The Essentials of Building Lean Mass on a Vegetarian Diet

It is known that you must have a good protein and carbohydrate intake in order to gain more muscle mass. Vegetarian foods do not really go hand in hand with muscle building, because the biggest sources of protein (the foundation of muscle building) are found in non-vegetarian foods. However, more and people are embracing the vegetarian lifestyle every day, so the naturally imposed question is – can you build your muscles while on a plant based nutrition program? Yes, it is possible, and Olympic athletes who decided to avoid meat have demonstrated that. Also, the musculature of some herbivorous animals like gorillas and horses shows us that meat is not crucial for building muscle mass and strength.


For building muscle mass with weightlifting, your body needs those extra calories. At least 18 calories per pound of body weight is what is required for a weightlifter who is just beginning. Vegetarian and vegan food is heavy with carbohydrates, so make sure that your daily dose of calories does not come exclusively from carbohydrates, but also from protein dense plants.

Explore Plant Protein

Explore plant protein sources. By getting enough calories you will have more than enough protein to be healthy and active, and protein is to be found in all whole plant foods. What about mixing and matching proteins? Well, no need for that as long as you maintain your food intake versatile. There are plenty of protein-packed plant foods you can choose from, such as:

Hemp. One serving of hemp seeds contains a half daily dose of fiber. Rich with Omega-3 acids, iron and magnesium, hemp seeds also contain a solid amount of protein.
Soy. Soy is the best known vegetarian alternative to whey. It is low in cholesterol and fat, and contains a similar amount of proteins. Certain soy proteins contain fish products or milk, so be sure to read the labels carefully.
Pea. With a solid branched-chain amino acid profile, and being cholesterol free, easy to digest, and high in protein, pea is another great vegetarian source of protein. In a single serving, pea protein provides 30% of the required daily amount of iron, which is essential for the regulation of cell growth and transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
– There is a wide variety of protein dense foods like beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and lentils.

When regularly hitting the gym, you can add a protein supplement to your nutrition, such as hemp, soy, brown rice and the most-known whey protein. Whey is a milk byproduct, so lacto-vegetarians and acto-ovo vegetarians can consume it. There are also mixed protein powders, such as vital strength hydroxy ripped, which a combination of whey and casein. Do a little of your own research, and find the one that suits you best.

Eat The Right Way

Have a balanced food intake. Make sure you eat lots of vegetables and fresh fruit, which is beneficial for your health in various ways. However, if you are trying to build muscle, most of your protein should come from dense foods, so do not always fill up on fruits and veggies. If you eat mostly fresh fruit, salads, and vegetarian-based food, then you will most probably fall short on your macro needs. On the other hand, you will build some muscle by consuming avocados, nuts, seeds, and all of the aforementioned protein dense foods. Pair every vegetable you eat with a good protein and fat-packed side, for achieving the right nutrition balance.

image 4.JPG

Photo credit:

Physical Exercise

For building lean muscles, lifting weights for 2 or 3 times a week for half an hour is fairly enough. This diet sustains this type of workout better than long daily workout. Work out different muscle groups each time, so you give other muscle groups enough time to rehabilitate. If you do not feel the burn while exercising, adjust your equipment and training techniques. However, do not automatically switch to higher weight, for you may strain your muscles by making your exercise harder. If you strain a muscle, stop performing that exercise, and prevent further injuries. Consult your gym trainer who can help you learn proper training techniques and ways for using the equipment.

When you decide to start working on those abs and biceps, make sure you do your research on vegetarian foods’ nutrition values. Create a week meal plan to make sure you are bringing in enough proteins, carbs, and fats, and keeping them in balance.

About the Author. Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls and a great gym lover. In her free time she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.

Leave a Reply