In this article, we're exploring what a plant-based bodybuilding diet is like and how it is completely possible to gain muscle mass while following a plant-based diet, vegan, or vegetarian diet. Of course, the most obvious recommendation we can give you is to use a protein supplement such as pea protein powder. The second most obvious solution is to make dietary changes, which aren’t so oblivious to implement, but don't worry we got you!
Let’s Talk Plant-Based High Protein Foods
Basically to put on weight high-calorie foods are a must, but it has to be about more than calories, they need to be substantial and healthy.
Think of it this way your type of diet defines your performance.
Best Foods for Gaining Weight or Muscle
Sometimes vegan or plant-based food alternatives are not accessible. So here is a list of commonly-found household staples that can be useful for gaining muscle or bulking.
Common Nutrient-rich Household Foods with Protein
- Peanut butter, 8 g of protein per 2 tbsp (Vegan)
- Brussel Sprouts, 3 g of protein per 1 cup (Vegan)
- Oats, 11.1 g of protein per 100 g (Vegan)
- Fortified Soy Milk, 8 g to 20 g per serving (Vegan)
- Peas, 7 g of protein per 1 cup (Vegan)
- Cream Cheese, 1.7 g of protein per 1 oz (Vegetarian)
- Beans & Legumes, 21 to 41 g of protein per 1 cup (Vegan)
- Cauliflower, 1.9 g of protein per 100 g (Vegan)
- Asparagus, 2.2 g of protein per 100 g (Vegan)
- Avocado, 3 g of protein per 150 g/1 cup (Vegan)
- Potatoes, 4 g in a medium-sized one (Vegan)
- Non-fat Greek Yogurt, 10 g protein per 100 g (Vegetarian)
- Cottage cheese, 25 g of protein per 1 cup (Vegetarian)
- Bagel, 14 g of protein per 131 g serving (Vegan)
We’ve also put together a list of more adventurous plant-based protein sources to try.
- Edamame Beans, 18 g of protein per 160 g serving (Vegan)
- Tempeh (fermented soybeans), 31 g of protein per 1 cup (Vegan)
- Chia Seeds, 4.7 g of protein per ounce. (Vegan)
- Dried Seaweed, agar, 6 g of protein per 100 g (Vegan)
- Seitan, 20 g of protein per 3 ounces (Vegan)
- Fava Beans/ Broad Beans, 10 g of protein per cup. (Vegan)
- Quinoa, 8.1 g of protein per 185 g serving (Vegan)
- Tofu, 5.3 g of protein per 28 g serving (Vegan)
- Leeks, 2.7 g of protein per 170 g serving (Vegan)
- Dates, 3.9 g of protein per 160 g portion (Vegan)
- Pumpkin Seeds, 19 g of protein per 100 g (Vegan)
- Chickpeas, 39 g per cup (Vegan)
- Artichokes, 3.3 g of protein per 100 g (Vegan)
- Nutritional Yeast, 5 g of protein per 9 g portion (Vegan)
- Miso Soup, 6 g of protein in one cup (Vegan)
- Cashews, 5 g of protein per 1 ounce (Vegan)
Now we know most of you already know a good amount of those listed foods, but it helps to be reminded that you don’t need to eat the same old things each night. The options are endless.
Try adding cashews to a vegetarian curry or sprinkle chia seeds over a breakfast smoothie.
A Side Note— While eating plant-based protein is important for turning fat into muscle so is eating your veggies. Vegetables play a key part in providing our bodies with the essential amino acids it requires (in conjunction with protein) to build muscle.
There are 9 out of 20 amino acids that must come from food because our bodies don’t make them on their own but still need the amino acids to function. If you want to learn more about amino acids and how to eat more of them read our article I've Been Too Embarrassed To Ask... But What Exactly Are Amino Acids. You’ll find all your answers there.
All About Increasing Calories When Plant-Based
How often do you increase calories when bodybuilding?
If you are bulking (gaining weight to gain larger muscles), you should not gain more than .5 to 1 pound per week. Once the scale plateaus, you can increase calories. No matter how many websites and blogs you read that advertise "this is the right way", there are probably dozens of other methods that will also work. Every person's body reacts uniquely to diet changes. Do your homework and don’t give up if the first time is a bust.
How many calories should you eat based on lifestyle, goals, and weight?
Knowing how many calories to consume per day can be tricky: it's definitely not one size fits all. It might help to know what your maintenance level of calories looks like, but if you're lifting weights, even that will eventually change and you can eat more without gaining weight. As you gain muscle or bulk up, you should consider how much you can eat to maintain and then increase it ever so slightly so you gain weight.
Here are some generic caloric recommendations:
- Women 25- 30 who aren’t particularly active should aim for 1,800 calories
- Women 50 and older who are sedentary are advised to consume 1,600 calories
- Women 25-30 who are active can eat as much as 2,400 calories a day
- Women 60 and older who are active can eat as much as 2,000 calories per day
Muscle growth and fat loss will change how the body uses calories (energy). We can tell you the recommended calorie intake, but you'll need to take into account your gender, age, activity level, and health conditions.
Lastly, don't stress over calorie counting. If you're eating nutrient-dense, high-calorie foods, then you shouldn't have any difficulty gaining muscle with a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet.