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4 tips for building muscle on a vegan diet

Adapting to a plant-based diet is getting more and more popular. Whether it's for health-, environmental or ethical reasons. However, the biggest concern amongst people still hesitant to make the transition, is "will I be able to maintain my progress in the gym? Will I continue to build strength, muscle and fuel? And what are the best quality protein sources?"

The short (and only) answer is YES! A plant-based diet is incredibly effective for both building muscle and burning fat. All that matters is that you manage your calories right and get the right nutrients in. In this article I'm going to share 4 great tips for building muscle on a vegan diet 👇🏼

5 tips for building muscle on a vegan diet

Let's jump straight into it!

#1 Get enough quality calories in

Many people make the mistake of thinking that a vegan diet is all salad and vegetables. And while you naturally will start to incorporate these more on a plant-based diet, it's not enough to keep you full and give your body the fuel it needs.

By moving away from meat and dairy you'll be swapping out quite calorie dense ingredients. The plant-based protein- and carb sources contain a lot more fibre (which your body doesn't absorb), so you're going to need to eat bigger volumes of food.

  • Make sure that all your meals include a healthy balance of protein, carbs and whole grain.

  • Eat slightly bigger portions so you're still getting the same amount of calories and nutrients.

  • Don't replace every meal with salads and veggies.

Actually, any diet should be rich in fruit, veggies and whole grain, it's not just linked to a plant-based diet.

#2 Stock up on quality protein sources

When you first make the transition to a vegan diet you'll likely find yourself googling "best vegan protein sources". While ingredients like broccoli, peas and nuts will definitely be on the list because they contain a good amount of protein, you can't make these your primary protein sources. Here's why:

You would need to eat almost 2 entire heads of broccoli, just to get the recommended 25g of protein in per meal. Or, if you're depending on nuts as your protein source, you would get almost a whole day's worth of fats just to get enough protein in for one meal.

As mentioned in tip #1, you will be eating more fibre and bigger volumes of food, which means you should aim to find protein sources that have a high ratio of protein compared to calories / volume. These are ingredients such as soy, tofu, tempeh, lentils, beans and protein powder.

You also want to make sure you eat a variety of protein sources throughout the day / week as they all contain different amino acid profiles.

  • Include protein sources that have a high amount of protein compared to calories / volume.

  • Eat a variety of protein sources throughout the day / week so you get all the recommended amino acids.

4 tips for building muscle on a vegan diet

#3 Adjust your carbs- and fat sources

We need a healthy balance of all 3 macronutrients each day: protein, carbohydrates and fats. For me, I really noticed a big increase in my protein intake when I made sure that my other macronutrients (carbohydrates and fats) also contained protein.

As mentioned in tip #2 a lot of foods contain protein, and there are certainly some e.g. carbohydrates and vegetables that contain more protein than others. Make sure to incorporate more of these into your diet.

It might take a bit of getting used to studying nutrition labels of the different types of bread, pasta or nuts, but it's definitely worth doing! And while you definitely won't get majority of your protein from these sources, they will help give that extra little boost each day.

Here are some of the top sources of protein in other macronutrients:

High protein carbohydrates:

  • Quinoa

  • Buckwheat

  • Bulgur wheat

  • Oats

  • Lentil pasta

  • Certain types of bread

High protein fats:

  • Nuts

  • Seeds

  • Nut butters

  • Chia seeds

  • Hemp seeds

  • Tofu

High protein vegetables:

  • Haricots verts

  • Broccoli

  • Green peas

  • Sweet corn

  • Mushrooms

#4 Keep your workouts the same

Whichever diet you're on, the same rules still apply for your workouts when it comes to building muscle.

Make sure to lift weights 3-5x per week, and progressively increase the weights, reps or sets every few weeks. This will challenge your muscles and stimulate what's called "muscle protein synthesis" (the process of building muscle).

Conclusion: how to best make the transition to a vegan diet while continuing to build muscle

Building muscle requires optimising both your training and nutrition. And it's definitely possible regardless of what diet you are on. If you're considering transitioning to a plant-based diet, here are 4 top tips for you:

  • #1 Get enough calories in

  • #2 Stock up on quality protein sources

  • #3 Adjust your carb- and fat sources

  • #4 Keep your workouts the same

If you're looking to transition to a plant-based diet or simply want to optimise your already-vegan diet, consider getting a personalised meal plan or starting online coaching. I've been a personal trainer for 10+ years and eaten a plant-based diet for 7+ years. I've helped hundreds of people either incorporate more plant-based meals into their diet or go fully vegan... Without losing any progress in the gym 😁

Don't be afraid to make the change. Sign up for Online Coaching with me below👇🏼


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Online Personal Trainer Sarah Louise Vegan

Hi, I'm Sarah Louise 👋🏼


I'm a personal trainer & help ordinary people build extraordinary bodies without sacrificing their lifestyle.

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