Bulking, or putting on muscle, is a goal of many bodybuilders. To gain muscle, follow a regimented exercise routine — allowing adequate time for rest and recovery — and eat a diet that supports muscle growth. While traditional bulking diets contain significant amounts of protein in the form of chicken, lean steak and tuna, you can bulk up on a vegan plan too. Knowing what foods to incorporate and when helps you achieve your goals.
To gain muscle, you need more protein than the average person. Protein assists with muscle synthesis, repair and recovery. Instead of the 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight recommended for most adults, strength-training athletes need close to 2 g per kg of body weight daily, according to the International Society for Sports Nutrition. This means if you weigh 200 lbs, or 91 kg, you need about 180 g of protein daily. You should also aim to consume adequate amounts of carbohydrates for energy, and healthy unsaturated fats for calories, hormone production and vitamin absorption. A vegan diet that consists of 50 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat can help you bulk up.
You must increase your calorie intake to bulk up. It may seem challenging, as many vegan foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, are low in calories. However, if you add enough beans, nuts, plant oils and soy products, and eat six to eight meals per day, you can find enough calories to fill your daily requirements. If you simply increase calories without exercise, however, you will gain fat. Bulking up the muscles requires strength training along with the increased calorie intake. An online calculator can help you determine how many calories you need to maintain your weight, depending on your age, gender, activity level, size and goals. To gain bulk, add another 250 to 500 healthy calories to this number.
Vegan protein choices for a bulking diet include dried beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, quinoa and hemp powder. Carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits and starchy vegetables provide calories and nutrients. Fats found in nuts, flaxseed oil, hummus, peanut butter and avocados are mainly unsaturated. You might also experiment with seaweed, seitan and vegan energy bars and protein powders.
A high-calorie, bulking vegan plan might begin with a fruit smoothie made with juice, berries and hemp protein powder, plus some whole grain bread with hummus and a bowl of oatmeal. For a mid-morning snack, try a raw, vegan energy bar along with dried fruit and mixed nuts. At lunch, you might have a large serving of tofu with quinoa, roasted vegetables and olive oil. A mid-afternoon meal might consist of nut butter on a bagel with fresh fruit. For dinner, enjoy a a bowl of lentil soup followed by a burrito made with a large whole-wheat flour tortilla, black beans, avocado and brown rice. Before bed, snack on fresh pineapple and soy yogurt.
- CNNhealth.com; "How Should I Eat to Build Muscle Mass?"; Melina Jampolis, M.D.; June 2009
- Vegan BodyBuilding and Fitness; Moderate Protein/Calorie Intake Bodybuilding Nutrition Program; Robert Cheeke; August 2005
- Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness; Building Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet; Robert Cheeke;
- "Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition;" Position Stand: Protein and Exercise; Bill Campbell, et al.; September 2007
- "Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Perfomance in Sports and Life"; Brendan Brazier; 2007