For most of my life, I’ve been an athlete. From competitive gymnastics, to years of playing basketball and baseball, to spending hours a week in the gym, I have always been surrounded by health-oriented people. But so many guys always said you can only keep your body strong with a diet comprised of whey, meat, creatine and all those other supplements that you can’t pronounce. Well, I am here to tell you that that you can absolutely build strength and long, lean muscles on a plant-based diet.
Plant-based whole foods can be even more powerful in building muscle and strength because you aren’t eating toxic ingredients that are found in many non-vegan supplement products. Because of this, you are making room in your body for the nutrients that matter and allowing your internal organs to soak them in, instead of spending energy fighting off the bad cells trying to attack your good ones. Supplements with filler additives may give you more of a “pump” quicker, but the results aren’t derived from natural foods. More often than not, they will either quickly fade, and athletes are potentially doing more long-term damage to their bodies than they realize. Just remember: your body forms complete proteins from amino acids, which plant-based foods are filled with.
Then there’s oxygen. In order for your cells to work properly, enough oxygen needs to be stimulated throughout your blood. It turns out, eating vegetables helps increase the amount of oxygen pumping through your body. The benefits of vegetables—in particular, leafy greens—are overwhelming. You’ll get increased levels of energy for enhanced workouts, faster muscle growth and recovery, and perhaps most important, decreased inflammation. Inflammation can lead to a slew of diseases, but in the short term, can prevent muscles from developing. Plus, because you are too inflamed, you’ll have a harder time seeing all that hard work you’re putting in at the gym. That’s why people on high plant diets look extra cut. They are eliminating inflammation. Veggies also add protein to your diet, and they’re very low in calories, so load up on these vitamin-packed foods!
Muscle growth is also fueled by complex carbs. Yes, it's okay and necessary to eat some carbs to building strength and muscle. Some of my favorite complex carbs are sweet potatoes, seeds, nuts, brown rice, and quinoa. Complex carbs recover and rebuild lean muscle tissue, are high in fiber, and naturally boost energy levels. They even assist in cutting fat and inflammation. Some are packed with protein. Plant-based protein can, of course, be incorporated into your pre and post-workout shakes. It’s a great way to instantly boost your levels of protein for the day with clean, natural ingredients. I’ve been using the Sunwarrior Classic Chocolate for years and love it. In fact, I have turned a lot of my guy gym friends onto it (they swore by whey). Now they say they feel so much better using a plant-based protein. There are also a ton of great foods on the market to explore, like the Beast Burger from Beyond Meat. It’s packed with 23 grams of protein and is soy-free and gluten-free (pea protein based), so don’t be discouraged about finding more plant-based products that contain high protein—they exist!
Many products that include traces of meat can trigger weight gain, issues with blood sugar, and other dangerous diseases. I’m not telling you to become a vegan (I myself am pescatarian, but eat no other animal products) because I know everyone is on their own food journey. But I am telling you, eating a predominately plant-based diet can help enrich the quality of your life and build muscles and your strength (and shred) in perhaps more meaningful and powerful ways. I urge you to explore more plant-based foods that can replace some other things you’re eating and see how your body feels with this change. I have never felt better! I will continue on my own journey, exploring how I can keep reaching those fitness goals through the healthiest ingredients possible.
*Head over to Sunwarrior see some of my healthy recipes.
Claims in this post have not been evaluated by the FDA. Information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making significant changes to your diet or lifestyle.