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Bulking Diet for Vegetarian Bodybuilders

A bulking diet for vegetarian bodybuilders can help you gain muscle mass and strength as effectively as a meat-based diet, with some adjustments. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about bulking up on a plant-based diet.


Getting enough protein and calories is crucial for building muscle. Traditionally, bulking diets rely heavily on meat and other animal products. However, with careful meal planning and strategic supplementation, vegetarians can follow an effective clean bulking diet to support muscle growth.

This article provides vegetarian bodybuilders and athletes with science-based guidance on meal plans, protein sources, training, and supplements to optimize a plant-based bulking phase. Following these tips will help you gain lean muscle mass while minimizing fat.

Challenges of Bulking as a Vegetarian

Bulking up as a vegetarian takes strategic planning to overcome some potential hurdles:

  • Lower protein intake – It can be challenging to meet protein needs on a vegetarian diet. Careful tracking and sufficient protein at each meal is key.
  • Fewer calories – Due to the fiber and lower fat in many plant proteins, it can be hard to consume enough total calories. Calorie-dense foods and smoothies help increase intake.
  • Nutrient deficiencies – Zinc, iron, creatine, vitamin B12, omega-3s, and certain amino acids may be low. Supplementation is often needed.
  • Gaining fat – Overdoing fats and carbs can lead to excess body fat. A clean bulk focuses on lean gains.

However, with the right meal plan and training program, these hurdles are absolutely surmountable. The following sections provide practical strategies.

Meal Planning for Vegetarian Bulking

Carefully planning meals and snacks is vital to getting enough calories and protein each day. Here are some meal-planning tips:

  • Aim for 0.7-1g protein per pound of body weight – This supports muscle protein synthesis. Get at least 30g of protein per meal.
  • Eat a calorie surplus of 300-500 calories – This provides energy for growth without major fat gain.
  • Include protein at each meal – Evenly distribute protein intake rather than skewing it towards dinner.
  • Add calorie-dense foods – Nuts, seeds, avocados, nut butter, dried fruit, whole grains, and vegetables with oils to help increase calories.
  • Drink smoothies and protein shakes – Liquid calories can help boost intake. Blend whole foods, protein powder, fruits, nut butter, and oils.
  • Schedule snacks – Have a snack every 2-3 hours to maintain energy and high protein intake. Greek yogurt, protein bars, blended drinks, and trail mixes work well.

Top Vegetarian Protein Sources

Getting enough high-quality protein each day is essential. Here are the best vegetarian protein sources to include:

  • Tofu and tempeh – Excellent sources with about 20g protein per 3 oz serving. Choose a firm or extra firm.
  • Edamame – These soybeans offer about 17g of protein per cup.
  • ** Lentils** – All lentil varieties provide about 18g of protein per cooked cup.
  • Chickpeas – One cup has around 14g of protein. Eat them or blend them into hummus.
  • Beans – Pinto, black, kidney, and others offer 15-17g protein per cup cooked.
  • Greek yogurt – Try to find varieties with at least 15g protein per 6-8 oz serving.
  • Cottage cheese – Offers 14g protein per 1⁄2 cup. Get low-fat or fat-free.
  • Nut butter – About 8g protein in 2 Tbsp. Choose all-natural.
  • Protein powder – Use pea, soy, hemp, or blends. Add to smoothies, oats, and baking.
  • Quinoa – A complete protein source with 9g per cooked cup.
  • Ezekiel bread – Sprouted whole grain bread with 8g protein per slice.
  • Nuts and seeds – Especially hemp, pumpkin, chia, and flaxseeds.
  • Nutritional yeast – Used to add savory flavor and B vitamins. About 8g protein per ounce.

Sample Meal Plan

Here is a sample one-day bulking meal plan providing around 130g of protein and 3,200 calories:

  • Breakfast: Overnight oats with chia seeds, almond milk, protein powder, peanut butter, and berries. Greek yogurt on the side.
  • Snack: Hummus, carrots, and pita. Protein shake.
  • Lunch: Tofu veggie stir fry with rice. Ezekiel bread on the side.
  • Snack: Cottage cheese and mixed nuts. Protein bar.
  • Dinner: Lentil soup with whole grain bread. Tempeh veggie burger. Side salad.
  • Evening Snack: Plant-based protein shake.

Read also: Vitamin D Vegan Foods: The Ultimate Guide

Strength Training Program

Follow a challenging progressive overload strength training program focusing on major compound exercises to spur muscle growth. Train each muscle group at least twice per week.

  • Full body workouts – 2-3 days per week
  • Upper/lower body split – 4 days per week
  • Push/pull/legs split – 5-6 days per week

Use a weight that allows 8-12 reps to muscle fatigue for muscle-building sets. Include drop sets, pyramids, supersets, and other techniques to maximize stimulus. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

Plan structured deload weeks every 4-8 weeks to allow recovery. Get 7-9 hours of sleep nightly. Avoid overtraining and allow adequate recovery between workouts.

Supplements for Vegetarian Bulking

Certain supplements can help vegetarians overcome potential nutrient shortfalls:

  • Protein powder – Whey is not vegetarian but there are many plant-based options. Aim for at least 20g of protein per serving.
  • Creatine monohydrate – Boosts strength and muscle gains. Take 5g daily.
  • Omega-3s – Crucial fatty acids. Algae oil supplements are vegan.
  • Vitamin B12 – Necessary to prevent deficiency. 2500 mcg 2-3 times per week.
  • Zinc – 30-40mg per day helps maintain healthy testosterone levels.
  • Iron – Important for oxygen delivery to muscles. Take in citrate, glycinate, or bis-glycinate forms.
  • Vitamin D – 1000-4000 IU daily may be beneficial for muscle function.
  • HMB – Can assist with muscle protein synthesis. Take 1-3g before workouts.

Bulking Diet FAQs

How much protein do I need when bulking as a vegetarian?

Aim for 0.7-1g of protein per pound of body weight daily. This equates to 140-200g of protein for a 200lb person. Consume a protein-rich food or beverage with each meal and snack.

What is the best protein powder for vegetarian bulking?

Some top-rated plant-based protein powders include pea, soy, hemp, brown rice, mixed plant blends, and sprouted sources. Look for at least 20g of protein per serving.

Can I gain muscle on a vegan diet?

Yes, with diligent meal planning and supplementation, vegans can absolutely gain significant muscle and strength. Be sure to include sufficient calories and protein at every meal.

How much weight should I gain each week when bulking?

Aim to gain 0.25-0.5% of your body weight per week. This equals 0.5-1lb if you weigh 200 lbs. Gaining over 1lb weekly often leads to excess body fat.

What causes muscle growth during bulking?

Consuming a calorie surplus coupled with progressive strength training leads to muscle growth via increased protein synthesis and activation of satellite cells in muscle fibers.

How long should a bulking phase last?

Bulking for 12-16 weeks maximizes muscle growth potential. Bulking for longer tends to result in greater fat gain without additional muscle growth advantages.

How can I gain muscle without much fat as a vegetarian?

Follow a clean bulk with a moderate calorie surplus of 300-500 calories daily from whole foods. Include cardio and circuit training to help offset the fat gain. Gain no more than 0.5% bodyweight weekly.


With strategic meal planning, protein intake, training, and supplementation, vegetarians can build impressive amounts of muscle during a bulking phase. Focus on consuming sufficient protein, calories, and nutrients at each meal while progressively overloading muscles with strength training. Be patient and persistent, gain at a moderate rate, and follow these science-based tips for clean vegetarian muscle-building success.

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