease, obesity, and a slew of other illnesses. They have been wrongly convicted! Most of us have forgotten the functions and health benefits fats provide. Their primary function is to store energy, regulate body temperature, and aid in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Besides this, healthy fats can be beneficial for improving blood cholesterol levels, easing inflammation, and stabilizing heart rhythms. Essential fatty acids like omega-three and omega-six need to be consumed as your body can’t produce them[7]

There are primarily three types of fats based on their sources[8]. They are:

Unsaturated fats: These are primarily found in plant-based foods. They are considered to be the healthiest of all fats. Unsaturated fats are of two types:

Monounsaturated fats have one double bond along their molecular chain. They are usually found in olive oil, sesame oil, avocado, almonds, peanuts, and hazelnuts. 

Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond in their molecular chain. They are usually found in walnuts, soybean and safflower oil, and flax seeds. (Fun fact - One of the sources of fats in Happy Ratio’s All-In-One Nutrition shakes is flaxseed oil.)

Saturated fats: Saturated fats are mostly found in animal-based foods. They are bad for your health if consumed in massive quantities. The daily recommended dosage is at most 10% of your daily calories. Some sources of saturated fats include red meat (beef, lamb, pork), butter, ice cream, coconut oil, and palm oil.

Trans Fat: Trans fat is the most harmful of all fats. They come mainly from processed foods. Meat and dairy products contain very small traces of trans fats. 

You can get a deeper understanding of fats from here.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are the healthiest sources of fats (unsaturated fats). Although it is healthy to consume unsaturated fats over others, you can consume saturated fats in small proportions as well without any side effects. It is best to avoid trans fat however. Fats carry a nutritional value of 9 calories per gram (they are a high source of energy because they are nutritionally dense).

Proteins: Proteins are not only large, complex molecules made of thousands of smaller units called amino acids, they are also everyone's favorite topic of discussion[12]. Proteins are the most important source of energy to all living organisms. Our body uses protein for many purposes other than just building muscle. Protein makes up most parts of our body, such as skin, hair, enzymes, hemoglobin and muscle mass. Protein is also responsible for healing and repairing our body from internal or external damage. Like carbs, proteins carry a nutritional value of 4 calories per gram. 

There are, in total, 20 amino acids that our body needs to perform all its assigned functions. Out of these 20, 9 are essential amino acids, and 11 are non-essential amino acids.[9] 

Your body can not produce essential amino acids. You need to consume them through food. The 9 amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Your body can produce non-essential amino acids whether you consume them via food or not. The various non-essential amino acids are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

I’d understand if you skipped reading these complicated looking boring names (I would do so too), but here is why you need to know these - not all vegan and vegetarian sources are “complete proteins”. Complete proteins contain all essential amino acids and might contain some non-essential amino acids as well. Animal-based protein is considered a ‘better alternative’ because it is a source of complete protein. 

What can you do about it? The solution is simple. You need to include all essential amino acids and consume complete protein foods[10]. Some foods that offer complete protein are Quinoa, tofu, tempeh, edamame; amaranth; buckwheat; Ezekiel bread, spirulina, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. You can also include a combination of rice and beans, pita and hummus, and peanut butter consumed with whole grain bread in your diet. 

Happy Ratio Protein-Focus shakes provide you with 25 grams of protein both vegan and vegetarian. Both the variants contain all 9 essential amino acids that fulfill your protein requirement but the vegetarian version is complete with the non essential amino acids as well. If you are vegan then pea protein is a source of complete protein for you. There might be some non-essential amino acids that you might have to consume additionally via other foods. 

If you are wondering how vegan and vegetarian protein is different, you need to read this article. 

How to make a diet that works for you? 

Various factors come into play when making a diet for yourself. First, you need to calculate how many calories you need to consume. Your daily calories to maintain weight can depend on various factors such as your age, your height, your weight, and level of physical activity. Maintenance calories is how much your body needs in order for it to carry out its daily processes. 

Your calorie consumption will decide if you will lose weight or gain weight. If you stay on a caloric deficit (calories consumed are less than calories used), you lose weight, and if you stay on a caloric surplus (Calories consumed are more than calories spent), you gain weight.  

Here is a chart with calorie estimates for weight maintenance[11]

Males 

Age 

Sedentary

Moderate 

Active

19-20

2600

2800

3000

21-25

2400

2800

3000

26-35

2400

2600

3000

36-40

2400

2600

2800

41-45

2200

2600

2800

46-55

2200

2400

2800

56-60

2200

2400

2600

61-65

2000

2400

2600

66-75

2000

2200

2600

76+

2000

2200

2400

 

Female 

Age

Sedentary 

Moderate 

Active

19-25

2000

2200

2400

26-30

1800

2000

2400

31-50

1800

2000

2200

51-60

1600

1800

2200

61+

1600

1800

2000

 

Now that you know how many calories you need to consume, you should know the proportion of your macros according to your body type. It is called macro-morphing. Your daily caloric requirement is divided into macros based on percentages. The 3 body types are Ectomorph, Mesomorph, and Endomorph[13]. As per the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), your daily consumption of macros as per your body type should be[14]:

Body type

Carbohydrates 

Proteins 

Fats 

Ectomorph

55 % 

25%

20%

Mesomorph

40%

30%

30%

Endomorph

25%

35%

40%

 
Example: If you are an Ectomorph and your daily consumption is 2000 calories, your diet should be as follows:

Carbohydrates: 2000 * 55% = 1100 calories. 

Fats: 2000 * 20 % = 400 calories.

Proteins: 2000 * 25% = 500 calories. 

Since crabs, fats and proteins have a nutritional value of 4 calories, 9 calories, and 4 calories per gram respectively. 

Macros. 

Quality of macros you need to consume.  

Quantity of macros per serving (100g) of Happy ratio All-Macros.  

Carbohydrate 

275 grams 

44.75 grams 

Fats 

45 grams 

12.12 grams 

Proteins 

125 grams 

25.73 grams 

 
The Happy ratio All-Macros shake provides you with 25 grams of high protein, 10 grams of healthy fats, and 40 grams of slow absorbing carbs, while making sure you get all the 28 types of minerals and vitamins. It consists of all essential macros and micros. The below is the macro nutrition label for your reference. 

Final word

Creating a diet plan is easy once you understand what you need to consume and in what quantity. This article provides you with a brief idea about the different macros you need to consume while keeping in mind your caloric goals. Vegan and vegetarian food sources are sustainable when you consume the right foods (all the food items mentioned in the article) and the right supplements (Happy Ratio All-Macros and Happy Ratio Protein-Focus). To make things extremely convenient, we at Happy Ratio have a limited-time offer for you. Buy any 2 Happy Ratio "All-In-One" Nutrition Health Shakes and get 1 absolutely free here. Use our code HAPPYJUNE to avail this offer. 

A simple understanding of your body can get you to meet all your fitness goals. It takes time and experimentation to understand your body. Don’t be afraid to use every bit of information in this article to experiment with your calorie consumption, macros ratios, and food sources. 

Stay tuned for more!

References: 

  1. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/vegetarian-and-vegan-diet
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32784664/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23545709/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26923351/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15797686/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26847187/
  7. https://examine.com/supplements/efa/

8.https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/

  1. https://examine.com/nutrition/5-facts-about-protein/
  2. https://examine.com/supplements/essential-amino-acids/
  3. https://happyratio.com/blogs/blog/a-simple-guide-to-weight-loss
  4. https://happyratio.com/blogs/blog/what-s-the-big-deal-with-protein
  5. https://www.uh.edu/fitness/comm_educators/3_somatotypesNEW.htm

14.https://www.issaonline.com/blog/post/body-type-guide-how-to-eat-for-your-specific-body-type

  1. https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/fnic/how-many-calories-are-one-gram-fat-carbohydrate-or-protein

 

Back to blog