Building a strong body with a plant-based diet

Published: March 26, 2018

The Vegan Society says there are three and a half times as many vegans as there were in 2006, and it seems the lifestyle movement has no signs of slowing down. Building a strong body with a plant-based diet isn’t impossible, like any plant-based diets it’ll take just a little extra thought when it comes to planning your meals.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research which revealed that when it comes to muscle mass, plant protein are just as good as animal proteins.

The 2017 study revealed that those who had consumed the most protein had the most muscle mass, which comes as no surprise. But what was revealing was there is no link between muscle mass and the type of protein that is consumed, whether it’s plant or animal.

Plant-based diets are becoming more and more mainstream, but the reality is, one of the first worries people often have is wondering if they’re going to get enough protein to support their active lifestyle.

Of course, you can, it’s just about knowing the types of foods you need to eat.

Natures Plus Nutritionist Martina Della Vedova lists the best ways to get enough plant-based protein into your diet so you can power through your next workout.

Food to focus on

Plant-based protein-rich foods aren’t exactly few and far between, we’re just programmed to automatically think of chicken and eggs when we consider protein-rich foods.

Instead, you’ll want to eat soy-based products, tofu, spinach, chickpeas, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, brown rice and quinoa.

Pre-workout meal suggestions

Ideally, you should try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat 2-3 hours before you exercise. Top picks include:

  • Lentil pasta with mixed vegetable sauce
  • Quinoa with mixed vegetables and avocados
  • Sweet potatoes, spinach, watercress and mixed nuts and seeds

In some cases, you may not be able to get in a full meal, so if you eat around one hour prior to your workout, choose foods that are simple to digest and contain small fats, complex carbs and protein. Good ideas include:

  • Sliced apple with nut butter
  • Spicy garlic oven roasted chickpeas
  • Add a scoop of plant-based protein powder to a smoothie, mixed with nut milk, kale and a banana

Invest in a good protein powder

Not only will you want to fill your diet with protein-rich plant-based boost, but the introduction of a plant-based protein powder can be highly beneficial to ensuring that you get enough protein to supplement your diet, especially if you’re a regular gym-goer.

For vegans, a plant-based protein powder can be a great option. They can be used to make smoothies or shakes, and also added to savoury foods such as stews and soups.

Expert top tip

15-20g of protein is what is suggested as an addition to a well-balanced diet. Higher doses of isolated proteins taken all at once on an empty stomach could lead to future problems with bloating, indigestion and an upset gut function, especially in cases where hydrochloric acid production is reduced (stress, poor sleep, medications, etc).

Vary your protein source

Whilst you can get good amounts of protein from plant-based sources, they generally contain different amount of amino acids that make up protein. This means you can’t get a complete protein source which has all of the essential amino acids in the big quantities that you can with animal sources. This means that when you’re eating a plant-based diet, you’ll need to ensure that you vary your protein sources to cover all of your bases.

But the idea of eating chickpeas and quinoa all day every day is going to get boring pretty quickly, so keep it varied and ensure that your body is getting all it needs.


You might find that you need to supplement your diet with a creatine supplement, which can be beneficial in increasing your strength when you’re working out regularly.