Vegan Muscle Building Tips + Inspiring Bodybuilders

by Alena

Want to bulk up on a plant-based diet? Check out our top vegan muscle-building tips, protein-packed foods, vegan bodybuilders and high-protein recipes.

With the stereotype of the weak and skinny vegan still around, it’s no wonder why so many people think you cannot grow muscle eating a plant-based diet!

That’s because as a vegan, you don’t eat many of the typical muscle gain or bodybuilder foods like steak, eggs or whey protein shakes.

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Let’s change this common misconception with some nutrition basics, inspiring vegan bodybuilders and lots of tasty high-protein vegan recipes that fuel your vegan muscle growth on a daily basis!

We recently shared how to gain weight as a vegan and created a list of vegan foods to gain weight, both of which you need to check out after reading this article for additional tips.

One more quick note before we start with our tips: we’ll focus mainly on the nutrition and lifestyle part of vegan muscle building and recommend that you consult other experts on creating workout routines.

man with black muscle shirt and hat doing pull upsPin

Can you gain muscle as a vegan?

Yes, you can gain muscle as a vegan if you stick to the basics of proper nutrition and training.

There are many high-protein vegan foods that you can base your diet on and follow professional advice on weight lifting or even work with a personal trainer to reach your goals.

Keep reading to learn more about plant-based nutrition and calories for muscle building. 

How do vegans get their protein?

Just because someone doesn’t consume meat, dairy and eggs, doesn’t mean that they can’t get enough protein from plant-based sources!

While it can be a bit more challenging to plan your diet accordingly, focusing on the following vegan staple foods assures that you cover a wide range of amino acids:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Tofu & tempeh
  • Seitan
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Peanuts
  • Hemp & chia seeds
  • Protein powder

Learn more about this topic in our vegan protein guide and check out our vegan food pyramid

More plant-based nutrition tips

It’s important not to overlook other nutrition basics like eating enough complex carbs, healthy fats and avoiding nutrient deficiencies. 

Here’s a quick rundown of what to focus on and our free cheat sheets for meeting these nutrient needs!

  • Iron: found in dark leafy greens, beans, lentils, dried fruits (low iron means low energy)
  • Calcium: found in spinach, collard, kale, broccoli, hemp milk (for muscle contraction and bone health)
  • Zinc: found in pumpkin seeds, almonds, macadamias, oatmeal or cereals (for muscle growth and repair)
  • Potassium: found in bananas, oranges, potatoes, kale, avocados (electrolyte for muscle contraction lost via sweat)
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Vegan bodybuilding diet

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, appropriately planned vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

As an aspiring vegan bodybuilder, it’s recommended that you consume 10-20% more calories daily than required for weight maintenance.

The following graphic shows you which foods offer more calories per pound than others to help you meet your needs!

Calorie Density Chart for easy weight gain or weight lessPin

Current research suggests that those working towards muscle gain require between 1.6-2.4 g/kg of protein per day!

Find out exactly how much protein and calories you should eat by doing the math and choose from the following recipe collections to develop the perfect vegan bodybuilding diet for you!

Sample day of eating

Here’s what you can eat in a day for vegan muscle building!

Tips for vegan muscle building

Here are some of the best tips to follow for muscle growth on a plant-based diet.

  • Keep your expectations realistic and build habits 
  • Challenge yourself regularly
  • Fill up on lots of protein-packed foods (listed above)
  • Get enough healthy fats to meet calorie and nutritional needs
  • Don’t overcomplicate things and stick to the basics
  • Always have vegan food & snacks available to exceed your caloric needs for the day
  • Don’t take in too much fiber as this can cause you to undereat involuntarily
  • Make smart food swaps to replace animal protein.
  • Get into meal planning & meal prep to meet your nutrition goals
  • Keep your appetite up by eating foods you love
  • Try to eat every 2-3 hours to keep your energy levels high
  • Take your vitamin B12 and any other supplements (get a blood test first!)
  • Do the right exercises for muscle growth
  • Stay consistent with your training even if you don’t always see progress
  • Give yourself enough time to rest & recover
  • Track your food intake to keep yourself accountable
  • Work with an RD or professional trainer if needed

Make the nutrition part easier for yourself with the help of vegan subscription boxes!

Vegan bodybuilders

Many vegan bodybuilders have fueled themselves effectively on a plant-based diet for years! Thanks to their dedication, they have extraordinary fitness and an incredible physique.

See what’s possible and get inspired by the following athletes!

Torre Washington

vegan bodybuilder Torre Washington working outPin

Image source: Instagram

Torre chose a vegan lifestyle back in 1998 and didn’t start competing in bodybuilding before 2009!

Since then, he has won numerous competitions and was awarded by the Humane League in 2016 for his animal advocacy.

Nimai Delgado

vegan bodybuilder Nimai Delgado in front of a wallPin

Image source: Instagram

Vegetarian from birth, Nimai has never eaten meat in his life and went completely vegan in 2015. 

With an IFBB pro card, he is an excellent example of how to live a compassionate life while growing lots of muscle!

Jehina Malik

vegan bodybuilder Jehina Malik working outPin

Image source: Instagram

Veganism is central to Jehina’s life because she was born into a vegan family and has never had any meat, dairy or eggs!

She’s the first-ever vegan IFBB Pro Physique competitor and has been bodybuilding since 19.

Patrik Baboumian

vegan bodybuilder Patrik Baboumian showing his musclePin

Image source: Instagram

Patrik won the German Junior Bodybuilding title aged 20 in 1999 and Germany’s Strongest Man in 2011!

He had been vegetarian for several years before going vegan in 2011 and two years later, he set a world record in yoke walk by carrying a 550kg yoke at Toronto Veg Fest.

Brian Turner

vegan bodybuilder Brian Turner in his kitchenPin

Image source: Instagram

Brian initially went vegan to heal his cystic acne and now has over a decade of vegan bodybuilding under his belt.

He is a certified trainer and very active on social media where shares what he eats in a day, muscle-building recipes and fitness tips!

More helpful vegan guides

Education plays an important role when you want to follow a healthy vegan diet and if you want to be fit and build muscle!

Check out these guides next.

Have you had success with vegan muscle building? Which foods & meals did you focus on and do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below and Pin this article here.

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

20 thoughts on “Vegan Muscle Building Tips + Inspiring Bodybuilders”

  1. I’ve done a lot of reading on PBWF diets and what you composed here is the most concise yet thorough articles I’ve found yet. Everything is relevant your info is solid and is a great summary of all that is necessary to achieve a well balanced healthy lifestyle. Kudos and thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Wow, that’s really something! Thanks for this comment, Rob :) We always try to promote accurate high-quality and helpful content because we know about all the poor articles out there. That being said, there are lots of other great plant-based blogs, of course.
      Happy that this was valuable to you x

      Reply
  2. Such a concise and well written article. It is a myth that one can’t build muscles with a vegan diet. It is good that you mentioned the need to consider the difference in each body type. Going to a nutritionist helps a lot in this regard, and is equally necessary as going to a physical trainer. This is especially required for people who have previous health conditions.

    Reply
  3. If the athletes you mentioned built most of their their muscle mass before switching to a plant based diet, I think your argument is flawed.

    Reply
    • Yes that would be partially true – some of them built MOST of their muscle eating plant-based and others just kept building it on a vegan diet. So either way, it’s definitely possible to do so. Hope this makes sense!

      Reply
  4. I have put on ridiculous amounts of muscle since I went vegan. I was vegetarian for 8 years prior to going vegan so my foundation was built on a vegetarian diet.
    I get stronger everyday and when I compete I have a totally different look than my competitors as I don’t look dieted down, just conditioned and fit.
    This is an excellent piece that tells the truth, you do need to eat a lot and you do need to get really friendly with eats lots of carbs.
    It can be done and at the end you are healthier and look better :)
    Great piece, glad someone wrote and a well thought out and honest post about this!

    Reply
    • Awesome, thank you so much for sharing your experience and appreciating our work :) Really means a lot and we’re so happy for you!

      Reply
  5. Hello,

    First and foremost, I just wanted to say great article. I’m very happy that I came across this website that has a plethora of knowledge that is applicable to my lifestyle. A little background information about myself…I have been a vegetarian the majority of my life. In reality though, I was more of a carbatarian and eating a lot of processed food which ultimately led me to becoming overweight. I no longer wanted to be apart of that statistic, so was ready for a change. Therefore, August 1st of 2017 I transitioned to vegan and then September 1st I decided to go fully raw. With a better mindset, cleaner eating, and a commitment to working out and creating a healthier lifestyle by the end of November I had lost 40 lbs, met my goal weight, obtained a healthy BMI, and no longer overweight.

    Nevertheless, even after all the weight loss I still was at 28.2% BF based on bodpod results accomplished on November 27th. I had always been interested in bodybuilding, but never had the courage before to do it. However, it was now or never. Therefore, I committed myself to bodybuilding and a coworker put me in contact with their personal trainer, and on December 6th I started to follow the meal/workout plan they had for me. On January 26th I got another bodpod done and found that I had lost 5.3% BF and reached 22.9% BF. I’ve been receiving amazing results as far as fat reduction, and I look so much better physically.

    However, I do have many concerns. First, I’ll admit that I’m still learning and thought I needed a lot of protein so gave my personal trainer the thumbs up to incorporate Garden of Life Raw Organic protein powder into my meal plan which I take 20g of it 2X a day. I eat 6 meals a day which looks like the following: Meal 1: Pear/1 scoop of protein powder Meal 2: 1/4 cup of nuts/1 cup of vegetables Meal 3: 2 cups of salad mix w/half avocado Meal 4: Banana and an apple w/1 Tbsp of peanut butter Meal 5: large zucchini turned into noodles w/tomatoes and garlic and Meal 6: 1 scoop of protein powder. Also I still use olive oil and coconut oil in my diet. I use 1 Tbsp or less of olive oil on my a salad as a dressing and 1 Tbsp or less of coconut oil on my zucchini pasta. Which after reading several articles on here and elsewhere I would like to eventually transition away from both protein powders and oils.

    So long story short I don’t think I am meeting my caloric needs. According to myfitnesspal tracker I’m only getting about 1280 calories. I am 5’2, currently 118 pounds, and my BMR is about 1330. I do have a very sedentary job, but I work out 5-6X a week focusing on different muscle groups, I do 12 minutes of HIIT 3X a week, 15-20 minutes of cardio 1X a week, and 3-4 days of abs. Therefore, I’m constantly questioning if I’m consuming enough calories. Earlier on I was eating a little extra fruit/nuts here and there because I found myself to be so hungry. However, after talking to my personal training and getting a much needed reality check, and also fear of slowing down my progress I got back on target and consistent with the meal plan, because apparently to him I was just having unnecessary cravings. I recently expressed to my personal trainer the other day that I’m worried that I am at too large of a calorie deficit based on the BMR I calculated and afraid of muscle loss. I used health calculators to also calculate the calories I need for fat loss or muscle gain and both caloric amounts are higher than what I’m consuming. He told me that vegan and meat have completely different calorie base and that all calories are not the same and to research sport nutrition and how caloric intake is broken down for specific goals and athletes. So I think that was he’s way of saying I am consuming the amount I need. So am I wrong to assume that I’m not consuming enough, or perhaps I’m not really hungry and just having unnecessary cravings like he said? I just want to know one way or another for sure. I don’t think he understands my needs as a raw vegan, but maybe he does….

    Lastly, I did find another personal trainer who’s vegan and who has done bodybuilding on a raw vegan diet who is willing to help me and understands my lifestyle more. She has followed the 80/10/10 and I believe will be able to help me transition away from powders/oils and meet my needs. But unfortunately, I still have 4 more weeks with my current personal trainer. Any advice, suggestions, or help you can offer would be much appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Ashley,
      thanks so much for taking the time to read our article and share your experience here!
      I’m afraid we don’t have enough expertise to comment on your situation and give you detailed advice. How about you check out some vegans that are into fitness like Jon Venus?
      Sorry I cannot be very helpful here.
      Wishing you all my best!

      Reply
  6. Patrick …. These Guys are on steroids ! Show one single vegan … without a skinny look …. No roids and 10 years + vegan pls … show !

    Reply
  7. Although it may be possible, it is extremely difficult for the average person just trying to stay is shape. I was vegan for 2 years and I could never maintain even a fraction of the muscle I had until I started consuming animal protein again. I was 38 then and now I’m 47 and have more muscle than I did when I was vegan. Kudos to the people who can do it but for me it was a constant struggle

    Reply
  8. The link attached regarding soy protein is being contradicted here in this blog..the study specifically states that soy protein prevents osteoporosis with people not taking hormones specifically. Does not mention that it causes cancer. Soy does not cause cancer, excess meat consumption does. this article is misleading.

    Reply
  9. Spinach is not a good food for getting calcium. It has a lot of oxalates. Oxalates bind with calcium, stopping you from absorbing calcium. So even though it technically has a lot of calcium, you won’t get much of it (it’s called bioavailability).

    Collards is a good choice though. It has a very high amount of bioavailable calcium.

    Reply
    • thanks so much for pointing this out, Daniel! We would love to improve our older content like this article and comments like yours really help :) We love our calcium-fortified soy milk!

      Reply
  10. So useful to read!
    I’ve been vegan for years and only just started working out solidly. The internet is full of messy advice for building muscle and/or strength on a vegan diet. Most advice seems to be so ‘balanced’ it basically says “X can be true but also so is the complete opposite to some extent”.
    Thank you for contributing a far better article to the mix. Plenty of really useful advice, presented in such a clear way! I’ll be back here for more info and recipes!

    Reply

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