You've seen it displayed all over "Golden Era Bodybuilding ads/magazines. Meat, eggs, and milk has been the "holy grail" of protein since I could remember looking at my first bodybuilding magazine (and much longer than that). If you ever happened to not be getting bigger from your work outs and you asked any of your lifting partners for advice, they would probably tell you to up your protein intake. Everything we know about building muscle deals with lifting some heavy weight, doing a lot of repetitions, and consuming a lot of meat, eggs, and milk. What happens when we decide to try and build muscle without these protein staples? You have bodybuilding "experts" on forums screaming to the top of their lungs, well, constantly commenting with the cap lock on, telling other people online to not drop meat from their diet or they will lose their "gains". Is this true? Is meat, dairy, and eggs essential for muscle building? Let's find out.
Why Did I Start?
Many have asked why I went vegan for a period of time. Honestly, my decision was not due to ethical reasons, to promote veganism, or due to the rise in vegan diet promoters. Rather, my decision was due to health reasons (high blood pressure), improving my nutrient intake (trying to get more vitamin and minerals from food, not supplements), and easing my diet process (helping me feel full while eating less calories). After taking some time to research high vegan protein sources, the best carbohydrate sources, and the healthiest fat sources, I decided it was time to give this vegan diet a try (which lasted over 4 months).
Peanuts: Peanuts contain a whopping 828 calories per cup. That's a lot of calories! Wanting to build muscle and put on size? Getting in sufficient calories is vital. This makes peanuts a secret weapon in your arsenal of vegan mass building. Worried about your protein intake? That cup of peanuts provides roughly 40 grams of protein. 40 grams! That's two scoops of protein powder in one cup of peanuts.This cup of peanuts also contains 23 grams of polyunsaturated and 36 grams of monounsaturated fats. Combine that amount of healthy fats with an average of 3.1 mg of zinc per cup of peanuts and you have a testosterone optimizing snack.
Black Beans: Black beans are by far my favorite carbohydrate source, vegan diet or not. Black beans provide an ample amount of carbohydrates to fuel your work out and protein to recover from it. One cup of black beans contains 624 calories, 40 grams of protein, 116 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.7 grams of fat. With a low fat total and higher carbohydrate total (with a good amount of protein), beans are an excellent meal post work out to replenish lost glycogen, spike insulin, and recover from your work out.
Protein Powder: Due to my caloric intake being limited during my diet (aiming to lose fat, so was in a caloric deficit), I had to get enough protein in my diet without going over my caloric intake goal for the day. This meant I needed to find a more protein concentrated source of protein(excluding meat, eggs, or milk). A vegan protein supplement that I used was the Vega Sport Protein Powder (see my review on Vega Sport). The Vega Sport provides 30 grams of protein per scoop at only 160 calories! This gives you the ability to hit your protein requirements without taking in too many excess calories from fat and carbohydrates.
Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables): No diet is complete without some sort of greens. Cruciferous vegetables give you an ample amount of vitamins and minerals. while also providing further health benefits. Cruciferous vegatables break down and supply the body with Diindolylmethane (derived from the Indol-3 Carbinol in cruciferous vegetables). Diindolylmethane, also known as DIM, helps protect the body against estrogen dominance. By metabolizing estrogen, DIM can reduce estrogen in the body. For men, this means being more of, well, a man. For women, this means reducing chances of breasts cancer when you are older. Between 3 grams of protein per cup, some Diindolylmethane to reduce estrogen, and being packed with loads of vitamins and minerals, broccoli is a MUST in any diet (vegan or not).
(Note: These are not your only options for foods, but these are what I had used that worked very well for me)
Not only did I lose body fat, but I also maintained muscle, built strength, and felt immensely better. You heard me, I DID NOT LOSE ANY MUSCLE. I built strength and lost fat AT THE SAME TIME! This set me up perfectly for my next bulk phase. From the results I saw and the improvement of how I felt each day, I plan on taking the vegan approach every time I decide to diet for fat loss. I still use this diet to this day, besides adding a few eggs to my diet (I also sparingly consume tuna for a quick protein only source).
You DO NOT HAVE TO have meats, eggs, and milk in your diet to build muscle or get lean. Though you do not have to, they can help make reaching your daily protein intake goal easier. With focusing your diet around the foods (and supplement) above, you too can build muscle and lose fat!