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How to Bulk on a Plant-based Diet

Vegetarian and vegan diets have been on the rise recently. A vegetarian diet is a type of diet that excludes animal meat and other animal products. A vegan diet is a stricter plant-based diet that strictly avoids all animal products, including dairy and eggs. 


The vegan diet has gained more popularity among people seeking to lose weight. The question is, what about people who want to gain more muscles? Is it possible to gain muscles while on plant-based diets? How does a bodybuilder bulk on a plant-based diet? If you are a vegan bodybuilder, this article will answer all your questions regarding how to bulk on a plant-based diet to develop your desired musculature.


What is a plant-based bodybuilding diet?

All that bodybuilders strive for is to develop their musculature by intensive resistance training and eating the proper diets in the correct quantity.


Diet is an important aspect of bodybuilding as nutrition plays a crucial role in the lean muscle building process. The general belief is that a protein intake of up to 1 gram per pound supports optimal muscle growth. Traditional muscle building diets contain lots of animal-based foods. Thus, they have high protein and calories. 


However, in the case of vegan bodybuilders, their foods are plant-based and devoid of such high protein constituents. Plant-based bodybuilding diets do contain protein but are not as high as traditional bodybuilding diets. The fact that vegan bodybuilding diets tend to contain lower amounts of protein than animal-based diets poses a challenge for vegan bodybuilders. This is because insufficient intake of protein can affect muscle gain. 


Therefore to ensure sufficient intake of calories, proteins, and other micronutrients needed for the bulking phase, vegan bodybuilders must plan their meals so that their diet won’t lack the required nutrients. 


Top plant-based foods for bulking

Muscle gain is possible when you eat varying foods containing enough plant-based diets. If you are worried about how to bulk on a plant-based diet, worry no more. Below is a list of top plant-based diets to bulk on to get the best muscle building result.


  • Beans and legumes: Beans and legumes contain a substantial amount of fiber. Fiber helps reduce visceral fat; thus, beans and legumes are good foods for clean bulking. Examples of beans and legumes that contain up to 20-25 grams of protein per 100 grams include kidney beans, soybeans, lentils, mung beans, split peas, and chickpeas.
  • Seeds and kernels: Seeds like sesame seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds are great plant-based protein sources. You might not eat them as food, but they are excellent choices for snacks. You might take them over a yogurt plate or mix them with your smoothie. 
  • Tofu and tempeh: Tofu and Tempeh can serve as meat substitutes. They contain about 12g of protein per 100 grams. Tofu and tempeh can be prepared in different ways. They are quite versatile; for instance, they can be used for salads and curries, stir-fry dishes, or loosely fry them and eat alongside rice and vegetables. 
  • Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a perfect meal for replenishing protein as it is highly proteinous. You can eat it with other vegan proteins such as nuts, peanut butter, and soy milk. 
  • Soy: Soy is one of the most common sources of vegan-friendly protein. Soy can be eaten in different ways. You can add it as milk to your morning cereal or coffee. An immature soybean form, Edamame beans are popular among Asian cultures as they use them in a lot of their dishes.
  • Nuts: Nuts like peanuts, cashew nuts, and pistachio are great plant-based options for bulking. Bulking on them as snacks helps ensure that you replenish your protein stores.
  • Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are starchy vegetables known for their delicious taste, vibrant color, and high nutrient profile. Potato is a calorie-dense food that contains a high amount of fiber. It is also rich in vitamins and antioxidants. A single serving of sweet potatoes can boost your vitamin A and C supply and give you ample potassium, manganese, and Vitamin B6.
  • Spirulina: This list of top-plant based foods for bulking and muscle gain will be incomplete without adding spirulina. Not many people know about this plant; however, it is a king among proteins. Spirulina is a blue-green alga that contains a high protein concentration of up to 70% (even more than dairy and meat). You can take it as a daily supplement or blend it into your smoothie. 
  • Vegetables and fruits: No vegan diet is complete without vegetables and fruits. Even though fruits and vegetables do not contain as much protein as other foods in this list, they are among the top plant-based foods for bulking. They provide the body with rich micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as gut-healthy fiber. Some protein-rich vegetables you can opt for are cauliflower, artichokes, and asparagus. 
  • Smoothies: Consuming vegan smoothies is one of the quickest and most convenient ways to get the much-needed calories in a single serving. Use nutritious plant-based protein sources like soy yogurt or vegan protein powder. Also include add-ins like fruits, nuts, avocados, seeds, almond milk, and coconut oil. Take your smoothies before or after meals as appetizers or desserts and not as the main meal. This is to maximize your caloric intake and to support lean muscle gain. 
  • Vegan protein powder and nutritional yeast: Most vegans know about nutritional yeast flakes. This yeast form has a cheese flavor and looks like dry sawdust. One common way of eating nutritional yeast is by sprinkling them on top of meals like pasta. Vegan protein powder is also good for vegan bodybuilders and will give you that extra boost you need in addition to other plant-based products. You will find different vegan protein shakes available in online and offline stores. 


Nutritional tips for vegan bodybuilders

Proteins are important, especially when training hard to grow your muscle mass. After an intense workout, the muscles are usually strained and require protein to recover faster. Eating at least 20 grams of protein after exercise can help stimulate lean muscle production. Aside from eating enough protein, there are other things you can do to help your vegetarian bodybuilding journey. Below are some tips for vegetarian bodybuilders.

  • Get enough calories: Bulking phase is a phase where you consume more calories than your daily maintenance calories. This means you need to eat more calories than your body needs at a time. In that way, you increase your muscle mass. However, even as a vegetarian bodybuilder, you must bulk clean. This means you should opt for healthy calorie-rich foods like nuts and avocados. 
  • Consume fats: Fats contain more calories than proteins and carbohydrates, and bulking entails consuming more calories. Some healthy plant-based fat foods you can eat include canola oil, olive oil, hemp oil, avocado, flaxseeds, peanut, chia seed, tahini, and tofu
  • Eat a varied diet to get essential amino acids and micronutrients: Amino acids are important for storing and transporting different nutrients such as carbohydrates, fat, and even water in your body. There are nine essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are acids not produced by the body but need to be sourced from nutrients. If you don’t eat varying diets containing these essential amino acids, your body will suffer from their deficiency. The best vegan foods to find essential amino acids are protein-rich plant-based foods. Aside from proteins, ensure you vary your meals with foods that contain micronutrients. Your body needs vitamins and minerals to stay healthy while going through intensive workout sessions. 
  • Supplement to build lean muscle: If you find it difficult to get enough protein through plant-based diets alone, you might want to go for supplements. While supplementing is not essential, it can aid your bulking journey. Some great animal-free supplement alternatives are glutamine and creatine.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: Since a vegan bodybuilding diet is usually high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains, this means a higher concentration of fiber in the digestive tract. While fiber is good for your gut health, too much of it can cause side effects such as flatulence, bloating, and abdominal pain. Drinking enough water can help prevent these complications. Also, since you are often exercising, you need to drink enough water to replenish lost fluid. Drinking water keeps the body hydrated!
  • Monitor your muscle gain: While on your diet as a vegetarian bodybuilder, you must monitor your muscle gain by keeping track of the impact eating plant proteins have made in your bodybuilding journey. There are different ways to measure lean muscle building results, such as measuring your fat percentage, muscle mass, and basal metabolic rate. 


Meals bodybuilders can cook and eat

Bodybuilders have a variety of meal options they can try. If you want to get the most out of your diet and to ensure you gain lean muscles, you might want to try the following meals:

  • Steamed edamame
  • Homemade bean burgers
  • Porridge oats with soy milk and peanut butter
  • Tofu stir-fry made with tofu, beans, vegan pasta, celery, red lentils, spinach, and onion
  • Quinoa and vegetable curry
  • Tahini blended into a creamy dressing and served with steamed vegetables
  • Buckwheat pancakes
  • Vegan burrito bowl
  • Black-bean vegetable burger with sweet potato fries



As a vegan bodybuilder, bulking might seem hard because you stick with only plant-based diets. But, you should not be discouraged. By incorporating some top plant-based foods into your meal menus, you are on the right path to building lean muscles. 


Go ahead and monitor your muscle gain while on various plant-based diets. Experiment with each food to know what works for your body. Gaining bulky muscles may take more time for you than other people who are meat eaters, but you have to be patient with yourself. Just ensure you eat healthily (clean bulking) and pay attention to your body. With time, you will see the results you desire. 


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