How can a vegan meal plan help in your journey to building muscles? Read on to learn more, plus some sample plans to get you started.
In this article:
- As a Vegan, Building Muscle Is a Challenge
- The Key Nutrients of Bodybuilding
- Stocking Your Pantry
- Sample Vegan Meal Plan Ideas
Enhance Muscle Gain with Vegan Meal Plans
As a Vegan, Building Muscle Is a Challenge
You’re not imagining things: It’s hard to find a nutritional plan that supports strength building when you’re a vegan.
While your gym buddies may incorporate whey protein shakes and steak dinners into their muscle-building routine, those animal-based options are incompatible with your vegan lifestyle.
You’ll find many plant-based foods that offer the protein so vital for building muscle, along with other important nutrients to fuel your workouts.
The Key Nutrients of Bodybuilding
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Your muscles are built of amino acids. For you to improve your muscle mass, you need to do more than just lift weights.
You also need to “feed” your muscles amino acids, which protein-rich foods provide. Keeping adequate protein in your system allows your body to be in an anabolic state, which helps your body build and repair tissue.
Resistance training involves “damaging” and then repairing tissues within your muscles. It’s this process which builds muscle mass.
At the same time, your body needs adequate energy to fuel those workouts. That’s where balancing proteins with carbohydrates and fats come in.
These nutrients give you the energy you need to keep going. For vegans, balanced meals are even more important.
Most plant-based proteins are “incomplete,” meaning they don’t have the full range of amino acids. When you combine your protein foods with complex carbohydrates, you ensure the range of amino acids needed.
So what’s the ideal vegan bodybuilding meal plan? Most athletes who are working on firming up and building muscle opt for about 1 gram of protein for every pound they weigh.
The protein servings are balanced with 2 grams of carbs for every pound they weigh. Fats are also important, but shouldn’t exceed 10 to 20% of the overall calorie count.
Overall, a ratio of 30 to 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 10 to 20% healthy fats is about right. For dinner or evening snacks, consider upping your protein servings.
This will give your muscles a chance to recover as you sleep.
Related: High-Calorie Meals To Bulk Up Fast
Stocking Your Pantry
Before you start putting together a vegan meal plan, it helps to have basic staples in place. These plant-based foods ensure you always have protein, carbohydrate, and fat options on hand.
A vegan meal plan and grocery list will get you on your way to muscle-building success.
For protein, good items to stock up on are a wide variety of dried beans, nuts, seeds, and nut butter. In addition, stock your fridge with seitan, tofu, hummus, and tahini.
It’s also helpful to have vegan substitutes for milk, yogurt, and cheese that are also high in protein. Grains like buckwheat and quinoa also offer high amounts of protein.
Don’t forget the convenience of vegan protein powders for smoothies, along with protein bars for snacks.
Most carbs are plant-based and technically don’t offer much of a dilemma for vegans. To make sure they support your workouts, choose foods with complex carbohydrates.
These include whole grains, root vegetables, and fiber-rich fruits like pears, apples, grapes, bananas, and dried fruits. You’ll already have healthy fats in your diet from the nuts and seeds you’ve included in your protein plan, but other good choices include olive oil and avocados.
Of course, rounding out your nutritional needs with extra immunity-boosters is also important. Even though many veggies are “free” foods because they have minimal calories and carbs, they shouldn’t be forgotten.
Leafy greens, radishes, broccoli, tomatoes, and summer squash are among the many vegetable options you can add to your smoothies and side dishes without worrying about how they affect your protein-carb-fat ratio.
Sample Vegan Meal Plan Ideas
There aren’t any hard-or-fast rules about which foods to eat each meal or how many meals to eat. You should know, however, that interspersing your main meals with snacks ensures your body always stays in that important anabolic state.
Whether you eat four or six meals a day, try to stick to your basic protein-carb-fat ratio with each one. Here are a few vegan meal plan samples to consider.
Choose one each from the breakfast, lunch, and dinner suggestions, and two or three from the snacks and dessert suggestions.
- Granola cereal with almond milk and strawberry slices
- Peanut butter or tahini (sesame paste) spread over whole grain bread, with a side of fresh fruit
- Oatmeal with blueberries and flax seeds, with a glass of tomato juice
- Soy yogurt with raisins and cashews
- Blueberry-buckwheat pancakes, with a glass of vanilla almond milk
- Lentil and veggie soup, with cornbread on the side, drizzled with a bit of olive oil
- Green salad with avocado, chopped tomatoes, shredded yellow squash, pumpkin seeds, garbanzo beans, and a lemon juice/olive oil dressing; serve with two rice cakes or a whole grain roll.
- Open-faced sandwich of almond or cashew butter, chia seeds, and sliced bananas on whole grain bread
- Burrito made with a corn tortilla and filled with black beans, salsa, shredded vegetables, vegan cheese, and avocados
- Family-style potato “bar” made with baked sweet potatoes and bowls of topping options, including plain soy yogurt, spinach pureed with vegan cream cheese, chili-infused olive oil, and chopped walnuts
- Brown rice and beans, with sweet potato cubes, topped with vegan cheese and flax seeds
- Black bean chili, with a kale/avocado salad
- Vegan patties on whole grain roll, with a side salad
Snacks and Desserts
- Smoothie with vegan protein powder, spinach, frozen bananas, and blueberries
- Trail mix featuring nuts, dried fruits, and coconut flakes
- Vegan protein bars
- Pear or apple slices dipped in peanut butter
- Chia seed pudding
- Homemade vegan cookies featuring oatmeal, raisins, and walnuts
- Small bowl of coconut milk yogurt with flax seeds and sliced bananas
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It’s worth the effort to sketch out a sample vegan healthy meal plan for a week or two. This method helps get you into the habit of purchasing plant-based selections that support your muscle building routine.
Making a healthy vegan meal plan featuring vegan foods can also be inspirational. You’ll probably come up with many more combinations than you ever thought possible!
What has been your go-to vegan meals? Are they helping with your muscle gains? Share with us your experiences in the comments section below!
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