People are often sceptical about potential of vegetarian diet for building muscle mass. They believe that only non vegetarian food provides complete protein therefore it is must for achieving their muscle gain goals. To compensate for this deficiency in vegetarian diet, they tend to consume higher amount of whey protein powders & other supplements which are even not necessary. They should understand that vegetarian diet is also an excellent source of all macro and micro nutrients required for building muscle. To correct this belief we have outlined the vegetarian meal plan below which one can follow for gaining muscle mass.
Early morning meal–
When we wake-up in the morning, our body is in fasting state for almost 8 to 9 hours. At this time our body needs sugar to replenish the glycogen stores to come out of catabolic state. Therefore it is ideal time to start your day with fresh fruits as they have lots of sugar in form of fructose. They also provide lot of vitamins, minerals, anti oxidants and fibres with natural sugar. Similarly dry fruits are also abundant of these nutrients in condensed form and their small amount gives lot of energy as well.
Pre workout meal–
Purpose of pre workout meal is to fuel the body for one hour intense workout session. Food like banana, potatoes and sweet potatoes are good for pre workout nutrition as they have lot of carbohydrates with limited amount of fibre. Carbohydrates are the favourite source of energy for body and they are easily digested. They provide necessary energy to complete the high intensity workout session. One can take one cup black coffee also before workout to increase the mental focus and alertness.
Post workout meal–
After doing the workout for an hour our glycogen stores are depleted and body goes in to catabolic state. In catabolic state body starts using the muscle as a source of energy. Thus there is an immediate need to come out of this state to preserve the hard earned muscle mass. Fast digesting carbohydrates like banana, smoothie etc with whey protein are apt for the post workout meal. They replenish the depleted stores of glycogen immediately and kick start the recovery process.
Breakfast is very important part of our meals and especially for those people who workouts in the morning. It should have good amount of fast digesting carbohydrates. One should aim to take proportionately higher amount of carbohydrate as well at this time. They take lesser time to get digested therefore required more in post workout compare to other meals. One can have wheat flakes, muesli, oats, eggs, soy milk etc in it.
It is a time you need slow digesting food so that you get energy for longer time. It should contain all the macro and micro nutrients in right proportion with lots of fibre. Vegetarian food has lot of options to prepare nutrient rich meal apt for lunch timing. One can have food items like leafy green and deep coloured vegetables, peas, beats, winter squash & yams with chapati of whole grains and brown rice. Also include dairy like yogurt or curd as they are good source of protein and healthy fats.
In the early evening, food which we have taken in lunch is almost digested and body needs to be feed with more food. Some people do workout also in the evening and thus it is very important to not only fill the stomach but also fuel the body with right food. Peanut butter sandwich of whole wheat bread is a good source of protein, carbohydrates and good fat. It is slowly digested and gives constant energy. It suits very well as a pre workout meal also.
At the time of dinner our physical activities goes down and therefore overall caloric intake needs to be minimized. Food items in dinner should have minimal amount of carbohydrates as they quickly get digested and stored as fat if not utilized. Salads of carrot, tomatoes, beans, legumes with added tofu and tempeh are suitable for these hours. They have lots of micro nutrients with fibre and gives feeling of fullness in stomach.
Bedtime meal –
During night our body releases the hormones and do the job of repairing muscle tissues. At this time our requirement is more for protein as they are the building blocks of body. Therefore a source of food which can provide the protein thorough out the night is ideal. Low fat milk is good for night time recovery as its protein content is 80% from casein. Casein protein is a slow digesting protein and aids the protein synthesis for longer period of time.
Vegetarian diet is a nutrient rich diet and has all the macro and micro nutrients required for achieving muscle gain objectives. It has only one disadvantage that you will find very limited sources which has all the amino acids required to make complete protein. But there are various protein rich foods in vegetarian diet which when taken in combination makes the complete protein and meet our daily requirement. Thus we have to plan the diet more intelligently to overcome the demerit. We should take various protein rich foods at different times so that we get all the required amino acids by the end of the day.
Manish Yadav is certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist. He provides fitness and nutrition coaching to people through online fitness training platform My Fitness Goal.