If you’re vegan, then you know the question, “Where do you get your protein?” Vegans understand plant-based protein, but there are ways to eat and train for even more muscle!
“So, uh, where do you get your protein, bro?” Hey . . . guess what? 1979 called. They want their painfully obvious question back. It’s actually never been easier to bulk up and create lean, strong, lifelong muscle with plant-based foods.
Eating habits aside for just a moment, you’re probably not working out or exercising enough. Yeah, I know life is busy, but that’s not an acceptable excuse anymore. We’re ALL busy these days. If you’re spending 60 minutes of your day watching cat videos on YouTube or Game of Thrones, you can carve out that much time to exercise. It’s all a matter of getting clear about your priorities in life. No matter what you choose to eat, you’ve also got to move your body on a daily basis. It’s critically important to do this for your long-term health, mobility, and vitality. And, yes, the right kind of protein will help you get there.
What Is Protein, Anyway?
Protein is basically a composite of a variety of different amino acids. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Your hair and nails are mostly made of protein as well. Protein makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way. The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day (or 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds). They have also set a wide range for acceptable protein intake—anywhere from 10 to 35 percent of calories each day. Beyond that, there’s relatively little solid information on the ideal amount of protein in the diet or the healthiest target for calories contributed by protein.
(NOTE: If you need help finding out how much protein you need for your lifestyle, join Sunwarrior's Fitness Challenge. We have meal plans and workout plans catered just for you.)
Workout Variety for Lifelong Vitality
In addition to healthy nutrition choices, the other pillar of your body temple is to consistently challenge your muscles with weight-bearing exercise. Whether you choose calisthenics, interval training, or good, old-fashioned weight lifting, you need to challenge your muscles to be strong, flexible, and lean for the rest of your life. Cardiovascular workouts like running and swimming do not provide enough resistance training to sustain lifelong muscle mass and strength. It’s important to create a balance of aerobic training and anaerobic training.
Both anaerobic and aerobic workouts are useful in their own ways. Each creates a different body composition because of the variety of hormones released in the body. The style of athletic training you choose largely depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your body. High-intensity, strength-building anaerobic workouts burn mainly glycogen (sugar) while you are doing them. However, they create a unique hormone balance a few hours after you finish them. After you complete an intense anaerobic workout, your levels of testosterone, human growth hormone, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are elevated. This powerful hormone cocktail creates a phenomenal balance that favors muscle building and fat burning for several hours after your workout (assuming you combine this with great nutrition). If you are looking for increased lean muscle mass, anaerobic workouts are the best place to start. For most people, consistent anaerobic training creates a harder, more sculpted, muscular look to the body. A good example here would be the body of a sprinter or gymnast.
Researchers have been finding lately that the benefits of weight-bearing exercise continue well into old age. In one clever experiment, scientists at the Buck Institute for Age Research put 25 healthy older adults on a six-month weight training regimen that increased their muscle strength by 50 percent. The researchers measured the activity of genes in the muscles before and after the training. Before the training, the work of hundreds of genes involved in energy metabolism had diminished from those of young adults. After training, many had been restored to their youthful levels. The researchers concluded last year that the training had partly reversed the aging process.
Top Testosterone Boosters
Now, to get really serious about building muscle, you need to increase testosterone, and there are some magical ingredients out there that can bump it up so you can pump it up. Personally, I’ve experimented with a variety of natural foods and supplements and found a pretty substantial increase from pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pine pollen, maca powder, cistanche (that libido-boosting Chinese herb), PQQ, extra-virgin, raw coconut oil, a vegan protein powder with BCAAs and Tribulus Terrestris (a potent Ayurvedic herb). These are all superfood supplements you can easily add to your smoothies, workout shakes, and tonics, or just take them straight up by the spoonful. However, it’s really easy to overdo them if you start with too high a dose. I learned pretty quickly that moderate amounts turned me into a snarling beast. The feeling of invincibility and all-conquering vigor is great for the gym and the bedroom, but can quickly bleed over into a natural “roid rage” if your testosterone levels are boosted too quickly. I recommend that you engage in conscious experimentation and moderation with any kind of performance-enhancing natural products, preferably under the supervision of a natural-health professional or medical doctor who can accurately test your hormone levels.
Human Growth Hormone and Fasting
Human growth hormone (HGH) is a peptide that accelerates growth during puberty. After puberty, HGH plays a key role in muscle growth, fat burning, and libido. Along with the aforementioned testosterone, HGH is one of the most anabolic hormones in the human body. When both of these hormones are peaking, you’ll likely experience optimal performance, strength, and vitality, especially if you’re a guy.
Many bodybuilders inject themselves with testosterone and HGH because it’s easily the fastest way to gain lean muscle mass and simultaneously burn fat in a short time. However, these steroids create a macabre array of side effects when taken in synthetic, unnatural forms. What most people don’t realize is that you can easily tweak these hormones naturally. They believe that you can’t have a significant increase in either one of them without injections or steroids and that you’ll just have to settle with your genetics. But I’m calling bull on this one. In fact, there’s one incredible and ancient way to boost your HGH naturally: fasting.
A landmark study from the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Virginia Medical School demonstrated a direct correlation between intermittent fasting and a significant increase in HGH levels. Researchers worked with six perfectly healthy male subjects ranging from 21 to 36 years old who fasted for five days as their growth hormone levels were closely monitored. What they discovered was just incredible. HGH levels peaked to as high as 2,000 percent from the baseline right at the 24-hour mark of the first day!
In addition to intermittent fasting, there are specific foods you can eat to boost your HGH levels naturally. Personally, I’ll fast on my rest days for up to 24 hours and eat specific foods on my heavy-lifting days at the gym to keep my HGH peaking. But first, here’s a little secret: natural, melatonin-rich foods can help boost HGH by up to 157 percent! When I’m rockin’ a pre-gym breakfast or post-workout meal, I eat foods like goji berries, raspberries, pineapple, fava beans, non-GMO tempeh, coconut yogurt, and raw, extra-virgin coconut oil (which also has the added benefit of fat-burning medium-chain triglycerides!).
You are what you eat!
Building strong, lean muscle for a lifetime also largely depends on how you’re fueling your body. So, I’ve compiled a list of my top muscle building nutrients and foods as an easy reference. Add them to your recipes to get shredded like cabbage!
My top muscle-building nutrients
- Creatine: Helps supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle.
- Essential amino acids: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Our bodies naturally synthesize most of our amino acids, but there are eight that we need to outsource through food, making them “essential.”
- Fiber: Muscle is lined with insulin receptors, and fiber helps stabilize insulin response, making it easier to build muscle.
- Vitamin K: Supports the function of amino acids (protein) during their conversion into muscle.
- Zinc: Aids in the synthesis of DNA and protein activity, which are both essential for muscle growth and development.
My top muscle-building foods
- alkaline protein powders (made from amaranth, brown rice, chia, coconut, cranberry, hemp, pea, or sacha inchi) Sunwarrior rocks this with their Classic Plus!
- blue-green algae
- bok choy
- brown rice
- bulbine natalensis
- chia seeds
- coconut oil
- coconut yogurt
- fava beans
- goji berries
- hemp seeds
- Jamaica dogwood
- sweet potatoes
- tongkat ali
- Tribulus Terrestris