How do I maintain (or gain) weight and muscle mass as a vegan or vegetarian? Is it possible to do without supplementing protein?
Several factors play a role in muscle weight gain, most notably proper training, nutrition and recovery. Assuming that training is properly sorted out, let¹s focus on the impact of a vegetarian dietary approach and specifically meeting protein requirements.
First, a little background:
Proteins are made up of amino acids that are typically classified as essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids cannot be manufactured in the body, must be supplied in the diet and are essential for normal growth, repair and life.
Foods that supply the essentials are called complete proteins; those that are low or lacking in one or more essentials are termed incomplete proteins. Many, though not all, non-animal foods are incomplete proteins, but by combining foods of different types at a meal, such as beans and rice, the gaps in one food can be filled by the other. How well a food can meet the amino acids requirements of the human body can be graded.
One method is called Biological Value (BV). The higher the score, the greater the essential amino acid content of that food. Advertisements in the past would erroneously imply that higher BV protein built more muscle. This is not accurate. Higher BV proteins allow one to meet essential amino acid requirements more easily, lowering their total requirement of protein.
So what this means to you is this - you can still build muscle on a vegetarian diet, you will simply require more total dietary protein to do it. How much you wonder? Protein recommendations for exercisers are 1.2-2.0g/kg of body weight. I would recommend the high end and perhaps as high as 1g/lb of body weight. Be sure you are consuming enough calories and are taking a multiple vitamin and mineral formula to eliminate any potential inadequate nutrient intake.
I wish you great success in pursuit of your goal.