Plant protein

How to BULK, and Add Muscle Mass on a Plant-Based Diet

To gain weight, bulk, and add muscle mass on a plant-based diet you should expertly craft your plant-based diet to accomplish your weight gain goals. Whether bulking up to shred down, slowly packing on muscle, or adding a few pounds to your frame, this article will provide vital information on eating optimally to accomplish your fitness goals.

Unfortunately, a stigma exists against proper weight gain and adding mass with a fully plant-based diet. But with foundational understanding and a commitment to success, you can pack on as much weight as you’d like. And you may also want to add in a Vegan Pre-Workout.

6 Key Points

  1. Gaining weight on a plant-based diet is possible and no more challenging than any other diet.
  2. Multiple ways to gain muscle include bulking/shredding and lean gain.
  3. One pound of fat equals 3500 calories, while 1 pound of muscle is 2700 calories. 
  4. The macro ratio that works best for plant-based gain is 60% carb, 20% fat, and 30% protein.
  5. Many plant-based foods are rich in protein. When you consume a variety of sources, your body will have plenty of amino acids to create new muscle growth. Complete plant-based protein sources include soy, hemp seeds, amaranth, chia seeds, quinoa, and buckwheat. 
  6. Both men and women can gain weight and grow muscle on a plant-based diet. 

Is it possible to gain muscle on a plant-based diet?

Not only is it possible to gain muscle on a plant-based diet, but with an understanding of nutrition, it’s easy to do so. Gaining muscle is a delicate balance between providing a surplus of calories and essential amino acids and training. When the goal is muscle growth, feeding the muscle is crucial to success. Following a plant-based diet requires you to eat a variety of plant protein sources to provide your muscles with all nine amino acids necessary for building muscle. 

How many excess calories should you eat to add muscle mass?

There are two mythologies on how many calories to consume to add muscle mass. The first requires you to gorge on a high surplus of calories daily to increase your weight quickly, this idea of “bulking.” The second is a slow, gradual weight gain that results in muscle growth with less fat gain, which we refer to as “lean gain.” 

The Math:

  • 1 pound of fat = 3500 calories
  • 1 pound of muscle = 2700 calories


During a bulking method, the goal is to increase calories quickly. That could be adding 3,500 calories weekly or an extra 500 daily. Because it takes 3500 calories to add a pound of fat and 2700 to add 1 lb of muscle, we know that by increasing this significant calorie surplus, you could add 1 lb per week. However, muscle growth takes time; by boosting your calories this quickly, you will be gaining considerable fat. After your bulking phase, you would be required to enter a shred phase and work on losing the excess fat you gain.

Lean Gain:

In a gradual approach, you provide your body with the minimum needed caloric surplus above maintenance, which gives your body time to create muscle and grow sustainably. In this method, you will be gaining minimal fat and focusing on increasing muscle. As a result, you won’t see the scale changing as quickly, and you will find that the results are more desirable. However, it may take longer to achieve. In this approach, you’d want to focus on long-term growth. For example, if you aim to add 4 lbs of muscle in one year, you will spread your caloric surplus over the year.

4 pounds of muscle growth in one year:

4 x 2700 calories = 10,800 calories

10,800 calories ÷ 365 days (1 year) = 29.5 calories per day 

By consuming only 29.5 calories additional each day and weight training, you will be on the right track to gaining your targeted 4lb muscle growth by the end of the year. 

Either approach will work; choosing which method to follow depends on your lifestyle, goals, and desired outcome. The best part about following a plant-based muscle growth plan is that typically plant-based foods are lower in calories than non-plant-based. As a result, you can eat larger portions and feel fuller while training. Thus, providing you with steady energy to help you reach your goals! 

How many grams of plant protein should you consume daily to gain muscle?

It’s essential to eat the right amount of protein while gaining strength. Your body utilizes protein while it repairs and rebuilds muscle fibers. The repairing of the muscle fiber is what produces muscle growth. Evidence suggests a daily goal of 0.5-0.8 grams per body weight is sufficient for strength and endurance athletes.  

That means if a female weighs 150 lb, she should consume between 75-120 grams of protein daily on a lean gain program.

To reach your protein needs on a plant-based diet, it’s essential to eat a wide variety of protein sources, including beans, soy, lentils, nuts, and grains so that your body is supplied with all essential amino acids. 

What are the best plant-based foods for bulking?

When bulking on a plant-based diet, focusing on nutrient-dense foods is important. This includes grains, beans, tempeh, dried fruits, avocados, nuts, and seeds. Because the goal is adding calories, filling up on lettuce or other low-calorie foods wouldn’t be efficient. If you want to combine a whole food and supplemental approach, choosing options that include protein powders, plant-based protein bars, and mock meat will help you reach your goal and stay on track for optimal muscle growth.  

What are Some plant-based foods rich in protein?

Focusing on eating plant-based foods that are packed with quality protein is vital for muscle growth. The following plant-based sources are excellent options.

Protein per 100 grams:

  • Quinoa, dry: 14.1grams
  • Amaranth, dry: 13.6 grams
  • Peanut Butter: 22.2 grams
  • Hemp Seeds: 31.6 grams
  • Chia Seeds: 16.5 grams
  • Black Beans, cooked: 8.2 grams
  • Lentils: 9 grams
  • Soy Milk: 3.2 grams
  • Seitan: 21.2 grams
  • Nutritional Yeast: 53.1 grams
  • Teff, dry: 13.3 grams 
  • Sprouted Grain Bread: 11.8 grams
  • Wild Rice, dry: 11.1 grams
  • Oats, dry: 13.2 grams

Additionally, fruits and vegetables contain protein. For example, broccoli, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts contain roughly 4-5 grams per cup. And blackberries, nectarines, bananas, and guava have 2-4 grams per cup. 

What is the right macro balance for bulking?

Finding the right macro balance for bulking on a plant-based diet can seem daunting. However, one method is to follow a diet that provides 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat will set you on your way to reaching your bulking goals. 

Consuming a 50% carb-based diet may seem like a lot. However, it’s important to remember that plant-based protein sources are often higher in carbohydrates than meat alternatives. Therefore on a balanced plant-based diet, you will consume more protein sources that also include carbohydrates, leading you to a 50% carb rate. This is something to embrace on a plant-based diet! Consume legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, and more to reach your macro goals. 

The main thing to focus on is eating a variety of proteins to consume all the amino acids you need to build muscle and limit fat gain!

Calories vs. Nutrient Density

The best weight gain is healthy weight gain — one where you are bulking and adding lean mass and improving your overall health. Calorie density vs. nutrient density is important to remember while making food choices. You can fuel your body with calories to meet your caloric goals, but that does not mean every calorie is created equally. 

Calorie-dense foods are foods that have high-calorie values and minimal nutritional benefits. This is vegetable oils, candy, french fries, Oreos, and ultra-processed food. Consuming these calories will make you feel less satisfied and, in most cases, will lead to undesirable weight gain. In addition, since these foods are high in calories without added fiber, vitamins, and minerals, you will most likely feel insatiable hunger and less likely to achieve your goals.

Focus on fueling with nutrient-dense foods, which are high in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber and will leave you feeling satiated! Reach for avocados, seeds, and nuts to add calories and nutrients to your diet. 

What are the best supplements for plant-based bulking?

The best vegan pre workout supplements for plant-based bulking are those that will directly aid in your progress. A few supplements to keep on hand are: 

Vegan Protein Powder: Look for a protein powder that includes a variety of sources, including pea, hemp, and soy. 

B12: Helps prevent megaloblastic anemia, which makes you tired and weak. It is also important for making your blood and nerve cells healthy. 

Creatine: Helps improve strength and muscle recovery.

Spirulina: Iron and antioxidants help muscle oxygenation, which aids in muscle growth.

A sample 1-day Plant Based meal plan

Let’s dive deeper and explore a three-day meal plan for a 150 lb female who aims to add 4 lbs of muscle with a bulking method. 

  • Based on Macros: 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 20% fat
  • Weight:150 lbs
  • Maintenance calories: 2,000 calories per day
  • Surplus: 500 calories
  • Carb Goal: 309
  • Protein Goal: 176 grams
  • Fat Goal: 62 grams

Day 1

Meal 1: Oatmeal With Apple and Berry Protein Smoothie

  • Oatmeal 1.8 oz dry 
  • Apple 125 grams
  • Cinnamon
  • Water
  • 112 grams Mixed frozen berries
  • 75 grams banana
  • 185 grams of Soy Milk, unsweetened
  • 12 grams of vegan protein powder
  • Snack:
  • 1 kiwi, small
  • 140 grams grapes
  • 45 grams peanuts 

Meal 2: Lentil Bowl With Roasted Vegetables

  • 37.5 grams lentils
  • 37.5 grams beans
  • 60 grams of bell pepper
  • 55 grams of sweet onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 90 grams of roasted sweet potato
  • 120 grams of roasted celery
  • 130 grams snow pea roasted

Meal 3: Baked Tofu and Lentils

  • 91 grams tofu
  • 1.5 tsp sesame oil
  • 1.5 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 10.5 grams potato starch
  • 300 grams lentil
  • 85 grams peas
  • 35 grams avocado 

Meal 4: Protein Shake

  • 120 grams berries
  • 2 oranges 
  • 72 grams of vegan protein
  • water/ice

Five Tips for building muscle and gaining weight

  1. Start by creating a plan for gaining muscle. Are you excited to bulk then shred, or would you rather have a slow lean muscle gain? Look at your lifestyle, gym routine, and goals, then make the best plan!
  2. Weigh your food! The best way to accurately chart your nutrition is to weigh everything you consume.
  3. Follow your macros. Once you make a plan, start tracking your macros. Weight gain is a math equation; make sure you account for all the food you consume and all the energy you output to stay on top of your muscle growth journey.
  4. As you make gains, begin to reevaluate your plan and make changes if needed. 
  5. Keep pushing yourself and believe in the process. You will not see results on day one, don’t give up. Find ways to keep yourself accountable and enjoy it. 

Common mistakes while gaining weight and muscle on a plant-based diet. 

Keep in mind these common mistakes while adventuring on your weight gain journey. By knowing what not to do, you’ll set off on a front foot forward!  

Not Eating Enough: Fruits, vegetables, and grains are all relatively low in calories. So make sure to eat based on caloric intake, not volume!

Not Eating A Variety Of Protein Sources: Not consuming various amino acids will stall your progress because your body will not have all the necessary tools to recover and rebuild muscles. 

Not Eating Enough Omega-3: Omega-3 is essential for muscle repair and recovery. Eating foods like chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, and flaxseed and supplementing with algae.

Not Weighing Food: It is impossible to measure how much you consume without using a kitchen scale. I recommend grams as one of the most accurate units of measurement.  

Not Keeping A Food Journal: Write it down! Whether you utilize an app like myfitnesspal or keep it old school with a pen and paper, writing down everything that enters your mouth will lead you to reach your goals the fastest. 

What foods are the best for fast weight gain?

The best foods for fast weight gain are those that are calorie-dense. Some excellent vegan pre-workout meals and snacks include nuts, seeds, and avocados which are powerful weight-gaining foods. Additionally, blended smoothies are a great way to create nutrient-rich, high-calorie meals. Drinking calories is an effective way to consume more calories without feeling full. Adding a handful of nuts, seeds, oats, frozen fruit, spinach, and coconut milk to a blender will yield an extraordinarily high-calorie and tasty meal or snack!

Is it possible for women and men to gain weight and muscle on a plant-based diet?

Women and men alike can absolutely gain weight and muscle on a plant-based diet. As long as they are fueling their bodies appropriately and performing weight training exercises there is nothing stopping both genders from successfully adding strength while eliminating animal products from their diet.