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Vegan Bodybuilder Diet: How to Gain Muscle on a Plant-Based Meal Plan

Head and shoulders photograph of Anju Mobin
A woman working out at the gym with a barbell
Think packing on muscle while sticking to just plants and veggies is impossible? This in-depth guide to the vegan bodybuilder diet will show you how going plant-based can help you gain strength and size.

Meal delivery services provide nutritious, meatless recipes designed for vegan athletes. As a nutritionist with experience in plant-based meal planning, I know vegan bodybuilding requires an in-depth nutrition strategy.

I'll guide you through specific training strategies, meat-free foods to fuel your workouts, what to avoid, and how to face common challenges. These essential hacks will empower you to make lasting changes and see the results you've always wanted.

» Boost your gains with our top picks for vegan meal delivery services.

What is a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet?

A vegan bodybuilding diet aims to build muscle while minimizing fat gain, similar to a standard muscle-building diet. However, it restricts all animal products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Vegan athletes need to carefully plan their meals to ensure they're eating enough protein.

During "off-season," when you eat more calories, aim for 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to support muscle growth. During pre-contest preparation, when you restrict calories, increase your protein intake to 2.3-3.1 grams per kilogram to prevent muscle loss.

For a 200-pound person, this equals 208-281 grams of protein daily—exceeding general diet recommendations. This high amount means you may need to use supplements.

How to Implement a Plant-Based Muscle-Building Diet

Careful attention to both nutrition and training is key to fueling your fitness goals on a vegan lifestyle. Make a 5-7 day eating plan to have all the ingredients for diverse vegan recipes. You should also establish a strength training regimen tailored to your goals.

Prepared meal delivery services can simplify your process by providing pre-made, macro-counted bodybuilding meals. Slowly incorporate more vegan foods before switching if transitioning from a standard diet. 

How to Gain Muscle on a Plant-Based Meal Plan

Optimal Food Choices for Vegan Bodybuilders

To properly support your fitness goals, focus your meals around these top food sources to get enough protein, healthy fats, and nutrients as a plant-based athlete.

Hit Your Protein Targets

Your body needs 20 amino acids to function correctly. 9 of those essential amino acids your body can't produce must come from your diet. These essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) like leucine, isoleucine, and valine, help with muscle repair and growth.

Vegan BCAA sources include:

  • Quinoa
  • Seitan
  • Brown rice
  • Beans
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Amaranth
  • Soy products like tempeh, tofu, and edamame

Focus on proteins high in essential amino acids, especially leucine. Aim for 700-3,000 mg of leucine daily and spread your protein intake evenly every three to four hours for muscle building and recovery.

How Meal Delivery Services Can Help You Hit Your Protein Targets

Factor offers a weekly choice of 35 meals featuring healthier versions of comfort foods. Their high-protein meals use cauliflower rice instead of grains, helping you stay full and manage calories, with most meals at around 600 cals per serving.

How to Gain Muscle on a Plant-Based Meal Plan2

Load Up on Carbohydrates

Choose complex carbs like whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. They provide sustained energy and are better for your overall health. Simple carbs, like refined sugars, give an immediate energy boost but can lead to crashes and don't support long-term health. Eating low to moderate-glycemic index (GI) foods will provide steady energy throughout the day. 

Consider these options:

  • Whole grains: quinoa and brown rice.
  • Legumes: lentils and chickpeas.
  • Veggies: broccoli and kale.
  • Fruits: apples, pears, and oranges.

Aim to get 45-60% of your daily calories from carbs. For bodybuilders, carb-loading can increase muscle thickness and circumference. It boosts glycogen stores in muscles, reducing the need for the body to break down muscle tissue for energy.

How Meal Delivery Services Can Help You Load Up on the Right Carbs

EveryPlate meal delivery simplifies carb selection with diverse plant-based meals. Their charred zucchini and tomato melts combine complex carbs from sweet potatoes with vegetables for sustained energy and performance.

Consider Supplements

Meeting all your high protein needs from whole plant foods alone can be challenging when following a vegan bodybuilding diet. Incorporate vegan protein powders to boost your meals' protein content.

You can choose from pea, rice, hemp, or soy powders. Also, consider amino acid supplements, but consult a professional first. While supplements aren't mandatory, they reduce deficiency risk and help meet increased muscle-building demands.

Incorporate Macronutrient Management

A vegan bodybuilder diet involves more than just increasing protein intake; it requires a balanced approach to macronutrient distribution, healthy calorie sources, and careful calorie monitoring using apps.

Macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) are crucial for energy, tissue repair, cellular health, and bodily functions. Proteins aid muscle growth, carbohydrates provide workout energy, and unsaturated fats (e.g., nuts, seeds, avocados) are essential for hormone production and health.

How Meal Delivery Services Can Help You Monitor Your Calorie Intake

HelloFresh makes calorie monitoring easy by offering portioned meals with labeled calorie counts. For instance, their vegan sweet chili soy noodle salad, featuring miso mushrooms, pickled carrots, cucumber, and peanuts, is a calorie-smart choice.

» Improve your muscle mass with these 10 vegan foods ideal for bodybuilders.

Time Your Meals

The timing of meals is vital for faster progress in your muscle-building venture. Eat high-quality vegan protein sources after your strength training workout to boost protein synthesis and aid muscle building and repair.

Consider these helpful tips:

  • Pre-workout: Eat a meal 30 minutes to three hours before exercising.
  • Post-workout: Eat a snack 45 minutes after working out to replenish energy and support recovery.
  • On workout days: Have protein within 60 minutes post-exercise for optimal muscle recovery and growth.

Drink Lots of Fluids

Drinking enough liquids is vital on a vegan bodybuilding diet due to the high fiber content of plant foods. Fiber needs sufficient fluid to prevent issues like constipation. Water also enables efficient nutrient absorption from high-protein meals to fuel your muscles.

Additionally, maintaining hydration levels affects workout performance and recovery. You lose fluid through sweat during intense training. Even mild dehydration can decrease strength and endurance while slowing post-workout repair.

Drink at least 1 milliliter (mL) of fluid for every calorie you eat. For example, if your diet contains 2,000 calories, aim to drink 2,000 mL or 68 ounces of fluid daily. Adjust your fluid intake as needed, especially when you exercise.

How to Gain Muscle on a Plant-Based Meal Plan

Foods to Avoid on a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet

  • Animal-derived products: All meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, and honey are excluded. Also, avoid hidden animal ingredients in various processed foods.
  • Non-vegan risks: Some breads, fried items, sweets, chips, and chocolate may contain traces of animal products.
  • High-sugar vegan items: Limit candy, ice cream, and some protein bars, which often have empty calories and refined sugars.
  • Processed substitutes: Though convenient, mock meats and vegan cheeses are highly processed, may have additives, and offer less nutritional value than whole foods.

Build Muscle Through Exercise

Focus on progressively overloading your strength training to build muscle on a vegan diet. This means gradually increasing your resistance workouts' weight, sets, reps, or frequency over time. Research shows this overload method stimulates muscle growth over 8 weeks.

Lift weights 3-4 times per week to optimize muscle growth. Allow 48 hours between sessions for proper muscle recovery and rebuilding.

You should periodize your training by alternating strength, hypertrophy, and endurance phases. To prevent injury, incorporate functional exercises to improve coordination and cross-train with low-impact cardio, like swimming or cycling.

How to Gain Muscle on a Plant-Based Meal Plan

Advantages of Vegan Bodybuilding

Disadvantages of a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet

  • Inadequate protein: Getting enough high-quality vegan protein for muscle growth can be difficult. Combat this by eating diverse plant sources like beans, tofu, and quinoa. Or, consider a supplement to provide all essential amino acids.
  • Low-calorie density: Plant foods often provide fewer calories, making meeting needs difficult. Focus meals around nuts, seeds, avocados, whole grains, and other calorie-dense vegan options. Consider more frequent or larger meals.
  • Micronutrient shortfalls: Watch for potential nutrient gaps like B12, omega-3s, and specific aminos. Choose fortified foods or supplements with a vegan multivitamin, algae oil, or targeted nutrients to avoid deficiencies. 
  • Perceived restrictiveness: A vegan diet can seem limiting compared to omnivorous eating. Explore diverse international vegan cuisines, try new plant products, and get creative with recipes.

Five-Day Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Blueprint

Remember, calorie and macro needs vary from person to person. With that in mind, you can try this 5-day vegan meal plan with recipes from Trifecta's plant-based meal kits:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Oatmeal walnut bake with oats, berries and walnuts
Fluffy high protein vegan pancakes with almond and chickpea flower
Plant-based balsamic mushroom avocado toast
Cheesy vegan tofu scramble with veggies
Walnut cinnamon oatmeal
Veggie & quinoa bowl with chickpeas, tahini sauce
High protein veggie pasta bowl with marinara sauce
Roasted brussel spouts with quinoa
Southwest tofu quinoa bowl with spicy cauliflower
BBQ tofu with brown rice and green beans
Tofu & rice chipotle bowl
Plant-based chicken curry katsu
Ginger citrus tofu with carrots and toasted sesame seeds
Plant-based butter chicken
Plant-based chilli with black beans and peppers
Vegan protein shake
Hummus & celery sticks
Tofu jerky sticks & nuts
Vegan protein bar

Achieving Muscle Growth on a Vegan Diet

Transitioning to a vegan diet as an athlete provides long-term health perks like better heart health from antioxidant-rich foods. But consistency and patience are key. I highly recommend getting guidance from dietitians and trainers to help monitor your progress.

To simplify nutritious eating, meal delivery services can help to maintain your muscle-building regimen. Remember that the benefits for your body and mind will make it all worthwhile.

» Here's how meal delivery services can help you stick to your diet.

Head and shoulders photograph of Anju Mobin
Anju Mobin is a certified nutritionist, Diet and Fitness Consultant at numerous medical clinics, founder and editor of fitnesshacks.org, and a writer for Top10.com. Anju strives to simplify complex information about nutrition, health, and fitness for the general public.

*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.