So you want to get big as a vegan.
You may have it harder than meat eaters do when it comes to increasing muscle mass, but with hard work and dedication it is more than possible.
To bulk up as a vegan, it’s essential to feed those muscles you’re working so hard to build.
You’ll need a caloric surplus whilst taking in plenty of protein; but that’s easier said than done.
You’ll need to eat a lot…
But a lot of what?
Food quality is key when it comes to building muscle mass; you don’t want to be doing a ‘dirty bulk’, where you eat anything and everything to increase your size (and your body fat too).
More and more people are turning to plant-based diets, but can you gain the size you want while avoiding animal products?
My answer: Absolutely yes.
I’m not a vegan myself, but I’ve spoken with enough of them in great detail, and read enough scientific studies, to learn all about their diets and what works best.
Here are the best vegan foods to put on muscle:
High in lysine, an important amino acid for muscle building, lentils are a filling source of both carbohydrates and protein for vegans looking to increase muscle.
18 grams of protein and 40 grams of carb per cup of cooked lentils make these legumes muscle-building machines.
This pseudo-grain weighs in at 6 grams of protein per cup cooked and is a flavourful alternative to rice.
Quinoa flour also boosts the protein content of baked goods:
It can be hard as a vegan to get the protein you need to bulk up.
The thicker the flakes, the lower the glycemic index for this delicious comforting breakfast food.
Top with coconut milk and a handful of pumpkin seeds to fuel your next workout.
Available in varying textures, from silken to very firm, tofu is at its most delicious when marinated prior to cooking.
Great as a protein source in smoothies or scrambled with herbs, tofu will give you 2 grams of protein per ounce.
Combine with legumes to form a complete protein, and top with a healthy fat like olive oil, avocado, nuts or seeds, and you’ll be gaining mass and strength like a pro.
Nuts & Seeds
Throw a handful or two on top of your next giant salad, or munch them on their own to keep your calories up between meals.
Pistachios and pumpkin seeds are particularly high in lysine – an amino acid that helps with the biosynthesis of protein – so eat up!
They can be pulverised in a blender with a few dates and rolled into balls or bars, and make for a very portable high-energy whole food.
Added to a stir fry or spooned over noodles, peanut butter will give your dinner a caloric boost that can translates into muscle mass.
Spread it on apple or banana slices, or blend into a smoothie for a dose of protein and good fats.
Peanut butter is often the go-to choice of many bulkers; vegan or otherwise.
You don’t need expensive energy bars when a baked sweet potato travels well, is easy to eat on the go, and provides 2-4 grams of protein per medium potato along with a solid amount of iron and vitamin C.
Roasted root veggies like parsnips, beets, and turnip with olive oil and sea salt are high in starchy carbohydrates, but won’t leave you sugar crashing thanks to their fiber content.
Load up on these vitamin-packed bites and soon you’ll be loading up on muscle.
This amazing fruit — exploding in popularity thanks to its photogenic appearance being a hit with many Instagrammer — is high in calories and monounsaturated fat; one avocado also gives you 3 grams of protein.
If you’re training in high temperatures or restricting your carbohydrates, the potassium contained in avocados will help you recover in record time.
Add avocado to smoothies for a creamy texture, salads, or to top baked potatoes to fuel your workout.
Made from wheat gluten, seitan is high in protein and very versatile.
It provides a pleasant alternative to soy protein for vegans, absorbs the flavour of any sauce it’s cooked in, and packs a powerful punch at around 6 grams of protein per ounce.
Fermentation changes the feel and flavour of this soy-based protein.
Similar in texture to a firm veggie burger, tempeh provides about 5 grams of protein per ounce.
Fats are the most energy-dense foods out there, and keeping some fats in your diet is essential to ensuring you continue to increase your size.
If you’re trying to find a way to sneak some extra calories into your diet, add a few extra glugs of olive oil to your salad, soup or other meal.
Coconut oil solidifies at a fairly high temperature relative to other fats, which makes it ideal for portable snacks like energy balls.
Blend together dried fruit, nuts, and coconut oil, form into balls or bars and refrigerate until solid for a calorie-dense snack with no mystery ingredients.
Coconut butter is naturally sweet and is a nutritional powerhouse.
Add to smoothies, fruit and nut balls, or eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.
Your gains will thank you.
Vegan protein powders, whether soy or pea protein, are a great choice for gym rats on the go.
Liquid meals make it easier to pack in the calories necessary for maximum muscle growth.
Mix with hemp, soy, or almond milk and blend in a banana and some avocado for a delicious meal.
Easy energy in the palm of your hand, fruit is great for recovery after a hard workout.
Combine with a protein to avoid a sugar crash.