Best Muscle Building Vegetables For Anabolic Gains

Written by Tihomir Stefanov, M.S.(C), PT

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Are you tired of relying on plain old chicken and rice to build those biceps? 

Well, it’s time to step out of your protein-packed comfort zone and take a trip to the farmer’s market. 

That’s right, folks, the secret to building muscle isn’t just about chugging protein shakes and eating pounds of meat.

It’s about incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense, muscle-building vegetables into your diet. 

And let’s be real, who doesn’t love a good excuse to eat their weight in veggies? 

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So, say goodbye to bland salads and hello to a veggie-packed plate that will make your muscles sing. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the best muscle building vegetables, compare plant foods to animal foods, and also discuss essential considerations and give you our top 3 list for muscle-building vegetables.

Let’s get to it now, shall we?

Muscle Gains: Nutritional Considerations

best muscle building vegetables

Building muscle isn’t just about hitting the gym and training hard. While exercise is an important component of muscle building, nutrition plays an equally vital role. 

Consuming the right types and amounts of nutrients is crucial for muscle growth and recovery. 

Proper nutrition is essential for providing the body with the building blocks it needs to repair and grow muscle tissue, as well as for supplying the energy needed to fuel intense workouts. 

In order to achieve optimal muscle growth, it is essential to pay attention to both exercise and nutrition and to make sure that you are consuming the right types and amounts of nutrients to support your muscle-building goals.

Now let’s talk about the 4 most crucial nutritional considerations for muscle building: Calories, protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Calories

For the goal of muscle building, it is crucial to eat calories in a surplus. In order for the muscles to grow at an optimal rate, the body needs to be in a state of positive energy balance. 

This means that the body needs to be taking in more calories than it is burning. 

When you’re in a calorie surplus, the body has the energy it needs to repair and grow muscle tissue. 

Without enough calories, the body will be unable to repair and build muscle as effectively. 

It’s important to note that the type of calories consumed is also important. 

Eating in a calorie surplus doesn’t mean eating junk food or overeating. 

It means eating nutrient-dense foods in amounts that slightly exceed the body’s maintenance needs.

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Can you eat at maintenance or even a slight deficit and still gain muscle mass?

Certainly, yes. But likely at a suboptimal rate, especially if you’re an advanced trainee.

Protein

Protein is a key nutrient for muscle building. It is essential for the repair and growth of muscle tissue, and it is the primary building block of muscle. 

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When you exercise, you are breaking down muscle protein, and protein from food is necessary to repair and rebuild those muscle proteins in a process known as muscle protein synthesis (MPS). 

And so, as you probably already know, consuming enough protein is necessary for muscle recovery and growth. 

The body uses the amino acids found in protein to repair and build muscle tissue, and without enough protein, the body will not have the building blocks it needs to repair and grow muscle. 

Fats

Contrary to popular belief, dietary fat is an important nutrient in a nutrition plan, especially for those looking to build muscle. 

While it’s true that too much fat can lead to weight gain, the right types of fats can actually be beneficial for muscle building. 

Fats play a crucial role in hormone production, which is important for muscle growth. 

They also help the body absorb and utilize specific vitamins and minerals that are essential for muscle health. 

Furthermore, healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or monounsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds, and avocados, can help in reducing inflammation in the body and support muscle recovery after exercise.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are not essential for the body in the same way that protein and fats are, but they can be a powerful ally on the quest to build muscle. 

Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy, and they are necessary for fueling high-intensity performance. 

When you’re lifting weights or doing other intense exercises, your body needs a quick source of energy to fuel the activity. 

Carbohydrates are the perfect source of energy for this type of activity because they are easily converted to glucose (and stored in the muscle as glycogen), which is the form of energy that the body uses most efficiently. 

Additionally, most plants are abundant in carbohydrates, making it easy to incorporate them into a healthy and balanced diet. 

Eating a diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to fuel intense workouts and support muscle growth.

Let’s Talk Bioavailability

Nutrient bioavailability refers to the amount of a specific nutrient that is able to be absorbed and utilized by the body. 

It is the measure of how much of a nutrient is available to the body for use after it has been consumed. 

Different types of food and food preparation methods can affect the bioavailability of nutrients. 

For example, cooking can increase the bioavailability of some nutrients while decreasing the bioavailability of others. 

Nevertheless, for the most part, the source of nutrients is the primary consideration for nutrient bioavailability.

Animal VS Plant Foods

Now, you may be thinking of switching to a plant-based diet, but it is important to consider plant foods compared to animal foods.

Animal foods, such as meat, dairy, and eggs, generally have greater bioavailability of certain essential nutrients when compared to plant-based foods. 

This means, again, that the body can absorb and utilize more of these nutrients from animal foods than from plant foods. 

For example, the bioavailability of iron in animal foods such as red meat is higher than the bioavailability of iron in spinach. 

Additionally, animal foods are considered complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids that the body needs for muscle growth, and they are more concentrated in certain amino acids, such as leucine, which are critical for muscle protein synthesis. 

Additionally, animal foods are also good sources of other essential nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Zinc, and calcium which are all important for muscle growth, development, and overall health. 

It’s worth noting that a balanced diet, including both animal and plant-based foods, can provide the body with a variety of essential nutrients to support muscle growth and overall health.

This is why we don’t recommend going all-out on one single approach (i.e., carnivore or vegan).

Balance is key.

Mixing Plant Foods

People who want to build muscle on a strictly plant-based diet should be aware that most plant foods have incomplete amino acid profiles, meaning they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that the body needs for muscle growth. 

This means that consuming a variety of the best muscle building vegetables is crucial to ensure that the body is getting all the essential amino acids it needs. 

Mixing different plant foods together can help to create a complete protein, providing all the essential amino acids the body needs. 

For example, beans and rice are a classic combination that, when consumed together, creates an almost complete amino acid profile.

The 3 Best Muscle Building Vegetables

Okay, so far, so good. You learned a couple of things up until this point of the article, so let’s sum them up in a bullet point list:

  1. Calories matter for muscle gains – you have to eat calories in a surplus in order to gain muscle at an optimal rate
  2. Protein is an essential building block for muscle tissue and crucial in your gaining efforts
  3. Fat matters – it doesn’t make you fat. Quality dietary fat is crucial for hormonal health and nutrient absorption
  4. Carbohydrates are not essential but can be of great help in the context of fueling intense exercise
  5. Not all foods are created equal – animal foods have greater bioavailability
  6. Plant foods generally have lower bioavailability and incomplete nutrient profiles, but mixing different plant foods can do the trick.

Now, what are the best muscle building vegetables? Let’s have a look.

Beans

First on our list of the best muscle building vegetables are the beans!

Beans are an excellent plant-based food option for those looking to increase their protein intake, especially for those on a plant-based diet. 

Beans are a great source of protein, with most varieties providing around 15 grams of protein per cup (cooked.) 

They are also a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other essential nutrients.

This makes them an excellent plant food to add to your muscle building nutrition plan.

Lentils

Say goodbye to bland and boring plant-based protein sources because lentils are here to spice things up as the second addition to our list of the best muscle building vegetables! 

These little legume powerhouses pack a whopping 18 grams of protein per cup of cooked lentils. 

Not only are they a great source of protein, but they’re also loaded with essential nutrients like complex carbohydrates, fiber, and more. 

Lentils are the perfect ingredient to pump up your plant-based meals and give your muscles the boost they need to grow. 

Whether you’re whipping up a hearty lentil soup or adding them to your salad, lentils are a versatile and delicious way to meet your muscle-building nutritional needs on a plant-based diet. 

Sweet Potatoes

Last but not least on our list of the best muscle building vegetables, are the people’s favorite – sweet potatoes!

Sweet potatoes are a great addition to a muscle-building nutrition plan for many reasons, but one of the main benefits is that they provide quality carbohydrates that can effectively fuel intense training sessions. 

As you learned, carbohydrates are the primary energy source for high-intensity exercise and are essential for optimal performance. 

Sweet potatoes are a great source of complex carbohydrates, which are broken down slowly by the body, providing a steady stream of energy throughout your workout. 

They are also rich in antioxidants and vitamins, like vitamin A, which can help facilitate a variety of processes in the body.

They are easy to prepare and can be baked, mashed, or even grilled. 

They can be added to your pre or post-workout meals or simply be a side dish to provide your body the energy and nutrients it needs to power through your training sessions.

So, if you’re looking to build muscle and want a tasty and healthy source of carbs, sweet potatoes should definitely be on your plate!

Final Thoughts on the best muscle building vegetables out there

In conclusion, if you’re looking to build muscle, it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition as well as your training. 

Quality protein is key for muscle growth, and animal foods tend to be the best source of high-quality protein. 

However, if you decide to go fully plant-based, it’s important to mix a variety of the best muscle building vegetables that we told you about in this article.

This will ensure that you’re getting all the essential amino acids your body needs. 

Additionally, carbohydrates are also an important nutrient for muscle building, as they provide energy for intense training sessions, and most plants are abundant in carbohydrates. 

Ultimately, whether you’re sticking to quality animal foods or going full plant-based, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the balance right!

What’s your go-to plant-based meal? Comment below!

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