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Can you build muscle on plant-based diet?

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Muscle building requires eating a diet that is high is protein. Amino acids are one of the major building blocks for the body, and plant based diets do offer multiple protein sources for you to choose from.

Can you build muscle on plant-based diet? Yes, it is possible to build muscle on a plant based diet when performing workouts. A well-balanced plant diet will offer you the micro and macro nutrients required for training, recovery, and efficient muscle growth. 

Many health conscious people are switching towards a fully plant-based diet as it has shown encouraging signs for improving long-term body health and also benefitting a sustainable environment. The good news is that moving towards a plant based diet should not prevent you from continuing other healthy aspects of your life like weight training or exercising in general. 

In this article, we discuss the bodies ability to build muscle on a plant based diet. Answered below are frequently asked questions about plant based protein and muscle building.

Here are a few things you can do for building muscles on a plant-based diet:

Balancing Energy Intake with Plants in Mind

Energy level is crucial before starting a workout, be it through a pre-workout meal or daily nutrition intake. Depending on your personal routines and exercise plan, a plant-based diet might not greatly affect your food choices before a workout.

Eating nutritious carbohydrates before a workout will give you the fuel needed to perform. Experts recommend acquiring carbs from whole-food sources, including fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables, to assist in keeping energy levels high. 

Certain beans and chickpeas are high in protein and digest quickly, offering a vital protein source before a workout. 

Post-workout is another story where you body is in an immediate need to recover, of course depending on the workout and goals. If you put a lot of strain on your muscles, it is beneficial to eat carbohydrates again after working out as they trigger the release of insulin, which in turn stimulates the absorption of amino acids from protein intake. 

If you are not taking a protein supplement, eating high protein foods like nuts, tofu/soy, legumes, seitan, or even grains with protein like chia, flax or quinoa

Give Your Body Plant-Based Protein

Protein is a critical component of any balanced diet, and is especially crucial if the main goal is building muscle. 

Luckily you can find adequate whole proteins in lots of plant based foods like nuts, beans, tofu/tempeh, legumes or lentils, leafy greens like spinach or kale, broccoli, or seeds. 

There are also many plant based beverages like soy milk that contain whole proteins or even plant based supplements like pea protein powder.

Is a plant-based diet good for athletes?

Yes, a plant-based diet can be good for athletes since they can build muscle and recover with a healthy diet. Plant sources contain protein in varying amounts, so it is important to balance your diet with a range of foods.

Many professional athletes have already transitioned with remarkable success! And we’re not just talking about long distance runners, but also sprinters, weight lifters, NFL players, NBA players, and professional soccer players to name a few. 

Plant-based foods help athletes to build strong muscles and maintain a healthy body.

Can a plant-based diet cause muscle loss?

A plant based diet can adequately support muscle gain and prevent muscle loss. However, it can be more challenging from a diet perspective since plant-based diets have different ratios of macro nutrients like carbohydrates and proteins. 

In other words, you may need to eat a variety of protein sources on a plant based diet to obtain the same amount of total protein as in an omnivore diet. 

Rest assured, plant based diets do contain complete proteins, meaning plant proteins contain all the necessary amino acids required to grow, maintain, recover and rebuild muscle.

If you are a vegan looking to build muscle or prevent muscle loss, a plant-based diet will serve you well. Here are a few things to look out for:

Failure to eat enough vegetable proteins

Vegetables and other plant-based foods have different ratios of protein to other macro nutrients. For example a small steak (100 grams or 3.5oz) might have ~25g of protein compared to the same amount of cooked lentils having ~10g of protein. 

If you are choosing to eat lentils as a protein source, you will need to eat a larger quantity to get the same amount of protein.

Low Calories Intake

Muscle gain comes from strain, rest, and eating, where protein is a major component of gaining muscle. You will need to pay attention to the total amount of calories you consume, especially if you are doing workouts that put a lot of strain on your body. 

Concentrate on eating calorie dense whole foods such as beans, tempeh, and tofu, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables to ensure you are safe.

Can you build muscle with plant protein?

Yes, you can create muscle mass with plant protein. It is possible to obtain enough protein and total calories just from eating whole plants.

Certain plant proteins are complete proteins meaning they have all the required amino acids to build and repair muscle.

However, it can be difficult to get the total amount of protein you want with plants by eating a variety. If you balance protein intake throughout the day, you can obtain enough to meet your body’s needs. 

A variety will also help ensure you acquire all the essential amino acids needed. 

Consume plenty of protein-dense foods such as nuts, whole grains, seeds, and beans if you want to build muscle. If you are in an intense exercise regime, you will also want to make sure to eat enough total calories including carbohydrates and fats for overall balance of sustainable energy. 

You can also opt for plant based protein supplements including pea and hemp proteins. These can be an excellent choice to add to your post-workout smoothies. 

What Do Plant-Based Bodybuilders Eat

Plant based bodybuilders need to plan meals the same way that omnivore  bodybuilders do. The foods might be different, but the attention to macronutrients is likely the same:


During intense training your primary energy source is typically carbs. Post-workout carbs are also essential to trigger insulin activity to transport proteins to muscle that needs it for recovery. 

Eating whole grains, vegetables and fruits, along with minimally complex carbohydrates like brown rice, fruit, oatmeal and sweet potatoes for complex carbohydrates. 


Bodybuilders eat a lot of vegetable proteins every day. If you are undergoing intense training to build muscle, eat at least one gram of protein for every pound of body weight per day. 

Plant proteins such as nuts, seeds, tofu, beans, legumes, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli


Fats are essential for various operations throughout the entire body and it also plays an important role in maintaining sustainable sustainable energy. Bodybuilders will typically eat whole food based fats such as seeds, nuts, and oils

Stick to around half a gram of fat per pound of bodyweight while you are looking to gain muscle. Fat transforms into energy, and you will need that fuel during intense workouts.

How Do You Lose Weight and Gain Muscle On a Plant-Based Diet?

Losing weight and gaining muscle on any diet is challenging. Historically, people didn’t think this was possible and thought that the body was only capable of doing one at a time. 

Recent studies suggest it might be possible if you stick to a rigorous routine and maintain healthy eating. We have not seen any research suggesting the source of macronutrients, like plants, plays a determining factor in either losing weight nor gaining muscle. 

If you can lose weight and gain muscle with a balanced diet and exercise plan, you can do it by choosing plant based foods too.

A balanced diet will be filled with unprocessed and whole foods, while consuming less calories than daily output. Here are tips to reduce total calories while weight training:

  • Always eat whole plant-based food, avoid processed foods or refined oils.
  • Prepare and stock plenty of vegetables, prepare sliced veggies, and stock them in the fridges. We love zucchini, carrots, and jicama.
  • Try to mentally make veggies your favorite foods if they aren’t already!
  • Avoid fried meals, whether it is plant-based or not they are still not healthy.
  • Always prepare sauces and dressing on the side of your plate so you can control how much goes on each bite.
Can you build muscle on plant based diet

Building Muscle on Plant Based Diet: Conclusion

You can grow muscle on a plant based diet. Plants offer a balanced source of nutrition including complete proteins for you to grow and rebuild muscle. 

A plant based diet can be the central component to a healthier lifestyle that includes a weight training or exercise routine. In fact, there are many professional athletes who have switched to a fully plant based diet already!

Furthermore, it is possible to lose weight and build muscle while consuming plant foods. By reducing total caloric consumption based on necessary output, and eating a diet packed with plant protein, you can successfully lose weight and gain muscle.

Vegetable contain enough protein to allow your body to build muscle. Yes, you may be eating more food by volume in order to obtain the necessary macronutrients to build muscle with plant protein, but it is very possible on a plant based diet. 

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