Building muscles is no easy task. Those who have embarked on such a journey know that apart from rigorous exercise, an appropriate diet is equally important. Like bricks are to a wall, proteins are to muscles; they are the basic building blocks. During a workout, your muscle tissues undergo wear and tear. Proteins, with their amino acids, ‘repair’ these tissues, aiding in muscle growth and strength. Rich in protein, and crucial for muscle building, chickpeas present themselves as a decent solution, especially for vegans and vegetarians, whose protein-sourcing options might seem limited as compared to omnivores.
Alongside chickpeas, foods like tofu, lentils, quinoa, and seitan can help achieve your muscle-building goals without relying on animal-based protein sources. Let’s embark on an exploratory journey, where we will delve into the advantages of chickpeas for enhancing muscle growth, analyze their nutritional components, and learn effective methods to include chickpeas seamlessly into your daily regimen.
What are the specific challenges faced by vegetarians and vegans who want to build muscles?
Although protein is abundant in numerous plant-based foods, vegetarians and vegans often face the challenge of consuming adequate quality protein. The issue lies in the fact that most plant-based proteins, apart from a few like soy and quinoa, aren’t complete proteins; they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids required by our bodies. Moreover, certain plant-based proteins lack the abundance of certain amino acids that are crucial for muscle building, such as leucine. Therefore, they must meticulously plan their diet to ensure balanced nutrient intake.
What is chickpeas? Is it complete protein or not?
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, belong to the legume family and are a popular ingredient in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. They are an excellent source of protein, despite the fact they’re not a complete protein source, lacking in the essential amino acids methionine and cystine. Our bodies, unfortunately, aren’t capable of generating these essential amino acids. As such, we must obtain them through our diet. However, it’s not necessary to consume every essential amino acid in every meal we eat. You can easily supplement this by combining chickpeas with another plant food that provides this missing amino acid, such as whole grains or certain seeds (e.g., sesame), to form a complete protein providing all essential amino acids.
The benefits of eating chickpeas for muscle building
- Robust source of protein. Chickpeas provide a robust source of plant-based protein that is beneficial to muscle health in several ways – they promote muscle growth, repair, and maintenance. The missing amino acids can be effortlessly compensated by combining chickpeas with other plant-based proteins.
- Source of complex carbohydrates. The complex carbs found in chickpeas are not only excellent for providing a slow and steady release of energy that can fuel prolonged workouts but are also crucial in muscle building as they aid in reducing muscle breakdown, enhancing recovery, and supporting the function of your immune system.
- High fiber content. Chickpeas are a fantastic source of dietary fiber, providing about 12.5 grams per one-cup serving. This fiber plays a vital role in regulating your digestive system, keeping you fuller for longer periods, and aiding in weight management. Moreover, dietary fiber is linked to lowering the risk of heart disease and enhancing overall gut health.
- High in B vitamins. B vitamins like B6 and folate play an essential role in energy production, thus giving you the energy you need during workouts. Additionally, folate supports muscle growth by aiding faster cell regeneration and growth.
- Rich in iron. Iron is vital for carrying oxygen to your muscles, thereby aiding your muscle’s performance during workouts. A deficiency in iron could lead to decreased performance, fatigue, and anemia.
- High in manganese. Manganese is involved in the production of connective tissue, which is essential for the formation and maintenance of muscle mass. Moreover, manganese is needed for the proper functioning of enzymes that facilitate the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, helping in the energy production necessary for muscle contractions. A manganese-rich diet, therefore, could contribute to more efficient workouts and better muscle health overall.
The Nutritional Profile of Chickpeas
Here’s a breakdown of the macronutrients that cooked chickpeas have to offer (based on serving size: 100 g)
|calories from carbs: 110 (65%)
|calories from proteins: 36 (21%)
|Calories from fat: 23 (14%)
As you can see, 100 grams of cooked chickpeas contains 169 calories. Approximately 65% of the calories derived from cooked chickpeas are carbohydrate-based, providing around 110 calories. For every 100 grams of cooked chickpeas, there are 27.4 grams of carbohydrates present. About 21% of the calories came from protein, and approximately 14% of calories came from fat. The majority of the carbohydrate content in chickpeas consists of fiber and starch, with a modest presence of natural sugars. Chickpeas predominantly contain polyunsaturated fats, acknowledged for their health benefits. In addition, they hold minor quantities of saturated and monounsaturated fats.
Boasting high nutritional value while being relatively low in calories, chickpeas are an excellent choice for a nutrient-packed dietary addition.
Here’s a breakdown of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that cooked chickpeas have to offer (based on serving size: 100 g):
|Vitamin B9 (folate) (43% DV)
|Manganese (44.8% DV)
|Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) (10.8% DV)
|Cooper (38.9% DV)
|Vitamin B1 (thiamin) (10% DV)
|Iron (28.9 %DV)
|Vitamin K (3.3% DV)
|Phosphorus (24% DV)
|Vitamin E (2.4% DV)
|Zinc (13.9 DV)
Packed with a variety of healthy vitamins and minerals, chickpeas offer substantial nutritional value. They are particularly rich in vitamin B6 and folate, alongside other B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. As for minerals, chickpeas come loaded with manganese, phosphorus, copper, and iron, while also containing a modest amount of potassium, selenium, and calcium.
As such, chickpeas are the staple of a vegan bodybuilding diet.
Are there any alternatives to chickpeas for high-quality protein in bodybuilding?
Other plant-based proteins such as lentils, tofu, amaranth, hemp seeds, green peas, black beans, seitan, quinoa, nutritional yeast, and tempeh can also serve as alternatives to chickpeas. Each of these alternatives brings its unique nutritional profile to the table and can perfectly complement other plant-based proteins for a balanced intake and diverse amino acid profiles.
Can chickpeas alone provide enough protein for muscle building?
Although chickpeas are an excellent source of protein, they should not be the sole protein source in your diet if you aim to build muscle. They lack certain essential amino acids and must be supplemented with other plant-based proteins or whole grains to form a complete amino acid profile requisite for optimum muscle growth.
When compared to lentils, amaranth, and kidney beans, chickpeas possess similar protein contents but stand out for their higher fiber content and lower glycemic index. They provide a steady release of energy, making them beneficial for weight management and muscle building. Kidney beans and lentils have a slightly higher protein content, peas are similar, while amaranth is a complete protein source but has less protein per serving.
How to incorporate chickpeas into your diet?
Chickpeas are a versatile ingredient that can be included in salads, stews, curries, or even pureed into hummus. You can also roast them for a protein-rich snack, or mix them into rice dishes to make a complete protein source. Plus, chickpea flour, known as besan, can be used to make protein-rich pancakes and baking.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
A popular recipe that includes chickpeas is the Mediterranean Chickpea Salad. It’s easy to prepare and packed full of beneficial nutrients. Here’s how you can make it:
- Firstly, rinse and drain two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas.
- Dice a large cucumber, a red bell pepper, and a red onion.
- Chop up a handful of fresh parsley and mint leaves.
- Combine all of these ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- For the dressing, whisk together the juice of one lemon, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two cloves of minced garlic, and a teaspoon each of salt and black pepper.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Let it sit for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld together.
- Before serving, crumble some feta cheese on top.
To make chickpeas hummus, you need a few ingredients: 1 cup of cooked chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of tahini, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, 1 or 2 cloves of garlic (or to your taste), and a pinch of salt. A blender or food processor will be your main cooking tool.
Start by placing all your ingredients into the blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. You might need to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides to ensure all ingredients blend well. The consistency should be creamy and smooth. If the hummus is too thick, you could add a few tablespoons of water or olive oil and blend again until you reach your desired consistency.
Once done, taste your hummus. Adjust the flavor as needed by adding more salt, lemon juice, or garlic. Then, transfer your homemade hummus into a bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and if you like, sprinkle with some smoked paprika or ground cumin for added flavor. Your chickpea hummus is ready to be served as a delicious protein-rich snack or appetizer. Feel free to dip your favorite veggies, and pita bread, or use it as a spread on your sandwiches.
Are there any potential side effects of eating too much chickpeas for muscle building?
Without a doubt, chickpeas offer significant muscle-building benefits but consuming excessive amounts has its downsides. The high levels of dietary fiber can lead to an uncomfortable feeling of fullness, and in some cases, cause digestive problems like constipation. Some individuals might also experience allergic reactions to chickpeas, including skin rashes and difficulty breathing. Moreover, chickpeas contain antinutrients like phytic acid, which can inhibit the absorption of certain minerals (such as iron, zinc, and calcium) in the body when consumed in large amounts. It’s always advisable to maintain a balanced diet and consult with a health professional to determine the right amount of chickpeas for your body’s needs.
Chickpeas as pre or post-workout meal?
Optimizing the consumption of chickpeas around your workout can maximize the muscle-building benefits they offer. It’s often advisable to consume chickpeas both before and after your workout. Prior to your workout, a portion of chickpeas can provide you with a sustained source of energy due to their slow-release carbohydrates. This can help you perform better and for a longer duration.
You can even take a handful of roasted chickpeas during your workout for better performance and improved muscle gain. Another advantage of consuming roasted chickpeas is the ease of digestion and absorption.
Post-workout, the rich protein content of chickpeas aids in muscle recovery and growth. However, keep in mind that everyone’s body reacts differently, and it’s essential to find out what works best for you. It’s a good idea to experiment with consuming chickpeas at different times and observing your body’s response to determine the optimal time for you.
In conclusion, prioritizing a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet is paramount, particularly for individuals embarking on a muscle-building journey. Chickpeas, paired with other plant-based proteins, indeed provide a robust solution for vegetarians and vegans looking to bulk up. Yet, it is imperative not to overlook the importance of variety in one’s diet, ensuring all necessary nutrients, not just protein, are adequately consumed. This helps provide the energy demanded by strenuous workouts and facilitates general health and well-being. Beyond its protein advantage, chickpeas are an excellent source of other key nutrients, including fiber, iron, and B vitamins, further enhancing their value in muscle building.