A Six-Step Plan To Build Muscle On A Plant-Based Diet

A Six-Step Plan To Build Muscle On A Plant-Based Diet

Do you want to pursue a plant-based diet- while building muscle?

It can be done. Yes, you can have your biceps and your Buddha bowls.

But you have to have a plan. 

So, You Want To Go Vegan

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Maybe you’re an animal lover who hates to see cows in cages?

Maybe you can’t stand to see the catastrophic impact of co2 farming emissions on climate change?

Maybe you’re enraged by the environmental havoc large scale fishing has unleashed upon the oceans?

Either way, you want a diet that will address these problems, while allowing you to put on muscle.

But you’ve heard so many things about veganism and not being able to build muscle that you’re rather…...concerned. 

Which begs the question…..

How will you get swole eating soya and seeds? 

man holding veg

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What if I told you, you can get the same muscular growth you would on a meat-eaters diet as a vegan without the ethical questions, health concerns and environmental impact? That the answer to the question “can you build muscle on a plant based diet?” is a resounding HELL YEAH. 

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

Especially since there is such a widespread misconception that it is impossible to build muscle on a plant-based diet. 

Tell that to Serena WilliamsColin Kaepernick and Lionel Messi. Tell that to 2014 Mr Universe winner Barny Du Plessis. Or in fact to any of these multi-medal winning bodybuilding champs. 

All these top tier athletes live a vegan lifestyle, and nobody would ever dream of calling them scrawny.


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More athletes than ever are going vegan.

If they can do it, why not you?

Never ask yourself “can you build muscle on a plant based diet?” again, with our solid six-step plan to build muscle on a plant-based diet. 

1. Continue Following An Exercise Regimen

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Following a plant-based diet for building muscle doesn’t require a radical overhaul of your current exercise regimen.

Regular lifting including squats, benching, deadlifts and barbell rows combined with high-intensity cardio remain the exercises that will boost muscle growth the most, for meat-eaters and vegans alike.

There are however some specific tips on training to build muscle that are especially helpful to those pursuing a plant-based diet to gain muscle. 

weight lifting

Training To Build Muscle

  • Track your food and fitness– It keeps you accountable and it lets you know if you’re getting the results you want to see. If progress is slacking, you likely need to eat more of the right foods or increase the weight you’re lifting.
  • Consider stepping up to an advanced scale– Advanced scales like the FitTrack Scale measure your body fat to muscle ratio among other metrics, which will show you your progress beyond your weight and looks.
  • Lift heavy, not light– Big compound movements like squats and deadlifts build strength and muscle faster. This is all relative to your strength level– only lift what is a real challenge for you. Lifting weights you find easy will not give you large gains. 
  • Take Precautions- Always have a friend spotting you when you lift for proper form otherwise you could injure yourself. And don’t try to lift something you physically aren’t ready for, you will only damage critical muscles and potentially put yourself in the hospital. Where following a plant based diet will prove hard 😜
  • Do HIIT– High-Intensity Interval Training is the quickest way to get leaner, fitter and faster in one go. It will boost your metabolism, helping you to gain muscle and lose fat. Mountain climbers are a popular exercise in HIIT- do it for twenty seconds, rest, then do it again.
  • Make sure you breathe– Deep breathing cuts cortisol (stress hormone) levels which clings into reserves like fat during stress. Focus on improving your stress levels in general with meditation, breathing exercises and plenty of sleep.

Forget following this exercise regimen however, if you are not combining it as a vegan with a healthy, protein-enriched diet.

If you’re eating unhealthily- Vegan or not– you won’t see benefits in the muscle department or in terms of your general health. 

2. Don’t Just Eat Anything That Counts As Vegan


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It’s not hard to fall into the ‘unhealthy vegan’ lifestyle, where some think because they are following a plant-based lifestyle they can eat whatever they want and still be healthy.

If you only eat fries that aren’t cooked in animal fat, sure, you’re technically still vegan, in the same way doodling on MS Paint makes me an artist.

But you’re not following a diet which gives your body what it needs to build muscle or what it needs to remain healthy.

Combine this with the tendency to experience bloating and a lack of energy when going vegan, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

So you need an awareness of how to avoid becoming an ‘unhealthy vegan’.


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How to Avoid becoming an Unhealthy Vegan

  • Eat a Balanced diet– your plate should be filled with tons of vegetables, a large helping of protein, moderate amounts of healthy fats, and some carbs.
  • Meal Prep– While not an essential tip to avoiding being the unhealthy vegan, prepping your meals certainly helps. So often the unhealthy choices we make are driven by their convenience and ease.

So, prepping your meals in advance significantly reduces the risk of you turning to those unhealthy processed foods. With a subscription from Plant Sumo, you can enjoy healthy plant based meals without any of the prep which so often pushes us to unhealthier choices. And any of our delicious meals fit a plant based diet for building muscle perfectly. 

  • Prioritise quality– clean sources of plant-based protein like quinoa and seeds are better for your general health than faux meat products or processed soy-based powders, so try to get them regularly. You’ll find lots of these great for you ingredients in Plant Sumo meals, so that’s an easy way to get started! 
  • Remember your energy levels will stabilise– Some people feel tired when they first start eating a plant based diet to gain muscle. If you eat enough and the right things, your body will adjust. Just give yourself some patience and plenty of rest.
  • To help with bloating drink water, pace yourself when eating and cook foods rather than eating them raw.

Now you know how to avoid becoming the ‘unhealthy vegan’ you can start becoming the muscular one.


By eating high volumes of plant-based proteins.

3. Eat High Volumes of Plant-Based Proteins

Plant based burgers

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Anybody who loves their fitness knows- when it comes to getting gains, protein is essential. 

Science doesn’t lie.

Muscle hypertrophy is how you build muscle. That’s when the body repairs the fibres of muscles damaged by exercise by fusing them together, increasing the mass and size of the muscles.

What creates muscle hypertrophy? Protein. It contains the amino acids used to control tissue repair, the formation of new tissue and the regulation of metabolic pathways.

Therefore, getting good gains without it is pretty much impossible. 


For a meat-eater, getting this protein is pretty straightforward. Studies say the minimum base level for those engaging in an exercise regime to support muscle growth should be 20g protein per meal. 

Not hard, considering there are 31 grams of protein in a chicken breast alone! 

But living a plant-based lifestyle, protein presents a challengeGetting enough of it is the most immediate hurdle of seeking muscle growth as a vegan.

How To Get The Volume Of Protein You Need

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  • Plan your meals around eating a high volume of calorically dense plant-based proteins like Tempeh and Tofu– and eat more than you would of meat.
  • Remember you need more than you probably think– studies have shown that young men, in particular, require far more protein than they expect—which means that if you have specific goals in mind, eat lots more. 
  • Don’t worry that they will impact your body– The fear soy with its high estrogen content will affect men’s hormonal balance is largely unwarranted. Studies show men who consume large quantities of soy experience if at all, very little hormonal changes. These studies also demonstrated if the products are organic and non-processed you are unlikely to see even minor hormonal changes when you’re eating them regularly.

So now I bet your thinking- Protein? No problem! Just eat lots of it.

Go gaga for grains. Pick up some pulses. Tuck into some Tofu. Settle down with Seitan.

But you can’t just start eating a ton of tofu, following a rigorous exercise program and expect the same results as a meat-eater.


Because you haven’t tackled the issue of incomplete proteins in your new plan based diet to build muscle. 

4. Tackle The Issue of Incomplete Proteins

source of proteins

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The majority of protein you get from meat has all 9 essential amino acids, making it what scientists call a ‘high-quality protein’.

By contrast, plant-based substitutes are largely ‘incomplete proteins’ meaning they lack one or two essential amino acids, making them typically less effective at providing everything you need for muscle growth.

For example, grains are short of the amino acid lysine, which is a critical building block of protein.

And pulses lack the amino acid methionine, essential for regulating your metabolism, which has a huge impact on your energy expenditure and thus your muscular growth.

So while grains and pulses are both great, clean sources of significant protein their lack of these essential amino acids means vegans need to turn to specific strategies to get everything they need.

Dealing with Incomplete Proteins

Dealing with Incomplete Proteins

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To deal with the issue of incomplete proteins, dietitians recommend two strategies to vegans seeking muscular growth- protein complementation and supplementation.

  • Complementation is effectively combining plant-based protein sources so they cancel out one another’s amino acid deficiency. So for example combining grains and pulses will not only render them equal to a complete protein but in a big enough quantity supply similar levels of protein to a piece of meat. 
  • Supplementation is your protein shakes and bars. Which can on average provide an extra 20grams of protein to a vegan diet. Protein powders can also be mixed into food.
  • Take them before exercising, as the concentrated hit of protein they provide elevates blood amino acids and muscle protein synthesis, allowing greater muscle growth.

 5. Boost Your Creatine Levels

Boost Your Creatine Levels

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There is also the issue of Creatine. 

Creatine, found predominantly in red meat, is a chemical essential to anaerobic activity in the ATP-PC bioenergetic system.

This is the system central to short but explosive bursts of high-intensity exercise, those which tear the fibres of the muscle and therefore are the most significant to muscle growth.

Creatine is what is loaded into the muscles in these moments to allow faster contraction and movement. 

Without it, you will struggle to push your body to its peak physical performance. So for those, like vegans, who reject meat consumption, performing their best and building muscle with explosive exercise is an issue.

So….What can we do to get Creatine? What do we do if we want full performance gains on a vegan diet?

Do we just stop caring about the cows?

Absolutely not.

How To Boost Your Creatine Levels

  • Those who follow a plant-based diet and are trying to build muscle should consider supplementing with creatine to ensure they are replenishing baseline stores each day.
  • Creatine supplements provide the means to combat low creatine levels among vegans, allowing you to perform to your peak potential in explosive exercise without harming animals.
  • You can buy them cheap and in bulk, as a long-lasting solution to your vitamin needs.
  • You don’t have to take Creatine Supplements to build muscle, but it puts you at a disadvantage compared to a meat-eater.
  • Combine all this with the recommended exercise and sizable portions, and you’re as good to go on building muscle as any omnivore.

But wait. I know what you’re thinking.

 Why put so much effort into something which could be so easily achieved by eating meat? 

6. Remind Yourself Of Why It’s Worth It


What seems the most difficult aspect of a plant-based diet is staying with it- less than one in five vegans remain vegan permanently.

So not only is it critical you have a plan, but also that you remind yourself of the reasons that drove you to such a significant lifestyle change in the first place.

Why Is It Worth it?

If none of the moral and environmental arguments can keep you driven to maintain a plant-based diet, consider this- vegans have been found to score highest on almost all markers of health.

They generally have a lower BMI, lower cholesterol and live longer. One study even found a plant-based diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia by 32%.

So all it takes is a few dietary adjustments to support building muscle as a vegan, on a diet that helps the environment, doesn’t harm animals and is associated with greater health benefits.


Doesn’t sound too bad a trade. 

Writing down these reasons in a journal, or putting them on sticky notes on the fridge may be the reminder you need to commit to a plant-based diet.

Committing to a plant-based diet, or even just experimenting with plant-based foods is so much easier with a vegan meal prep subscription from us at Plant Sumo.

Enjoy a variety of sweet and savoury meals all pre-prepared and delivered to your doorstep, at an affordable price.

Nutritional and cheap vegan food? Count me in. 

With plenty of high protein options, anyone looking to support their fitness in a healthy and nutritious way can draw inspiration from our menu, or just try us today at: https://plantsumo.com

But if you want to go solo and get serious about building muscle on a plant-based diet, remember these tips.

Stock up on the seitan, seeds, soya milk and squash spaghetti. Eat your beans and legumes together, and sip those protein shakes.

Because you can still get beefy, without the beef.


1. Can you build muscle on a plant-based diet?

You can build muscle on a plant-based diet because you still have access to high protein foods.  Tofu, Lentils, Chickpeas, and peanuts are all good examples. Now “can you build muscle and lose fat on a vegan diet?” Yes, you can! There is a specific vegan bodybuilding diet that makes losing fat doable.

2. Do plant-based proteins build muscle?

Plant-based proteins can still help you build muscle. There are plenty of high protein foods and you can view weight training on a vegan diet to see how you can build muscle in a sustainable way.