There is a general misconception that meat is necessary for building muscles. But as most athletes are now finding out, Plant-forward proteins can be as equally effective in developing muscles as well as stamina.
According to Dr. Nas Al-Jafari, Family Medicine Consultant and speaker at Sesame Restaurant’s Monthly Dinner-with-Doctor, it is wrong to suggest that people require animal protein to build muscle. “There is also lots of confusion regarding the levels of protein required to maintain muscle mass, with people often over-estimating their protein needs,” he says, adding that evidence suggests a requirement of only 0.8 gram/kg/day for the average adult, with other research suggesting an intake of up to 1.8 grams/kg/day for athletes looking to achieve muscle growth (higher for energy restricted athletes).
Factors responsible for building muscles
The key to building muscle is to understand how it increases in size, so it’s not necessarily about the kind of food one consumes. There are several factors responsible for building muscles. One’s activity level, stress, sleep, hormones are other aspects critical for muscle growth and repair; as well as of course diet and food choices. “Anyone thinking about transitioning to plant-forward proteins or diet and have concerns on how to build muscle would need to consider that everyone’s body is different. For some, it may be easier to put on muscle or weight; gender, age, and genetics also influence how one builds muscles,” explains Neha Jamani, Natural Chef, and co-founder, Sesame Restaurant.
Growing appreciation of Plant-forward proteins
Amongst professional athletes and bodybuilders, there has been a growing appreciation of eating Plant-forward meals in general, to help in their muscle building training. In the past, many have been reliant on eating processed and refined foods as a source of calories, but these come with unhealthy excess baggage such as fat, cholesterol, artificial colors, preservatives, and more.
“Depending on one’s fitness goals and training, plant-forward proteins or diet can also be supplemented with a brown rice or pea protein. A well-rounded nutrient-dense whole food plant-based diet can satisfy the nutrient, calorie and protein needs of athletes, and if the food choices are rich in micronutrients, minerals and antioxidants this would also lead to better muscle recovery after exercise and improved overall health,” said Irina Sharma, Sesame Restaurant’s co-founder, and grand champion.
Plant-forward meals are good for overall health
Plant-forward meals can provide the essential nutrients not just for muscle-building, but also for overall good health. Amino acids in fruits and vegetables, for instance, are great for building muscle, while the vitamins and minerals they contain are crucial to good health.
Proteins can come from several foods including lentils, beans, tofu, edamame, as well as seeds such as chia, sunflower, sesame, flax, and pumpkin. Nuts, whole grains such as rice, oats, quinoa, and buckwheat are also great sources of protein as well as sea vegetables/Seaweeds. Plant-forward meals not only deliver the essential nutrients we need but can also help us get in tip-top shape for that summer-ready look!
For those keen on building muscles based on largely Plant-forward proteins, the following come highly recommended:
- White Bean & Herb Spread
- Seaweed and Lotus Root Salad
- Mighty Green Bowl
- Lentil Tabbouleh