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Vegan Bodybuilding Guide for Beginners
Muscle Building All in 6 Steps

Last Updated on

Do you want to know how to develop a muscular vegan physique? Then look no further.

Here we provide you with an evidence-based guide to vegan diet and bodybuilding, using science and new developments to help you get those gains. Let’s get into it.

Chapter 1: Should you Bulk or Cut?

If you’re looking to maximize your vegan bodybuilding regime, then it is generally advised that you should alternate between bulking and cutting. This means that you should do phases of mass gaining, followed by phases of fat loss.

If you’re a little confused by these terms and how they apply to you, keep reading!

Find a Fitness Goal That Works For You

The majority of people, especially men, are looking for a strong, muscular, and lean physique through vegan bodybuilding.

If you want to achieve this fitness goal and build some muscle, then you need to:

A. Gain muscle

B. Lose fat

However, you cannot aim for both of these goals at the same time. So what should you do?  

plastic strongman

Building muscle mass works very differently to reducing fat levels, and gaining muscle inhibits your natural ability to lose fat.

This also works the other way round, with extensive fat loss making it more difficult for you to grow your muscles.

If you want to avoid stagnating, you need to alternate between phases of bulking and cutting - this is gym slang which I’ll explain below.

  • Bulking - building your muscle mass while eating a surplus of calories. This produces an anabolic environment in your body which encourages muscle mass growth.
  • Cutting - losing fat by eating below your caloric needs. This causes your body to burn its stores of excess fat, leading to fat loss.

Besides proper nutrition, basically, you want to alternate between these two periods of bulking up (gaining muscle and a small amount of fat) and cutting (where you lose fat to reveal muscle, while still trying to keep the muscle).

After you have done this for several weeks or months of vegan bodybuilding, you will be able to observe less fat and more muscle, helping to give you that coveted physique we all crave.

Should you Bulk or Cut?

  • If you have too much fat around your stomach, cut.
  • If you’re skinny and your ribs are on show, bulk. - it’s simple as that.
  • If you’re decidedly average, then there’s a more scientific way of finding out what you should do.

You need to estimate your body’s current body fat percentage.

Although you could go and get a proper DEXA scan with all the high-end equipment, a ballpark estimate should do in this case.

men women fat percentage

Take a look at the chart (try not to flatter yourself) and put yourself into a rough bracket.

1. For men - If you have around 15% body fat or more, cut down until you’re at around 10%.

When you’re around the 10% area, then you can start the process of bulking until you’re back at around 15%. Once you reach 15% again, repeat the process.

2. For women  - Cut down to around 19% body fat. When you reach 19%, bulk up until you reach a percentage of approximately 27%. Repeat this process several times.

Can You Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?

"This all seems very complicated. Can I not just find a way to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously?"

This phenomenon of doing it all at once is known as “recomping” or “body recomposition” by fitness fanatics.

It’s like the Holy Grail of the fitness world - everyone wants to hack the system and find a way to make it possible. Believe it or not, it is partially possible in some circumstances and for some people.

1. Rank beginners. People who are new to the gym will be able to take advantage of something known affectionately as “newbie gains.” This enables a newbie to build muscle mass even if they’re eating a diet with fewer calories than normal.

2. Detrained athletes. Detrained athletes who have had to take a break from their usual training regime will often be able to make gains while eating a low-calorie diet, although these effects will wear off eventually.

3. Overweight individuals. People who have high levels of body fat that will be able to support their muscle growth while simultaneously losing their excess fat.

4. Steroids. Steroids can help to produce a body recomposition effect, although we don’t recommend taking them, whether you’re a vegan or an omnivore.

Most people who are beyond the newbie stage, like vegan fitness models, will never be able to take advantage of the joys of recomping. 


Chapter 2: Get Your Calories Right

Next, we must work on maintenance calories, known as TDEE.

This useful number tells us exactly how many calories we need for either bulking or cutting effectively.

It’s Crucial to Balance Your Energy

Every day, your body burns a certain number of calories, simply just to sustain you and keep you alive.

These calories are burned when you breathe, walk, eat, and watch Netflix.

You also burn additional calories when you do things like go to the gym and perform some vegan bodybuilding.

By feeding your body with the exact amount of calories that you use, you will reach an equilibrium where you don’t gain weight or lose weight - you just stay the same. This is known as maintenance calories.

  • If you feed your body with more calories than it burns, your body will store these excess calories as body fat.
  • If you eat too little and give your body fewer calories than it burns, your body will burn the body fat as a source of energy.

Alas, you can continue eating vegan junk food all you like, so long as you watch your calories and burn more calories than you eat (1).

Contrary to popular belief, binging on “healthy clean foods” is not an automatic ticket to weight loss.

It sounds strange if you’re not used to it, but it’s very simple once you understand the underlying mechanisms of weight loss and weight gain.

How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?

To jumpstart your healthy vegan diet and vegan bodybuilding journey, you need to calculate your maintenance calories, also known as TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). This is quite easy to do – just calculate the formula below:

1. Calculate your lean body mass (LBM)

In kilograms, take your weight and multiply it by (1-)your current body fat percentage. For instance, if you weigh 80 kg and you have 15% body fat, then your LBM would be 80 x (1-0.15) = 68 kg

2. Estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) - Now, insert your lean body mass into the following formula: 370 + (21.6 x LBM) = BMR. So with an LBM of 68, you'd get 370 + (21.6 x 68) = 1838 calories

3. Multiply your BMR with an activity factor

The number of calories you burn every day will vary according to how active or sedentary your lifestyle is.

Take your BMR and multiply it according to the guidelines that best describe you:

Namnlös design (1)
  • Sedentary (Little to no exercise in a week): BMR x 1.1
  • Lightly active (Light exercise 1-3 days/week): BMR x1.2

  • Moderately active (Moderate exercise 3-5 days/week): BMR x1.35
  • Very active (Hard exercise 6-7 days/week): BMR x1.45
  • Extremely active (Very hard exercise + physical job): BMR x1.6-1.8

Now you’ve calculated your maintenance calories! Isn’t it a marvelous feeling? So how should you adjust it when you’re bulking and cutting?

1. When bulking, increase your TDEE by 10%

This caloric surplus should help you to gain around 1-2kg per month if you’re a man, although beginners will be able to sometimes achieve weight gains of 2kg per month and beyond. For women, this increase should help you to gain around 0.5-1kg per month.

2. When cutting, reduce your TDEE by 20%

This should lead to weight losses of around 2-3 kg per month for both men and women. For example, if you’re an active vegan who weighs 80kg and you have a TDEE of 2,800 calories, then you would do the following:

When bulking, your calories would be 2800 * 1.10 = 3080 kcal

When cutting, your calories would be 2800 * 0.80 = 2240 kcal

Skip all these calculations by using our TDEE calculator:

TDEE Calculator

Chapter 3: Get Your Macros Right

Although it doesn’t matter what your calories are made of when it comes to simple weight gain and weight loss, the macros of your calories certainly do matter when you’re trying to build muscle and change your overall body composition and control your muscle mass.

Why Are Macros So Important to Building a Great Body?

Macronutrients are the three basic nutrient groups that our bodies need in order to function properly - protein, fat, and carbohydrate. All of your calories come from one of these three macronutrients or “macros.”

  • 1
    1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • 2
    1 gram of carbohydrate = 4 calories
  • 3
    1 gram of fat = 9 calories
  • When cutting, we want to lose body fat and not muscle mass.
  • When bulking, we want to maximize muscle growth and minimize fat storage.

Get Your Protein Right

Animal meat and other non-vegan protein products tend to create more protein than plant products, although this does not make it impossible for vegans to acquire protein.

If you’re eating a vegan diet but you’re not focusing on enough protein intake, you may end up becoming deficient in protein, and this is not good when you’re trying to improve your body composition.

You see, protein provides our bodies with the amino acids they need in order to repair and build new muscle tissue - assisting with gains.


A protein intake of 0.8g per kg has been shown to improve muscle and strength gains in numerous studies (2).

Also, higher intakes of protein are great when you are leaning down:

  • You'll lose less muscle mass during cutting (3)
  • Makes you feel fuller by increasing satiety (4)
  • Provides a thermic effect that may aid in reducing body fat (5)
  • Helps with reducing body fat during energy restriction (6)

Although I have some very big reservations when it comes to eating animal protein, I definitely recommend eating lots of plant protein to get all the essential amino acids, nonetheless.

So How Many Grams of Protein Do I Need?

A huge meta-analysis was carried out in 2017, looking at the effects of protein supplementation on strength and muscle gains. They looked at a total of 49 relevant RCTs for longer than 6 weeks.

The key takeaway fact is this: eating more than 1.62g protein per kg of weight per day resulted in no more RET-induced gains in FFM.

To put it simply, eating 1.62g protein per kg of weight per day is the best way to maximize gains in strength and muscle.

However it turns out that there can be quite big differences between individuals when it comes to how much protein they need for building up muscle (7).

One review found that 1.6g protein per kg is actually the mean optimal intake, making it an average that is likely to work well for average people.

For the purposes of adding as much muscle as possible and looking awesome, intake should be somewhere between:

1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram per day / 0.73-1 grams of protein per lbs.

However, plant-based protein tends to be less anabolic than animal-based protein.

This is due to less BCAA and leucine content, in addition to the fact that our bodies don’t always digest plant protein as efficiently (8). However, you can always supplement with a vegan BCAA like Dioxyme VMINO.

Furthermore, do bear in mind that higher protein intake can be good during a weight loss period, as protein can help to effectively preserve muscle mass when shredding (9).

So, for instance, an 80-kg, or 176-pound plant-eater would thus need to eat:

176 x 0.73-1 = 128-176 g of protein.

For a vegan bodybuilder, this is a very crucial thing to take into account.

>> Full Article on Protein on a Vegan Diet <<

Getting Your Fats Right


Fat can be used by the body as fuel (although carbs are the preferred energy source), but its utility stretches far beyond simply providing some calories for energy needs.

The fats we eat are used to support healthy hormonal status, manufacturing of structurally sound cell membranes, nutrient absorption, amongst many other vital body processes.

And let's not forget that it makes food taste damn good (tahini sauce makes everything taste better, as everyone certainly knows).

How Many Grams of Fat Should You Eat?

Beyond hitting the needs for the essential fatty acids, there's really no clear-cut answer of how much fat you need as a vegan bodybuilder. 

We’ll go into more detail later, but carbs are brilliant for athletes who want to improve their endurance and boost their muscle mass gaining abilities.

You see, after you have satisfied your body’s basic needs for fat, adding more of it is not particularly good for you. Instead, it’s better to fill up on carbs.

A good range for fat intake to start with, however, is 15-30% of calories from fat.  This leaves plenty of space for the all-important carbohydrates, and within this range, you can adjust up and down according to your unique needs and preferences.

How this typically works out is that during cutting, the fats will creep down towards 15%. While on a bulk, you have a larger intake of calories which means fats can go up as well.

Here's how it would work out when you do the math:

Vegan athlete X has estimated his TDEE to be 2800 calories. That means 2800 x 0.15-30 = 420 - 840 calories should come from fat. As 1 gram of fat contains 9 calories, this equals to 47-93 grams of fat.

>> Full Article on Fat on a Vegan Diet <<

Getting Your Carbs Right

Carbs are great, especially for any athlete or vegan bodybuilder. They can aid athletic performance, help you recover between training sessions, build muscle during a bulking phase, and help you retain as much muscle as possible during cutting.

When you exercise intensely, your muscles use your glycogen stores as a form of fuel, making sure that these glycogen stores are stocked up with carbohydrate in order to enhance workout performance (10) (11).

However, not getting enough carbohydrates reduces strength training performance results and also reduces muscular endurance for athletes who are eating fewer calories (12) (13).

How Many Grams of Carbohydrate Should You Eat?

According to a recent review on strength sports nutrition guidelines, you should intake between 4–7 g/kg of carbohydrates per day when you’re trying to build muscle. That should give you some ideas about the optimal carbohydrate intake (14).

However, here's how I prefer setting up your carb target:

Let's use the example of our 80kg, 176-pound gym-goer with a TDEE of 2800 kcal, a protein intake of 150 g and a fat intake of 70 gram.

As we established before, a gram of each macronutrient contains:

1 gram protein = 4 kcal

1 gram carb = 4 kcal

1 gram fat = 9 kcal

Now, for this vegan bodybuilder, it’s 150 x 4, which equals to 600 calories from protein and 60 x 9 = 630 calories from fat. So, for them to reach their 2,800-calorie daily goal, they would need to eat their remaining calories in the form of carbs.

Take 2800 and subtract 600 kcal from fat and 630 kcal from protein, and that leaves us with 1570 kcal from carbs, converted into grams 1570/4 = 393 g carbs. It may seem slightly complicated if you have never done this before, but once you get the hang of it, it's really easy.

Another way to get lean while maintaining physical performance is through carb cycling. A simple approach for a vegan bodybuilder is to spike up carb intake during workout days while lowering it down on rest days.

Protein intake should generally be the same during the entire cycle, while fat should vary depending on the amount of carbs taken in on a particular day. 

>> Full Article on Carbs on a Vegan Diet <<

Tracking Macros and Adjusting Accordingly


A very convenient way of keeping track of all these damn numbers is by using MyFitnessPal via your smartphone.

You simply add the amount of foods you eat and then MyFitnessPal will calculate your calories, protein, fat, and carb intake for the day.

However, if you like the flexibility of doing all of this macro stuff 'on the go', you'll likely find that after a couple of weeks of consistent logging that you get used to it rather quickly.

Within a couple of seconds, I can enter the information into the app and it doesn't feel like a massive chore. As with picking up any other new habit, it will eventually mesh together with the rest of your lifestyle. You can also use www.cronometer.com for tracking macros if you prefer a browser-based option.

Chapter 4: Designing a Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Plan

Now we need to translate all these numbers and recommendations into a solid vegan bodybuilding diet plan that will match your lifestyle. I know I was completely clueless when I made the switch from a diet of chicken and rice to eating exclusively plants.

So in this chapter, we'll look at how to implement your calories and macronutrient targets within a nutritious meal plan compromised out of tasty, vegan foods that you actually love eating.

We go more in-depth on this in this guide on how to create a vegan bodybuilding meal plan.

Hitting Your Macros and Micros

As I mentioned previously, eating nothing but McDonald’s while maintaining a caloric deficit can help with weight loss and actually improve certain aspects of your well-being (1).

Even if your macros couldn't possibly get any more optimal, and you're rapidly losing weight on a weekly basis - is eating burgers and fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner healthy, as such? 


It's healthier than eating too many burgers to the point where the calories stack up as belly fat, sure, but even a calorically-restricted McDonald's diet could stand to improve your body in many ways.


Macros are important, true. But you must closely monitor micronutrients if you want to be healthy:

  • Fiber
  • Phytonutrients
  • Antioxidants
  • Phenols
  • Carotenoids
  • Anthocyanins
  • Sulforaphane

Now I know how you’re probably feeling:

"I don’t know what all that stuff is, how can I keep an eye on all of that?!"

Fortunately, there's no need for you to go to university and spend 5 years on becoming a full-fledged nutritionist. For the most part, one just needs to simply make intelligent diet choices. 

Eat Mostly (90%) Nutrient-Dense, Whole Plant Foods

daily dozen

A food’s nutrient density refers to how many nutrients it has per calorie. For example, if Food X has 100 nutrients calorie, and another food called Food Y has 4 nutrients per calorie, then we can say that Food X is much more nutrient-dense than Food Y - by eating more of it, you’ll be eating a more nutrient-dense diet.

However, we’re not looking at junk foods - we’re looking at whole and unprocessed plant foods. These include starches, root vegetables, whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice, legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and all that good stuff that our body needs.

As a rule of thumb, whole plant foods such as these are incredibly nutritious and contain loads of essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Basically, you want to consume plant foods as close as possible to 'as grown in nature'.

Ideally, you should eat at least 90% whole plant foods to be healthy, using that last 10% on foods that are less nutrient-dense and perhaps more processed. This allows you to live a healthy plant-based diet while still enjoying some pasta, bread, cake, cookies, cereals, muffins, vegan ice cream or whatever you find to be extra palatable.

(Personally, I eat a diet consisting of around 99% whole foods as that seems to be working well for me, but you do you).

Eat a Variety of Plant Foods

While eating oatmeal, vegan protein powder and peanuts might help you meet your macronutrient goals, you’re most certainly not getting all the nutrients your body needs to thrive in the long-term.

By eating an assortment of many different plant foodsaka "eating the rainbow,” you'll ensure your body is getting a wide spectrum of different nutrients.

You don't need to eat 49 different vegetables and superfoods every day to look and feel great and healthy. Just be sure to consume different plant foods from the four food groups detailed below:

Related Post: Levels of Veganism

1. Protein

"Where do I get my protein from?!"

There’s actually a surprising amount of protein in the foods viewed as 'carbs'. Vegetables and whole grains actually has more than enough protein punch.

For instance, 400g of broccoli contains over 10g of protein, while 100g of oatmeal packs in a whopping 17g of protein!

Some plant-based protein protein sources do not contain all the essential amino acids our body needs. Pea and brown rice protein combination is a very common mix. 

vegan meal

Surprisingly, most vegan protein are considered complete, and for anyone struggling with getting enough protein on a plant-based diet - look no further than legumes.  Foods such as chickpeas, lentils, peas, beanstofu, and tempeh are exceptionally protein-dense.

Not only that, the protein found in legumes has a high ratio of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) which are super important for muscle growth (15).

If you're not including beans and lentils in your diet, you are seriously missing out on gains.

Below you can find a summary of my personal favorite high-protein plant foods that has all the amino acids needed for muscle function and repair.

  • Red, green and brown lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • All other varieties of beans
  • Edamame

2. Fats

nuts and seeds

For healthy fats on a plant-based diet, look no further than nuts and seeds

As well as filling your body up with essential fatty acids, nuts and seeds are also great sources of nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamin E, phenols, and phytosterols.

You may be able to tell that I’m a little bit crazy about nuts (umm, yeah not those), and for good reason - nut consumption is now associated with reduced heart disease, cancer, and mortality risks (16).

And there's one variety that's just too good to pass up on:

Flax seeds.

Flax seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense, with a single tablespoon of flax seeds containing 1.6g of omega-3 in addition to compounds named “lignans” which are said to have anti-cancer properties to them. Get one tablespoon per day (17).

Looking for alternative sources of healthy fat for vegan bodybuilding? Below are my top picks.

  • Flax seeds (eat them)
  • Chia seeds
  • Cashew nuts
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Avocado
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • And all other obscure nuts and seeds that I failed to mention

3. Carbs

Carbs are pretty much found in all plant foods (even nuts and seeds contain small amounts of carbs).

Complex carbohydrates and starchy foods should make out the bulk of your carb intake. These are a good alternative due to the high nutrient and fiber content which means they digest slowly, without causing any dramatic blood sugar spikes.

Refined carbs such as pasta, bread (or vegan bread), and flour-based foods are also fine in moderate amounts. 

Here's a couple of options for foods that you can base your carbohydrate intake around:

  • Sweet potatoes and yams
  • White potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole-wheat pasta & bread

4. Fruits & Vegetables

broccoli and carrots

Fruits and vegetables should not be treated as a side dish to your main meal. A wise man or woman will make sure to fill up his or her plate with large amounts of greens.

Why are they so important?

For starters, eating more fruit and vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, heart problems, and all-cause mortality. Besides providing fiber and the vitamins and minerals we require - they also contain a variety of antioxidants, phenols, and other beneficial plant compounds (18). For instance:

There is a flavonoid called anthocyanin that can help to fight against cardiovascular disease. This precious flavonoid is only found in special vegetables such as blueberries and red cabbages.

In addition to that, we have the very powerful sulforaphane, which supposedly helps to fight cancer, inflammation, and much more. It also contains an antioxidant which is rather elusive and can only be found in broccoli, in addition to some other cruciferous vegetables (19) (20).

So if you’re looking to drop the pounds (or kilos), then make sure you eat a ton of vegetables with every meal!

The same is true if you're into vegan bodybuilding. You simply can't ignore the nutrition from your fruits and vegetables, regardless of your fitness goal.


  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers of all colors
  • Red cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Green peas
  • Kale, spinach and dark leafy greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Herbs i.e coriander or cilantro (?) parsley, sage, dill


  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Mangos
  • Pineapple
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Kiwis
  • Durian (if you have a brave soul)

The Vegan Athlete Plate Model

If you think this crude picture has been made hastily in MS Paint, you're wrong.

Besides, this is a vegan bodybuilding how-to, not a design class, anyway.

Anyways, let's try and piece together our vegan diet plan. You can take inspiration from the plate model I illustrated:

  • 1/3 of the plate with some type of complex carbohydrate
  • 1/3 of the plate with some type of legume
  • 1/3 of the plate with some type of vegetable
  • 1 serving nuts/seeds or nut butter
  • 1 serving fruit
vegan athlete plate model

Do bear in mind that this plate model is supposed to be used as just a guideline, not a rule.

So long as you hit your macros and roughly 90% comes from a variety of whole plant foods, then you are doing fantastic.

Right then, let's inspect two sample vegan meal plans.

Vegan Bodybuilding Bulking Meal Plan

A vegan gym-goer who is 80kg (or 176 lbs) has made the decision that they want to increase their muscle mass. As part of their vegan bodybuilding diet plan, they calculate their vegan macros, which looks like this for them:

  • TDEE of 2800 kcal = for bulking 2800 * 1.1 = 3080 kcal
  • Protein somewhere in the 128-176 gram range
  • Fat somewhere in the 51-103 gram range
  • Rest of the calories from carbohydrate.

1. Breakfast: Tofu Scramble with Sourdough Bread

  • Tofu - 200 g
  • Sourdough Bread - large slice (96 g)
  • Red pepper -  164 g
  • Kale - 100 g

= 547.4 kcal: 37.9 g protein, 14.3 g fat, 72.9 g carbs

2. Lunch: Beans, Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Avocado

  • Black beans -  170 g
  • Sweet potato - 400 g
  • Broccoli - 300 g
  • Avocado - 100 g
  • Calorie-free spices, herbs, and condiments

856.8 kcal29.5 g protein, 17.9 g fat, 155.5 g carbs

3. Pre/Post Workout Snack: Protein Smoothie

  • Bananas - 2 medium-sized (236 g)
  • Frozen berries - 200 g
  • Ground flax seeds - 2 tbsp (14 g)
  • Soy milk - 300 ml
  • Pea protein powder - 28 g

= 663.2 kcal43.4 g protein, 16.8 g fat, 92.4 g carbs  

4. Dinner: Butternut Lentil Curry with Quinoa

  • Red lentils - 100 g (dry uncooked weight)
  • Quinoa - 100 g (dry uncooked weight)
  • Butternut squash - 300 g
  • Cashew nuts - 30 g

= 1011.9 kcal: 46.2 g protein, 21.7 g fat, 167.8 g carbs

Grand total of:

3079 kcal with 157.0 g protein, 70.7 g fat, 488.5 g carbs

Or 18 % protein, 20% fat and 62 % carbs.

The vegan bodybuilder, in this case, is hitting their targets for both total calories and macros.

If you're struggling to get calories in, you include vegan meal placement shakes into your diet.

(Concerned about the lack of B12 and vitamin D? I'll elaborate on these two nutrients in the supplement section)

Vegan Bodybuilding Cutting Meal Plan

Our same 80kg (or 176 lbs) vegan gym-goer is now going to enter the fat-shredding phase. They work out the correct calories and vegan macros for this cutting phase, coming to:

  • TDEE of 2800 kcal = for cutting 2800 * 0.8 = 2240 kcal
  • Protein around 128-176g (staying high to try and keep muscle mass)
  • Fat around 37-75g
  • Remaining calories will be consumed in the form of carbs.

Breakfast - Protein Oatmeal

  • Oatmeal - 80 g
  • Apple - 150 g
  • Frozen mixed berries - 100 g
  • Pea protein powder -  30 g
  • Ground flax seeds - 2 tbsp (14 g)

=629.7 kcal: 39.7 g protein, 13.2 g fat, 93.3 g carbs

Lunch - Roasted Chickpea & Butternut Squash Salad

  • Chickpeas - 200 g
  • Butternut - 300 g
  • Broccoli - 200 g
  • Carrot - 60 g
  • Red cabbage - 100 g
  • Onion - 70 g
  • Tahini - 1 tbsp (15 g)

=637.1 kcal: 27.0 g protein, 14.2 g fat, 114.5 g carbs

Pre/Post Workout Snack - Protein Smoothie

  • Banana - 118 g
  • Frozen blueberries - 100 g
  • Soy milk - 250 g
  • Pea protein powder - 30 g

=403.9 kcal: 37.7 g protein, 9.8 g fat, 45.5 g carbs

Dinner - Lentil Veggie Stew

  • Red lentils - 100 g (uncooked weight)
  • Green peas - 200 g
  • Mushrooms - 100 g
  • Spinach -  200 g
  • Calorie-free spices, herbs and condiments

=582.0 kcal: 43.0 g protein, 3.8 g fat, 102.1 g carbs

Grand total of:

2253 kcal with 147.4 g protein, 41.1 g fat, 355.5 g carbs.

Or 23 % protein, 16% fat and 61 % carbs.

See here for another example of a vegan diet plan for weight loss.


Check out Fresh n' Lean, our #1 recommended vegan meal delivery service.

They offer fresh, ready-to-eat vegan meals delivered straight to your door.

View Full Fresh N' Lean Review

How Often Should I Eat Everyday?

monkey eating watermelon

It doesn’t matter if you eat your calories over 2 or 5 meals; it just does not have much of an impact on your body fat.

Therefore, the frequency of your meals should be decided according to your own preferences - do you prefer many small meals or a couple of larger meals?

Finding it hard to get enough calories in at the bulking phase?

If this is the case, consider getting a big breakfast and then spread your food out over about 6 meals. This way, you don’t have to eat a truckload at every meal, which can be nauseating if you’re not used to it.

Finding it hard to keep your calorie consumption low in your cutting phase?

If this is you, why not try intermittent fasting? This is where you eat during a 6-8 hour window, balancing out at around 2-3 meals per day. It’s not as easy as it sounds!

Looking for more vegan meal ideas? Check out this video by Torre Washington:

Chapter 5: Supplements for Vegan Bodybuilding

I recommend that you supplement intelligently.

An example of how to do that would be to find nutritional gaps in your diet, such as vitamin B12, and take specific supplements in order to fix those.

Or if you want some extra 'oomph' and power at the gym, you can invest in science-backed, safe compounds such as creatine (although this is completely optional).

Vegan supplements only serve 2 purposes:

A. Fill in any nutrient gaps in your vegan diet

B. Help you with improving performance and enhancing lean body mass gains.

With that out of the way, it seems appropriate to start with one of the most urgent components of a vegetarian or vegan diet:

Vegan Protein Powder 

Protein powders are considered both supplements and powdered foods, often being used as a meal replacement for people on calorie-controlled diets.

Vegan protein powder is great for making sure that your protein intake is of an adequate amount, something which is easy to miss when you’re vegan.

But, if you’re looking to get a bunch of protein without breaking the bank, then pea-based protein powder is a good way to go - it tends to be on the cheap side and has loads of BCAA in it, which is known to help build muscle.

>> Our recommended vegan protein powders <<

Transparent Labs Organic Vegan


Creatine is a performance-enhancing supplement that is reasonably supported by scientific evidence.

A creatine supplement effectively helps you to:

  • Improve your anaerobic working capacity. This is great for high-intensity training, such as strength training with high reps (10-15) (24)
  • Performance improvements of +8% and +14% on 1RM strength and endurance strength, respectively (25)
  • Lean mass gains increase of a massive 0.36%.
  • Better pumps in the gym
transparentlabs Creatine

The fact that there are no natural vegan food sources of creatine unless you consume meat gives all the more reason why you should take creatine supplements.

>> Our recommended vegan creatine supplements <<


A pre-workout is a supplement, usually in powdered form, that is believed to provide people a boost in physical performance during their training routine.

Even vegan athletes can now enjoy the benefits of taking pre-workout supplements such as:

  • Enhanced mental focus
  • Increased fat metabolism
  • Added motivation
  • Boosted energy levels

However, to absolutely take pleasure in these benefits of having pre-workouts around, any expert would recommend looking into the ingredients a supplement includes so it won’t mess with your established fitness goal. You can read about the side effects of taking pre-workout supplements

>> Our recommended vegan pre-workout supplements <<

Or you can also check out thee 4-Gauge product review here.


For most vegans, since we sometimes miss out on other macros and micros in our diet, multivitamins play a big role in sealing that nutritional gap since each pill is packed with vitamin C, B complex, D, A, E and nutrients such as potassium, iodine, and zinc.

Taking multivitamins in a daily basis will result in the following:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced Stress
  • Better memory 
  • Sustained muscle strength
  • Enhanced energy levels

Fat Burners

Fat burner supplements significantly help people whose fitness goal is to cut or lose weight. So, if you share the same fitness goal as those people, then a fat burner is a product you might want to include in your supplement drawer.

Even with its supposed side effect like an upset stomach which is kind of limited depending on the ingredients it contains, a fat burner does good to its user by the following results:

  • Increased energy levels
  • Fat loss
  • Suppressed appetite 

Other Essential Supplements

Apart from the recommended supplements above, you will also need the following if you’re serious with your vegan bodybuilding journey.

  • Greens and superfoods that help enrich the body with complete nutrients to detoxify your body and improve your overall health. When picking the best green superfood, consider the nutrient content as well as the taste and mixability -- most greens taste nasty.
  • Testosterone boosters - A supplement to boost your testosterone levels. More testosterone means better and stronger muscle function. It also claims to improve physical and mental strength, help in muscle growth, and reduce stress by supporting hormone balance.
  • Collagen - Low-calorie collagen supplement that will support your joints and soft tissues, while keeping you looking young and healthy.
  • Omega-3 - An Omega-3 product to provide enough DHA or EPA. Make sure that it’s algae-based -- vegan friendly and you never have to worry about fishy burps.
  • Vitamin D - A vegan-sourced vitamin D with a clean formula and would provide enough D vitamin without the unnecessary fillers.
  • Vitamin B12 - A vitamin B complex to support brain function and boost energy levels during workouts. Here are my recommended vegan vitamin B12 products.
  • Probiotic - A probiotic supplement that’s made of vegan-friendly and organic ingredients to improve overall gut health.
  • Iodine - Taking in a decent amount of this trace element is a good idea for a strong thyroid, and not getting enough iodine in your diet can actually lead to thyroid dysfunction problems.

Chapter 6: Follow an Effective Training Routine

At this point, we pretty much have all the basics in place which will support your efforts in the gym.

The question then is:

What exactly do we do at the gym?

The Simple Truth Behind Gains: Progressive Tension Overload

With the vast amount of conflicting information on how to train optimally, it's hard to even make a decision on what workout routine to go with.

And worse yet, when you've finally settled on something that looks half decent, you find a new, shiny training method to try out and jump ship again.

This 'grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side' mentality is the worst possible strategy if your goal is to build muscle and drop fat.

'Routine-hopping' i.e. not consistently sticking with one training program for more than a week or two (or three) will guarantee that you never get anywhere.

plane lifting

Here's the simple explanation of why:


By constantly switching up your routines, changing exercises, trying out new reps x sets schemes and so on, no variable is ever kept constant. And as such, it's going to be virtually impossible to implement the most important piece of the puzzle: progressive overload.

You may have encountered this term before and wondered what it meant. Essentially, it means imposing your muscle fibers to greater stress over time. 

Your muscles will only continue to grow and adapt if you force them to do things outside of their usual workload.

Think about this:

Your training must be progressive in nature.

The guy doing 135 pounds on the bench press for 3 sets of 10 reps year after year will not grow - despite how hard these sets are perceived to be or much protein he consumes.

How do we do this 'progressive overload' thing?

The most effective way is to simply increase the amount of weight you're lifting.

Say you perform 3 sets of 10 reps on the bench press, all at a weight of 110 lbs. At your next workout, ideally, try to do 3 sets of 10 reps at a weight of 115 lbs. If you fail, try again next workout. And try again and again.

Hopefully, over the course of workouts, weeks, months and years, you will be able to lift 220 lbs for 3 sets of 10 reps. Voila - your chest, shoulders, and triceps look freaking awesome and you will be showered with compliments because of your killer body.

Worth mentioning is that form should not be compromised because weight has been added to a fitness exercise. Adding 5 pounds at the expense of your technique is not a good strategy due to the increased risk of injury.

Other viable strategies for progressively overloading your muscles are:

Increasing your reps:

If we use our previous example of 3x10 (sets x reps) at 110 lbs on the bench press, try doing 3x11 at 110 lbs instead of upping the weight you’re lifting.

Increasing your sets:

3x10 at 110 lbs --> at your next workout, do 4x10 at 110 lbs instead.

Reducing your rest time:

If you usually do 3x10 at 110 lbs and then rest for 3 minutes between your sets - reduce this resting time down to 2.5 minutes for your next workout while repeating the same 3x10 at 110 lbs.

Increasing the difficulty of the exercise:

Make things more difficult for yourself. For instance, slow down your rep speed, pause your reps and hold them in position, use a more strenuous technique, etc.

You can also use a powerlifting belt as you progress further to boost your exercises. You can check out our list here.

Creating an Effective Vegan Bodybuilding Routine

Below are the essentials of designing an effective workout routine (information distilled from this article):

  • Work on each muscle group twice per week
  • Find a training regime that is balanced and integrated into your daily schedule.
  • Make the intensity around 60-85% or around 5-20 reps (yet do 6-12 reps most the time).
  • If you want volume, do 30-60 reps per muscle group per session and/or 10+ hard sets per muscle group per week.

Of course, it’s near-impossible to create a regime that is perfectly crafted for your working life, family life, eating habits, favorite color, and a bunch of other random factors.

So this is why I designed the sample routine below to be effective for the average person.

A. It can fit into a tight schedule, taking only about 4 hours per week.

B. It is quite moderate in volume and frequency, meaning that you can recover and maintain your enthusiasm while making those vegan gains that you dream of.

C. There’s a good balance of exercises that aim to give you a better all-around physique.

D. It’s ideal for both newbies and experienced vegan lifters.

Workout A1: Upper Body

1. Incline Bench Press

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets

2. Dumbbell Row

3 sets of 6-8 reps

~3 min rest between sets

3. Dips

3 sets of 8-10 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

4. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown

3 sets of 8-10 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

5. Side Lateral Raise

3 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

6. Lying Tricep Extension

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

7. Barbell Curl

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Workout B1: Lower Body

1. Squat or Front Squat

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets

2. Split Squat

3 sets of 8-10 reps

~2 min rest between sets

3. Lying Leg Curl

3 sets of 8-10 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

4. Standing Calf Raise

3 sets of 8-10 reps 

2 min rest between sets

5. Abs

Couple sets of 10-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Workout A2: Upper Body

1. Overhead Barbell Press

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets

2. Chin-ups

3 sets of 6-8 reps

~3 min rest between sets

3. Dumbbell Bench Press

3 sets of 8-10 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

4. Cable or Chest-Supported Rows

3 sets of 8-10 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

5. Chest Flyes

3 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

6. Tricep Pushdown

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

7. Hammer Curl

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Workout B2: Lower Body

1. Deadlifts

3 sets of 6-8 reps 

~3 min rest between sets

2. Leg Press

3 sets of 8-10 reps

~2 min rest between sets

3. Seated Leg Curl

3 sets of 12-15 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

4. Seated Calf Raise

2 sets of 12-15 reps 

~2 min rest between sets

5. Abs

Couple sets of 10-15 reps 

~1.5 min rest between sets

Perform all of the workouts A1, B1, A2, B2 in one week.

This can be done in multiple ways, here are two options:

Monday: Workout A1

Tuesday: off

Wednesday: Workout B1

Thursday: off

Friday: Workout A2

Saturday: Workout B2

Sunday: off


Monday: Workout A1

Tuesday: Workout B1

Wednesday: off

Thursday: Workout A2

Friday: Workout B2

Saturday: off

Sunday: off

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

You know that your heart is a muscle and it also needs some love. So when you're not lifting weights, you should ideally engage in some sort of physical activity.

It could be whatever you fancy: yoga, a brisk walk, a session on the stationary bike, boxing, GPP work, dragging a sled around, circuits of body weight movements, shoveling wet and heavy snow (it's brutal work).

Basically, just make sure that you move your body in some way for 20-30 minutes every day.

man pushing sled

There's no need to go super hard every session. If you're feeling run down from the gym/work/school/life go for a short and easy walk.

Or if you're jumping up and down with energy, you could do a 20-minute HIIT bike blast.

During cutting, you should shift your cardio towards high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as it's highly effective for burning fat whilst also preserving muscle mass.

Do You Need to Warm Up Before Training?

Yeah, you do.

First, perform around 5 mins of light cardio exercise. This should help to get you loosened up and ready to go.


Before any lower body session perform the agile 8 circuit.

Before any upper body session, do 2 or 3 sets of wall slides, band pull-aparts, and maybe some chins too. This should get the shoulders all warmed up and ready to go. If you’re looking for a good example routine, check this out.

When you’re getting warmed up for a certain exercise, be sure to do 2 or 3 lighter sets before moving on to heavy work sets.

For instance, if you did a 135-pound incline bench press, this is how you might build up to it:

Set 1: 45 pounds x 10

Set 2: 45 pounds x 10

Set 3: 90 pounds x 8

Set 4: 110 pounds x 5

Then go on to the big heavy working sets after.

Generally speaking, bigger movements and the first exercises of the day need more warming up beforehand. The isolation movements which are later in your regime will need less warming up.

Struggling To Build Muscle As A Vegan?

Now it's a matter of putting this information into action. There is some hard work involved to produce serious results, but this is also supposed to be fun and enjoyable. 

In summary, it is important that you must first establish your fitness goal – bulking or cutting, then balance your calorie intake, get your macronutrients accordingly, come up with a vegan bodybuilding diet plan, intelligently supplement yourself, and lastly, create and follow an effective training routine.

Vegan bodybuilding takes work.

However, our good friend Simon Black has created a vegan muscle diet that will help jumpstart your fitness goals.

His course, the Vegan Muscle Diet provides an 8-week customized diet plan depending on your fitness goal and food preferences or restrictions. 

It was designed to help men and women all over the world get the perfect diet to build muscle as a vegan. Backed with scientific research and proven studies, it maximises muscle building with the correct calories and macronutrients for each individual.

Here are some of the things you get in his plan:

  • Detailed recipes with step-by-step (video and text instructions) to make meal preparation super simple (no prior cooking experience needed).
  • A downloadable weekly shopping list to help you stick to your plant-based journey.
  • Options on how they can customize every meal even more to suit your taste buds.

If you're someone interested on CBD, then you might like this article on the benefits of CBD oil in muscle building



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13 thoughts on “Vegan Bodybuilding Guide for Beginners
Muscle Building All in 6 Steps

  1. Hi! Thank you for the incredible information. One question though. Do you know where I can purchase a whole food vegan meal plan for cutting? I have tried to create on but always end up with too many calories, and when I cut the calories, I lose the macro portion of it. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated!

    • Thanks Jim! There are a couple of tips I would give for vegan cutting. I assume it is getting enough protein but not overshooting carbs you’re struggling with.

      1. Base a lot of your calories around legumes, bean, lentils, as this group of plants are per calorie highest in protein.

      2. At a certain caloric deficit you sort of have to drop the ‘whole’ part of whole food plant based.

      Hitting protein macros on a 2000 kcal or less meal plan without a vegan protein powder/tofu/seitan/any other high protein vegan food is going to be very difficult. If you add two protein shakes per day you might find it is a lot easier balancing your calories with macros.

      3. Personally I’ve had great success combining a vegan diet with intermittent fasting, makes cutting really easy and effective.

      If you’ve any more questions I’d be happy to answer them. Best luck on your journey!

  2. Alex, thank you SO much for this guide. I am currently overweight (88.7kg 159 cm) and am committing to a vegan cutting and building plan. I was about to spend loads of money on an online plan but your article has provided the exact information that I needed and excellent guidance. Thank you SO much!

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