How To Build Muscle on a Plant Based Diet

Muscle builders and weight training enthusiasts typically assume that it is difficult to build muscle on a plant based diet, given its lack of animal-based protein. However, what they don’t realize is that plant based diets feature plenty in the way of plant-based proteins. Moreover, plant proteins contain very little fat as compared to meat that can elevate cholesterol levels and increase the risk of a heart attack.


It is protein that builds muscle NOT meat. 


Protein contains essential amino acids that are the building blocks of muscle. The body does not distinguish where the protein comes from, and meat is certainly not the only source.


For example, a 4-ounce piece of beef liver, beef ribs, or ground beef contains approximately 30 grams of protein. You can obtain about this same amount of protein from soy products, namely edamame and tempeh, both of which provide 29 grams and 16 grams respectively for 4 ounces.


There are in fact many serious bodybuilders that are vegan, meaning they eat absolutely no animal products of any kind. Typically, animal protein is filled with unhealthy fat, and since fat intake is of a special concern for those building muscle, a plant based or vegetarian diet offers lower fat plant based proteins.


How Much Protein?


Athletes should consume 0.7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of lean muscle to build muscle and increase its size. 


A Goal That Is Realizable


Therefore, the idea of building muscle on a plant based diet is realizable if you know the nutrient information for various kinds of plant based foods. Therefore, the idea that vegetarians and vegans exhibit scrawny, weakly physiques could not be further from the truth, especially when those physiques have been sculpted through strength training.


In 2011, plant based strongman Patrik Baboumian of Germany proved that vegan athletes could be exceptionally strong as he hoisted an impressive, record-breaking 1,212.54 pounds over an area of almost three yards (32.8 feet to be exact). 


Because protein is the key ingredient needed for gaining and maintaining muscular strength, bodybuilders and weight trainers require regular intake of protein to feed muscle the nutrition it needs to grow strong and get bigger. So, YES,  you can follow a plant based diet and meal plan that features protein-rich foods as a part of your weight training and bodybuilding regimen.


Break Up Meals


It is best to break up meal times into several small meals during the day. Include macronutrients, such as fats and carbs, to maintain the energy needed for intense workouts and activities.


In order to achieve physique goals, CrossFit Alanis recommends that our athletes consume a ratio of 30/30/40 of protein/fat/carbohydrates. 


Plant Based Protein Rich Foods


Some of the plant based, protein-rich foods that bodybuilders can use to build muscle or weight trainers can eat to build strength include these healthy choices…


Nuts and Nut Butters 


When it comes to building muscle, you can’t go wrong with nuts as ½-cup supplies as much as 15 grams of protein and healthy fats for heart health and energy during grueling workouts.


All nuts are protein rich, and the lower fat varieties include peanuts, walnuts, and almonds. You can select from so many kinds of nuts to eat that they become an unavoidable food source for building muscle. 


Of course, some weight trainers are allergic to nuts. However, for anyone who is immune from the allergens, nuts are an ideal accompaniment to a muscle builder’s diet.


Add nuts to salad, grab a handful as a snack. Use nut butters on whole grain toast, and fruits. There is even plant based nut cheese. 




Beans such as pinto beans, navy beans, black beans, and black-eyed peas along with lentils are high quality protein sources that are much lower in fat than animal proteins. 


1 cup of black beans has 15 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat.


They support muscle strength and growth and provide various other essential nutrients the body needs, such as calcium, iron and fiber. 


Other great beans include winged beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and hummus, and garbanzo beans.


Tempeh and Tofu 


1 cup of tempeh contains almost 31 grams of protein and 18 grams of fat. 1 cup of tofu contains 20 grams of protein and 12 grams of fat.


These plant-based soy proteins contain the same essential amino acids as beef. They can be used to make a wide variety of tasty dishes and to replace meat in traditional recipes.




While quinoa does not contain the same amount of protein as tempeh, this whole grain superfood does contain the nine essential amino acids needed for body building purposes and a whopping 24 grams of protein per cup. 


Moreover, the selection of quinoa is seemingly endless as there are 120 featured varieties. Quinoa also provides plant based bodybuilders with plenty of carbs for those long, intense workouts.


Greek Yogurt


6 ounces of nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt contains 16 grams of protein along with lots of calcium, an ideal protein source for those vegetarians who eat dairy. 




Soybean sprouts, lentil sprouts, soybeans, and leafy greens are also high quality sources of plant proteins and provide various essential nutrients, such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. 


Include green peas, corn, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, cowpeas, and lima beans, Brussel sprouts, mushrooms, artichokes and asparagus in your diet regularly to get the benefit of these protein rich plant foods.    


As you can see, many great plant proteins will support your muscle training efforts, so NOW YOU HAVE PERMISSION to eliminate meat and animal products from your diet and go strength training!


  • CrossFit Alanis’s Head Coach and Practitioner Beaux Dyson has been leading a plant based lifestyle since 2017. Sit down with Coach by scheduling your NO-Sweat Intro at



Top 2 Ways Added Sugars Powerfully Affect Our Health?

Research continues to show the negative impacts on human health of excessive added sugar intake. The bottom line is that all added sugar, that is, any not naturally contained in whole foods, is unnecessary and ultimately not good for us. However, sugar is STILL SECRETLY added to many of the processed foods we eat.

How High Fructose Corn Syrup Destroys Your Body

For your health’s sake, it is vital to become a food detective and avoid this poison at all costs. It may take some time to determine where it is hiding in your favorite foods.


Talk with a coach about your goals. Get the plan to achieve them.


Take the first step towards getting the results you want!

By providing your phone number, you agree to receive text messages from CrossFit Alanis