Resource Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Building Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet

Slim well built woman holding a horizontal bar

Look, we’ve all heard the jokes. Here’s my recent favorite:

“Vegans wouldn’t hurt a fly only because they aren’t strong enough to swat one.”

Or there’s this dig, from one of the greatest shows of all time:


The worst part about the weak vegan jokes isn’t that they’re poking fun at us — we’ve got to be able to laugh at ourselves — it’s that over time, they slowly begin to create doubt.

… Doubt about whether you really can build muscle and get strong on a whole-food plant-based diet.

… Doubt that you’ll ever have the muscles or physique you want eating only plants.

So today, in celebration of the beginning of summer, when bathing suits and shirtless running flourish, we’re telling the world otherwise.

We’re telling the world you can have your muscle, and eat broccoli too! (Or something like that…)

The team and I have gone through all the best strength fitness and nutrition articles and podcasts on No Meat Athlete and compiled them into a single guide. A guide you can arm yourself with for the next time a doubt creeps in, or share with your friend when they say you need to eat meat to hit your goals.

(Note: Want even more? Get started with the new Summer Vegan Strength Bundle, available through Sunday.)

How to Build Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet

One ironic twist to the whole weak vegan story line is that more and more, professional bodybuilders are going plant-based. That’s right, they’re reaching for plant-based fuel — not meat — to build muscle.

The first place to start with a guide like this is with the professionals, whose main focus is building and sustaining muscle and strength.


How to Build Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet: Staple Foods, Meal Plans, and Philosophy

The 15-Minute, Strength-Building Bodyweight Routine for Plant-Based Athletes

The Skinny Vegan’s Guide to Gaining Muscle


Plant-Based Muscle with Robert Cheeke and Vanessa Espinoza

Building Muscle and Losing Fat on a Vegan Diet with Marcella Torres and Derek Tresize

Strength Exercises for Runners

While most people don’t think of endurance athletes as having big muscles, full-body strength can help you run faster and longer, and prevent many of the common injuries most runners encounter.

And it all starts with simple bodyweight exercises. Here are two guides to get you going:


The 23-Minute Post-Run Routine that Builds Strength, Recovery, and Mental Toughness

16 Easy Strength Exercises & Stretches to Help You Run Faster & Injury-Free

The Truth about Protein: What You Need to Know

Now, as much as I believe protein is an overblown, over-hyped nutrient, it would be tough to call this guide complete without bringing it up.

Protein is, after all, the genesis of most of the doubts I talked about earlier (and jokes, for that matter).

So, where do we get our protein? And how do we make sure we’re getting enough?


How to Answer the Question: Where do You Get Your Protein?

Protein – A Primer for Vegetarians

Protein for Vegans: A Fresh Approach to Getting Enough

Vegetarian Protein Foods


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Protein, with Garth Davis, M.D.

Feeling confident yet?

Make this summer the year you finally build the strong, lean body you’ve wanted. And show the world that we vegans are more than just the butt of some silly joke.



Training for Your First 13.1 Miles: The Half Marathon Advice I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Semi Marathon Marseille Cassis 2017

If the mere thought of jumping from something like a 5K all the way up to 13.1 miles for the first time just seems a little, well, intimidating — trust me, I’ve been there too.

When I was a new-ish runner, I was fascinated by the idea that otherwise “normal” people could train themselves to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles without stopping. I had only just recently gotten comfortable running three miles at a time, and when I’d hear about people finishing these longer races, I’d ask myself questions like:

What must it feel like to be able to just drop everything and run 10 or 15 miles? What kind of fitness level must you have once you can run that far? And how great do you feel when you accomplish something like that?

Since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve found yourself asking similar questions. And I want to help you discover those answers for yourself.

How a Lack of Knowledge Can Really Screw You Up for Years

Back when I was a wild college kid, a few friends and I decided we were going to run a marathon. We weren’t runners.

We wanted to do it for the reasons above, like incredible fitness and achievement of something so great. (And we figured it’d give us abs, and girls liked abs, so why not?)

We had no idea what we were getting into. But we downloaded a free training plan from the internet and just jumped right in.

It was not pretty. We made some hideous training and nutrition mistakes, so bad that all three of us got hurt in the process. We all did run the race, although I wouldn’t call what we did for the last 8 miles “running.”

When we finally limped across the finish line, we were a sorry, sorry sight. I’m not sure we even lifted our arms for the finish photo, as it took everything we had to pretend like we were running at the end.

For years after that, I badly wanted to redeem myself. Having crashed in the race, I somehow felt worse about it than I did before I had run it!

So I started over, and decided this time I’d do it right, focusing on running a strong half marathon before I even dreamed of running another full one.

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The Healing Power of Yoga (and How You Can Get Started) with Katie Hay


If you aren’t a yogi already, you’ve probably at least considered attending a class. These days yoga studios are everywhere — from small towns to big cities — and that popularity has grown at least in part because of how accessible yoga is for not just the super fit, but for anyone willing to give it a try.

And more importantly, for how transformative it can be for both the mind and body.

The problem is, attending your first class is rather intimidating. What do you wear? Will you look silly when you don’t know the poses?

I remember how it felt before my first class, when I peppered my wife Katie, a certified Yoga Therapist and 500-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, with dozens of questions and concerns. She assured me no one would care that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Katie has seen firsthand yoga’s ability to relieve aches and pains, heal injury, and alter patterns of stress and uncertainty, and in today’s episode she not only shares her experiences as a teacher, but gives you that same reassurance she gave me…

So you can feel confident going into your first (or 100th) yoga class.

Here’s just some of what we talk about in this episode:

  • What is yoga (and who is it for)?
  • How to find the right yoga practice for you.
  • The questions Doug asked before his first yoga class.
  • Yoga and veganism — how they connect.
  • Why yoga can calm, quiet, and heal the mind.
  • Getting started with yoga.

Woman practicing yoga in various poses

Click the button below to listen now:

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10 Essential Yoga Poses to Know Before Your First Class

Mature woman practicing yoga on the floor

As a Yoga Therapist and Teacher, I witness the healing power of yoga every day.

This healing power comes from yoga’s ability to empower people to transform: relieving aches and pains, healing injury, shifting deeply held habits, altering patterns of stress or uncertainty, and connecting to the body, mind, heart, and life.

But at the same time, I know that yoga can feel intimidating. You might hear the words “yoga studio” and think to yourself, “I’m not flexible or fit enough to attend a class.”

I get it. When you see yoga on TV or in a magazine ad, it’s always fit — super bendy — young women (or some guy looking overly clumsy), and it’s easy to think you have to look like that to have a practice. When in reality, yoga is for everyone…

Regardless of body type, fitness level, or yes, even flexibility.

And one of the great things you’ll learn about yoga is that it is non-competitive by nature. If you can embody this mindset from your first class, you will be setting yourself up to reap the most benefits from your yoga practice.

Yoga has helped heal me and make me stronger, both mentally and physically, and I have dedicated my adult life to teaching and introducing others to the power of a regular yoga practice.

To help you gain the confidence you may need before attending the class, I’ve selected ten common poses you could expect from many yoga classes to give you a great idea of what it will be like attending a class. (Want to put them all together? Check out the starter sequence here.)

Practice these a few times, and you’ll be more than ready for any beginners class out there.

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Move Like a Ninja: The Beginner’s Guide to Developing Mobile Joints & Improving Performance

Man jumping over gap on mountain hike

The ability to move freely lies at the core of who we are as vegan athletes.

Heading out on a trail run, lifting weights with your buddy, even playing hide and seek with your nephews or grandchildren…

We can sometimes take these simple things for granted. But, especially as we get older, the ability to move freely is something we need to work for more purposefully. If you don’t use it, you quickly lose it.

Here’s the good news: That nagging stiffness in your hips after each run, or the stiffness in your back you keep brushing off as a sign of aging… they can be a thing of the past.

This in-depth guide to mobility will help make all your play-time, work-time, and active movements safer, rewarding, and more enjoyable things to do — right now, and long into the future.

I know, mobility may not be the sexiest sounding topic, but hang in there. Mobility training has become an obsession of mine, and over the past five years or so I’ve seen firsthand how a few simple exercises can produce major benefits.

Benefits not just in my own movement practice — going from a broken athlete to a somewhat well-rounded mover (you can be the judge) — but also in the numerous office workers, weekend warriors, and athletes I’ve been fortunate enough to coach and collaborate with.

Here’s the thing:

Whether you’re a professional performer seeking the competitive edge or a parent trying to keep up with the kids — my goal with this guide is to help you skyrocket your mobility game so you can start moving swiftly, smoothly, and injury free — like the ninja you truly are.

You might be thinking to yourself:

“I’ve always been super stiff and inflexible, so this mobility stuff probably isn’t for me…”

Wrong! Mobility really is for everyone.

Our bodies are plastic. This means that even if you’re stiff as a board right now, with a bit of consistent mobility training, your joints and tissues can be changed, molded, and improved.

Once upon a time I struggled to touch my toes, and I’ve seen countless others who were in exactly the same position (and now move like agile ninjas).

If they can do it, so can you.

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The Free-Time Formula with Jeff Sanders

Young woman reading magazine

Life… it’s stressful.

Work, kids, school, training, dishes, they all pile up draining you of energy and time, until suddenly, you no longer have any free-time to yourself.

Now, there are a lot of productivity gurus and self-help personalities pushing life-hacks and cheats to save 15 minutes here or free up a little time there, but rarely do they solve any of the lasting struggles overwhelming your day.

Jeff Sanders, a good friend of NMA, has a different approach.

You may remember Jeff from previous episodes of the podcast. He’s the host of the 5AM Miracle, and has helped both Matt and I work on creating more productive, healthier morning routines.

Today we’re bringing him back on, not to focus on mornings, but instead to help us understand how to identify and uproot the real causes of the procrastination and stress in our lives, and how to free up time to do what we love.

And to do that through the functional, real-life strategies — not hacks — outlined in his new book, The Free-Time Formula.

Click the button below to listen now:

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Why is Eating Right so Hard?

Green vegetables

A few weeks ago I sent out a survey, asking you to share your biggest frustrations, fears, and challenges when it comes to being healthy.

Over 1000 people responded, and what came back…

…was shocking. Honestly, it was depressing. For the whole day after setting up camp at a coffee shop and reading every single response, I walked around in a funk that I just couldn’t shake.

So many people think they’re doing it wrong.

They’re eating plant-based, whole foods, maybe 85 or 90 percent of time (some much more than that)… and they can’t get over how much they’re screwing up, what nutrients they’re surely missing out on, and how hard it all is.

They’re beating themselves up, citing self-sabotage, indecision, lack of confidence, lack of commitment, and even FOMO.

I’ve got news for you: when you’re stressed out like this, wound this tightly around the topic of something so fundamental as food… the healthiest diet in the world isn’t going to make you healthy (or happy).

So where is it all coming from?

Here’s what I think.

When it comes to eating a healthy diet, there are two things going on:

  1. There’s the “knowing what to eat” part — essentially the focus of every diet book in the world.
  2. Then there’s the “getting yourself to do it” part.

That second one is really important. The entire diet industry revolves around the fact that “getting yourself to do it” is extremely hard. (It’s not supposed to be, but the preponderance of addictive junk food on store shelves and at restaurants, available just about any time you want it, makes it so.)

There are ways to “get yourself to do it,” of course. But they require either a tremendous amount of willpower or a lot of patience, and both are in short supply these days.

So instead, the diet book industry preys on people who aren’t getting the results they want, by suggesting that oh, actually we were wrong all along: it turns out you don’t need to eat those bland, healthy foods. Instead, a revolutionary new (science-backed!) method lets you eat all the foods you’ve always loved — or follow just one hyper-specific rule about the way you eat them — and you’ll be healthy, strong, sexy, and energetic.

In other words, they promise us a shortcut.

And the more we take these shortcuts, the less natural our eating becomes.

We precisely time meals. We obsess over food combinations. We consult GI charts. We measure the pH of our pee. We meticulously count calories.

Eating becomes more stressful, not less.

Worse: when we buy into a new magic bullet diet, we convince ourselves (with the author’s help, of course) that something as simple as “just eat whole foods” must be wrong. That it must certainly deprive us of key nutrients. And each time we do this, attacking the simple, natural diet from a new angle, we stray further from a healthy way of eating, and the more we beat ourselves up and create warped stories about our relationship with food.

Until the whole thing causes so much stress that you give up… or, just as bad, you tough it out, but the stress itself prevents you from experiencing anything resembling health.

So what do we do instead?

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The ‘Get Unstuck’ Episode

The black car stuck in the mud. Can not fall out of the mud

Feeling stuck with your fitness or nutrition?

Yeah, it happens to all of us. It’s happening to me right now (cooking routines), and judging from the responses to a recent NMA reader survey, there’s a good chance you’re feeling that way as well — whether it’s with your running, morning routine, or nutrition.

But does feeling stuck mean you’re just lacking motivation? Or is there something bigger going on?

In today’s episode, Matt and I discuss what it means for your health and lifestyle when you’re stuck, and whether getting unstuck should even be your focus.

If you’re a long-time listener to NMA Radio, Matt’s answer will likely surprise you…

Click the button below to listen now:

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