To build muscle, lose weight, and burn calories in the gym, many people believe that you need to eat animal protein or use supplements to see results. Meghann Reich, who’s a fitness equipment professional (Health and Fitness Equipment Centers) health coach (Fitness Queen Ohio) and plant-based bodybuilder, proves that you can build lean, strong muscle mass on a purely plant-based diet.
The Beet talked to Reich and found out everything you need to know about natural bodybuilding, gaining, or maintaining muscle on a plant-based diet, and here is her best advice to anyone who doesn’t know where to start.
Her Top 4 Tips for Building Muscle Naturally on a Plant-Based Diet Are:
- Be consistent with your diet, workouts, positive mindset, and mental attitude.
- Experiment with different plant-based foods. Find the best plant protein source/sources that work best for you and fit well into your daily routine. Paying attention to how your body performs and responds is super important. This is how you get results and keep results.
- Limit sugary treats and keep junk food minimal. Treats are okay to have in moderation, but making the choice to consume primarily whole plant-based sources of food will help you feel your best and keep the cravings away.
- Track and be mindful of your food intake. Whether it’s counting calories, or macros (especially when just starting out), it’s important to pay attention to this.
Reich shares her vegan bodybuilding tips and her story:
Before she went vegan about seven years ago, Reich was just getting into a solid fitness routine teaching multiple Zumba Fitness classes a week but admits to consuming a lot of unhealthy fast foods and not being mindful of the health risks. When she switched her diet to vegetarian and then fully plant-based, she built lean muscle and achieved her goal of strong six-pack abs. She was never a bodybuilder back then, but as she got in better shape, local gym-goers always encouraged her to compete, and then the idea dawned on her that she could enter a competition and do very well. She is an official NPC (National Physique Committee) Nationally Qualified Bikini Athlete and has won many competitions within only just two years of competing!
She has become something of a guru for others who want to achieve even a fraction of her fit body goals. “It is absolutely possible to build muscle and be healthy without the consumption of animal products,” Reich says. “There are so many wonderful benefits, and I always encourage others to eat more of a plant-based diet.”
The Beet: Why did you go vegan?
MR: “Eating plant-based foods made me feel healthier and stronger. I started consuming less meat and became just a vegetarian. Then in time, fully transitioned over to vegan. It wasn’t very hard to give up meat especially when I started noticing that I didn’t feel very well after eating it (Bloat, digestive issues, got sick more regularly). I have more energy, I’m less bloated from dairy, and I love the results I have achieved.”
The Beet: How do you get enough protein?
MR: “My favorite protein powders are pea-based by Liv Body and Elevate Nutrition. My favorite protein bar is “No Cow” (This is the only brand of bars that I have stuck with for many years) and my favorite flavor is chocolate chip cookie dough. They are low in sugar, high in protein, soy free, gf, quick to consume, and taste amazing right after a lift! I also eat a lot of lentil pastas and legumes. I am a huge fan of “Tolerant Foods” pastas, black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, nuts, and absolutely love my veggies. Yes, veggies do have protein too.”
The Beet: How many meals and calories do you eat in a day?
MR: “I eat around 3 to 4 meals a day. I’m more flexible with my meals in the non-competitive season, but still prefer to eat similar foods. I like to have a structured routine. If I’m prepping for a competition, I will keep track and pay closer attention to macros in foods. If I’m not preparing for a show, I will either track loosely and be more intuitive.”
The Beet: What did you eat for breakfast today?
MR: “Before I went to lift, I had toast with avocado. Sometimes I will have rice cakes with peanut butter. My prework snack always has plant-based protein.”
The Beet: How often do you workout?
MR: “I lift 6 -7 days a week, but I will take one rest or light day, but I still like to be active. It really depends on how I recover too, and how my body feels. I like to take my time and spend most of my mornings at the gym when I can. I also lift at home a couple of days a week too.”
The Beet: Do you take any vitamins?
MR: “I do. I take Live Body vegan multi-vitamin, as well as Garden of Life Elderberry immune gummy (these are delicious) to stay healthy, especially right now, and I take Mega Foods Cranberry B12 gummy twice a day.”
The Beet: When you cook, do you consider the ratio of protein to fat or carbs?
MR:“You need to have a slow and steady transition. I suggest cutting back on meat first, then dairy, but do not try to achieve it all at once. Substitute animal-based foods with vegan options: Veggie burgers, tofu, beans, lentils, legumes, protein powders, then add in your fruits, veggies, and grains. I like to use “a flexible diet “approach. It’s definitely okay to add in a treat, like a cookie, or your favorite latte, but don’t have too much of these all the time as this can cause bad habits, and also interfere with your goals. One specific diet can’t work for everyone though. You must experiment and follow what works best, but also has you feeling your best.”
The Beet: How does someone start a vegan diet if they want to build muscle?
MR: “You need to have a slow and steady transition. I suggest cutting back on meat and dairy at first, but not try to achieve it all at once. Substitute things you love with vegan options: Veggie burgers, lentils, and legumes, even your protein powders should be plant-based. I believe in flexibility so make your diet enjoyable and every now and then throw in a treat, like a cookie, but don’t have too many or you will not reach your goals. One diet can’t work for everyone so you have to have a trial and error system that will allow you to feel your best.”
The Beet: How do you kick your sweet cravings?
MR: “I plan ahead and I make sure to have all sweet food out of sight. I literally get all sweets out of the house, or I find an option that doesn’t have much sugar or contains small amounts of sugar and allow myself that treat instead. I eat foods that keep me full longer, and that way I don’t have cravings. Plant-based foods are high in fiber and help me not even crave sugar. To avoid binge eating, I food prep 2-3 times a week and I store the meals in the fridge. That way when I need a meal it’s already made and I don’t reach for the wrong thing.”
The Beet: What are your favorite type of oils to cook with?
MR: “I eat my vegetables raw, so I actually don’t use much oil. When I want a pancake I use olive oil spray from Whole Foods.”
The Beet: What advice do you give people who want to build muscle and be plant-based?
MR: “If you want to start exploring a plant-based diet, first switch up your normal supplements and replace them with plant-based ones. Then, be patient because it takes some time to build muscle. Monitor how you feel, keep training and you will get results.”
“Just because you made the switch to a vegan diet doesn’t mean you can’t train hard. I promise you will feel the benefits of this diet sooner than later. You will have more energy and your body will look cut. There are a lot of people who are vegan bodybuilders, so there’s proof it can be done.”
“One tip that I have told all my clients to do is to supplement with B12 for energy and support. I take two gummies a day of 24 MCG. A serving is two gummies, so that works for me.”
The Beet: Do you have a mantra or words that you live by?
MR: “Yes, I have a lot. The one that sticks with me right now is: ‘Change your mind, change your life.’ This mantra can be applied to so many different things. The mind is so powerful and we take it for granted. We are more capable of doing better and having a better attitude if we set our minds to it.”
“We need to believe in ourselves and train our minds to be healthier and happier, just as you would train to accomplish anything else.”