Vegetarian Diet Plan For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain


A vegetarian weight loss plan sounds like an oxymoron. But if you’re looking for quick vegetarian weight loss and muscle gain, there’s no need to give up a high-protein diet. There are some surprisingly high-protein, low calorie foods available to the vegetarian dieter that are not just delicious but also good for you.

Gaining Muscle on a Vegetarian Diet: Tips to Build a Successful Plan

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Dave shows off his biceps | Hurry The Food Up

Building muscle on a vegetarian diet sounds impossible to some people, even some trainers. But, we can’t really blame them because for years the system made us believe that you need to eat animal protein to gain muscle and that protein can only be found in animal foods.

Allow me to give you the good news here; building muscle on a vegetarian diet is absolutely doable. Contrary to popular belief, you can get enough protein as a vegetarian to build muscle.

The American Dietetic Association mentions that a well-balanced vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for protein.

The major difference between animal and plant-based protein foods is that animal sources of protein are considered complete proteins, whereas most (but not all) vegetarian protein sources are not.

It means that vegetarian protein sources don’t contain all nine essential amino acids that need to be obtained through diet.

In this article, you will find our tips to build a successful plan on a vegetarian diet for muscle gain.

Young man with dumbbell prepare to flexing muscles | Hurry The Food Up

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.

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
A serving of Black Bean Burrito Bowl contains 29g protein

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.

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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
A serving of Breakfast Beans and Eggs breakfast contains 24g protein

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.

Some good examples of complete protein pairings are:

  • Lentils and rice
  • Hummus and pita bread
  • Beans and bulgur wheat
  • Nut butter and whole-grain bread
  • Oats and nuts
A bowl of curried lentil soup with coconut milk, with rice piled up on one side, on a white surface. | Hurry The Food Up
Creamy Curried Lentil Soup with Coconut has an excellent combination of amino acids

Refuel after workouts

It’s crucial to replenish your body after a workout to help muscle recovery and build muscle afterward. You should aim for about 20-30 grams of protein and some easy-to-digest carbohydrate sources within an hour after a workout.

Here are some great examples that can fuel you after your workout:

  • 1 medium banana with 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter
  • Handful of raisins with almonds
  • Hummus with pita, carrot, and celery sticks
  • Avocado whole-grain toast topped with a hard-boiled egg
  • Chocolate milk or cashew milkshake
  • Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts
Two glasses of cashew milkshake with a banana | Hurry The Food Up
A serving of Cashew Milkshake contains 17g protein and 61g carbs


As you can see from this article, consuming meat is not the only way to gain muscle. You don’t need to devour grilled steak or boiled chicken every day to build muscle.

A calorically and nutritionally well-balanced vegetarian diet that includes plant-based proteins such as beans, grains, nuts, and seeds may very well help you to gain muscle. Follow these simple steps to build 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 on a vegetarian diet: A dietitian-approved meal plan

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul

Think it’s impossible to build muscle without consuming meat? These tips and delicious dietitian-approved meals will change your mind.

As a woman, pursuing a muscle gain journey is hard enough already, having to battle lots of stereotypes, false information and misconceptions.

Among these challenges, navigating nutrition to support muscle growth can seem entirely overwhelming for most – let alone if you follow a plant-based diet. As well as ensuring that your vegetarian or vegan diet is balanced, there are some extra things to consider when it comes to building lean muscle.

Here are three things help you reach your health and fitness goals on a plant-based diet, plus some yummy meal ideas to get started.

#1 Get your calories right

While this is not strictly specific to plant-based diets, getting the energy balance right is essential for muscle growth.

In order to build muscle in the most efficient way possible, you need to be in a calorie surplus – meaning consuming more calories than you burn to create “building blocks” for your muscles.

At Move With Us, for most women we initially increase the calories 5-10% up from maintenance requirements, and then increase over time as needed. This helps gradually adjust to the increased food volume, minimise simultaneous increase in body fat percentage, and ease into the muscle gain journey.

For example, for someone whose maintenance point sits around 2000 calories, an initial target for muscle gain could be between 2100-2200 calories.

#2 Understand your protein needs

Based on a variety of recommendations and research outcomes, it’s generally recommended to consume approximately 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass to facilitate muscle growth and recovery.

For example, a female weighing in at 60 kilograms would require 72-120 grams of protein daily as part of her nutrition protocol.

However, it’s not just about the amount of protein – quality and variety also play a major role.

As for quality, it’s important to ensure that the majority of your muscle gain diet comes from wholesome, nutrient-dense foods. It’s completely fine to incorporate your favourite treats into your diet but going overboard on these can definitely hinder not just progress, but also your nutritional status.

When it comes to variety, protein sources contain varied profiles of amino-acids, and based on that are divided into two groups:

  • Complete proteins contain all essential amino acids that our bodies require. Vegetarians can easily obtain those from animal products, such as eggs, milk and cheese. Vegan sources of complete proteins include quinoa and soy.
  • Incomplete proteins do not contain all essential amino acids – and most plant-based sources of protein fall into this category.

The good news is that we used to believe that it’s important to combine plant-derived proteins in every meal to create complete proteins, but we now know that it’s not needed!

Ensure that you consume a variety of proteins throughout the day, and your body will get all it needs.

#3 Be mindful of nutrient deficiencies

Vegetarians and vegans can be at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies due to their lower content or availability in plant-based foods. Some examples include vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and more.

Lacking these key nutrients may lead to a variety of negative symptoms (such as tiredness, irritability, and poor recovery), which won’t just slow down your progress, but could also have a serious impact on your general health over time.

Well planned plant-based diets that incorporate a variety of nutritious foods from all different food groups can naturally provide adequate amounts of nutrients – but sometimes extra supplementation may be required. If you’re not feeling like yourself, make sure to check with your doctor.


Calories: 2200

Protein: 84

Fat: 66

Carbs: 319

Meal 1: Baked Oats

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 75g Rolled Oats
  • 180ml Plant-Based Milk (Unsweetened)
  • 75g Blueberries
  • 10g Plant-Based Protein Powder
  • 2 tsp Sugar Free Maple Syrup


  • Preheat oven to 180°C and apply a light spray of oil to an oven-safe bowl or dish.
  • In a separate bowl add oats, milk, protein powder, blueberries and maple syrup. Gently mix to combine.
  • Scoop mixture into oven-safe bowl and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until oats begin to turn golden brown.
  • Serve hot and add an additional drizzle of sugar free maple syrup, if desired.
  • *This meal can be stored in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Meal 2: Fruit such as a banana

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul

Meal 3: Quesadilla

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 2 Wraps (140g)
  • 125g Red Kidney Beans
  • 80g Capsicum
  • 10g Spinach
  • 40g Vegan Mozzarella Shreds
  • Fresh Coriander, to taste
  • 1 tsp Lime Juice
  • ¼ White Onion
  • 1 tsp Taco Seasoning


  • Prepare vegetables: finely dice capsicum, dice onion and chop coriander.
  • In a bowl, gently mash red kidney beans and stir through capsicum, onion, lime juice and taco seasoning. Season to taste.
  • Prepare quesadillas: spread bean mixture over one wrap. Top with spinach and cheese and place second wrap on top.
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat and apply a light spray of oil, if necessary. Place quesadilla into pan and pat down with a spatula. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and warmed through.
  • Remove quesadilla from pan and cut. Top with coriander.
  • *This meal can be stored in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. We recommend cooking at time of consumption, if possible.

Meal 4: Coconut crunch

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 150g Coconut Yoghurt (Plain)
  • 10g Plant-Based Protein Powder
  • 37g XO Crunch Cereal (Freedom Foods)
  • 35ml Maple Syrup


  • Add coconut yoghurt and protein powder to a bowl and mix to combine.
  • Top with cereal and drizzle with maple syrup.

Meal 5: Creamy mushroom pasta

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 85g Protein Pasta (Raw)
  • 70g Mushrooms
  • 150ml Plant-Based Milk (Unsweetened)
  • 12g Nutritional Yeast
  • 6g Olive Oil
  • 40g Vegan Mozzarella Shreds
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 1 tbsp Scallions
  • 150ml Vegetable Stock


  • Prepare vegetables: mince garlic, slice mushrooms and chop scallions.
  • Heat a pot over medium heat and add oil. Add scallions and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, or until lightly golden.
  • Add stock, nutritional yeast, half of milk and uncooked pasta to pot. Add additional water if required to ensure pasta is completely covered. Cover pot and increase to high heat for 4-5 minutes. After this time, remove lid and reduce to a simmer. Cook for a further 6-8 minutes, or until pasta is cooked. Additional water may be added if required to ensure pasta is cooked.
  • Once cooked, stir in remaining milk until a creamy consistency is reached. Add cheese and stir to combine.
  • *This meal can be stored in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.


Calories: 2200

Protein: 119

Fat: 72

Carbs: 269

Meal 1: Fig & Ricotta overnight oats

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 40g Ricotta (Low Fat)
  • 30g Figs
  • 85 Rolled Oats
  • 170ml Plant-Based Milk (Unsweetened)
  • 3 tsp Sugar Free Maple Syrup


  • Combine protein powder, oats and milk in a container and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Water can be added if required, until desired consistency is achieved.
  • Seal container and store in fridge overnight (or for 1 hour minimum). Top with ricotta, figs and maple syrup.
  • *This meal can be stored in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Meal 2: Fruit & Yoghurt

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 170g Greek Yoghurt (Plain) (No Fat)
  • 70g Raspberries


  • Add yoghurt to bowl and top with raspberries.

Meal 3 : Honey Haloumi Salad

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 65g Quinoa (Raw)
  • 100g Halloumi Cheese
  • 15g Spinach
  • 65g Apple
  • 20g Honey


  • Prepare ingredients: slice halloumi and thinly slice apple.
  • In a bowl add honey and haloumi. Let marinate for at least 10 minutes.
  • In a pan over medium heat apply a light spray of oil, if necessary. Add honey halloumi and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  • Cook quinoa as per packet instructions and let cool.
  • Add halloumi, apple, spinach and quinoa to a bowl and gently toss salad.
  • *This meal can be kept in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Meal 4: Nutella Pizza

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 1 Gluten Free Wrap (40g)
  • 35g Nutella
  • 45g Banana
  • 45g Strawberries


  • Spread nutella on wrap and top with sliced banana and strawberries.
  • Optional: grill under medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until wrap is warm.
  • *This meal can be stored in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Meal 5: Chilli con carne

Image: Supplied, Move With Us

Image: Supplied, Move With UsSource:BodyAndSoul


  • 95g Red Kidney Beans
  • 130g Black Beans
  • 50g Mushrooms
  • 60g Capsicum
  • 60g Zucchini
  • 80g Canned Diced Tomatoes
  • 10g Nutritional Yeast
  • 165g Sweet Potato (Raw)
  • 20g Corn Chips
  • 7g Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Taco Seasoning
  • 1 clove Garlic
  • 120ml Vegetable Stock


  • Prepare vegetables: mince garlic, slice mushrooms, cut capsicum and dice zucchini.
  • In a pot over medium heat add oil. Once hot add taco seasoning and garlic, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add sweet potato and stock to pot and cover. Cook sweet potato for 10-15 minutes, until soft. Once cooked, add beans, mushrooms, capsicum, zucchini, diced tomatoes and nutritional yeast. Mix to combine.
  • Cover pot and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, until reduced.
  • Serve hot with corn chips on the side.
  • *This meal can be stored in an air-tight container and kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Liz Guilar is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and in-house Dietitian at Move With Us. Combining her backgrounds in Science and Nutrition, Liz is passionate about empowering women with sustainable approaches to nourishing their bodies.

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