Debunking The 'Protein Builds Muscles' Myth, And What You Should Eat Instead - Save Our Bones

When you think of building strong muscles to get fit and increase your bone density, do you think about eating lots of animal protein, like beef or chicken? Over the years, the concept that lots of animal protein builds strong muscles has been perpetuated; but a large body of evidence makes it clear that this myth is just that – a myth.

In today’s post, we’re going to debunk the protein myth by looking at the ways a plant-based, pH-balanced diet builds muscles, and how it affects your bone health.

How Do Fruits And Vegetables Build Muscle?

To answer this fundamental question, we’ll take a quick look at how your body assimilates protein.You’ve probably familiar with “complete” and “incomplete” proteins, a concept that refers to the amino acids that make up the protein.

In a nutshell, complete proteins contain all the nine essential amino acids the body can’t produce and must therefore be obtained from food.

The common misconception is that to reap its health benefits, you must eat protein in its complete state. In actuality, eating a variety of foods, each containing a few amino acids, is a healthier way to get complete protein, and here’s why.

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Your body takes these building blocks from any source and builds a complete protein from them. So not only do you get all the protein you need from a varied, plant-based diet, but you also get all kinds of important bone-building nutrients that you can’t get from animal proteins.

When you eat a pH-balanced diet rich in fruits in vegetables with smaller amounts of animal protein (as described in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program), your body gets plenty of muscle-building protein from the amino acids present in the plants. There are other reasons why a pH-balanced diet is a better way to build bones and muscle – let’s take a look at some of them.

1. The Power Of Alkalizing Plant Protein

While the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is not strictly vegetarian, it recognizes that animal-based protein is acidifying. Therefore, it’s not the best source for the bulk of your protein intake.

The amino acids found in plant foods are more than sufficient for meeting your protein needs, and they have the added benefit of alkalizing your pH. When foods promote an alkaline environment in the body, it sets the stage for your bones to flourish. An acidifying diet, on the other hand, which is composed mostly of meat, dairy, and processed foods (the Standard American Diet) exhausts the body’s natural buffering system and pulls alkalizing minerals from bone.

The bottom line about animal protein is, a small amount is good for bones, but a large amount has the opposite effect. This is why the 80/20 balanced diet is ideal for optimal bone health, where the 20% includes acidifying foods.

2. Foundation Supplements Contain Powerful Bone-Building Nutrients

You’ll find an abundance of Foundation Supplements in fruits and vegetables. Foundation Supplements are key bone-building nutrients described and recommended in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, and the best place to get them is in specific foods that are rich in these supplements.

Animal proteins do contain some healthful nutrients, but the vast majority of vitamins, minerals, and other bone-nourishing supplements like calcium, boron, silicon, magnesium, and antioxidants are found in fresh fruits and vegetables. And of course, muscle-building amino acids are present in abundance as well.

3. Plant Foods Give You Energy

The carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, antioxidants, and phytonutrients in plant foods combine to give you an energy boost. Fruits and vegetables provide energy directly to your cells, thereby helping you move more easily and feel less sluggish. This is crucial for building muscle and bone through exercise and motion.

Fruits and vegetables provide the perfect combination of energy and nutrients for building strong muscles and bones.

4. Plant Foods Guard Against Overeating

Animal-based proteins are easy to eat too much of – they are not necessarily filling. But with fruits and vegetables, you’re less likely to eat too much. For one thing, plant foods contain abundant water and fiber, which contributes to feeling full sooner.

In fact, the more fruits and veggies you eat, the more of those amino acids you’re getting, so your body can make the protein it needs, and only what it needs, to build up muscle.

5. Variety!

I find it fascinating when people assume that eating a largely plant-based diet will be “boring.” Yet they see no problem in a repetitive meat-eating diet of roasted, stewed, or grilled meats over and over. Think about it – there are only so many ways to serve a beef burger, but you can combine dozens of various beans, legumes, and vegetables to make many different types of vegetable burgers (for example).

Fruits and vegetables are incredibly varied. Avocados and apples are both fruits, for instance; but they could hardly be more different in color, taste, and texture. The number of foods and food combinations in the plant world is simply incredible.

Remember, variety is key for getting all those amino acids you need for muscle mass and bone health.

In fact, all of these points are important for building bone through strong muscles, because strong muscles are necessary for strong bones.

The Connection Between Muscle Mass And Bone Density

The relationship between these two tissue types – muscle and bone – is well established. Savers will recognize the principles of Wolff’s Law here, which states that bones respond to mechanical stimuli from gravity and muscle.

Bone is actually a very complex tissue. The skeleton’s role is primarily to provide support for the body, but it has many other roles as well. Bones provide a calcium reserve, protect vital organs, and provide attachment points for muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Because of these varied roles, bones respond to a wide range of stimuli, both genetic and environmental. In fact, bones have so much to “say”, that forensic scientists study them to determine diet, age, gender, race, and now, even weight.

More Evidence That Bones Adapt To Weight

When it comes to figuring out details about a deceased person, forensic scientists can tell a great deal from the state of the skeleton. But there has always been one area that’s been tricky to determine, and that is a person’s weight.

Now, new research allows scientists to make educated guesses about a person’s weight based on the thickness of his or her femur.

Scientists studied femur shaft and neck thickness in relation to various individuals’ weights, and they found a correlation between femur width and weight: the heavier the individual, the thicker the femoral shaft and neck.1

This makes sense in view of Wolff’s Law. You see, bone is anisotropic, which refers to the variation of bone’s mechanical properties under different directions of load.

This is not to say that you should deliberately gain weight to build bone density, because studies have shown that overweight people do not have as much bone density as they should in proportion to their muscle mass. In fact, the opposite is true. Instead, build muscle through mostly alkalizing protein and exercise. Muscle weighs more than fat anyway, and acts directly on the bone itself when you exercise.

Applying Wolff’s Law Is A Vital Part Of Building Bone

Research continues to reveal more and more ways that osteogenic loading builds bone. The Densercise™ Epidensity Training System is built on this principle, showcasing no fewer than 52 exercises that provide significant variation in the osteogenic load you apply to your bones.

The moves in Densercise™ are targeted to increase the strength of fracture-prone areas such as the femoral neck, spine, wrists, and ankles via the applied principles of Wolff’s Law. But its benefits are not relegated to these areas alone; with Densercise™ you'll get all the full-body benefits of exercise, including building muscle.

Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!

Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.

Learn More Now →

Densercise™ also includes an Eating Guide, so you’ll know which specific foods to eat before and after “Densercising” to build the most muscle and bone tissue.

I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below to share your thoughts about today’s post.

Till next time,


1 Agostini, Gina M. “The Effect of Weight on the Femur: A Cross-Sectional Analysis.” Journal of Forensic Sciences. 2011. 56 (2): 339 Doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01648.x

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Renny

    Vivian, I truly love your article on increasing muscle & bone health. Its a wake up call for getting me back into the more plant-based diet.
    Also, would you please recommend some exercises that can be done “in the water”to build muscle mass? I’ve had a pathological fracture of my lower spine from CA & treatments, & my balance is poor; making some of the weekend land exercises difficult. I’d be very grateful if you could.
    Your SOB’s Program & your emails following have been a great source of info for me. Thanks.

  2. Maureen Jones

    Dear Vivian, I lost 19 pounds in 4 Months 5 years ago. When I was 38 I had endometriosis. I was put on hormone tablets to stop my period for 2 years, I did not get my periods back. I was on Ativan for a short period before the hormone tablets I take Whey Protein,I love the information you give us all Please this is private I just need some advice to put weight I am now 69 years of age. God Bless you Vivian

  3. Magpie

    Hi Vivienne, I gave the saveourbones programme to a friend. She doesnt seem to be making headway. She said her blood results showed plenty calcium but her bone results were not so good. I mentioned about silica and tried to encourage her to stick to the programme. Is there anything else she can take or do to improve the situation before her next test? Thanks for your continued good work.

    • Sandie

      Horsetail is a supplement associated with stronger bones and bone density. She may also be self-sabotaging by eating dairy and excess amounts of meat. Additionally, ask if her Vit. D3 has been checked. This brings calcium across the gut wall.

  4. joy markman

    Once again Vivian, you are stupendous – I have also learnt so much from you. I was sick for a month, & lost 5kg, & now only weigh 45kg, & have not managed to put on any weight since then. However, I have pcos & celulite, & although I was a fat teenager, I started looking after my weight in my 20’s, I am now 68yrs., but what I would like to know is – obviously I am thin, but I have hanging skin, & I would like to know if I can build more muscle by having Pea protein, as I am very sensitive to whey protein? Maybe you can answer that question Vivian
    Thanks so much,

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Joy! And pea protein is a fine substitute for whey protein if you can’t tolerate whey.

  5. Eve

    Thanks for all that really interesting info on muscle and it’s relationship to bone and protein. I am personally concerned as I have lost a lot of muscle over the last year due to 2 spinal fractures and not being able to excercise, only gentle walking and exercise. I only weigh 7stone at the most. Nobody really wants to give excercises other than walking. I am much stronger than I was in July, and not so much pain but still losing muscle. Any suggestions? I have a good savers diet & take supplements but never sure how much magnesium or which is best, liquid or tablets.

  6. George

    I loosely subscribed to the atkins/paleo diet after alkalizing for a number of years after thinking that we need fats and oils for hormone production, and to make it easier not to gain weight and feel satisfied. Im thinking that the acid diet is clogging my arteries. Are we getting the raw materials for hormones with the alkaline approach . Thanks

  7. Faith

    I have been a very healthy vegetarian, then vegan for 46 years. I had three healthy babies and ran marathons in addition to many other sports.
    Obviously I advocate a vegan lifestyle. It is not difficult or extreme. I wonder why you don’t just recommend going without flesh and dairy since it’s impacting bones

  8. Ruth

    Thank you for all your information on building bone,
    exercising for muscle, tendons and ligaments but
    what should be done for trying to regain cartilage
    (between the knee joints)?

  9. Allison

    I drink a lot of Almond milk, should I lower
    my calcium vitamins to 2 pills a day instead
    of three? I take the New Chapter Bone
    Strength!! Thanking u again, Allison

  10. Betty

    This is really good information to have considering that I don’t eat a lot of meat, chicken. Right now I have a flare up pain from a previous injury to my sacroiliac joints in 2008 and am not able to exercise. Really missing it. Hoping physio appt tomorrow gets me more mobile. Thanks Vivian.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Betty, and I hope you are up and about again soon!

  11. Fenella

    What a load of gibber! I went vegan for a month & I lost all the muscle I had worked so hard to build up in the previous 6 months. Everybody is different & I am one of those people who need more protein to thrive.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I agree, Fenella – every individual is different, and that’s why I encourage you and every Saver to learn as much as you can, gather information, and make informed decisions about what works for you. 🙂

  12. paul

    Vivian, I can no longer accessmy densercise .pdf on my computer. can you please send me an extra copy of densercise for me to download? thank you. paul

    • Customer Support

      Hi Paul,
      Please check your inbox for a message from Customer Support, where these issues are typically handled. 🙂

  13. connie

    Please, Vivian, please comment on phyates and oxylates in plant foods. Some of us are getting very mixed messages about mineral absorption from plants, as it relates to building bone and muscle. This article reminds me once again, that we do not not have your opinion on this topic. You are so very good at explaining details and making connections for us. I tend to always follow your advice, over conflicting advice from other sources, but I and my “nutrition buddies” remain puzzled in this area.

  14. Fran Schumer

    My friends who are surgeons say the ph of the body remains the same regardless of what one eats and that the alkaline or acid reducing diets are a fad that have no basis in science. The body will always adjust to keep the ph at a constant 7.4

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      The body does indeed have a remarkable buffering system in place, Fran. The problem is, an acidifying diet depletes the buffers produced in the body, leading to an acid pH.

      • Betty

        ………leading to inflammatory conditions in the body.

  15. Caroline Somerville

    I love plain yogurt and could eat it at most meals. Would that be a great choice for protein?
    I think I once read that Greek yogurt was not as good for us as plain. Is that true?
    What about making my own yogurt from powdered milk?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Hi Caroline,
      While yogurt is an alkalizing, bone-healthy food, it’s better to rely on plant foods for the bulk of your protein intake. As far as Greek vs. regular yogurt, Greek style contains less calcium and almost no whey (the whey is strained out, taking some of the calcium with it).

  16. maartje

    How do I get my portion of Protein because I’ve got serious osteoporosis and I’m underweighted so I need extra protein.

    • Janet

      Take regular doses of a very good protein powder to help to build up your body weight. I lost 14 lbs in weight after a recent 3 week hospital stay. I am slowly gaining the weight back again and take the protein powder twice a day. The one I use has pure whey isolate with digestive enzymes. Good luck with everything.
      Ottawa, Ontario.

  17. Hilary Mitchell

    Thank you for all your help Vivian – I feel very supported by all your weekly articles and exercises. Unfortunately I have not been able to download your Recipe Book so I am in the dark about some things. I haven’t been able to download the basic information about Savers either. Would be happier to be able to receive a hard copy of your complete program. Have the information on exercises so am doing those – but not eating as you would recommend!!!!!


    • Customer Support

      Hi Hilary,
      Please check your inbox for a message from Customer Support. We’ll be glad to help you with downloading the information. 🙂

  18. Carol

    I’ve love making your vegetable broth as the base for all my soups and then can add in vegetables, beans, quinoa or small pasta to the mix. Just recently I ate small amounts of this soup throughout the day and it has helped me to recover from a painful urinary tract infection. I told my daughter I could eat this soup everyday and praying that this will help my bones get stronger too!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Homemade vegetable broth is an excellent remedy for so many things! And it’s so handy to have around as a base for all kinds of soups. Thanks for sharing that, Carol.

      • pat Kennedy

        What is the recipe for vegetable broth?


  19. Debbie

    Enjoyed this article. You suggest a smoothie with whey after exercising to help with muscle mass. I thought whey was made from cow. Should I be using whey?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Whey is an excellent source of alkalizing protein, Debbie. Despite its “origins,” whey does not contain lactose and other problematic substances found in cow’s milk.

      • Raymonde Savoie

        But NOT for those, like me, who are totally intolerant to ANY cow-produced protein/product. The whey protein itself IS a problem and very hard to digest, as are all cow/milk products, regardless of fermentation, lactose content or pH status.

        It would be nice if you would suggest Soy-, Almond-, or other plant-based yogurts or beverage products instead of whey and cow milk yogurt. Maybe these latter don’t bother you, but they bother a lot of people. We need more choices.

        Thank you

      • Joyce

        Does whey contain Casein? Being gluten free and dairy sensitive esp. casein I have avoided protein powder with whey.Could you help??

        • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

          Hi Joyce,
          The two proteins in milk are whey and casein, so whey is separated out from the casein as a separate protein. It’s possible for very minute, trace amounts of casein to get through the filtration process; but as a rule, whey does not contain casein.

  20. Margarita

    Thank you so much! I’d like to find out the total cost of the program please. I have osteoporosis and have serious problems with my back among other things. Blessings!

    • Customer Support

      Hi Margarita,

      Thanks for your interest! I don’t know if you’re referring to the Osteoporosis Reversal Program or the Densercise exercise program; but you can get all the details about both by clicking on “Shop” at the top of the page. 🙂 You can also click on this link, which will take you directly to the Shop page:

  21. Julie

    Sheena, I agree with you re the photo – very unattractive! Not only are women expected to be skinny – whatever their individual body type – but now they have to be muscly too? I don’t like this trend.

  22. Sheena

    Wonderfully informed article, but Vivian, terrible picture…if I ever looked like that, I would volunteer for very dangerous work and leave this planet sooner.

    I love the soft feminine curvy form and I love my men to have a muscular frame – not the other way around…:=):=):=)

    Thank you for the amount of time you spend reading and researching your articles…I benefit greatly from them and am sure the rest of the “Savers” do too.

    With Kind Regards, Sheena
    South Africa.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You are welcome, Sheena – it inspires me when I hear how much this information means to the Saver community! And I understand about the photo – but it does make the point! 🙂

  23. Margaret Warner

    This was a very interesting article! I have the Dencersise programme but I would use it more if it was in Video DVD form. Any plans to do this? Thanks.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Stay tuned, Margaret! The Saver community will be the first to know if such a DVD becomes available.

  24. Jennifer

    Very informative article. Thank you.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Jennifer.

  25. Jan Fisher

    Thank you!
    I’ve learned so much about bones and the human body
    since receiving the Save Our Bones email updates.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You are welcome, Jan. The human body is absolutely fascinating!

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