There’s a misconception in the nutrition and fitness world that you need to eat meat to build muscle, but this is far from true. You can still build muscle and reap the benefits of strength training if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
While plant protein has less of an anabolic effect9 than animal protein on average, all plants contain amino acids and are beneficial for muscle growth. Plus, plant protein sources contain other essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals, that are excellent for overall health and support muscle growth.
“Vegans and vegetarians can meet protein goals by eating plants alone,” says Palinski-Wade. “However, because plants often contain less protein than animal sources, it’s important to balance a vegetarian diet to ensure adequate protein is consumed. Beans, legumes, quinoa, nuts, and seeds can all be great plant-based ways to boost protein.”
As far as leucine in plant versus animal products is concerned, Layman previously gave this example: “In whey protein, leucine is about 12%, so 23 grams of whey protein isolate will trigger it. Whereas in soy protein isolate, it’s about 7.8%, so now you need 33 or 34 grams.” This means that plant-based eaters may need to eat more total protein (and more total calories) to reach that all-important leucine threshold for muscle growth.