Quinoa, tempeh, chia, hemp, we’ve all heard how amazing these are as a source of plant-based protein, and rightly so since they’re packed with insane amounts of amino acids (protein) that are sure to pump your body up the vegan way. However, just like you shouldn’t rely on broccoli and kale alone to keep you healthy and get in all your veggies each day, you also shouldn’t rely on one, two, or even three sources of plant-based proteins and call it a day.
Variety is the spice of life, you know!
Plant-based proteins are so abundant, they’re found almost everywhere you look. You don’t need to worry about combining certain incomplete sources of plant-based proteins either, since your body can efficiently use all forms of protein just fine. Certain foods, however, do contain more muscle-friendly sources of protein than many others do. And not all of these are crazy-high in protein. Many just contribute to lean muscle mass and help assist your body in building lean muscles naturally. Protein is important and we’re pretty big on the stuff ourselves, however it’s not the end-all, be-all when it comes to achieving muscle. Your body needs quality carbohydrates, clean green foods, and power-packed foods which include vitamins and minerals that contribute to a naturally lean, muscular body.
Check out these five muscle-building foods for the plant-based athlete or even the common eater; they’re all sure to satisfy you and give you rip, roarin’ mean muscles at the same time!
Source: Papaya Lime and Coconut Overnight Oatmeal
Coconut is one magical food, friends. It’s not just high in fat and delicious, but also overflowing with some pretty stellar nutritional benefits. You don’t need to consume tablespoons of coconut oil to get the benefits either. Coconut foods are high in lauric acid, an antiviral agent that helps ward of bacteria that can contribute to poor health. Coconut’s fats are medium-chain-triglyceride fats that aid in energy expenditure versus storage. Your liver also loves coconut foods. It uses fats and lauric acid to fight off harmful invaders, and since your liver is a key organ to burning stored fats for energy and improving your metabolism, it can help create more muscle definition naturally by improving your workouts and your metabolic rate. Coconut is also high in fiber, which will keep you regular, less bloated, more energized, and help you show off that six pack too!
Use coconut flour, shredded unsweetened coconut, plain unsweetened coconut milk, and fresh coconut meat. You can also cook with the oil if you like; it’s delicious on roasted veggies or in baking. Coconut flour is even high in protein, with 7 grams per 1/4 cup!
2. Green Beans
Source: Green Bean Casserole Pizza
These humble beans just don’t get enough attention as they should. Green beans are technically more like a vegetable instead of a bean because they’re high in protein, low in carbs, and still high in fiber. With 4 grams of protein per 1/2 cup and only 4 carbs (3 grams of which are fiber), green beans are a great, low-starch option that will keep you full, digest easily, and improve your lean muscle mass naturally. Green beans are also fat-free, very filling, and delicious in a variety of meals. They’re amazing in veggie soup, and alongside some plant-based protein for dinner, such as tempeh or seared tofu.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Source: Maple and Tarragon Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the most recommended foods for bodybuilders because of their high-quality carbohydrate profile. Though they’re a potato (which is usually not thought of as a muscle-building food), sweet potatoes are unique. They actually lower your blood sugar, have been linked to a lower body mass index, and their carbohydrates will help improve muscle glycogen to help build lean muscle naturally. They’re also energizing, which will improve your workouts, creating more success in your training regimen. Try out Chipotle Maple Sweet Potato Burgers if you’re tired of the regular baked option.
Source: Baked Apricot Oatmeal
Oats are another top, higher-carb, muscle-friendly food. They’re rich in protein with 7 grams per 1/2 cup, iron, magnesium, potassium, low in fat, sugar-free, and contain specific fibers known as beta-glucans that burn calories during digestion, and contribute to healthier cholesterol profile. Oats are another top recommended food for bodybuilders and are one of the easiest to incorporate into your diet. Tired of oatmeal? Try out teff as an even higher source of protein and a grain alternative!
Source: Superfood Salad
All greens are packed with muscle-friendly features. They help keep your body cleansed and free of toxins (which aren’t good for your muscles or much else), and they’re also a great, lower carbohydrate source of fiber, along with chlorophyll to build your blood. Lastly, greens are packed with iron, magnesium, and even contain decent amounts of protein as well. Considering kale and spinach have 5 grams in just one cup, a huge Vegan Superfood Salad for lunch or dinner alone is a great way to add nutrition and protein to your diet without even thinking about it.
Remember that you still need plant-based protein in your diet, along with all kinds of fresh vegetables, and low-glycemic, high-fiber fruits like berries and apples. Just don’t forget the underdogs of muscle-friendly foods, including those above. Ancient grains, beans and legumes, and common veggies are all excellent for building lean muscle.
Also check out: 5 Plant-Based Foods That Will Help You Build Muscle and the Top Vegan Foods That Build Lean Muscle.
What’s your favorite plant-based food to help you take care of your muscles?
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