Have you heard that vegetarian or vegan muscle building is impossible? It’s actually no problem at all! Let us explain how you can build muscle without animal protein.
How does muscle development work?
To develop muscles effectively, there are three important factors, whatever your diet may be. First, your exercise program must be targeted at gaining muscle mass, because this will send a signal to your body and trigger muscle development.
Exercise isn’t the only factor that’s important though. Recovery is just as important, because your body actually only starts to develop muscle mass when it’s resting. That’s why we recommend one or two days rest between each workout.
That doesn’t mean you should just lay on the couch for two days. An active recovery will be better at stimulating muscle growth than an inactive one. For example, use a foam roller after each workout to activate blood circulation and reduce muscle soreness. Other activities like biking or yoga are ideal for the recovery period.
Finally, the last important factor for effective muscle development is the right nutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins).
Proteins are especially important for increasing muscle mass. They can come from animal-based or plant-based protein sources, and each has its own set of pros and cons. Let’s walk through them together.
Tip: Are you on a vegetarian or vegan diet? Our Vegan Protein is quick and easy to make into shakes or recipes. It’s composed of 100% plant protein, and it’s gluten-free and lactose-free — everything you need, and nothing you don’t!
What’s the difference between animal and plant protein?
We used to differentiate between good and bad proteins the same way we would with good and bad fats. The higher the biological value of protein, the better it was considered to be.
Meat and other animal proteins have a high biological value, because these foods all contain 9 essential amino acids that the human body does not produce on its own. For that reason alone, animal protein is a great source of nutrition.
Vegetable proteins, on the other hand, often do not contain all the essential amino acids, and must therefore be combined with other protein sources. This is the source of the myth that plant-based muscle building was impossible.
Scientists are also intrigued by this question. In a study, 24 participants were asked to drink a protein shake in the first 30 minutes after training over a period of 8 weeks. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to drink a classic whey shake, while the second was asked to drink a vegetable protein shake. At the end of the 8 weeks, scientists found no difference in overall muscle development between the two groups. Basically, as long as you provide your body with the essential amino acids it needs to build muscle, it doesn’t matter which protein you choose.
It is possible to build muscle with a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Vegetable proteins also contain essential amino acids.
As long as you provide your body with all the amino acids it needs, you can eat either vegetable or animal protein.
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
¹ Joy JM, Lowery RP, Wilson JM et al., The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance, 2013, Nutrition Journal