Vegan Diet for Gaining Weight Summary
- It has been suggested that a vegan diet for gaining weight is inferior to animal based diets.
- Both vegan and meat-based high-protein diets (1.8 g/kg/bw or .8 grams per pound) can support similar rates of muscle protein synthesis in healthy young adults. This means that the source of protein, whether plant-based or animal-based, does not significantly affect the rate at which muscles synthesize protein. Gaining muscle on a vegan diet is possible provided enough protein and calories.
- The study found that the muscle growth response to high-volume resistance training was similar in individuals following a vegan diet and those following an omnivorous diet.
- The results of this study challenge the common belief that animal proteins are superior to plant proteins for muscle gain. It suggests that with a well-planned vegan diet, individuals can achieve comparable muscle gain to those consuming an omnivorous diet.
Are you a fitness enthusiast looking to build muscle and looking for a vegan diet for gaining weight? Contrary to popular belief, achieving your goals without consuming animal products is possible. In this comprehensive blog, we will delve into the world of plant-based muscle building. We will also explore the science behind a vegan diet for gaining weight and introduce you to an exciting ingredient called mycoprotein. Additionally, we will provide practical tips on following a vegan diet for weight gain, ensuring that you can achieve your fitness goals while staying true to your dietary choices. Get ready to transform your body with the power of plants!
Calories: The Fuel for Muscle Growth
The world of fitness and bodybuilding has long been dominated by the belief that animal proteins are the key to muscle gain. Countless articles suggest that a plant-based bodybuilder will never gain as much muscle as a meat-eating bodybuilder. However, recent scientific studies have begun to challenge this notion, suggesting that a vegan diet for gaining weight can be just as effective, if not more so, in promoting muscle growth. This article aims to debunk the myth that meat protein diets are superior for gaining muscle compared to a vegetarian diet, backed by a recent study.
Vegan Diet for Gaining Weight: Nutrition Essentials for Muscle Gain
Protein is a crucial nutrient for muscle growth and repair. While animal sources have long been the go-to for high-protein diets, a vegan high-protein diet can provide ample protein for muscle gain. Plant-based proteins, such as lentils, tofu, quinoa, and hemp seeds, can contribute significantly to daily protein intake.(Finnigan et al., 2019)
Both resistance exercise and dietary protein intake contribute to the increase in mixed muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and myofibrillar protein synthesis rates. These two anabolic stimuli’ combined effect facilitates a significant muscle protein accrual when repeated over time. This, in turn, results in an increase in muscle fiber size.
The Vegan Diet and Weight Gain
In 2018, a preliminary study was conducted to assess the impact of three distinct diets on body composition. This study involved three groups of healthy men – omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans – matched in age, weight, and BMI. The findings indicated a notable reduction in the muscle mass index and lean body mass among the vegan group compared to the vegetarian and omnivore groups. (Vanacore et al., 2018) Moreover, it’s worth noting that plant sources typically contain less significant amounts of creatine compared to meat sources.(Andres et al., 2017)
Vegan Diet for Gaining Weight Macros
It’s been suggested that plant-based dietary protein sources are typically inferior in their capacity to support resistance training adaptations. Furthermore, a vegan diet for gaining weight is rarely recommended by fitness professionals. Yet, recent studies have shown that plant proteins can stimulate muscle protein synthesis at rates comparable to animal proteins when consumed in larger doses (Vanacore et al., 2018). Furthermore, a recent study on resistance training intervention revealed that individuals who consistently follow a vegan diet could increase their muscle mass and strength to a degree comparable to those who regularly consume an omnivorous diet, specifically during lower body training.(Hevia-Larraín et al., 2021) Thus, using a vegan diet for gaining weight is possible provided the right macronutrients are consumed.
ALL ABOUT PLANT PROTEINS
Plant proteins have been suggested to stimulate lower protein synthesis at a lower rate than meat proteins at the same dose. For instance, research has indicated that the consumption of soy protein leads to a lesser degree of post-workout muscle protein synthesis than whey protein. (Phillips et al., 2009) However, a larger quantity of plant protein or a combination of various plant proteins (such as rice, wheat, and pea) can stimulate protein synthesis to a degree comparable to whey protein. (Gorissen et al., 2018)
A well-planned vegan diet for gaining weight can be rich in protein and calories. Foods like nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains, and plant-based protein powders can help increase caloric intake while providing essential nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, a vegan diet can effectively support weight gain and muscle growth. It’s been proposed that non-animal-derived dietary proteins may be inferior in their capacity to support muscle protein synthesis rates and, therefore, training-induced increases in muscle mass. However, recent studies have shown that daily measurements of post-exercise free-living muscle protein synthesis rates can accurately predict the magnitude of hypertrophy on an individual level if training persists.(Vanacore et al., 2018)
The Science Behind Vegan High Protein Diet
Muscle gain involves a balance between muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown. Resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis, but dietary protein is required to make these gains permanent. Recent studies have shown that plant proteins can stimulate muscle protein synthesis at rates comparable to animal proteins when consumed in larger doses. Certain research indicates that a vegan high-protein diet can be as effective as an omnivorous diet in promoting muscle growth and protein synthesis rates. (Knurick et al., 2015)
What is Mycoprotein
Mycoprotein, derived from the fungus Fusarium venenatum, has become a popular topic in vegan communities for its potential in muscle building and enhancing protein synthesis. So, what exactly is mycoprotein? It’s a protein-dense food source from a specific fungus type.
As a sustainable and nutritious substitute for animal-based proteins, mycoprotein significantly reduces carbon and water footprints compared to beef and chicken. It possesses a texture similar to meat and typically comprises 45% protein and 25% fiber by dry weight. However, it’s important to note that, being a fungus, mycoprotein may trigger allergic reactions in individuals sensitive to mold.
According to a 2020 study, consuming a 70-gram dose of mycoprotein stimulated muscle protein synthesis rates more than a 40-gram dose. (Monteyne et al., 2020) This suggests that mycoprotein can effectively support muscle growth and protein synthesis. These findings indicate that mycoprotein can effectively stimulate muscle protein synthesis, making it a viable option for individuals following plant-based diets.
Debunking the Myth: Vegan Diet for Gaining Weight
A recent study titled “Vegan and Omnivorous High Protein Diets Support Comparable Daily Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Rates and Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy in Young Adults” found that both vegan and omnivorous diets can support similar muscle protein synthesis rates in individuals consuming a high-protein diet. This translates to similar muscle growth during prolonged resistance training, regardless of the source of dietary protein.
A 2023 study compared muscle protein synthesis and long-term muscle mass gains between individuals following high-protein diets that were either omnivorous or vegan.
The study was conducted in two stages:
Stage 1: Immediate Effects of Diet on Muscle Protein Synthesis
In this phase, 16 healthy young adults followed a 3-day high-protein diet, consuming 1.8 g/kg of body mass per day (.8 grams per pound), with protein sourced from meat or vegan foods. The participants also engaged in daily unilateral leg resistance exercises.
Stage 2: Long-term Effects of Diet on Muscle Growth
In the second phase, 22 healthy young adults underwent a 10-week high-volume, progressive resistance exercise program while following either an omnivorous or vegan high-protein diet (consuming more than 1.8 g/kg of body mass per day or .9 grams of protein per pound per day).
Vegan athletes incorporated mycoprotein-rich foods into their diets to enhance their protein intake. The researchers assessed muscle fiber cross-sectional area, whole-body lean mass, thigh muscle volume, muscle strength, and muscle function before the intervention, after two and five weeks, and post-intervention. In the vegan diet used in the study, participants consumed 68 grams of protein per day from mycoprotein-containing products and supplements, which corresponded to 54% of their total protein intake. Mycoprotein-containing products provided 46 grams of daily protein, accounting for 36% of total daily protein intake.
All participants underwent a one-week loading phase followed by a maintenance phase of 5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily. The researchers suggested that creatine, predominantly found in meat sources and known for its muscle gain and performance improvement benefits, would equalize the conditions for both groups. Studies have shown that fasting serum samples have higher creatine concentrations in meat consumers than vegans and vegetarians.
The researchers discovered no significant differences between the two diet groups’ muscle protein synthesis rates and muscle growth. Lean mass increased in both groups by 3 kg or 1.4 pounds. This indicates that vegan and omnivorous high-protein diets can support muscle hypertrophy and protein synthesis in young adults participating in resistance training.
The study mentioned that achieving protein targets were more difficult for participants in the vegan group compared to the omnivorous group. Thus, meeting protein requirements without some form of vegan protein supplement will make gaining muscle more difficult.
The study’s surprising findings were that a high-protein, mycoprotein-rich vegan diet could support comparable daily muscle protein synthesis rates and muscle adaptations to an isonitrogenous omnivorous diet in response to resistance training. This suggests that a carefully designed vegan diet can be just as effective in promoting muscle growth and strength gains as a traditional omnivorous diet.(Monteyne et al., 2023)
Practical Tips for a Vegan Diet for Weight Gain
Incorporating a variety of plant-based proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can make a vegan diet for weight gain both nutritious and effective. Regular resistance training and adequate protein and calorie intake can lead to significant muscle gains. Practical tips for gaining muscle on a vegan diet are
Vegans should consume enough protein to support muscle growth. The study used 1.8 g/kg/bw or .8 grams per pound of body weight. This can be achieved by including various plant-based protein sources in their diet, such as lentils, tofu, quinoa, hemp seeds, and mycoprotein.
Consuming more calories than the body burns is important to gain muscle. High-calorie vegan foods include avocados, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and plant-based protein powders. The participants in the study were placed in a 0 to 10% energy surplus during the intervention period.
Regular resistance training is crucial for muscle growth. Vegans should have a consistent workout routine that includes exercises targeting all major muscle groups.
Muscles grow during rest periods, not during the workout. Therefore, getting enough sleep and allowing time for muscle recovery is essential.
Creatine, typically found in meat, can enhance muscle strength and growth. Vegans may consider supplementing with creatine to support their muscle-building efforts.
Besides protein, other nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals are also important for muscle growth and overall health. Vegans should aim for a balanced diet that meets all their nutritional needs.
Regular health check-ups can help ensure that vegans meet their nutritional needs and can help identify any potential deficiencies early.
The notion that you can’t gain muscle on a plant-based diet compared to a meat-based diet is outdated. The key is to consume a variety of plant-based proteins and to ensure adequate calorie intake for weight gain. As research continues to evolve, it’s clear that the potential of plant-based diets for muscle growth is just beginning to be realized.
Andres, S., Ziegenhagen, R., Trefflich, I., Pevny, S., Schultrich, K., Braun, H. A., Schänzer, W., Hirsch-Ernst, K. I., Schäfer, B., & Lampen, A. (2017). Creatine and Creatine Forms Intended for Sports Nutrition. Molecular nutrition & food research. https://doi.org/10.1002/mnfr.201600772
Finnigan, T. J. A., Wall, B. T., Wilde, P. J., Stephens, F. B., Taylor, S. L., & Freedman, M. R. (2019). Mycoprotein: The Future of Nutritious Nonmeat Protein, a Symposium Review. Curr Dev Nutr, 3(6), nzz021. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzz021
Gorissen, S. H. M., Crombag, J. J. R., Senden, J. M. G., Waterval, W. A. H., Bierau, J., Verdijk, L. B., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2018). Protein content and amino acid composition of commercially available plant-based protein isolates. Amino Acids, 50(12), 1685-1695. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-018-2640-5
Hevia-Larraín, V., Gualano, B., Longobardi, I., Gil, S., Fernandes, A. L., Costa, L. A. R., Pereira, R. M. R., Artioli, G. G., Phillips, S. M., & Roschel, H. (2021). High-Protein Plant-Based Diet Versus a Protein-Matched Omnivorous Diet to Support Resistance Training Adaptations: A Comparison Between Habitual Vegans and Omnivores. Sports Medicine, 51(6), 1317-1330. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01434-9
Knurick, J. R., Johnston, C. S., Wherry, S. J., & Aguayo, I. (2015). Comparison of Correlates of Bone Mineral Density in Individuals Adhering to Lacto-Ovo, Vegan, or Omnivore Diets: A Cross-Sectional Investigation. Nutrients, 7(5), 3416-3426. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/5/3416
Monteyne, A. J., Coelho, M., Porter, C., Abdelrahman, D. R., Jameson, T. S. O., Jackman, S. R., Blackwell, J. R., Finnigan, T. J. A., Stephens, F. B., Dirks, M. L., & Wall, B. T. (2020). Mycoprotein Ingestion Stimulates Protein Synthesis Rates to a Greater Extent Than Milk Protein in Rested and Exercised Skeletal Muscle of Healthy Young Men: A Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa092
Monteyne, A. J., Coelho, M. O. C., Murton, A. J., Abdelrahman, D. R., Blackwell, J. R., Koscien, C. P., Knapp, K. M., Fulford, J., Finnigan, T. J. A., Dirks, M. L., Stephens, F. B., & Wall, B. T. (2023). Vegan and Omnivorous High Protein Diets Support Comparable Daily Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Rates and Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy in Young Adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 153(6), 1680-1695. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.02.023
Phillips, S. M., Tang, J. E., & Moore, D. R. (2009). The role of milk- and soy-based protein in support of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in young and elderly persons. J Am Coll Nutr, 28(4), 343-354. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2009.10718096
Vanacore, D., Messina, G., Lama, S., Bitti, G., Ambrosio, P., Tenore, G., Messina, A., Monda, V., Zappavigna, S., Boccellino, M., Novellino, E., Monda, M., & Stiuso, P. (2018). Effect of restriction vegan diet’s on muscle mass, oxidative status, and myocytes differentiation: A pilot study. J Cell Physiol, 233(12), 9345-9353. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcp.26427
Is it possible to gain weight on a vegan diet?
Yes, it is possible to gain weight on a vegan diet. By consuming calorie-dense plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and legumes, and incorporating strength training exercises into your routine, you can easily increase your calorie intake and build muscle mass while following a vegan diet.
Gaining muscle on a plant-based diet is possible and can be optimized with the right approach. A well-planned vegan diet can provide all the essential nutrients needed for muscle growth and overall health. Here’s how to do it:
Understanding the Basics
Protein is a crucial nutrient for muscle growth and repair. Plant-based proteins, such as lentils, tofu, quinoa, and hemp seeds, can contribute significantly to daily protein intake. Vegan protein powders can also be a great way to supplement your protein intake, especially post-workout.
Calorie Intake and Weight Gain
Gaining muscle isn’t just about protein. You also need to consume enough calories to fuel your workouts and support muscle growth. Extra calories can also be obtained from snacks like hummus and walnuts.
Carbohydrates and Fats
Carbs are essential for providing the energy needed for your workouts and daily activities. Whole grains like brown rice and oats, which can be consumed as oatmeal, are excellent sources of complex carbs that provide sustained energy. Legumes, like chickpeas, are a good source of protein and provide carbs and fiber.
Healthy fats are also crucial for overall health and can help you reach your calorie goals. Foods like olive oil, nut butter, and avocados are excellent sources of healthy fats. Each gram of fat provides 9 calories, so fats are important to monitor for balanced nutrition.
Strength training is a key component of gaining muscle. Resistance exercises increase muscle protein synthesis rates, and when combined with a high-protein diet, can lead to significant muscle growth.
Balanced Diet and Portion Sizes
A balanced diet that includes all food groups is essential for overall health and muscle gain. This includes fruits and veggies, which provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Sweet potatoes are a great source of complex carbs and fiber.
Portion sizes are also important. Even when trying to gain weight, it’s important to eat in moderation and avoid junk food. Apps can be helpful in tracking your food intake and ensuring you’re getting the right amount of nutrients.
Cardio and Metabolism
While strength training is key for muscle gain, don’t forget about cardio. It’s important for heart health and can help increase your metabolism, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Cardio can also aid in weight loss if that’s a goal.
The Role of Mycoprotein
Mycoprotein, derived from the fungus Fusarium venenatum, is a protein-dense food source that can support muscle growth and protein synthesis. It’s a great source of essential amino acids.
A vegan diet can effectively support weight gain and muscle growth. With the right balance of nutrients and a consistent workout routine, you can achieve your fitness goals on a plant-based diet. Remember, the key is to consume a variety of foods to ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs. Veganism is a lifestyle choice that can support your health and fitness goals.