Diet Plan For Bodybuilding Vegetarian


Diet plan for bodybuilding vegetarian is not as difficult to create as you might think. Anyone who has ever been protein spiking with the intention of packing in extra calories, or chugging down a can of tuna to top up on those final nutrients, knows that it’s all about calories. In order for your muscles to grow and recover from every hard gym session, you need enormous amounts of protein.

Building Muscle on a Vegetarian Diet

building muscle on a vegetarian diet



For years, the conventional belief that ruled professional and amateur athletic training programs was that consuming meat was the only way to build muscle. Today, we know a balanced vegetarian diet that includes plant-based protein assists muscular development … no steak required.

Well-planned vegetarian diets that meet energy needs and contain a variety of plant-based protein foods, such as soy products, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds can provide adequate protein for athletes without the use of special foods or supplements. However, consideration must be made for the type of vegetarian diet an athlete follows:

  • Vegan – a vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and other dairy products, and which relies on plant protein only to meet protein needs.
  • Lactovegetarian – a vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry, fish and eggs but includes dairy products, like fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, which are all sources of protein.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian – a vegetarian diet that excludes meat, poultry and fish but includes eggs and dairy products, which are also sources of protein.

Athletes need to eat an appropriate amount of calories and a variety of protein foods throughout the day in order to meet their protein requirement. Amino acids make up the protein that our bodies need. Meat, eggs and dairy foods are typically the most coveted protein sources because they contain all nine essential amino acids in the ratios that humans require. Most sources of plant-based protein are lacking in at least one of the nine essential amino acids. Soy and quinoa are two exceptions. Including a variety of plant-based protein foods will ensure all of the essential amino acids are being consumed.

Eat Protein Throughout the Day

Vegetarian athletes should include a quality source of protein with meals and snacks. Here are some tips for meeting protein needs without consuming meat:

  • Eat five or six small meals per day that not only include a protein food, but also a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plenty of water.
  • More than half your calories each day should come from quality carbohydrates, which fuel your muscles.
  • Choose heart healthy sources of fat, like olive oil, almonds, walnuts, avocados and canola oil.
  • Find a registered dietitian nutritionist who can work with you to create a personalized vegetarian eating plan that meets your individual needs.

How to Build Muscle Mass on a Vegetarian Diet:

Plan your diet well

A well-planned vegetarian diet that meets your daily energy requirement and contains a variety of plant-based proteins can provide enough protein to gain muscle mass.

The first thing you should do is to have some sort of a daily meal plan to make sure you’re getting enough protein. Especially on the days you exercise, it helps to have protein within 60 minutes after a workout to help with muscle recovery and muscle gain. This could either be a post-workout snack or just a regular meal with a good helping of protein.

How To Build MUSCLE As A Vegetarian (The Truth About Protein Intake)

How To Build MUSCLE As A Vegetarian (The Truth About Protein Intake)Play Video

Besides protein, carbohydrates also play a crucial role in gaining muscle. They provide you the fuel needed to complete your workouts. Simply put, they are “the gas in the tank to drive the car”. So don’t deny your body them.

In fact, one study compared subjects that ate the same amount of calories and protein but different carbohydrate intake. The results showed that subjects who ate the required amount of carbohydrate gained 1.3 kg of muscle mass, while those who ate a low-carb diet gained none.

As a bonus, you can also choose from high protein grains like quinoa, teff, amaranth, and spelt to get both good quality carbohydrates and protein. Are we in a win-win situation or what?

Burrito Bowl is ready for munching served with greek yogurt, lemon wedges, cilantro and fried tofu on the side | Hurry The Food Up

Make sure to get enough calories

To increase muscle mass, make sure you eat enough calories to gain muscle. To build muscle you should ideally be in a calorie surplus; so if you’re training to build muscle but not eating enough calories… Well it won’t be particularly effective!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should indulge in chips or high-carb snacks. You should choose healthy and calorically-rich options like nuts, nut butters, avocado, dried fruits, seeds, etc.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re getting enough calories throughout the day, track your intake with one of the applications you can download on your phone.

Eat protein with each meal

I can hear the first question that comes to your mind: “how much protein should I eat to gain muscle?” Here is your answer.

Although the amount of protein each person needs depends on age, activity level, and other factors, the current advice is that adults should consume a minimum 0.8 g of protein for each kilogram of body weight.

However, if you want to build muscle, your goal for daily protein intake should be between 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight.

It is best to divide and balance your protein intake among your daily meals and snacks for optimal muscle growth.


Some good vegetarian protein sources are:

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt providing 20 g protein
  • 180 g tofu providing 16 g protein,
  • ½ cup cooked beans providing 8 g protein,
  • ¼ cup nuts providing 7 g protein,
  • 1 medium egg providing 6 g protein

Here is a daily menu of high protein vegetarian meals to build muscle mass:

  • Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal cooked with soy milk and topped with nuts. Then have beans with rice for lunch and a nice salad with hemp seeds, quinoa, and a hard-boiled egg for dinner. Also, throw in some Greek yogurt with berries as a delicious snack.
The breakfast is served with whole grain toast on a plate that is on the white table with two forks and a cup of coffee with milk and tea | Hurry The Food Up

Get all nine essential amino acids

As mentioned in the introduction, most plant-based proteins don’t contain all nine essential amino acids that have to be obtained through diet, except for soy, quinoa, chia, nutritional yeast, spirulina, and hemp seeds.

More recent evidence suggests that the whole ‘incomplete protein’ issue isn’t as bad as once thought. Your body is clever enough to make use of what it already has in a ‘protein pool’ and pair up amino acids to carry out its required functions.

However, pairing protein incomplete protein sources is probably helpful when it comes to optimally building muscle, so you can pair plant foods (such as grains) to make a complete protein.

Tips for plant-based eaters

While protein sources may differ between meat-eaters and vegetarians, most other recommendations for building lean body mass are the same for both groups. These tips will help you increase your muscle in no time.

1. Figure out your protein needs

Protein is a hot topic right now, but the daily requirement is actually much less than you may think. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound – the best way to calculate the minimum amount of protein your body needs (in grams) is to multiply 0.36 by your body weight.

For a 150-pound person, that’s only 54 grams of protein per day! Athletes need a bit more protein, around 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 1.0 grams per pound. That’s about 75 to 150 grams of protein for a 150-pound person.

2. Eat different types of protein throughout the day

For optimal muscle growth, aim to eat 20-30 grams of protein at each main meal. Vegetarian foods that pack a protein punch include:

Beans & Lentils

Versatile and nutritious, beans and lentils provide up to 15 grams of protein per cup when cooked. Use dried beans and your slow cooker to make these Vegan Tacos with Walnuts. Or try lentils in a Moroccan Lentil Soup or Greek Lentil Power Bowl.


Dairy products

A cup of milk provides 8 grams of protein, and the protein in ½ cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese is closer to 12-15 grams. My favorite way to use yogurt is in a smoothie, like this Sunshine Smoothie.

Sunshine Smoothie: Mango, Clementine, Banana, Coconut smoothie with no added sugar and 13 grams of protein

Soy products

Soy milk packs just as much protein as dairy milk, and other soy foods, like tofu and tempeh, have up to 10-12 grams of protein per cup. Check out these 17 Tofu Recipes of 14 Tempeh Recipes!

Whole grains

sushiAlong with many other nutrients, whole grains add a surprising source of protein to the diet. Among grains with the highest protein levels are quinoa and whole wheat pasta (8 grams per cup), old-fashioned or steel cut oats (5 grams per ½ cup), and whole wheat bread (5 grams per slice). Quinoa is a great base for a salad, like this simple one with black beans and a honey-lime vinaigrette. Or make It a vegan sushi night with this quinoa bowl.

Nuts & Seeds

Making a great addition to salads, smoothies, and yogurt, nuts and seeds also contribute a good amount of protein. Examples include hemp seeds (10 grams per 3 Tablespoons), almonds (6 grams per ounce), and peanut butter (4 grams per Tablespoon). Whip up these Cinnamon Roasted Almonds for a yummy mid-day snack.

cinnamon roasted almonds

3. Plan your meals to include protein

Consuming protein from a variety of sources helps you get a range of nutrients in your diet.

For example, you might eat a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts and a glass of milk at breakfast, a black bean quesadilla for lunch, and a salad with hemp seeds, tofu, and a hard-boiled egg for dinner. These meals alone provide over 60 grams of protein!

If you throw in snacks such as Greek yogurt and a peanut butter sandwich, that number jumps up to nearly 100 grams – an amount of protein that would easily meet the needs of a 150-pound person looking to build lean body mass!

4. Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are essential and provide energy for all sorts of activities. If you limit carbs, you will not be able to perform at your best or build lean body mass efficiently. Aim to make 45-60% of your diet come from carbs.

5. Eat complementary proteins

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The body can make some amino acids, but it relies on the foods you eat to supply other amino acids. The ones it cannot make are called ‘essential amino acids’. Why am I telling you this?

There are two types of protein– ‘complete protein’, which contains the 9 essential (the ones the body cannot make) amino acids and ‘incomplete protein’, which does not have all 9 amino acids. Most plant-based proteins are incomplete, except for quinoa, soy, hemp, and chia. In comparison, ALL animal proteins are complete proteins.

Since most vegetarian proteins, such as beans, lentils, and brown rice are incomplete, it’s important to pair them with other foods to make a complete protein. Pairing two or more vegetarian sources together so that they provide the essential amino acids is referred to as ‘complementary proteins’.

Some pairings that make complementary plant-based proteins are:

  • Beans and rice
  • Nut butter and whole grain bread
  • Lentil and barley
  • Hummus and pita
  • Oats and almonds

6. Vary your workouts

Regardless of how much protein you consume, building muscle without lifting weights or doing some other form of strength training is nearly impossible. If you primarily focus on cardio workouts, try adding some form of strength or bodyweight activities to your routine. If you are new to strength training, you can try out a circuit class, find a personal trainer, or watch YouTube videos to get started.

7. Don’t skimp on iron

While there are plenty of vegetarian iron sources, plant-based sources of iron are not absorbed as well as animal sources. Iron plays a main role in carrying oxygen throughout the body and making red blood cells. If you don’t eat enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, which could potentially lead to iron deficiency anemia. [See 12 plant-based sources of iron here.] Long story short, stock up on those iron sources such as legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.

Vegetarian Diet Plan for Bodybuilding

Vegetable salad cherry tomatoes, baked pepper, salad mix and onion with grilled haloumi (halloumi) cheese. Keto diet, healthy food. Light grey stone background.

Protein is an important part to buidling muscles.

Protein is the foundation for bodybuilders striving to increase muscle mass. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, it’s possible to meet the challenges of a high-protein diet with a plant-based bodybuilding meal plan by ensuring you eat a variety of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables and grains each day.

Role of Protein in Bodybuilding

You may have chosen to be vegan or a vegetarian for a number of reasons, including health, environmental or ethical beliefs. But the fact that you may not eat animal-based foods should not restrict you from training as a bodybuilder. By focusing on a high-protein vegetarian diet for bodybuilding, which includes the right balance of macronutrients to support muscle gain, you can successfully achieve your desired body composition.

Consuming adequate carbohydrates and healthy fats in the diet is as easy for a vegetarian as for an omnivore, but the challenge of meeting your high-protein needs may take a little more consideration.

Protein is made up of a combination of nitrogenous compounds called amino acids. Once absorbed by your body, amino acids become the raw materials required to make proteins necessary for nearly every biochemical reaction in your body. Protein supplies carrier agents in your blood to transport oxygen to your muscles and produce hormones needed for muscle growth.

Of the 20 amino acids required to synthesize protein, your body is able to produce 11 of them. The remaining nine are called essential amino acids because they must come from your diet.

The Best Bodybuilding Amino Acids

Many of the essential amino acids are directly involved with skeletal muscles and connective tissue development important for athletes, but three in particular are especially beneficial to bodybuilders. These are known as branched-chain amino acids and include leucine, isoleucine and valine.

Along with other amino acids, these compounds may trigger protein synthesis post exercise and help increase muscle mass and decrease fatigue. A small study published in June 2017 in the Frontier of Physiology found that branch-chained amino acids stimulated a 22 percent greater response to muscle protein synthesis following resistance training when compared with a placebo.

Leucine is the most important amino acid for bodybuilders because it contributes to the growth, maintenance and repair of muscles and bone tissue. It also prevents the breakdown of muscle proteins after intensive exercise, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NIH). Additionally, leucine helps with growth hormone production.

The best vegetarian food sources of leucine include soybeans, quinoa and corn, lists a article published in Scientific Reports in May 2016. If you are a lacto or lacto-ovo vegetarian, drinking milk will provide the highest source of leucine, according to a March 2012 article published in Journal of Obesity.

Isoleucine is an isolated form of leucine and is heavily concentrated in muscle tissue, according to NIH. Isoleucine is needed for hemoglobin production, which helps fuel your body. A deficiency is marked by muscle tremors. The best sources of isoleucine from plant foods are beans, including soybeans and wheat, with a lesser amount in potato and cauliflower, says the article in Scientific Reports. A lacto-ovo vegetarian bodybuilding meal plan that includes eggs will supply a good source of isoleucine.

Valine helps maintain your muscle coordination and is vital for the growth, repair and regeneration of tissue to ensure endurance, according to NIH. Valine is obtained from soy, cheese and vegetables.

Lysine is another amino acid that is helpful to bodybuilders because it converts fats into fuel and helps with the absorption of calcium for bone and collagen production. A deficiency in lysine can result in fatigue, muscle atrophy and osteoporosis, says NIH. Among vegetable sources are peas, beans, cauliflower, soy and quinoa, lists the article in Scientific Reports. If you are a vegetarian who eats dairy products, lysine is contained in cheese and eggs.

Getting Enough Protein

According to recommendations from the USDA 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein, depending on age and gender, to prevent deficiencies. But athletes, especially bodybuilders, have additional lean body mass and burn more calories during exercise, so they often require a higher intake of protein to build body muscle.

The position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says serious athletes could benefit from 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. However, for a vegetarian, American Council on Exercise suggests athletes should aim for an additional daily intake of 12 grams of protein because the body digests, synthesizes and utilizes protein from plant-based foods at a lower rate than animal-based proteins.

A January 2018 review published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (JISSN) agrees that higher protein consumption may have positive effects on body composition in individuals who resistance train to promote loss of fat. The amount you need to include in your diet is dependent upon the mode and intensity of exercise, the quality of protein ingested, and your energy and carbohydrate intake.

According to the JISSN, protein should be evenly distributed across the day, every three to four hours. Protein intake immediately before or after an exercise session may help increase lean muscle mass and strength, and improve recovery. Also, the review concluded that eating a high-protein snack before going to bed may increase overnight muscle protein synthesis and next-morning metabolism. This was shown to help improve muscle size and strength over 12 weeks of resistance training.

Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan

All natural foods from lettuce to nuts provide varying amounts of protein in the form of one or more amino acids. With careful nutritional choices, a vegetarian diet with sufficient caloric intake derived from a variety of fresh fruits, leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds throughout the day can supply all the amino acids you need to fulfill your protein requirements, assures Cleveland Clinic.

You don’t have to combine specific foods at each meal to get all the amino acids. Your body can recycle and mix absorbed amino acids present in your body to make up the protein it requires. Ensuring you eat a variety of plant-based foods throughout the day will provide all the amino acids you need. Cleveland Clinic notes that you absorb only 25 to 40 grams of protein at one time, so make sure you space out your protein intake throughout the day.

These top 10 plant-based healthy vegetarian sources of protein should be forefront in your bodybuilding diet, as listed by the USDA. The daily values (DV) are based on a protein intake of 50 grams per day.

  1. Tofu – Per cup, firm tofu contains 87 percent of the DV for protein; medium tofu provides 40 percent DV, and tempeh provides 67 percent DV.
  2. Soybeans – Per cup, dry roasted soybeans provide 81 percent DV for protein.
  3. Beans – Per cup, lentils provide 36 percent DV; white beans contain 35 percent DV; split peas have 33 percent DV, and navy beans contain 30 percent DV.
  4. Soymilk – Per 16-ounce glass, unsweetened, soy milk provides 28 percent DV for protein.
  5. Green peas – Per cup, cooked green peas contain 17 percent DV for protein.
  6. Seeds – Per handful, squash and pumpkin seeds provide 17 percent DV for protein; peanuts deliver 14 percent DV; almonds provide 12 percent DV, and sunflower seeds contain 11 percent DV.
  7. Quinoa – Per cup, cooked quinoa provides 16 percent DV for protein; cornmeal and kamut each have 20 percent DV, and brown rice contains 11 percent DV.
  8. Dark leafy greens – Per cup, cooked spinach provides 11 percent DV for protein; collards contain 10 percent DV; Swiss chard has 7 percent DV, and kale contains 5 percent DV.
  9. Sweet Corn – Per cup, cooked sweet corn provides 9 percent DV for protein.
  10. Mushrooms – Per cup, cooked mushrooms contain 8 percent DV for protein.

For comparison, if you are a vegetarian who eats dairy, a cup of whole milk contains 16 percent DV for protein, according to USDA.

If you find that your diet cannot supply sufficient protein your body needs for the intensive training regime that bodybuilding demands, nutritional supplements made from natural plant-based ingredients may give you a boost. The review in JISSN indicates that using supplements to increases protein intake up to two or three times the RDA can promote greater overall improvements in body composition and lean body mass.

Some vegan protein supplements to consider are those made from nuts, seeds, grains and legumes, including peas, hemp, rice, soy, chia and peanut, or ones that combines different types of plant protein to get all the essential amino acids.

Include Sufficient Fat

You need fat in your bodybuilding diet to provide energy for muscle contractions and to sustain the intensive exercise regimes required in bodybuilding. Fat provides twice as much energy per unit mass compared to protein and carbohydrates, according to the American Heart Association. You also need fat to maintain optimal cell structure and hormone levels to support a muscle-building environment.

Fat helps protect cell membranes and the sheaths surrounding nerves, says Harvard Health Publishing. Dietary fat is also essential for muscle movement, blood clotting and inflammatory response, which assists in repair of muscles from injury during rigorous training. In addition, fat facilitates the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E and K.

Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you should consume 25 to 35 percent of your total calories from fat, many bodybuilders who strive for lean muscle often restrict fat intake to lose weight. This practice may result in unhealthy effects on the body. The position statement of the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, published in March 2016, discourages consuming less than 20 percent of calories from fat because of the possible result of decreasing the delivery of vitamins and essential fatty acids.

Vegetarians should choose fats that contribute healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids to the diet in favor of saturated and trans fats. The addition of foods containing omega-3 have an exceptional benefit to a vegan bodybuilding meal plan. According to a September 2019 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition, omega-3 fatty acids may have a positive influence on skeletal muscle, gains in muscle size and muscle strength and help reduce the loss of muscle mass.

For your plant-based bodybuilding meal plan, USDA recommends the following foods that incorporate healthy omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tofu
  • Canola oil
  • Navy beans
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Avocados

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