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Tips on how to gain muscle mass on a vegetarian diet

It`s possible to properly recover from workouts while on a vegetarian diet. There are many reasons on why someone decides to go vegetarian but one thing everyone seem to agree is that it`s not something simple on a daily basis. In fact, it can be confusing at times.

When talking about vegetarian diets, one needs to take account that there are different types of vegetarian diets, each one with it`s own characteristics:

The lacto – vegetarians (where dairy consumption is allowed)

Pescatarians: Fish is consumed

Lacto – ovo vegetarians: Dairy and eggs are allowed

Vegans: No animal products

There are a few tips that might help you better recover between training sessions.

One common concern is the protein intake. Each time we train, our muscle fibers get micro strains. We actually gain performance and muscle mass in between training sessions. During the rest period the muscles try to recover from these strains. Each type of workout elicits it`s own time for recovery (In case if you would like to know more about training and recovery time one good piece of information is Jan Olbrecht`s Planning, Periodization to Win, click here for more info).

We do need to have a proper protein intake (it`s the muscles`s building blocks) in order to better recover. Specially right after practice, protein shakes are good choices. Just make sure you do the homework and ask the manufacturer, if necessary, to know all the ingredients. Many products have beef protein powder added.

Among those possible protein sources as far as post workout shakes are concerned:

Egg Protein: Very good protein source. The body absorbs it at a slower rate than other types of protein (3g per hour vs. 8g per hour). So it`s better suited before bed.

Soy Protein: Low in fat and cholesterol. Always read the labels as it may be mixed with other types of protein. Usually it`s not advisable for people with certain health conditions so always ask your doctor or nutritionist before taking it.

Pea Protein and Rice Protein: They may be found individually or in blends along with other protein types such as potato, pumpkin protein (each measuring scoop of about 30g has nearly 20g of protein), easy to digest, cholesterol free and a solid amino acid profile. Great post practice protein source. It matches the protein quantity found in whey.

Hemp Protein: Rich in omega 3 fats. High in magnesium and iron. A serving has about half of the daily fiber dose.

Aside form all of that, try to have balance in your diet. Always try to have fresh fruit, vegetables and, most importantly, if you are trying to gain muscle mass, you should include dense foods such as cooked potato, yam.

Good protein sources to have in the diet in a daily basis include:

Beans, lentils

Nuts and seeds


Tofu and soybeans


A healthy diet should also include foods such as brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, beans, lentils, vegetables, nuts, seeds, avocado.

Many people still rely on diets based on salads, fruits and vegetables only and miss a very important piece, the protein.

Nutrients to watch out for:

Iron: It can be divided into heme and non heme iron. Heme is mostly found in meats and it`s easily absorbed (that`s where many vegetarians fall short). Non heme is found in many foods such as:

Dark leafy greens

Dried peas

Beans and lentils


Dried fruit: Raisins and prunes

Non heme iron many times can`t make up for the heme deficiency so always be on the lookout for any supplementation need.

Calcium: Crucial for bone health, helps muscular contraction. Low calcium may cause muscle cramps and, on the long run, osteoporosis. Besides being found on dairy rich foods, other sources for the vegan diet may include:


Collard greens




Always seek the care of a health care practitioner for specific health conditions that may limit the intake of any food or any group of foods.

Zinc: Promotes proper growth and development, helps the immune system, cognitive skills. The best sources are animal, so whenever possible include in the diet (unless if you happen to have any type of allergy or intolerance or restriction by any health condition):

Pumpkin seeds

Sesame seeds

Almonds, walnuts and macadamia

Fortified oatmeal and cereal

Vitamin B12: Can be of a great concern if not quickly corrected in the body. Most sources are animal as the plant sources are not absorbed as efficiently. It helps the body carry oxygen to tissues among other uses. Your best bet is to consume fortified foods and be on the lookout for supplementation, if necessary.

This text is for information purposes only. It doesn`t aim to treat, diagnose any condition or give any medical advice. Always seek the help of your health care practitioner before implementing any changes in your diet.

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