To many, it may come as a surprise that you don’t have to eat meat to build muscle (vegans rejoice!). Which means that there is no reason for you to worry whether or not you are getting enough protein on a vegan diet.

In fact, studies have found that it does not make a difference whether or not your protein comes from animals or plants. The key to building lean muscle is how much you workout, how you workout, the amount of protein you consume and the times when you consume it.

In this article, we are going to show you how easy it is to gain lean muscle on a vegan diet in 4 simple steps…

Plant protein to build muscle: Does it work as well as meat protein?

Let’s get into the facts…

A recent study found that the short answer to this question is…yes!

The researchers in the study found that plant protein is just as effective to aid in muscle growth and strength as meat and animal protein.

Why does your body need protein?

Protein helps your body to repair and build muscle. Which is why it is so important to consume it after a hard workout.

Protein is a vital element of every single cell in your body. Your hair and nails mostly consist of protein. Your body will use protein to produce enzymes, hormones and other important chemicals. Simply put – protein is an essential building block of your muscles, bones, blood and skin.

Protein is a macronutrient. This means that your body needs large amounts of it. Minerals and vitamins are known as micronutrients, which means that your body only needs small amounts of these.

Did you know that your body stores carbs and fats but it cannot store protein? Which means we need to ensure we are getting enough protein in our daily diets.

But the thing is, you may need less protein than you think.


1. Make sure you are getting the right amount of protein

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per each kilogram of your body weight.

The easiest way to work this out is to calculate what your minimum protein requirement is in grams and multiply this by your body weight.

So, a person who weighs 70kgs will need 56 grams of protein a day.

If you are someone who regularly works out, then you will need to include a bit more protein in your diet. Experts suggest this amount to be 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kg of bodyweight. Although, 1.5 grams per kilogram is a good amount to work with.

That’s roughly 84 to 140 grams a day for someone who weighs 70 kgs.

Expert tip – Apps like MyFitnessPal are great ways to track your protein consumption and get a good idea of how much protein you are consuming at each meal.

2. Make sure you pair your proteins correctly

Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein. Your body is able to create some of its own amino acids, but it heavily relies on food to supply the bulk of them.

The amino acids your body cannot create on its own are referred to as essential amino acids. Here’s why you need to know this…

There are 2 different varieties of protein. The first of which is known as complete protein – this type of protein contains the 9 essential amino acids that your body cannot make.

The other type of protein is known as incomplete protein and this does not contain all of the 9 essential aminos.

The majority of plant proteins are incomplete, the only exceptions are chia, hemp, soy and quinoa. All meat proteins are complete proteins.

This is why it’s important to ensure you pair your foods correctly to get the complete protein you need.

Pairing sources of plant protein together to provide all the essential amino acids is known as complementary proteins.

Here are some pairing examples:

  • Barley and lentils
  • Whole wheat pita and hummus
  • Almonds and oats
  • Whole grain bread and nut butter
  • Brown rice and beans
  • Tempeh or tofu with quinoa and brown rice

3. Amazing plant protein sources

For optimal strength and muscle growth, you need to eat around 25 grams of protein at each main meal.

Here are some great examples of plant-based foods that are high in protein:

Beans, legumes and lentils

Kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, lentils and peas are all great sources of protein. The protein content of each will vary slightly. For example, one cup of canned kidney beans will contain roughly 13 grams of protein. The same amount of lentils will contain 18 grams.

Tofu and soy products

Soy is something you can never get tired of. Soy products such as tofu are a great way to ensure you get protein in your diet and they make for a great meat alternative.

Soy cheese, yoghurt and tempeh are all delicious and healthy!

Tempeh is made from slightly fermented, cooked soybeans that are formed into patties. Roughly 100 grams of tempeh contains 18 grams of protein.

Quinoa and whole grains

Quinoa is known as the powerhouse of wholegrain protein. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 18 grams of protein and 9 grams of fibre.

Wholegrain bread, brown rice, barley and bulgar wheat are all rich in protein and relatively inexpensive.

Nuts and seeds

Cashews, walnuts, peanuts and almonds all contain protein. The same goes for sunflower and sesame seeds.

However, most nuts are high in fats, which is why you do not want to make them your primary source of protein. Nut butter is a great post-workout snack. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein.

Protein powder

If you are looking for an easy way to include more protein in your diet, then protein powder is a great way to do it.

Make sure you read the labels of any protein powders you buy and make sure they contain natural ingredients and not any cheap fillers.

4. Time your protein intake correctly

Your muscle growth will heavily rely on the protein you eat, particularly before a workout.

Before hitting the gym, have some soy milk or a handful of nuts. A great snack is also some nut butter on a brown unsalted rice cracker.

You then need to make sure you eat within 30 minutes after your workout. This can be a meal or a snack (depending on the time of day).

A protein smoothie is a great and convenient option after a workout too!


If you want to know more about protein intake and want an eating and training plan designed just for you, then why not get in touch with the WellBe team and we can get you going on your fitness journey?