Do Vegans Need BCAA Supplements?

You may have heard people claim that those who don’t eat meat, won’t be able to get all the required protein they need to build muscle.

They normally go on to express that plant based protein sources are not complete proteins and do not contain a full amino acid profile, which can be misleading.

In fact all plant protein sources are complete and do contain a full amino acid profile. The confusion I believe people come across is that although, yes, plant protein sources are complete proteins, most are deficient in at least one of the 9 essential amino acids and therefore are considered incomplete.

vegan leucineWhat’s an amino acid? 

Protein plays a crucial role in almost all biological processes and amino acids are the building blocks of it. When you digest protein, your body will break this down into amino acids to make proteins to help the body:

  • Break down food
  • Grow
  • Repair body tissue
  • Perform many other body functions

What is an essential amino acid?

Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body on it’s own and as such must come from food.

There are 9 essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Of all the amino acids, there is 1 that is considered king when it comes to building muscle, Leucine. Before we dive into the benefits of leucine in muscle growth, first lets cover some basics.

When you lift weights, your body enters a catabolic state, whereby skeletal muscle protein degradation is increased, the overall effect is a negative net protein balance.

Post workout when you consume protein, this flips the switch to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and begins the process of repairing and building new muscle.

Why is Leucine king?

It is the rise in blood concentrations of amino acids and particularly the level of Leucine in your blood that stimulates protein synthesis.

Leucine is the most abundant of the three branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) in muscles (the other two are isoleucine and valine) and has a unique ability to stimulate skeletal muscle protein synthesis and activate major components of the muscle building pathway.

How much Leucine do you need to stimulate protein synthesis?

The ideal amount of Leucine is up for debate, but in studies using single doses, just 2.5g of Leucine stimulated protein snythesis. In long-term studies, the recommended outcome is to consume 8 or more grams of Leucine per day in divided doses of at least 2.5mg at each meal.

and THIS is where I believe the “complete” amino acid profile of plant based protein sources comes into question.

Most plant based protein sources are deficient in the no1 vital amino acid to trigger protein synthesis. It’s not to say that protein synthesis wont occur with plant based sources, but it’s probably not the most optimal if your goal is to build muscle.

Check out the Leucine content of these popular vegan protein sources, remember you likely need at least 2.5g of Leucine for the best results.

  • Mycoprotein (QUORN) 0.95g of Leucine per 100g
  • Chickpeas 0.63g of Leucine per 100g
  • Lentils 0.62g of Leucine per 100g
  • Quinoa 0.33g of Leucine per 100g
  • Tofu 0.73g of Leucine per 100g

Should you supplement with BCAA or Leucine?

Depending on how often you eat, it’s quite possible that over the course of a day you will hit the required 8g of Leucine, which is why there are many vegans out there who don’t supplement with BCAA that have great physiques, however you will unlikely be hitting the minimum requirement of Leucine per single dose (each meal), to maximally stimulate protein synthesis.

Personally, I do supplement, first and foremost I focus on whole foods across the day, but alongside each meal I will supplement with either 10g BCAA or 5g Leucine to ensure that I am exceeding that threshold and increasing my chances of building lean tissue.

Vegan Leucine Supplements

Be careful when choosing your BCAA or Leucine supplements, most that you will see come from animal sources. Instead look for “fermented” BCAA and if in doubt always contact the vendor.

My go to is (use code MARKFOX10 at checkout for a discount) Fermented BCAA 4:1:1 or Fermented Leucine..whatever you do, DO NOT get the unflavoured Leucine, you will cringe and shudder every time you try to drink it.

NOTE: supplementing with just Leucine alone will not result in optimal effects if the your diet is low in protein. This is because other BCAAs (isoleucine and valine) will be preferentially oxidized and lead to a BCAA imbalance that compromises anabolism. Therefore, if total protein intake is low, supplement with all three BCAAs.

Have something to add or say about this article? comment below 🙂


Organic Vegan Protein Brownies

organic vegan protein brownies

Wow wa wee woo! This batch of organic protein brownies will be ready and cooked in under 20 minutes!

Best of all? there is only 4 ingredients!

Delicious, warm, gooey chocolate brownies….mmmmm….brownies.

Print Recipe
Organic Vegan Protein Brownies Yum
organic vegan protein brownies
Course Desert, Snack
Cuisine Cheat
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course Desert, Snack
Cuisine Cheat
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
organic vegan protein brownies
  1. Mix everything in a bowl, place in a lined baking tray and cook for 15min at 190...done!
Recipe Notes

Total batch

687 Kcal | 65g Protein | 65g Carbs | 17g Fiber | 18g Fat

Per Brownie

86 Kcal | 8g Protein | 8g Carbs | 2g Fiber | 2g Fat

*Net carbs (actual carbs minus fiber carbs)

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Vegan Low Carb Pizza Recipe

Vegan? I hear you say… AND low carb? Get the…out of here!

Yes believe it or not…after months of trial and error, I finally figured out a way to recreate pizza…a low carb, vegan pizza…da da da daaaaa!

(if you don’t want low carb, just use normal flour)

Look, firstly I have to say something…Vegan cheese sucks! there. Over the last year, I have tried rice cheese, nut cheese, coconut cheese, soy cheese and wheat gluten cheese, to no avail!

The trouble with Vegan cheese?

It looks like cheese..

sort of smells like cheese..

BUT, tastes like plastic..

and melts like…well, most don’t actually melt at all! and those that do generally end up looking like a teenagers face going through puberty, seeping oil all over the place.

What if there is a way to create that melted like texture to begin with, like a thick cheese sauce? and then smear it all over the top of the pizza…after all, cheese is suppose to melt anyway, so it’s all about the flavour and consistency to recreate that effect.

As for the flour, I use a flour substitute called Carbalose. Carbalose flour is a combination of enzyme enhanced wheat and wheat protein, vital wheat gluten, wheat fiber, high protein wheat flour, vegetable fiber, canola oil and salt.

Let’s Get This Pizza Party Started!

Print Recipe
Low Carb Vegan Pizza Yum
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, Pizza
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Passive Time 60 Minutes
Pizza Base
Pizza Sauce
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian, Pizza
Prep Time 20 Minutes
Cook Time 20 Minutes
Passive Time 60 Minutes
Pizza Base
Pizza Sauce
Pizza Base
  1. Pre-heat your oven…this isn’t an exact science, we just want to create a warm environment for the yeast to do it’s thang. I turn mine up to 130 degrees, keep it on for 5-10 min and then switch off. Add flour to bowl (save tbsp for later) Add salt and mix through flour
  1. In a mug put 2 tsp of yeast into 1/2 cup of warm water (not to hot or it will kill the yeast) Add the sugar to the yeast…like a fat kid with cake, yeast LOVES sugar, it gets it all excited and starts to activate Stir thoroughly and leave for 5 minutes (you will see a froth appear on top of the yeast)
  2. Pour yeast mixture into flour gradually…take your time and check the consistency of the dough Mix all together When you have a dough like texture, remove the dough from the bowl, sprinkle the tbsp of flour you saved on to a work surface and start kneading for 5-10 min
  3. Place in a glass bowl and cover with cling film Place into the previously heated oven (should be warm, not hot) and leave for an hour
Pizza Sauce
  1. vegan-sauce Put the passata in a saucepan and begin to heat Add Oregano, garlic and black pepper Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn. We want to thicken it up by reducing the water.
Cheese Sauce
  1. Add oil and flour to new saucepan on a low heat, and stir until it forms a paste Gradually stir in Almond milk The sauce will start to thicken Add paprika & mustard
  2. Continue stirring throughout, make sure that there are no lumps Add the yeast flakes Stir until you have a yogurt like consistency
Put it all together
  1. Remove the dough from the oven (turn oven up to 180-200 degrees) Lightly grease (1kcal spray oil) a pizza tray
  2. Roll out dough and put your pizza base onto the tray (sometimes I have a little dough left over and make some tiny garlic dough balls)
  3. Add passata Add cheese sauce Spread the cheese sauce with a back of a spoon over the top of the passata
  4. Add toppings (I used a Wheat Gluten Salami, high in protein, low fat, low carb, tastes great!)
  5. Chuck it in the oven for 15-20 min
Recipe Notes

Per Pizza

1,415 Kcal | 144g Protein | 87g* Carbs | 58g Fat

Per Slice

176 Kcal | 18g Protein | 11g* Carbs | 7g Fat

*Net carbs (actual carbs minus fiber carbs)

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You may second glance and think that I have spelt the word wrong, but no..I want to talk to you about something you may have never considered, your daily micronutrients not macronutrients for once.

What’s the difference?

micronutrientsMacronutrients you will likely be familiar with and these comprise of protein, fats and carbs, whereas micronutrients are the incredible vitamins and minerals found in everything and anything you eat and drink. Micronutrients are involved in every single process in your body and are essential for the normal growth and development of all living organisms.

Have you ever heard someone claim that a calorie is just a calorie? No such thing as clean or dirty carbs?

Well, i’m calling BS on that my friend. In an obvious sense, yes of course a calorie is a calorie and ultimately a surplus or deficit will determine your body composition, BUT all is not equal when you consider the nutrient density of that calorie; 100 calories from CocaCola vs 100 calories from an avocado, has a big difference in the micronutrients your body will utilise.

Coca cola has zero micronutrients, whereas an avocado will give you a host of B-Complex vitamins, vitamin C, E, K and minerals such as potassium, Zinc, Magnesium (one of the most common deficiencies in the UK) and many more!

For the most part if you are getting your calories from whole, organic produce, then you probably have nothing to worry about, however if you subscribe to a particular way of eating that eliminates specific food groups, then chances are you should be supplementing your diet to give your body everything it needs to work the way you want it to.

Ever feel sluggish, mood swings? Bad hair, skin? Trouble sleeping?

Have you stopped to consider the micronutrients you consume on a daily basis?

diet-restrictionI think the very nature of a “diet”, which by definition is to restrict yourself, puts most people in this mindset where they feel so bound by the constraints of their eating, that they use IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and other obscure nutrition practices to justify eating junk food, without consideration for the positive or negative effects that food has on your body. By cheating ourselves and our body with these “empty” calories, you are possibly missing out on the vital micronutrients your body needs to keep everything in check.

Your mum was right all those years ago, it’s what’s on the inside that counts 😉

It’s important to understand that food has the power to do 2 things;

  1. Impact your body in a positive way
  2. Impact your body in a negative way

Don’t just opt for a physique that has you looking good on the outside, put as much effort into the micronutrients and look after your body, focusing on long term health. After all that’s what being FIT is all about right? It’s not all protein shakes and six packs…bottom line we want to live longer, be healthy and feel good about ourselves.

Every time you make a choice of what to eat, you have the power to decide what the outcome will be.


Top 4 micronutrient deficiencies in the UK


Why you need it?

To develop and maintain strong bones and teeth, to develop normal muscle and nerve function, and to maintain healthy blood pressure.

How to get it?

Not cows milk! To overturn a common myth, cows milk actually causes inflammation in the body and puts you at greater risk of osteoporosis, the more you drink, the more your body excretes calcium in urine..not what we want…we want to keep it in our body…Instead look to those delicious leafy, green vegetables; Spinach, Broccoli and Kale to name a few.

Vitamin D

Why you need it?

Vitamin D works in harmony with Calcium, without Vitamin D your body can not store Calcium.

How to get it?

Your body can actually produce Vitamin D on it’s own, all you need to do is sit out in the sun for 20min each day…easier said than done in the UK!


Why you need it?

Similar to Calcium, Magnesium helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth, it plays a vital role in muscle relaxation, facilitates communication between nerves and muscles, activates hundreds of enzymes with numerous functions, and helps with metabolism.

How to get it?

Spinach, potato with skin on, Brazil nuts, Almonds, Cashews


Why you need it?

Your body needs iron to produce haemoglobin, a protein which carries oxygen in your blood to organs and tissue.

How to get it?

Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and flaxseeds. Cashews & pine nuts and then your good old leafy greens like Spinach.


How to Build Muscle

You go to the gym and hit up 8-12 reps, 4 sets per exercise because the workout you downloaded or app you are using told you that’s what you need to do, or worse, because you read it in a magazine. Do you ever stop and think, why? Will it actually build muscle? Does it work for everyone? Are we all the same?

When anyone starts training, they look through magazines for workouts, thinking that if they do Phil Heath’s arm workout, they will get arms like Phil Heath. Sadly, many disappointing weeks go by and their arms would be lucky to look like Phil’s forearms, let alone his biceps and triceps!

So the logical step is to start asking questions…questions like, how do we actually grow muscle?

When you start to research, there are many different techniques that claim to grow muscle — strip sets, drop sets, rest pause, high volume, heavy duty — but that’s not what you should be looking for. You want to know the biological origins of muscle growth — because if you know how muscle grows from a scientific point, then you can find methods that actually get results. It’s like working backwards through a math equation. You know what your end result is — muscle — all you need is to figure out the equation that can get you there.

If A + B = Muscle, then what the hell are A + B?

After thinking logically about it, you will soon find that A must = Stimulus, and B must = Recovery

Stimulus + Recovery = Muscle

But a bit of research and you will quickly found that there is a third factor as well, C = Hormones

Stimulus + Recovery + Hormones = Muscle

That formula is a great start, but to truly gain some useful knowledge, you must work backwards even further, and figure out what each of those variables really means.


There are 3 mechanisms that stimulate muscle growth:

  • Muscle Tension

Have you ever heard people say, it’s not how much you lift, it’s how you lift it — or — your muscle doesn’t know how much weight is on the bar. Well, there is actually some science to support those statements. It turns out that your muscle grows in response to tension, which is a direct result of how much force is being exerted on that particular muscle. It doesn’t necessarily matter how much weight you use, as long as the tension applied to a specific muscle is large enough. So moving weight from A to B is not the solution, and the mind muscle connection may acutally be much more relevant to growth than the weight you add to the bar.

Aside from the tension that comes as a result of placing a load on a muscle, the stretching and contraction that occur during a full range of motion rep, also contribute to muscle tension. In fact, the very act of stretching and contracting a muscle may be able to trigger muscle growth. Isometric contractions have been shown to trigger some of the cellular responses involved is muscle hypertrophy, but perhaps more interesting is the fact that stretching a muscle may induce growth as well. A group of scientist proved this by taking a piece of living muscle tissue and stretching it to extreme lengths, and showed that the stretching actually caused some of the greatest muscle growth they had ever seen from any type of stimulus.

One thing that is closely related to this topic is the principle of time under tension. See, it is not enough to subject a muscle to tension for a brief amount of time. In order to truly stimulate growth, you must maintain a high level of tension for a prolonged period of time. Time under tension will increase the amount of stress, damage, and swelling that a muscle experiences, hence why it is paramount to the growth process.

  • Muscle Damage

If you have ever experience soreness, then you have likely experienced the effects of muscle damage. On a microscopic level, muscles are made of fiber that move past each other in a ratcheting motion. It is this movement that is what we experience as muscle contraction. When we lift weights our muscle attempt to move in this ratcheting motion, but often give way to the load. This causes damage to the fibers that make up our muscles, and it is this damage that is a major trigger for growth.

When damage occurs within a muscle, the muscle reacts by triggering a myriad of cellular responses whose purpose is to repair the muscle. The important point to understand si that the body does not simply repair the muscle and return it to its original shape, the amazing thing is that your body builds the muscle bigger and stronger than before, in an attempt to prevent this damage from every occurring again. This phenomenon, mediated by a host of chemical messengers and special type of stem cells called a satellite cells, is one of the most well known and intensely studied factors involved in muscle hypertrophy.

  • Metabolic Stress

Metabolic stress is perhaps the most intriguing element associated with muscular development. An emergent property of the types of exercise that rely on anaerobic glycolysis for ATP production, metabolic stress is marked by a resulting buildup of metabolites such as hydrogen ions and lactate, which trigger muscle hypertrophy.

In fact, metabolic stress is such a potent simulator of muscle growth, that a study published in the Sports Medical Journal in 2013 by Schoenfeld Brad, revealed that metabolic stress induced by the application of a pressure cuff, could help attenuate muscle wasting in patients confined to bed rest, even without engaging in any form of exercise. So by essentially squeezing  a muscle and preventing metabolic by products from being washed out by blood flow, the scientist incurred enough of a stimulus to prevent a muscle from shrinking in bedridden patients.

This phenomenon is so powerful, that an entire training methodology has been shaped around it — called blood flow restriction training. By cutting off the majority of blood flow to a certain area of the body and using significantly less than normal to perform a specific exercise, one can trigger considerable muscle growth due to the generation of a substantial amount of metabolic stress.

  • Cell Swelling

Cell swelling is the scientific synonym for “the pump”. The feeling that Arnold hailed as the holy grail of exercise, is actually one of the factors that causes muscle to grow. Current theories attribute the anabolic effect to a self-preservation mechanism, whereby the pressure exerted by cell swelling causes the cell to perceive the change as a threat to its integrity. This prompts a cell to respond by growing. The choice is either grow, or die. Evidence shows that cell swelling simultaneously stimulates protein buildup (synthesis) and decreases protein breakdown (proteolysis).


Recovery involves everything you do when you are not in the gym. Managing your stress, getting enough sleep, and carefully monitoring your diet, all play a huge part in the results you ultimately attain. The hour you spend in the gym is only a small part of the work it takes to build an appreciable amount of muscle. Remember that there are three parts to the equation, and the gym is only one of them.

Aside from getting enough protein in your diet, there are a myriad of other factors that play a part in the recovery process — none of which are more or less important than the other. Your body is a complex system composed of many parts and processes. If you want want optimize any one of them, you must ensure the health of all of them. You cannot focus solely on something as simple as macros or supplements, there is much more you need to do to get your body running like a well oiled machine. Until you can do that, your hopes of impressive gains, will be nothing but fantasies. Here is a brief list to get you thinking about what it takes to optimize recovery:

  • Macronutrient intake
  • Nutrient Timing
  • Sleep/Rest
  • Micronutrient Intake
  • Supplementation
  • Immune Health


There is no doubt that within minutes of deciding that you want to improve your physique, you hear about hormones — and with good reason. Hormones play a huge role of the myriad of biological processes involved in muscle hypertrophy. From superstars like testosterone and growth hormone to lesser known members like MGF, and IGF-1, hormones play a huge role in your progress.

It is important to note that when we refer to hormones, we are not referring to anabolic steroids. Every human being has hormones, and every human being can optimize those hormones naturally — by training eating, and supplementing right.

Hormones like testosterone and growth hormone can be increased by manipulating nutrition and taking certain supplements variables, while things like myokines and paracrine growth factors can be triggered by manipulating certain training variables.

All of your hormones play a role in the machine that is your body. Not a single one is more important that another, and if your goal is to grow, you better be sure to optimize every single one of them.

The Power Of The Equation

With that information, I was well on my way to becoming a true muscle master. Research was my friend as it will be yours. With the power of this equation in my hands, I was no longer bound to the dogma of magazines, gym rats, and bros. I had the power to truly assess everything I did, and ensure that it was going to make me grow. I hope that it will do the same for you. Remember, Stimulus + Recovery + hormones = Muscle.