Once upon a time there was this skinny dude named Sam...
He’d been skinny all his life and didn’t let it bother him until one fateful day his wife told him she was turning VEGAN!!!! He was aghast and shocked, scared and frightened of the meatless life that lay ahead…how could this be happening?
No more bacon and cheese!!!???
And where would he get his protein from!?
BUT, astonishingly, before too long Sam found himself eating plants full time. He felt AMAZING on this new cruelty free, nutritious diet - BUT there was one BIG problem.
Sam lost even more weight…?
Maybe he wasn’t get enough protein!!?? That MUST be it?
Let me start with my own protein beliefs:
I’ve been that guy eating boiled chicken by the shopping trolly load, I’ve been the guy forcing down dry protein shakes on my lunch break at work and I was that man who looked for lean meats, dairy, fish and eggs to get the best sources of protein.
Protein is important for your health, your workouts, recovery, and your brain function; without it, you wouldn’t function at your best and your body wouldn’t be able to support you long-term.
HOWEVER, the problem with the view of protein globally today is where we’re getting the majority of it from: ANIMALS.
Regardless of the many different opinions on whether meat is healthy or not as a part of your regular diets, we can’t ignore the fact that meat consumption is causing major environmental, health, and humanitarian problems.
When you put all the pieces together, it’s time we start looking for a real sustainable alternative. PLANTS are that healthy alternative.
Ok cool - that’s great but I’m not a tree hugger mate and I just wanna put on some mass!!...you can’t build muscle with plants really?
Surely not as well as meat?
The general public believe that if you’re gonna build muscle with plants you’re already at a disadvantage and it’s a barrier for a lot of dudes.
I’ll be honest with you - when I turned vegan I did lose weight and I was concerned. But it wasn’t until I educated myself and started tracking my food intake that everything changed.
I managed to pile on a whopping 25lbs of muscle mass in just 11 weeks eating ONLY PLANTS. A lot of people would tell you that’s not possible - but it happened.
PLANTS V MEAT: Which builds muscle best?
Opinions are slowly shifting and from my own experience this isn’t true.
The ?American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently published results of an extensive study that debunks the ‘meat builds protein better’ myth:
Lead author Kelsey Mangano, PhD, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, says the study delivers a message that meat and veggie lovers can both celebrate: “As long as a person is exceeding the recommended daily allowance for protein, no matter the source in their diet, they can improve their muscle health,”
Which leads me to my second point:
How much protein is needed to build muscle?
While chugging down high levels of protein has long been associated with body builders and young dudes, the opportunity to sell protein has fully expanded into the mainstream and has even migrated into infant nutrition and pet food, which have now joined nutritional products (e.g., sports/energy bars, meal replacement drinks), yogurt and snacks, as the top protein categories in terms of annual sales, according to Nielsen Scantrack.
Protein is now a mainstream trend.
A booming industry. It’s exploded in recent times - to the point where the myths surrounding it have almost become crazed.
The daily recommended allowance of protein for the average man is around 56g - so why are people posting on forums asking how to get 300 grams of protein into a days worth of eating?
It’s completely unnecessary - worse still, its dangerous, especially if you’re getting your proteins via animal products - too much animal protein has been linked with colon cancers and kidney damage.
Protein is an old school rhetoric that marketers have been banging the drum about for years - any idea what the most profitable bodybuilding supplement on the market is today?
You guessed it - protein?
Whey protein is a byproduct from the waste of cheese making - the profit margins are huge.
So how much protein do you need to get jacked quick?
First let me ask you a serious question?
Are you gunning to be the next Mr Olympia? Do you want to step on stage with a body fat percentage of single figures after years of dedication to strict eating and endless hours in the gym? Do you want to become a professional bodybuilder?
I’m guessing your answer is no to all these questions right?
Ok - so now we’ve established that you’re just like me - just an average dude who wants to put on some mass, jack up his physique, look great and feel healthier… without the pursuit of all these goals taking over your entire life and putting your health at risk.
Let’s get REAL and sensible about protein:
Humor intended on the above graphic but the message is a serious one.
I gained 25lbs in just 11 weeks.
Sure that’s not pure lean muscle mass and I certainly added some body fat too but you can see from my after shots that I stayed pretty lean. I think it’s fair to say if you’ve got this far reading this you would be happy with a similar result.
I was eating around 100g of protein per day.
If you go and google how much protein to take to build muscle right now you will find some ‘expert’ bodybuilding sites telling you to take 3 times that amount - some even more.
Now of course this is slightly anecdotal because you’re not me but don’t go thinking I’m some genetic freak who slams on muscle just looking at weights.
If anything - I’m the opposite end of the spectrum - more in the hardgainer camp.
But I want you to realise that the amount of calories you’re eating is going to have the biggest impact on your growth - NOT PROTEIN.
So long as you’re exceeding the recommended functional amount of around 56g by at least 50% then you will grow fast if you’re getting everything else right.
Shoot for about 1.5 grams of protein for every kilogram you weigh. Don’t over complicate it or stress about it being the key to making the gains you want.
Next question is - which types of plant based protein are best?
The best plant based proteins
You may have read that plant based proteins are not as bioavailable as their meat and dairy based counterparts, or that they don’t contain as much leucine, which limits their muscle growth potential. While this may be scientifically true it won’t stop you packing on mass and it doesn’t make plant based protein inadequate for the job at hand.
In fact - the beauty of eating a plant based diet is that practically every food contains some amount of protein.
It might be a lesser concentration but over a full day of eating, when you’re eating a balanced and high calorie plant based diet you’re gonna be getting your protein from nutrient and fibre rich sources which will give you a full roster of essential amino acids.
It will also jack up your overall health - win win right? Right.
In fact - a large JAMA Internal Medicine study found that guys who consumed plant proteins like lentils and beans more often experienced lower rates of early death, particularly from heart disease. What’s more, a study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate more plant protein consumed a wider variety of foods, which bumped their overall nutrient intake.
In a New York Times Op-Ed, Dr. Dean Ornish talks about the myth of high protein diets. He references a study which found a 75 percent increase in deaths from cancer and Type 2 diabetes, among ‘heavy consumers’ of animal protein under the ages of 65.
In other words, those who got 20% of their calories from animal protein were more likely to die from a chronic disease.
If you’re building muscle and taking in more protein, plants sources are your healthy option.
Your life depends on it.
As I mentioned earlier in the script - plant based protein is not hard to come by - it’s everywhere!
But if you’re looking for the best bang for your protein buck then these diagrams will help you identify which plant based foods you need to be adding in to your diet.
Any questions leave them in the comments section below.
Sam - your man with the plant gainer plan 🙂
?BOTTOM LINE: Chill on the protein. I recommend getting about 100 grams per day - and if you’re hitting the necessary calorie numbers you’ll need to hit for bulking and you’re eating a balanced plant based whole foods diet with the correct macros, you’ll hit your protein target without even having to think about it too much.