Vegan Problem – How to Grow Big Muscle If You Don’t Eat Meat

By on October 19, 2016

Humans need protein to grow—fact. But does it mean vegetarians can’t build lean muscle mass? No.

While it has been thought that bodybuilding and vegetarianism don’t go hand in hand, that’s not true. In fact, you can still get protein from plant sources, not only from animal-derived protein, such as fish, pork, beef, and turkey.

Why Eat For Bodybuilding

So if you’re a vegan/vegetarian, you still stand a chance to build muscle.

FACT: Horses are strong and powerful animals, yet they’re herbivores, meaning they eat only plants.

Thus, you can get required nutrients to grow from nuts, fruits, whole grains, and vegetables.

Not convinced?

Meet your vegan bodybuilding foods—no animals were harmed here, yet these foods can build your muscle and strength in the same way that meat eaters do through their diet.

Vegan Bodybuilding Foods

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruit And Vegetables

Consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables for high-quality vitamins and minerals and antioxidants supply to strengthen your immune system, providing your body with the protection it needs against sicknesses and fatigue.

When it comes to mineral supply, broccoli and spinach are ideal. They are two excellent sources of calcium, which you need in building healthy bones.

Having optimal bone strength is something you need for the massive demand in weightlifting you should keep up with when training and it is high calcium that you’d get from these two vegetables.



Build lean muscle even if you’re a vegan with legumes, a great source of protein. Include them in your diet because they are low-fat carb sources that make them a high-quality snack before bodybuilding. You can also try chickpeas if you love cooking with it on your pots and pans for glass cooktop.


Replace traditional brown rice or white rice with quinoa, which feels and tastes like you’re having oatmeal and brown rice together. It is a complete source and contains higher amounts of protein than brown rice has.

Protein Powders (Soy or Egg Whites)


In the bodybuilding world, protein powders are precious foods. Every bodybuilder recognizes the importance of these products. Try soy protein powder if you’re not into consuming animal byproducts, or egg white protein powder if you are.

Protein powders are convenient and easy. All you need is to shake it up in your bottle and you can readily drink it.

They can also serve as instant energy sources when working out and a way to increase your protein intake.


You know that you need enough protein to train—or else, you’ll be subject to serious trouble, such as unsatisfying results and the feeling of ‘weakness.’

While whey/casein powders are animal byproducts in which strictly vegans are off-limits, they are perfectly fine for the Lacto-Ovo and Lacto- vegetarians.

Whey is one of the most quickly absorbed protein sources, so it’s consumed by bodybuilders who want to improve their training performance.


They are great sources of fat for long-lasting energy. Snack on nuts, such as walnuts, to increase your calorie intake and build muscle fast.

Aside from nuts, you can also add flaxseed or flaxseed oil in your diet for essential fatty acids because you are more likely than not avoiding fish oil or fatty fish.

Nuts and flaxseeds are great sources for sustained energy to improve your workout performance.

Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter

Boost your fat intake with nut butter, like peanut butter. They don’t only give you energy but also increase your calorie intake.

Increasing your calorie intake is important when building muscle.

So what are you waiting for? Smear, some of it over your apples or bananas, mix it with your favorite snack, such as oatmeal, or add some of it to a smoothie.


IRON: Because you’re a vegan who does not eat fried or rotisserie oven cooked red meat, you might be falling short of iron.

Did you know that you need this nutrient for developing red blood cells? And if you don’t have enough iron in your blood, you would be feeling easily energy-drained when working out, which isn’t something you want to happen. So if you want to build lean muscle mass and you’re a vegan, consider supplementing with iron in your diet.

CALCIUM: See to it that you’re supplementing with calcium for the bone strength needed in weightlifting.

BRANCH CHAIN AMINO ACIDS: You should be able to supplement with and take it before and after working out to protect your body from muscle loss, a common problem among bodybuilders, meat eaters or vegans.

Bodybuilding Success Tips for Vegans

  • Stay positive. Even if you’d hear some people say that you won’t succeed in bodybuilding for being a vegan, don’t believe it. Block out this idea. Don’t let others put you down, but keep a positive mental attitude.
  • Eat more often throughout the day to keep that stream of amino acids flowing into muscle tissues for them to grow.
  • Monitor body fat—it is every weightlifter’s goal not to lose muscle mass in the process of bodybuilding; thus, it is a must to check for body fat levels regularly to find out if you’re losing instead of gaining muscle.
  • Keep short but intense workout sessions: Aim for short burst of intense exercises to prevent muscle loss that is likely to happen if you don’t have elevated protein intake just like meat eaters have. After all, it is difficult to be doing long workout sessions when you’re on a vegan diet.
  • Make a variety of food choices to avoid suffering from nutrient deficiencies.
  • Have a fresh diet, not a processed one. Being a vegan does not give you a license to eat whatever high-calorie snack food you desire, so do not rely on overly processed foods; instead, always consider fresh and whole foods, including nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

By following these vegan diet tips for bodybuilding, you’ll be well on your way to bulking up even if you don’t eat/consume animal byproducts.

So if you’re looking to start seeing the results, consider adding plant-based protein sources, nuts, fruits, vegetables and supplementation in your diet for improved bodybuilding performance, and of course, progress.

Additionally, keep that positive mindset and don’t let others put you down. After all, you’re bodybuilding for yourself, not for anyone else. Finally, don’t forget rewarding yourself every time you’re reaching milestones in bodybuilding.



Hi, there! My name is Sarah Reyes, a food lover who sets sail and explore towns, borders and cultures just to try and enjoy whatever my food-loving heart desires when I visit a destination. I write food and culinary guides to help fellow foodies find and learn about practical food, culture and travel tips. Join me in my journey and quest for delicious and healthy food at My King Cook. See you!

About Joseph Solidum

I've been a fitness enthusiast for a long time now and I always love to research a lot of ideas about health and fitness. I'm always following healthy fitness and eating best practices.