I have become OBSESSED with THIS muscle statistic… After you turn 30 years old, you start to LOSE 3 to 5% of your MUSCLE every 10 years!

EEKK! This means having enough MUSCLE not only means you are a fit and strong vegan babe, but… MUSCLE also helps boost your immune system & prevent diseases!

BOTTOM LINE: The more muscle you have, the longer & healthier you live. So, I’ve been reading all sorts of research on what to eat for optimal MUSCLE HEALTH…It’s important to understand that protein is essential for muscle growth and repair and should be consumed alongside a balanced plant-based diet that provides adequate energy and a wide range of nutrients. (Key here is VARIETY).

Here are a few reasons why other nutrients are necessary:

  1. Energy Production: Muscles require energy to perform their functions, including muscle contractions during exercise.
  2. Nutrient Synergy: Muscles require a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, to function properly. These nutrients support numerous processes involved in muscle health, such as oxygen transport, energy production, enzyme activation, and antioxidant defense.
  3. Recovery and Repair: Muscles undergo stress and damage during exercise, especially during resistance training. Adequate rest and recovery, along with appropriate nutrient intake, are crucial for muscle repair and growth.
  4. Hormonal Balance: Hormones play a significant role in muscle growth and development. A number of nutrients are involved in the production and regulation of hormones, including testosterone, which is essential for muscle building.
  5. Bone Health: Strong and healthy bones provide the structural framework for muscles.

3 nutrients beyond protein

In addition to protein, get enough vitamin D, omega- 3 fatty acids and polyphenol-rich foods to support muscle health.

1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, but since we wear sunscreen/clothes, don’t go outside enough, AND our skin produces less vitamin D as we age, it’s likely we need to get more vitamin D from other places beyond the sun. Vitamin D is found in a few foods such as mushrooms, and fortified plant milk, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice but that’s about it. So since it’s not found in many foods, often people have to take a vitamin D supplement to get enough. If you don’t know if you are getting enough vitamin D, ask your doctor to do bloodwork to check your vitamin D levels. The Medical News Today suggested a link between a lack of muscle mass and low vitamin D levels. Adequate levels of vitamin D are important for muscle strength and function. It plays a role in calcium absorption, which is necessary for muscle contraction.

2. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
To get adequate omega-3 fatty acids, eat:
👉 flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, or walnuts

There are three main types of omega-3s. Plant-based foods typically only contain alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. ALA is not as abundant in the human body and therefore needs to be converted to other forms. These additional forms of omega-3s are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Plant-based sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts provide ALA, which can be converted to EPA and DHA in the body.

However, the body’s ability to convert ALA is not efficient, and only 5% of ALA is converted to EPA, while less than 0.5% is converted to DHA. Because of this, it is essential that a high amount of ALA-rich foods are present in a plant-based diet, in order to meet the omega-3 needs of the body. A recent study found that people who follow a plant-based diet, on average, have no problem consuming enough omega-3s in their diets. It actually concluded that most vegans have intakes of omega-3s above the daily recommendation.

Omega-3 fatty acids offer several benefits that can indirectly support muscle building and overall muscle health. While they may not directly promote muscle growth, they can contribute to creating an optimal environment for muscle development and recovery. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can support muscle recovery and reduce muscle soreness. They also promote healthy blood flow, which is essential for delivering nutrients to the muscles.

3. Polyphenols
Polyphenols are powerful compounds found in a wide variety of plants such as fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, herbs & spices. Polyphenols are known for their antioxidant properties, which means they can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation.

There are thousands of different polyphenols, and they are found in various fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. Some common food sources of polyphenols to eat on the regular

  • Fruits: Berries (such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), grapes, apples, cherries, and citrus (think oranges, grapefruits, lemons/lime).
  • Vegetables: Spinach, kale, broccoli, onions, carrots, and peppers.
  • Legumes: Soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
  • Beverages: Green tea, black tea.
  • Herbs and spices: Cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and cocoa.

Remember, a balanced and varied diet is key to ensuring you obtain all the necessary nutrients for optimal muscle health. Additionally, it is always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional or Registered Dietitian for personalized advice based on your specific needs.

Need help navigating your weightloss journey, schedule a Free Consultation Call with me, a Vegan Registered Dietitian.

Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN