Vegan Muscle Building Meal Plan
If you want to be more muscular, strength training is only half the battle. You need to eat the right food at the right time to help your body optimise muscle gains.
But, as you already expected, bodybuilding the vegan way is not the easiest route. Making meal plans is more challenging as you cannot include animal sources of protein.
It does have its advantages, though.
Torre Washington, six-time pro-competitive natural bodybuilder champion and first vegan bodybuilder to be featured in GQ, was raised a vegetarian since birth and became vegan in 1998. Competing against non-vegan builders, Torre states that he sees the advantages of being a vegan bodybuilder, including faster recovery and getting “shredded” easily.
As a Rasta committed to living off the land, he decided to become a vegan before he even knew of the term. Today, his diet consists of a lot of tofu, broccoli, oatmeal, lentils, seitan and Japanese sweet potato, often in the form of flavorful Jamaican dishes.
If you’re still considering going vegan and are worried that you’ll lose muscle mass when you switch, power couple Barney Du Plessis (Mr Universe 2014) and Josie Keck (former Strongest Woman in the UK) prove that building and maintaining world-class bodies is not impossible with a meatless diet.
To successfully build muscles on a vegan diet, one has to know how muscle mass building works and the nutrition one’s body needs.
How does muscle mass building work?
Muscle building has two important stages: the breakdown stage, which occurs when you train and the growth stage which is induced by ingesting protein-based food. So, to build your body’s muscle mass, your body needs to have an energy surplus. This is achieved by eating more at the right time with an emphasis on eating the right food.
Won’t that make me fat, you ask?
Having a surplus of calories can make you fat but this can be prevented with the right meal composition, frequency, timing and the right training. But if a person makes poor food choices, eats sporadically and does not train or trains infrequently, expect that surplus to turn into stored fat.
Having the right diet for your body type
Ensuring that you get proper nutrition for muscle building involves knowing your body type and determining what your body needs.
In weight training, we generally categorise bodies into three types: the ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph. These body types differ in general structure, muscle mass and tendency to put on weight. It is important to know that not all people fall under one classification, some are mixed types.
The ectomorph is the hard gainer. The body is usually petite and has a low percentage of body fat and slow weight gain, ectomorphs are also characterised by their long limbs. To gain muscle mass, they need carbohydrate-heavy nutrition. Their diet should have plenty of protein, good fats, fruits and vegetables.
The endomorph or soft gainer has a round physique and fat deposits in the waist, hips and thighs. They have a slow metabolism but have fast development of muscle mass and fat deposits. For optimal muscle gains, they need a carbohydrate-heavy diet during the day and reduced carb intake at night. Like the ectomorph, they need plenty of protein, good fats, fruits and vegetables.
The mesomorph is characterised by broad shoulders, powerful arms and legs and a slender waist. This body type has rapid success when muscle building, has high muscle mass and is usually very athletic. To gain muscle mass, mesomorphs need a diet that is high in protein and fibre but low in carbs and fat.
A few rules
Before we go to the meal planning, we have a few rules we need to know.
- You need to eat small portions of food at least 6 times a day.
Successful muscle building requires a calorie surplus. You need to maintain your blood sugar levels and metabolism to prevent your mental and physical performance from dropping.
- Simple carbohydrates are not the solution.
Requiring a carb-rich diet is sadly not an excuse to eat sumptuous simple carbohydrates like French fries and bread. Make sure to eat complex carbohydrates that promote stable blood sugar levels and supply the body with energy long-term.
- Pick the good fats
Good fats provide you with essential fatty acids without leading to a decline in long-term physical and mental performance. Choose beneficial fat sources like nuts, olive oil and coconut oil.
- Nutritional supplements are your secret weapon
Dietary supplements help you achieve your required nutrients. Find vegan supplements that have high protein levels for energy in the muscles, creatine for a creative workout and improved athletic performance and L-glutamine for effective recovery.
- Maintain energy reserves
For enough energy pre- and post-workout, you need to eat complex carbs and protein an hour before your workout and 30 minutes after a workout. A quick alternative is a protein shake and a banana.
Creating a Meal Plan
Now that we’ve got all of that down, we can proceed to create your personalised meal plan. This will involve a bit of math.
First, determine your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). There are a lot of free TDEE calculators online. Once you find your TDEE, add 250 calories. Having these numbers will help us determine the number of macronutrients you should consume.
Let’s say you are a 23-year-old male who is 200lbs (90.7kg) and is 5’9” (179.8cm) and you exercise moderately, around 3-5 times a week. You’ll need 2,966 calories per day.
You need to take in 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight or 2.2g per kg of body weight. To compute for the calories, set 200 grams of protein at 4 calories per gram. This means you need 800 calories coming from protein in a day.
For fat, we set 0.5 grams per pound of body weight per day at 9 calories. So, you’ll need 900 calories of fat in a day.
Putting those two together, you need 1,700 calories per day of fat and protein. Subtract that from 2,966 and you get 1,266 calories. This is now the amount you need for carbs. To determine how many grams that is, divide 1,266 by 4 calories per gram. That leaves you with 317 grams of carbs per day.
So, the final macros are:
- 200g protein
- 100g fat
- 317g carbs
If you want to make a vegan meal plan for muscle mass building with 6 meals, you can divide that amount into 6, so per meal, you would have:
- 33g protein
- 53g carbs
- 17g fat
Your day can look like this:
Meal 1: Breakfast
- Breakfast burrito with beans, tofu, brown rice and veggies
Meal 2: AM snack
Meal 3: Lunch
- Brown Rice
Meal 4: PM snack
- Vegan cheese
- Whole wheat bread
- Peanut butter
Meal 5: Dinner
- Vegan chow mien with zucchini noodles and marinated tofu
Meal 6: Late snack
- Peanut butter
- Protein shake
- Protein bar
If you like training first thing in the morning, down a scoop of shake with your vegan pre-workout supplement and make your first meal your post-workout meal.
What you can put on your grocery list
To help you out with your grocery list, here are a few things you can consider.
- Low sugar plain oatmeal
- Whole wheat/grain pasta, bread, cereals
- Baked yams and sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
- Low-fat granola
- Dry roasted nuts
- Peanut butter and almond butter
- Olive oil
- Chia seeds
- Seitan, tofu, tempeh, edamame
- Green peas
Training and proper nutrition go hand in hand when it comes to muscle building. Vegans may require a bit of effort but can gain equally beautiful results as our meat-eating friends.
If you need more help, our team at Strong Duck can lend you a hand, especially with vegan protein sources and supplements. StrongDuck Vegan Life range is the ultimate in high quality and genuine vegan products.