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Building Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet: The Best Foods & Nutrients to Eat

Strong muscles aren’t just for athletes, bodybuilders, and actors in superhero movies. Building and maintaining muscle mass as you age is critical for your overall health. Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to move your body, strong muscles can protect against metabolic disorders and even lower the risk of dementia. So what are the best ways to build muscle? What’s the role of exercise and food? And is it really possible to get and stay strong if you don’t eat animal products?

How Do You Build Muscle?

You probably can’t build much muscle in the kitchen (unless you’re lifting weights in there, or have the world’s heaviest cast iron pans). The best way to grow your muscles (here’s another scienc-y word — hypertrophy — to describe that phenomenon) is through exercise. And, in particular, the kind of exercise known as resistance training.

Resistance training is any physical activity that causes the muscles to work against some opposing force (like a weight). There are two main varieties: isometric and isotonic. Isometric exercises keep joints still, while the muscle group strains against the resistance. Examples of isometric exercises include planks, wall sits, held yoga poses, and so on. In other words, your muscles are working, or you collapse downward (because that’s where gravity wants you).

Isotonic exercises involve moving muscle groups against some resistance. Examples include push-ups, sit-ups, and lifting weights.

You can combine isometric and isotonic training by, for example, resting at the top of a push-up before going down again, or holding a squat near the bottom for a few seconds before straightening your legs.


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