The biggest misconception is that one can’t build muscle, or get any muscle development without meat and dairy consumption.

The number one question I think that most plant-based eaters get asked is “Where do you get your protein? How can you possibly survive without meat and dairy?” You know how I answer this? I flex my almost 60 year-old biceps and ask, “Do I look like I’m a weakling? Do I look like I have a protein deficiency? I think not.”

I get my protein from beans, nuts, seeds, greens and grains. All plants have some protein and it is very bio available. In other words, your body absorbs it very well, as opposed to meat and dairy which you have to consume a lot of to get the protein. Keep in mind that dairy milk is meant to make baby cows grow up into big cows. We are the only species that drinks milk from another species. Our species milk is best for our body parts, and especially brain development.

Beans or legumes have a great deal of ideal protein. Nuts and seeds, consumed in moderation so you don’t gain weight if you don’t want to, are also ideal protein sources. You can also get a lot of protein from the many plant-based milks such as soy, rice, oat, almond, and even hemp milk.

To get complete proteins or all of the amino acids, you don’t need to combine beans and grains as was thought years ago. Eating a well-balanced plant-based diet over the course of a week will supply you with all the nutrient and energy-rich food you need. The only exception is vitamin B12, which used to be in our soil and on our food, but isn’t any more because we wash our produce.

Following a menu plan has worked great for me over 30 years. And when I’ve strayed… not so great. The worst example was when I had no control over what I ate (working as a financial consultant) and greasy pizzas were our “working lunch and/or dinners” for days at a time. I was faced with needing a hysterectomy after hemorrhaging fibroids sent me to the emergency room. But my awesome doctor said, “Ellen, get back to that plant-based diet and call me in the morning.” Sure enough, in three weeks, all symptoms of menopause were gone, including hot flashes, much to the amazement of my usually skeptical husband. And I never needed that hysterectomy.

Keep in mind, I run 3 miles every day or every other day, I weight train and do yoga a few times a week, and I help coach high school girls cross country. I often place in my age group for 5K races, and can hold a plank position for up to 6 minutes. It is evident to many that I have more muscle development in my arms than my meat-eating competitors. This is a surprise to many people.

I did my first marathon last year and was the 5th oldest female to finish the Palm Beaches Marathon. So I have plenty of muscle to do that, and you will to on a plant-based diet.