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Plant-Based Diet for Men: What Should You Know?

Vegan-Men
6 min reading time

Plant-Based Diet for Men: What Should You Know?

Even though women are statistically more likely to eat vegan diets, plant-based eating is gaining popularity among men who are looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, lose weight, or maximize muscle gain. 

 

From endurance sports to weightlifting and bodybuilding, there are famous vegan male athletes that prove you don’t need meat to excel. 

 

James Wilks (famous MMA fighter), Kyrie Irving (pro NBA star), Colin Kaepernick (pro football player), and Kendrick Farris (Olympic weightlifter) are just a few examples of male athletes who advocate for the plant-based diet. 

 

As a vegan registered dietitian, I can confirm that there is no reason why eating a vegan diet would limit men from building strength and muscle. Nonetheless, as with any gender or age, there are certain nutrients that men need to pay particular attention to when consuming only plants.

 

Let’s talk about the plant-based diet for men

Men-Vegan

Benefits of the plant-based diet for men

There’s strong scientific evidence that many chronic diseases (type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, and more) can be prevented and controlled with a healthy vegan diet. This is partly attributed to a lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and a higher intake of fiber and various micronutrients. 

 

Oftentimes, people report having more energy and feeling better overall after removing animal products from their diet. Vegan diets have also been shown to reduce biomarkers of chronic inflammation. 

 

Common pro-inflammatory foods are red meats, processed meats, and refined carbohydrates. 

 

A whole food, plant-based diet is composed of many anti-inflammatory foods that will help your body reduce its overall inflammation, which is especially important for male athletes. 

Does the plant-based diet have enough protein for men?

You have probably heard the myth that you can’t get enough protein on a vegan diet. This is simply not true!

By eating a variety of plant proteins, you can get all the protein you need and more each day, no problem. A healthy, balanced plantbased diet can actually provide protein way above the recommended requirements for men

 

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein has long been set at 0.8 grams/kilogram of body weight per day. However, to compensate for the decreased digestibility of the protein in many plant foods, experts in vegan nutrition suggest an intake of 0.9g/kg/day for vegan adults. 


For male athletes, these requirements increase. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for active men.

Veganism-men

High protein plant-based foods

So, what are the best vegan protein sources? Here are some of my favourites:

  • Tofu: 20 grams per 1 cup
  • Tempeh: 15 grams per ½ cup
  • Legumes: 14 grams per 1 cup
  • Soy milk: 9 grams per 1 cup
  • Quinoa: 8 grams per 1 cup
  • Nut butters: 8 grams per 2 tbsp
  • Steel cut oats: 8 grams per ¾ cup
  • Whole grain bread: 7 grams per 2 slices
  • Nuts: 7 grams per ¼ cup
  • Hemp seeds: 7 grams per 2 tbsp

Meat substitutes for a vegan diet

 

If you’re easing into the plant-based diet for men and looking for meat alternatives, I recommend Beyond Meat, Gardein, Yves Veggie Cuisine, and Lightlife. These brands usually have products that are available in chain grocery stores at more affordable prices. 

 

Remember that when buying meat substitutes for a vegan diet it’s important to always check product labels for a full list of ingredients. Don’t assume a product is vegan just because it’s meatless. Many meatless products include eggs, dairy and other animal additives. 

 

If prioritizing a whole food vegan diet is important for you, I recommend experimenting with tempeh, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), seitan, and jackfruit to mimic meat textures. I have tons of recipes using these ingredients on my Instagram and TikTok pages. 

 

The soy dilemma

 

Soy contains a high concentration of isoflavones, a type of plant estrogen (phytoestrogen) that is similar in function to human estrogen but with much weaker effects.  

 

Recent research has shown that soy is likely beneficial or, at worst, neutral. The Harvard School of Public Health has explained that past conflicting conclusions about soy intake in men were due to differences in how each study was conducted or the type of soy that was used in the study.

 

Aside from their isoflavone content, soy foods are rich in nutrients including B vitamins, fibre, magnesium, and high-quality protein. Soy intake has been associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer and lower cholesterol levels. 


So, rest assured. There is no robust evidence that soy causes elevated estrogen levels in males or has any significant effect on testosterone levels.

Men-Veganism

Micronutrients to pay attention to

 

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for vegan men and women alike. A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, nerve damage, and digestive disturbances. 

Vegan sources of vitamin B12 include fortified cereals, fortified plant milks, and nutritional yeast. 

To obtain adequate Vitamin B12, I suggest you follow one or a combination of these approaches:

  1. Take a daily B12 supplement of 25mcg, or
  2. Take a 2,000 to 2,500mcg B12 supplement twice a week, or
  3. Every day, consume three servings of B12-fortified foods, with each serving providing at least 2mcg of B12. 

 

Calcium and Vitamin D

Although women are more prone to bone issues like osteoporosis, men still need to consider bone-building nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. 

 

This is especially true for men who engage in high impact exercise or lift heavy weights, both of which put pressure on the muscles and bones. 

 

Dairy foods are usually synonymous with calcium, but there are also many plant-based foods high in calcium like edamame, bok choy, kale, turnip greens, watercress, broccoli, chickpeas, calcium-set tofu, almonds and fortified plant milks.

 

You can obtain Vitamin D from fortified foods, but if you eat minor amounts of these, train indoors, or have limited sun exposure, it is recommended that you take a supplement.

 

Iron

Our bodies need iron to transport oxygen in our blood. Since iron is primarily found in meat-based foods, plant-based eaters need to make sure they include it in their diet. 

With iron deficiency, you might experience fatigue and a lack of energy. Good dietary sources of iron are beans, lentils, fortified cereals, dark chocolate, and molasses.

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The vegan diet for men

Overall, there are many benefits of plant based diets for men.

 

If you want to start making a positive impact on your health but feel worried about going fully vegan, remember that any small change is a good change! Go at your own pace. 

 

Going vegan can be challenging but choosing to limit your consumption of animal products by even a little is a step towards a more sustainable future. 


For more personalize advice, a registered dietitian can guide you and can help you adopt a well-planned, balanced, nutrient-dense vegan diet for men. Plus, meeting with a vegan registered dietitian periodically can help you meet all your nutrient needs.