Are you wondering what should you eat as a vegan bodybuilder and how to create a meal plan that supports your fitness goals?
It is often said that abs are made in the kitchen but not only that, whether your goals are to gain muscle or lose fat, your diet will be key to supporting or hindering your success. As with any bodybuilding diet, your nutrition must be carefully planned and tracked to maximize your results and get the most out of your workouts.
With a vegan diet for bodybuilding, you won’t only be able to achieve your dreamed physique but you will also be able to recover faster post-workout, reduce inflammation, boost your mood, and enhance your overall performance.
In this article, I’ll show you the simple steps you need to follow to create an effective vegan bodybuilding meal plan and show you some examples of what some seasoned vegan bodybuilders eat for inspiration. Let’s get started!
Guide to a Bodybuilding Vegan Meal Plan
Creating a Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan might sound complicated if you have never heard of words like ‘bulking’, ‘cutting’, ‘macros’, etc.
While it involves some maths and formulas, the truth is that it is an already proven method that bodybuilders have been using for years to manipulate their body composition and achieve measurable results.
If you follow the guide step-by-step, you’ll be able to create a vegan meal plan that helps you achieve your bodybuilding goals. But before going deeper into each step, let’s take a look at what this method involves:
- Determine your goal: The first step to creating your vegan bodybuilding meal plan is to decide if you want to gain muscle or lose fat since each one of those involves different nutritional needs.
- Calculate your calories: Put simply, calories are units of energy. When you eat more calories than you burn you gain weight and when you eat less, you lose weight.
- Calculate your macros: Protein, Carbohydrates, and fats are different types of nutrients found in food. You need a specific percentage of each depending on your goals.
- Figure out what foods you need to eat in order to ‘hit’ those calories and macronutrients.
- Keep an eye on your micronutrients: finally, you want to make sure you are also getting enough vitamins and minerals from the foods you have chosen.
As you can see, it is a pretty straightforward process and no much room for error so if you follow this guide you’ll be able to create your bodybuilding vegan meal plan and you’ll be on track to transforming your body.
1. Determine your goal
To achieve a shredded, lean physique, bodybuilders need to gain muscle mass and lose body fat BUT you can not do both at once since the first requires a caloric surplus and the second requires a caloric deficit.
That is why bodybuilders train in cycles of bulking (gaining muscle) and cutting (losing fat) so the end result result is a physique with more muscle and less fat.
Some fat is inevitably gained while bulking and some muscle might be lost during cutting but the goal is to minimize them, which is why nutrition places a key role.
How to know if you should bulk or cut?
If you are unsure of whether to do a bulk or cut here are some guidelines you can consider.
If you are not happy with your body fat percentage, it is a good idea to do a cut first otherwise, if you try to do a bulk, you will gain some unwanted fat that won’t be very motivating and you might end up interrupting your bulk before time.
On the other hand if you are happy with your physique and wouldn’ mind gaining some fat in the process, you should consider bulking.
Are you somewhere in the middle? consider the following advice.
- If you are a man with more than 15% body fat or a woman with more than 25% body fat, you should do a cut.
- If you are a man at or below 10% body fat or a woman at or below 20% body fat, you should do a bulk.
2. Calculate your calories
Once you have decided on your bodybuilding goals, the next step is to calculate how many calories you need to eat to achieve them.
As I mentioned before if you want to gain muscle you need to eat in a caloric surplus since your body needs the excess calories to build muscle tissue. This is considering you are following an exercise routine that promotes muscle gain otherwise you will gain more fat than muscle mass.
On the other hand, if you want to lose body fat you need to eat on a caloric deficit so your body is forced to use some of the stored fat for energy. As you can now imagine, the reason why fad diets ‘works’ is because they restrict certain foods groups and create a caloric deficit
In order to calculate your calories there are some elements that are considered:
- The first step is to know your Basal Metabolic Rate which is how many calories your body needs to perform its basic functions while at rest. This is calculated based on your weight, height, and age.
- Then you can factor in your daily activities and exercise to calculate your TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure which is how many calories you burn per day when exercise is taken into account. The result is how many calories you would need to maintain your weight with this activity level.
- Once you have your TDEE you can either increase it if you want to gain muscle or reduce it if you want to lose fat.
This information is still helpful if you want to understand the basics of bodybuilding and body recomposition but don’t worry, you won’t need to do any maths today.
- For muscle growth (bulking) increase your TDEE by 10%.
- For losing fat (cutting) reduce your TDEE by 20%.
You can simply use the calculator below to get your TDEE.
Ready? Now take your TDEE and modify it based on your bodybuilding goals.
You know how your magic number of how many calories you need to eat in your Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan to achieve your goals.
Note: Since we have taken into account your exercise per week, you won’t need to change your calories between workout and rest days.
3. Calculate your macronutrients
The nutrients in foods can be of 3 different kinds: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These are known as macronutrients.
While calories are essential for weight loss and weight gain, not all calories are equal. To manipulate your body composition for muscle growth or fat loss, you need to eat the right split of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in your bodybuilding vegan meal plan.
As you can see in the image, 400 calories of brownie look very different than 400 calories of a veggie wrap and fruit and will also have different effects on your body.
So how much of each macronutrient and do you need in your vegan meal plan?
For a full guide on vegan macros make sure to check out this article where I explain in detail what, why, and how but for now let’s go to straight to the ideal macro split for bodybuilding:
- Protein: You need 1.6-2.2 g of protein per kg, or 0.73-1 g of protein per pound.
- Fats: Keep your fats low to moderate by consuming 15%-25% of your calories from fat.
- Carbohydrates: The rest of your calories should come from carbs.
If you don’t want to calculate it yourself, you can also go to Macros Inc, fill out your information, activity level, and goals and let them do will calculate your macros for you.
Tip: When you calculate your macros through Macros Inc, you’ll have the option to choose between a lower fat-higher carb split or vice-versa. I recommend choosing lower fats and higher carbs since it works better for a plant-based diet.
You will then receive your macros as in the image above and will be ready to choose the foods you will eat on your bodybuilding vegan meal plan.
Note: The grams measurement is used for two different things – one is for weight (like pounds, ounces, milligrams or kilograms) and the other is for quantifying macronutrients (how much protein, carbohydrate or fat is in a food).
If your macros say for example, you need 111 grams of protein, it is referring to the protein content not the weight.
4. Figuring our what to eat on your vegan bodybuilding meal plan
Admittedly, if you are new to vegan bodybuilding (or bodybuilding in general), it is not easy to translate your macros into a meal plan but it does get easier with time.
Some of the challenges that vegan bodybuilders face is trying to hit their protein goals while staying within their carbohydrates and calories range.
Since plants have a high percentage of carbohydrates if you are bulking you will have a lot more room to play and get your protein needs from plant sources that are high in both protein and carbs.
On the other hand, when you are cutting you will need to be more intentional about choosing protein sources that are low on carbs.
Here are some steps that can help you create your vegan bodybuilding meal plan:
Hit your protein goals first
The easiest way to get started with your bodybuilding vegan meal plan is to choose your protein sources.
Since vegan protein also contains carbohydrates and fat, it is best to hit your protein goals first and then see how many carbohydrates and fat you have left.
Below is a list of some of the best vegan protein sources you can include in your meal plan.
Start by adding some high protein vegan sources to each one of your meals or snacks. A good reference is aiming for protein sources that have a 10:1 calories to protein ratio.
This part involves some trial and error until you find the right foods and servings to meet your protein goals. Since you will be adding other foods that also contain protein in a lower percentage, you can leave 10-20 grams of protein left.
Like, if I want to get 111 grams of protein, I know 10-20 of those will come from vegetables and grains so I would leave my protein at 90-100 for now.
Having trouble meeting your protein needs?
If you’re struggling to meet your protein requirements, you can supplement with vegan protein powders to make yourself a nice protein shake. As long as you are getting most of your nutrients from whole foods, a protein powder can be quite a convenient alternative source of high-quality vegan protein.
I always drink a protein shake after my workouts and at the moment I am loving Vedge, it has the best macros, flavor, and texture I have found so far.
Get some healthy fats
After you have your protein set on your meal plan, you can add some healthy fats.
Plant-based fats play an essential role in muscular development, speed recovery, and cardiovascular function. Plus they are also important to maintain a healthy hormone function, healthy cholesterol, and overall health.
Before you add some vegan high-fat foods, , make sure to check how many grams of fats you need since your protein sources might contain some fats already.
A note on oils: Oils could be considered a fat source but since they contain zero nutritional value or health benefits, most vegan bodybuilders including myself, keep them out of our diets (most of the time). I prefer to include some fats that have other nutritional benefits and will also help me feel satisfied.
In the bodybuilding meal plan, I am using as an example, I only needed to add 1/2 an avocado to get hit my required fats.
I am aiming to get between 15%-25% of my calories from fats which translates to 32-54 grams. In this there is still room left in case the carbs I add have also some fat percentage.
Add your carbohydrates
A great part about a vegan diet is that you get to enjoy carbohydrates without fear. If you were tricked by the diet industry (like me) to believe that carbs were the devil and you would never be fit while eating them, you now get to enjoy them while looking your best.
You won’t have any issue finding sources of carbohydrates in the vegan world but below are some of the idea of carbs you can include in your diet.
Make sure to include fruits and vegetable since not only they are delicious, but they are required to meet your daily needs of vitamins and minerals.
Plus, vegetables are low in calories and high in volume so you get to fit lots of them within your meal plan.
In this case a got a bit more protein and less carbs than what my recommended macros were but that is not a problem.
Getting your exact macros can be tricky so you should prioritize getting at least as much protein as recommended and to not exceed your carbs and and fats since that would exceed your calories.
5. Keep an eye on your micronutrients
Hitting your macros will help you change your body composition and achieve your bodybuilidng goals but there is one more element you need to consider: your micronutrients needs.
Micronutrients are found on whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and refer to the vitamins and minerals you need for basic bodily functions and overall health.
While you can technically hit your macros and fitness goals eating nothing but protein shakes, you will be missing some essential nutrients that would eventually prejudice your health.
That is why, besides track of your macros is – you should also keep an eye on your micros such as: Zinc, iron, vitamin B12, omega-3, iodine, calcium, fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, carotenoids, Vitamins C, etc.
You should also consider a B12 supplement since it is not possible to get enough through vegan foods.
To help you track your micronutrients easily I recommned using an app like Cronometer. You can simply add the foods on your meal plan and it will tell you exactly what nutrients you are getting nough of and which one you are missing.
You will find that if you are eating a diverse whole foods plant-based diet you will be getting most of your micronutrients naturally.
If you are missing a little bit of a micronutrient in your meal plan, do not worry too much about it and make sure to switch things up for the next week or next time you change your meal plan.
What you do consistently and in the long term will have a bigger impact on your health than what you do in one week.
What does a Bodybuilding Vegan Meal Plan looks like?
Now that we have gotten the numbers figured out, let’s take a look at some tips and principles that will help you get create your meal plan with more ease.
Whole Foods Vs. IIFYM
If you haven’t heard of IIFYM, it stands for ‘If it fits your macros’ and is a principle most bodybuilders —vegan and not vegans— apply to their meal plans.
As its name suggests, the principle claims that as long as what you are eating ‘fits your macros’ you will achieve your goals, whether that is to grow muscle or to lose fat.
While this principle means that you could eat junk food every day and still get shredded, it doesn’t mean bodybuilders do, and neither should do.
In reality, most bodybuilders apply this principle to have some flexibility and still ‘fit’ some junk or ‘unhealthy’ foods in their diets without prejudicing their results.
But they also understand that besides the aesthetic results, you want to maintain a diet that supports your overall health which is why they prioritize nutrient-dense whole foods and limit highly processed and junk foods.
A good reference is to keep at least 80% whole plant foods in your vegan diet and leave the remaining 20% to come in the form of less nutrient-dense and refined/processed foods. Of course, if you want to stick to 100% whole foods that is also perfectly fine.
Protein in every meal
Vegans who are not bodybuilders or athletes, can get enough protein by simply following a diverse whole foods plant based diet without even thinking about it.
But you, in this case, need more protein than the regular folk to grow and maintain your muscle mass.
The best way to make sure you hit your protein macros is to include some plant-based protein in every meal. Whether you need to get 100 or 200 grams of protein a day, it’ll be easier if you split it along all your meals.
Here are some examples of protein-rich vegan meals you can include in your meal plan:
- Tofu scramble: If you like savory breakfast, is a great way to get lots of protein in an you can switch it up by adding different vegetables every time.
- Protein shake: You can never go wrong with a protein shake for some on-the-go breakfast. Mixed your favorite protein powder with different fruits and veggies to get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals in.
- Oatmeal: If you are an oatmeal person, you can simply add your favorite protein powder and some hemp seeds to get lots of protein and healthy fats.
- Chia pudding: If you want something filling and healthy that feels like dessert, you can try making some overnight chia pudding. Add some protein powder and nut butter for even better macros and taste.
- Protein pancakes: Yes, pancakes for breakfast are possible in a vegan bodybuilding meal plan. Check out the articles below for more ideas and recipes.
As you can see, figuring out what to eat on your vegan bodybuilding meal plan can be challenging at the beginning so lots of bodybuilders tend to eat the same foods for a week or two.
This will not only save you the time of creating another meal plan every day but you can also batch prep your meals in advance and not worry about it for a while.
Lunch and Dinner
- Stews: Use a high protein base such as tofu, tempeh, seitan. You can then turn it into your favorite type of stew by adding some vegetables and seasonings. Pair with some quinoa for extra protein.
- Stir Fry: mix your favorite vegan protein with some vegetables, seasoning, and either noodles or rice. You can make a different combination every day and never run out of ideas.
- Legumes and rice: simple but effective, combining some lentil, bean or chickpeas with some brown rice will give you high quality and filling protein plus lots of good carbs and fiber. Add some salad on the side for extra nutrients.
- Protein bowls: nobody does bowls like vegans. Forget about greens on greens. Combine your favorite vegan protein with some yams or sweet potatoes, roasted veggies and some hummus. You can thank me later.
For more meal ideas, make sure to check out this 28 day vegan meal plan later.
Vegan Bodybuilders Meal Plan?
Would you like some more ideas? No worries, here is some inspiration from two professional vegan bodybuilders on what they eat on their meal plan.
Male Vegan Bodybuilders Meal Plan: Derek Simnet
Breakfast: Buckwheat Bowl with Protein powder, fruit, and hemp seeds
Lunch: Tempeh and veggies (peppers, broccoli, kale) stir fry with avocado and nutritional yeast
Dinner: Beans, peas, Brussel sprouts and spinach salad with yams, nutritional yeast, and pepper sauce
You can check out Derek’s full day of eating with exact amounts on the following video but remember that you need to tailor it to your own macros and micros.
Female Vegan Bodybuilders Meal Plan: Natalie Matthews
Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruits and flax meal. Protein shake on coffee and Liv Body Multivitamin. Get 20% off with code VEGANFITGUIDE
Postworkout: No Cow Protein Bar
Lunch: Tofu scramble with veggies, chickpeas, and nutritional yeast.
Snack: Back to Nature Cookies
Dinner: Seitan with sweet potatoes, sauerkraut and asparagus.
You can check out Natalie’s full day of eating with macros on the video below but remember to customize it for your own macros and goals.
Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan FAQ
1. Can you build muscle on a vegan diet?
For sure, you can get all the nutrients and amino acids you need to build muscle with a vegan diet. As with any other type of diet, it is necessary that you eat enough protein, maintain a consistent caloric surplus, and follow a resistance training routine that promotes muscle growth.
2. Can you get ripped being vegan?
Yes! If you want to get the ‘ripped’ look you need to build muscle mass and lose body fat in order for your muscles to show.
What is truly important to change your body composition is your training, calories, and macronutrients. If you focus on that you can be as successful as with a vegan diet as any other plus you get all the extra health benefits of following a plant-based lifestyle.
3. How do I bulk up on a plant-based diet?
To ‘bulk up’ on a vegan diet you need to eat a caloric surplus and follow a resistance training regime. Check out the steps in the article above to calculate how much calories and macronutrients you need to eat to achieve your goals.
Don’t want to cook?
If you are feeling overwhelmed on how to start cooking healthy vegan meals, check out Fresh n’ Lean and get ready-to-eat organic meals straight to your door. Meals come with macros explained and you can choose between the Vegan and Vegan Low Carb Option.
As a new vegan bodybuilder, creating a meal plan that fits your goals can be overwhelming but it does get easier with time. I didn’t think it would happend either but it kind of become second nature after a while.
Be patient with yourself while you figure it out and know that it’ll be worth it once you start smashing all your fitness goals.
Check out the articles below for more vegan bodybuilding info: