Over the last few years, there has been a rising trend in healthier eating, as consumers become more educated about nutrition and look at what they are eating to fuel their bodies. During this time there has been a big rise in those who now class themselves as flexitarians (those who are predominately vegetarian but will occasionally eat meat), while those switching to standard vegetarian diets have also risen.
However, the biggest growth seems to be those adopting a vegan diet, which has seen a 700% rise in the UK alone over the past year and has no signs of slowing as consumers move away from animal products completely.
Why is protein important?
Protein is an important nutrient for the body and is a key building block for body tissue. Protein can also serve as fuel and is especially adept in the growth of muscles. This has been well known for decades in the fitness industry and is why protein powders are the most popular form of sports supplements today. Taking protein powder after training or working out can help you to recover faster, grow muscles and serve as a fuel source for the body.
Because of the move away from animal products to plant-based products, nutritional supplement manufacturers are now offering a range of plant-based protein alternatives for those who want to train, workout and gain muscle without consuming animal products.
Can I build muscle on a plant-based diet?
In short yes, you can build bigger muscles, at the same rate as people who are eating animal products on a plant-based diet, however, it does take a bit of preparation and planning to get right. Research is key to maintaining and growing muscle while consuming only plant-based food, but as you learn what foods provide the right nutrients and vitamins it will become second nature.
Here are some tips for those looking to transition to a plant-based diet:
The number one factor to consider is whether you are getting enough calories. Whether you are bulking up or losing weight, making sure that you are consuming the right amount of calories is key to reaching your goal.
Because plants usually contain lower calories than animal products it is important to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Not only will a good mixture of fruit and veg provide your body with a variety of vitamins, but it will also provide antioxidants to help keep your immune system strong.
Legumes are a great source of protein and eating a range of soy, beans and peas alongside grains such as buckwheat, rice and quinoa help to ensure that you get the essential amino acids your body needs.
Make your plates colourful. A good rule of thumb to follow is to make your meals as colourful as possible. A mixture of natural greens such as broccoli and kale, reds from tomatoes and peppers and yellows from sweetcorn and beans complement each other perfectly and provide a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats for your body to use.
Nuts are a great source of fat and are proven to provide a long-lasting form of energy just when you need it. Eat a handful of nuts before your workout to boost your calories and provide energy, or sprinkle some onto your breakfast to keep you going till lunch. You can even add a delicious nut butter to your dishes
Depending on your goals, your lifestyle and your diet, in general, you may want to look into supplements to complement your plant-based diet. Tracking what you eat on an app or website (MyFitnessPal) will give you a good insight into the vitamins and nutrients that you may be lacking, meaning that you can add more into your diet. Many nutritional supplement manufacturers now offer plant-based proteins, BCAA’s and multi-vitamins to help you reach your nutritional targets.
Leading the way in plant-based sports nutrition
There are a few sports nutrition brands who are really investing a lot of time ( and money) into developing a really good vegan range.
Scitec Nutrition is one of the leading global brands of sports nutrition supplements with over 20 years of experience of aiding elite athletes and bodybuilders to reach their goals. Through its ongoing development in the sports nutrition sector, Scitec Nutrition has created a range of plant-based supplements ideal for those looking to move away from traditional dairy-based products.
Scitec Nutrition’s 100% Plant Protein is specially formulated to promote lean muscle growth while aiding recovery. Made from Pisane Pea Protein Isolate, it is proven to have a high absorption rate, as well as being comparable to whey protein in its branched-chain amino acid content.
Scitec Nutrition’s 100% Plant Protein is GMO-free, dairy free, lactose-free and gluten-free, making it an ideal solution for those who are looking for a whey alternative protein source to add to their diet and workout routine.
Often flavour is an issue with vegan protein, but Ghost Lifestyle Supplements is known for their flavourings and they have a vegan protein that stands head and shoulders above the rest when you look at flavour.
They are rocking a premium, fully disclosed, 100% vegan protein blend (Pea Protein Concentrate, Organic Pumpkin Protein, Watermelon Seed protein). Their protein really is as simple as that.
Often vegan protein powder texture can be nowhere near as smooth as normal whey protein due to its less-processed nature of plant-based ingredients but Ghost has done something magical here! You wouldn't expect any less from Ghost.
The final one worth mentioning is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Plant Protein. The market leading whey protein Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard range has long been a staple in most athletes cupboards, and what they did so well in their whey protein they have done in their vegan protein.
It combines the benefits of pea protein, brown rice protein and sacha inchi protein. The combination of the three plant-based protein sources ensures no amino acids are lacking and the individual amino acid profiles ensure they complement one another.
What this means is that you're getting a high-quality protein with the added benefit of a range of vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin B12, a vitamin vegans are commonly deficient in.
As with any training or diet regime, having a healthy, balanced diet is key to performing well and recovering faster. These supplements are designed to help you reach your goals, but are not intended as a sole source of nutrition.