Ignore the hype that you need meat’s amino acid profile to gain muscle, or even improve muscle tone. Sure, animals have muscles that provide amino acids and protein, but we’re not meant to have to eat another creature just to have a lean, toned body. Plus, remember that animals obtain their lean muscles from plant-based foods, and so can we. Just like grass, seeds, and grains provide them with enough fuel, these foods can also do the same for us.
Also consider that many animals today (due to factory farming and other cruel practices) don’t even eat real grass, grains, or seeds, but most often genetically modified corn and other grains, along with genetically modified soy and seeds. We don’t want to be consuming these things, especially when we’re trying to improve our health and overall body strength and vitality.
So instead of turning to the cow, chicken, fish, turkey, pig, or whatever other animal one normally would; let’s take a look at some plant-based options we can enjoy instead:
1. Focus on Greens, Seeds, Beans, Legumes, and Grains
These foods are packed with nutrition and are commonly how animals obtain most of their protein intake. Greens like spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, and herbs are packed with dense nutrition. They contain iron, magnesium, protein, B vitamins, and more that all improve oxygen and energy, along with provide amino acids. Seeds like sunflower and pumpkin seeds, along with chia, flax and hemp, also all provide protein, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. Grains provide complex carbs that help restore glycogen to muscle cells, and they also provide resistant starches that burn fat just by eating them to create a lean, toned look. Beans and legumes also provide protein, fiber, B vitamins, amino acids, and potassium and magnesium. All of these factors improve muscle tone, strength, and overall lean body mass while also keeping you full and healthy.
2. Cut the Sugar Out
Sugar does absolutely nothing for your muscles, at least when it comes from refined sources. Sugar spikes your blood sugar which causes insulin surges that end up storing fat instead of burning it. To satisfy your sweet tooth, go for whole foods that are naturally sweet instead. Sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, and berries are all great muscle-friendly foods that will keep your taste buds happy, along with help increase lean muscle mass. Complex carbs from whole plant-based foods provide excellent muscle-friendly benefits. Their fiber content also helps give you that six pack you’re looking for (thanks to it clearing out your digestive system) and even keeps your heart healthy at the same time.
3. Ditch the Processed Stuff
It’s also a good idea to go ahead and ditch processed foods like breads, crackers, cookies, and highly processed faux meat products that contain oils, starches, and fillers. Go for cleaner options made from grains, beans, and vegetables if you can find them, or make your own whole food veggie burgers and other dishes like soups, stews, salads, smoothies, and even crackers, cookies, and raw treats instead. Remember that muscle tone is best achieved when a clean diet is observed and it all starts in the kitchen! Your body and muscles will thank you in the long run, not to mention every other aspect of your health.
4. Eat Your Aminos
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and you can get enough of them from your food, even without the animal – promise! Amino acids are found abundantly in hemp seeds, peas, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, beans, legumes, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, spinach, kale, spirulina, and even some vegetables like broccoli. Aim to eat your amino acids whenever possible, and your body will naturally get the nutrients it needs. This will help improve muscle tone, which is fed by whole food amino acid intake. These Raw Hemp Chia Seed Bars would be an excellent afternoon snack to provide key amino acids into your day instead of processed protein bars.
5. Have a Protein Shake After Your Workout, Without the Whey!
Also consider having a protein shake after your workouts each day. Taking in protein after you work out is important to refuel glycogen stores in the muscles cells which aids in repair and regrowth. This also provides branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) to the muscle cells, which they need for repair and regrowth as well. Good sources of plant-based protein that taste great in a shake include: whole foods plant-based protein powders without sugar, along with hemp protein powder, oats, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. Tasty flavoring options include: raw almond butter, berries, a cacao-based superfood powder, or a chopped Granny Smith apple.
6. Don’t Forget to Work Out!!
You can’t put any of that good hard, clean kitchen work to good use without moving your body, so get up and get going! Lifting weights and doing weight bearing exercises such as yoga are key to building muscle to create definition and tone. Also, don’t forget your cardio. While you don’t need a lot, a little will help chisel away that lean muscle you’re working so hard at building.
Also see these 5 plant-based foods to build lean muscle and more Top Vegan Foods to Help You Build Lean Muscle. Or, if you’re looking for some further help, see How to Get Stronger on a Plant-Based Diet. Save your wallets, waistline, and heart by skipping meat more often. You don’t need it to get fit, strong, ripped, or lean.