Your mom was right. You have to eat your veggies. Here’s everything you need to know about the best vegetables for muscle you have to start eating.
For many years, it’s been widely believed that a vegetarian dominated diet can’t work if you’re trying to put on quality muscle.
However, from experience, I know this isn’t entirely true. Vegetarian diets and veggies in general, are thought not to contribute to weight gain as they have fewer calories when compared to proteins such as chicken, beef or fish.
But, if a vegetarian athlete or trainer includes the right veggies in their diet, and at the right times, they can be successful in their goal of gaining muscle and maintaining a strong, healthy body. If you’re a pure vegetarian, then you must be especially careful to ensure all your nutritional needs are covered. Please refer to the final part of this article where I address this more specifically.
And, remember, most vegetarian protein sources aren’t considered complete protein sources due to their amino acid content.
Power Of Vegetables for Muscle
I’ve been a big believer in the benefits of veggies for many years now. Veggies are important, and you can’t grow without them!
They pack a major nutritional punch. They fuel your body to build muscle and burn fat. But, their value isn’t limited strictly to muscle building and burning fat. Veggies are good for you in so many ways, and the great news is that they can look and taste good. You just need to be creative. I look forward to eating a variety of them – daily. Make sure you mix it up.
Take advantage of the goodness of veggies by eating a wide range of all kinds. By doing this, you’ll take your nutrition and physique to new heights and you’ll be healthier and grow faster than ever!
Muscles are built on more than just protein. As much as we’d all like to believe that protein alone builds muscle, I’m here to say that isn’t true. Veggies play a vital role in muscle building.
They have many vital vitamins and minerals.
These are essential for your body and are critical for proper and efficient muscle contractions, red blood cell production, inflammation control, cortisol control, cholesterol synthesis and more. Your time in the gym and recovery will be greatly enhanced.
How Many Vegetables Should You Consume?
How much you consume depends on you. Many factors including your sex, age and physical activity level work together to determine your daily veggie requirement. In general, men need a larger veggie intake than women. Why? Men tend to have more muscle mass and tissue than ladies.
What Are Some Of The Perks Of Vegetables?
One of the benefits of the super veggie diet includes stable blood pressure. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a silent killer that affects over 600 million people around the world.
Many athletes I’ve worked with, and come in contact with, suffer from high blood pressure and don’t even know it. Veggies help to promote healthy blood pressure largely because of their high potassium content.
And, veggies are great for your overall health.
By supporting a strong immune system. They are rich in vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, C, B and D) and have high amounts of chlorophyll (found in green vegetables), carotenoids (found in yellow and orange veggies) and anthocyanins (found in red veggies).
When it comes to muscle gain, you need to give top priority to almost all kinds of nutrients. For example, foods rich in carbs can give you the required stamina and the much-needed essential fat. Root veggies like beetroot and potato have been proven to be rich in quality carbs.
What Types Of Vegetables Are Best?
Wherever possible, try to find veggies rich in iron.
It’s a powerhouse for building muscle. When it comes to iron, you could always include sugar-free or low-sugar breakfast cereals, often fortified with iron, and leafy and green veggies like spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and kale. Later in the day you can eat baked sweet potatoes with their skin on to boost your body’s iron content. There are lots of great options for your daily meals.
A veggie diet breakfast could include a highly nutritious egg white sandwich with two or three wholemeal bread slices together with lettuce, tomato and onions. Spinach and mushrooms could add flavor and taste to the diet. Enhance it further with a glass of whey protein.
Create A Daily Menu You’ll Love
The menu for lunch could be almost anything from rice or quinoa to pasta with vitamin and mineral rich veggies like beetroot, carrots, beans and again, green leafy veggies. Include two or three snacks between meals. Nuts would be an ideal choice. You could even have Greek yogurt. For dinner, include the same amount of rice/wheat as was in your lunch along with green leafy veggies. If you want to insert taste to your food, add some cinnamon and/or pepper or lemon juice to your dinner.
Planning Your Vetabable Diet
Myths such as a vegetarian rich diet won’t build muscle or trigger weight gain in athletes are becoming increasingly old-fashioned. It’s an old school way of thinking. Try including vegetarian based foods with greater calories in your diet and you’ll see changes within a few weeks!
Generally, vegetarian athletes consume fewer calories on a daily basis. They get a low proportion of their diet from saturated fat. Therefore most vegetarians have low body mass index (BMI). But, this isn’t a huge problem.
One of the basic things to remember as you attempt to achieve your goal to gain muscle is that the intake of calories must be larger than the calories burned throughout the day. It’s important that you take a good look at the type of calories you’re consuming, especially if your diet is veggie based.
The Role Of Protein And Fat
Try to get your essential calories from protein, complex carbs and healthy fats.
Eating too much sugar will only give you weight gain that will not be muscle!
The same applies to unhealthy fat intake. Be careful where you get your calories! Carbs are quite easy to come by on a veggie-based diet. So let’s address the other two vital macronutrients, protein and fats. Proteins are the base of healthy weight gain. People on a vegetarian diet must eat nuts, beans, and other legumes to meet the daily protein requirement.
Getting a certain amount of healthy fat is equally important for vegetarians. Things like flax seed oils and omega-3 fatty acids are some of the good fats that must be included in your diet to gain weight. You can rely on coconut milk, coconut oil and nuts for healthy fats.
Athlete Using Pure Vegetables
Exercise is as important as your diet for weight gain. Irrespective of the source of your food, without exercise you’ll just end up gaining fat. If you want healthy weight gain, then include exercise in your daily routine. More people are becoming increasingly interested in becoming vegetarians.
This can be a major challenge for the trainer and nutritionist.
It’s essential for hard training people to get adequate amounts of protein into their system. Vegetarian encompasses a wide range of dietary practices, including eating veggies and no animal products (vegans), eating veggies and dairy products with eggs (Ovo-Lacto vegetarians) or without eggs (lacto vegetarians, eating veggies and fish or poultry).
These diets are associated with a lower risk of several chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure when compared to the typical western diet, which is high in fat, saturated fats, sugar, and cholesterol.
Be Sure You Get The Right Stuff!
But many strict vegetarian diets (vegans) are dangerously low in energy creating nutrients, protein, essential amino acids, iron, calcium, zinc, as well as vitamins B12 and D. The risk is even greater during periods of growth such as infancy, pregnancy, childhood, adolescence and when undergoing a muscle-strengthening program.
I’d strongly recommend that vegetarians, especially vegans, take great care in selecting, planning and preparing nutritious meals to ensure they’re getting adequate amounts of essential nutrients. It’s important to include the essential micronutrients and macronutrients in your nutrition plan. But, it’s also helpful if each meal consists of one portion of carbs and one portion of protein.
If you try to boost your protein content for a meal by mixing two high-carb, moderate protein sources (such as beans and rice), you’ll be getting a meal that has one portion of carbs and less than one portion of protein.
This results in fluctuating blood sugar levels.
That can increase fat storage, decrease fat burning and increase hunger. I’d suggest adding a protein supplement to the nutrition plan. You could try a soy-protein-isolate powder. By doing this, you’ll ensure that you’re getting enough protein to support muscle growth while keeping calorie intake low enough to lose fat.
It’s hard enough for hard-training meat-eaters to consume enough protein from whole foods alone.
I’d also advise taking a daily multivitamin.
Without it, it’s hard to get the essential micronutrients, especially vitamin B12, which occurs naturally only in animal foods. With care, vegetarianism can be a very healthy way to live, even if you’re a top athlete.
Pre And Post Workout
Now we can start thinking about the specific nutrition and the importance of each of the macronutrients. Protein, carbs and fat are all important, but some are more vital around the workouts.
Below are some great options. (High protein – Serves 1) This makes a perfect pre-gym snack. You could also add thicker yogurt. Put all ingredients in a blender and whisk together.
Ingredients: 125 grams of flavored yogurt 100-200ml of water, depending on how thick you want it 100g of frozen berries 1 x medium sized banana (118g) 1 x scoop of plain protein 2/3 cubes of ice (not needed if using frozen fruit)
A Fat-Fighting Blueberry Blast Shake Here’s another recipe for a fat-busting shake that’s as kind to your taste buds as it is to your abs! Plus, it won’t bloat you before you train.
Ingredients: 1 handful of oats 50 grams of blueberries 1 teaspoon of honey 150 grams of low fat vanilla yogurt Oats. These have slow release carbs that provide sustained energy. Their high fiber content also fights hunger pangs.
Blueberries. These also release energy slowly and are packed with phytochemicals that protect cells and tissues from free radical damage.
Honey. This is a natural source of energy. It’s also high in zinc. That’s important for balancing blood sugar levels.
Yogurt. This gives your body calcium and protein. It helps with weight loss and to maintain muscle mass.
Protein Banana And Goji Berries Shake Want something tasty? Of course you do! In that case, give this shake a shot. You’ll get ample protein with very little fat.
Makes one shake: Per serving: 357 calories, 32g protein, 52g carbs, 2g fat
Ingredients: 1 scoop plain protein powder 180ml orange and banana juice 5/6 ice cubes 1 banana cut into chunks A pinch of nutmeg A handful of dried goji berries
Directions: Place all in a blender and mix until smooth. Serve right away. Cream of Tomato Soup with Cubed Chicken and Wild Rice This is a delicious, protein-packed twist on the classic tomato soup. It’s fast and easy to prepare and light before hitting an afternoon session.
Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour Ingredients: 3 cups of chicken stock 3 cups of water 1 cup long grain wild rice 10 plum tomatoes (pureed in your food processor or blender) 4 skinless, boneless breasts of chicken (with excess fat removed), cubed 1/2 cup fresh basil Fat-free sour cream
Directions: In a large pot, combine chicken stock, water, rice, pureed tomatoes and uncooked cubed chicken. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook on low heat for one hour. Before serving, dollop with sour cream and top with fresh basil.
Sweet Potato Melt Want a perfect post workout carb refuel? If so, you need to try this. It has all you need! Bonus: It’s easy to make.
Ingredients: Large sweet potato 3/4 drained water packed tinned tuna 1/2 cup of non-fat mayo 1/2 cup shredded part-skimmed-milk mozzarella cheese Garlic, onion seasoning and lemon pepper to taste
Directions: Microwave sweet potatoes for 3.5 minutes until tender. Cut them in half and set aside. Mix tuna and spices together. Place mixture into potato halves, top with cheese and grill until cheese has melted.
A vegetarian diet can work. You just have to be smart. Don’t buy into the idea that you can’t build muscle with veggies. That’s a myth! It’s vital to your gains. Plan your meals. Be sure to get your vitamins, healthy fats, nutrients and proteins.
Eat five or six times a day. If you do this with a good training program, you’ll see the gains you crave!
– By Keith Cormican, RD