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10 Ways to Gain Weight on a Vegan Diet

Head and shoulders photograph of Anju Mobin
Couple cooking together
Although it may not be discussed as much as weight loss, weight gain can be challenging for some. Some people struggle to gain and maintain a healthy weight. This can be even more difficult for vegans as a vegan diet eliminates many calorie-dense foods that make gaining weight a bit less of a hassle. But all is not lost. You can gain and maintain weight as a vegan.

You may struggle to gain weight due to genetics, underlying medical conditions, or a fast metabolism. Being underweight can lead to medical issues like dry skin, hair loss, fertility issues, etc. When trying to gain weight, being vegan can restrict your choices.

Fortunately, there are many ways to gain weight in a healthy manner on a vegan diet. Eating nutrient-rich, calorie-dense meals more frequently throughout the day is a great start. If you don't have much time for meal prep or cooking, don't worry. You can use a trusted meal delivery service to get delicious, restaurant-quality vegan meals on time.

Now that your meals are taken care of, here are 10 effective and healthy ways to gain weight on a vegan diet.

1. Calculate Your Calorie Needs, Then Add 500 Calories

To gain weight, you need to consume more calories than you burn every day. Any underlying medical conditions that might interfere with your weight gain need to be addressed.

It is important to first understand how many total calories you need to sustain all your biochemical functions. This amount depends on age, sex, weight, height, and activity level, so it's best to use one of the many calorie calculators available online.

Once you've figured out your maintenance calories, add 500 calories to that by eating calorie-dense food to gain weight. On average, you can gain 1lb per week, and it takes 3,500 extra calories to gain 1lb of body weight (1). If you want to gain weight even faster than this, add 700-1,000 calories.

2. Eat Nutrient-Rich, Calorie-Dense Foods

It may seem difficult to get enough nutrients as a vegan, but you can start by eating foods that are higher in calories. These foods include nuts and nut butter, rice, potatoes, avocado, olive oil, etc. A handful of nuts can provide loads of healthy calories and important nutrients. You can also have nut-chocolate clusters as a snack for even more calories.

You can also add coconut cream, agave, maple syrup, and soy to your usual diet. Try modifying your favorites and make them calorie dense. For example, add sour cream to your potatoes or grate cheese on top of your quinoa.

Eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates and fats. A combination of 40-50% carbs and 15-25% fat is the most effective. Additionally, make sure to eat foods rich in vitamin B12, Vitamin D, calcium, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iodine, iron, and creatine (2).

3. Eat More Often

You can increase your total calories by increasing the number of meals you eat in a day. Try to have at least six meals per day—three big meals and three small snacks. People who are underweight and get full easily will benefit from this method. This will also maximize your daily calorie intake.

4. Exercise

To gain weight, resistance exercises such as bar dips, bench presses, squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups are very effective as they help build muscle mass by targeting the larger muscles of the body (3).

A common rule among gymgoers to gain weight is to skip cardio and pick up weights. However, if you are clinically underweight, you should avoid any form of weight training until you reach a healthier weight.

5. Use Vegan Weight Gainer Supplements

Many vegan weight gainer supplements can support weight gain. They come in different flavors and are specifically designed for gaining weight, and are very handy for those who can’t eat so much.

You can also make your own weight gainer smoothie at home. Use almond milk, almond butter, ground flax seed, coconut oil, chia seeds, vegan mass gainer powder, and maca powder. Sip it once or twice at your convenience. This works well post-exercise as your muscles absorb these nutrients and grow.

6. Eat Muscle-Building Proteins

Muscle-building proteins can help you gain weight by boosting muscle growth. Proteins with branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) like leucine, isoleucine, and valine do it the best (4). They stimulate muscle protein synthesis and have an anabolic effect on the body.

The best vegan leucine food sources are quinoa, soy milk, and other soy products like tempeh, pumpkin seeds, and pistachios. Soy, peanuts, mushrooms, whole grains, and vegetables are good sources of valine, while oats, lentils, spirulina, sunflower, seaweed, and sesame seeds are high in isoleucine.

7. Eat More Carbs

Carbs are high in starch and calories, making them the perfect tool for effective weight gain. Excess carbs can make you gain weight by affecting your insulin levels and increasing fat storage.

Fruit such as bananas, mangoes, and dried apricots are high in carbs. The same goes for starchy vegetables, beans, and legumes.

8. Include Healthy Shakes and Smoothies

Vegan shakes and smoothies pack in extra calories that help you gain weight the right way. Try a strawberry avocado smoothie with soy milk or a chocolate banana smoothie. Add chia seeds, almond milk, coconut cream, banana, nuts, and nut butter.

9. Drink High-Calorie Beverages

If you get tired of eating, you can add in the extra calories by drinking high-calorie beverages. Vegan protein drinks and hot chocolate can be a great way to do so. To add extra calories, you can add coconut cream, coconut oil, or soy milk to your coffee or tea.

10. Increase Portion Size

To increase your total calories, you need to increase your portion size. Use bigger dinnerware and skip the water before eating to help you do so. Make mealtime pleasant and try eating as much as possible. If you can’t eat large meals in one go, try increasing your serving size gradually.

Make use of the best vegan meal delivery services such as Sunbasket and HelloFresh. They offer vegan meal kits that are freshly prepared according to your preferences.

Take Away

Certain weight gain tips in a vegan diet can help you in your journey. To gain weight on a vegan diet, eat smaller, more frequent meals, eat healthy, calorie-dense foods, and get regular exercise to build a healthy appetite.

Get together with friends, share your favorite recipes, cook together, and make mealtimes enjoyable. Munch on nutritious snacks from a plant-based meal delivery service that brings delicious vegan food to your doorstep.

References

  1. https://www.gicare.com/gi-health-resources/increasing-calories/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7073751/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950543/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568273/
Head and shoulders photograph of Anju Mobin
Anju Mobin is a certified nutritionist and has worked in numerous medical clinics. She specializes in nutrition and fitness content with over a decade of experience as a writer and editor.

*The information on this site is based on research, but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new diet plan, we recommend consulting with a physician or other professional healthcare provider. Results may vary based on various health factors, individual weight loss plans and adherence to the meal plan.