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Don’t Have a Cow: Simple High Protein Vegetarian Diet for Muscle Gain

In iron houses all across the planet the gateway to muscle mass has been closely guarded by one specific way of eating. But now there are a rising number of bros looking for a simple high protein vegetarian diet for muscle gain instead.

Almost every bodybuilder on the planet has experienced the chicken, broccoli and brown rice method. Some people stick to this bland regimen for years at a time, eventually leading to food intolerance and even sometimes eating disorders.

That’s because for so long the bodybuilding community has been obsessed with the most marketed macro out there. Yeah, you guessed it, protein.

Protein can be sourced in abundance from many different types of food. However, meat is the most common type of protein source in the Western world. So, it makes sense that many guys are wary of a vegetarian diet when looking to add muscle mass.

But, as in most cases, bro science isn’t always as legit as we make it out to be. Meaning it is actually possible to build muscle on a vegetarian diet, so long as there is a surplus of protein available.

The Official Protein Stand

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, us dudes need 1.4g – 2.0g of protein per 1kg of bodyweight per day (g/kg/d) to maintain and build muscle. So, as long as we aim to hit the top end of the range, we can be sure we’re eating enough gain inducing goodness.

For an average guy of around 85kg, this is between 119g – 170g per day. When you put it that way, it all seems totally manageable.

Still don’t believe us? Well, it’s good enough for guys like Torre Washington, Jordan David and Patrik Baboumian. Those guys manage it without any animal products at all.

Let’s take Torre Washington as an example. He is a professional bodybuilder who has took 4th place in the 2016 Arnold Classic Bodybuilding contest, won IFPA Pro competitions and even heads up the #RETHINKPROTEIN campaign. He sources his protein through all plant-based foods such as beans, grains and vegetables.

torre washington a meat free vegan professional bodybuilder

What is protein?

Protein is what our bodies use to build muscle tissue. Which is why bodybuilders are so obsessed with getting enough of it.

As an essential macro, it’s vital we consume optimal amounts to keep ourselves healthy. Or, in our case, grow sick AF wings and make ladies faint on sight. (If you don’t know what we’re talking about your bicep game is weak, bro.)

Essentially, our body needs fresh protein to synthesize and repair old damaged muscle tissue. If the body doesn’t have enough protein available, it goes into muscle atrophy mode. Taking aminos from healthier parts of the body to repair the damaged areas.

THIS IS BAD NEWS for any bro hoping to grow!

Amino acids make up protein, so it’s important that vegetarians make sure to get a complete profile throughout the day. Unlike meats like beef and chicken, not all vegetarian protein sources feature the 9 essential amino acids. These are:

  • Histidine
  • Leucine
  • Methionine
  • Isoleucine
  • Lysine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

To combat this some veggies combine their pulses and grains. A common combo is peas, beans with brown rice, which will cover all nine essential aminos. We’ll list a bunch of complete sources later on though, for dudes who aren’t feeling the fuss.

Gotcha, so where can I find me some?

example of vegetarian meal prep

Whey To Go

whey protein scoop for vegetarian dietIf dench dudes like Torre Washington can do it without any kind of animal produce, we can do it easy with whey thrown in the mix.

Whey protein is a supplement almost every bodybuilder swears by. Even the most hardcore of meat eaters won’t turn their nose up at this dairy-based bulker.

As whey protein is an animal by-product and not actual flesh, vegetarians can and often do use it. Because of it’s super high concentration of protein, whey can help to pump-up a bros daily consumption.

Also, because of its mass availability, cheapness and convenience, it’s perfect for vegetarians. Especially as an extra boost in macros and calories throughout the busy work day or post-workout.

When bulking, we like to throw a banana and tablespoon of smooth peanut butter into our shakes. This is easy to do beforehand by throwing all the ingredients into a blender to make a high-cal energy boosting protein drink.

Get eggs-tra in the morning

plate of hard boiled eggsThere’s a reason Sly Stallone woke up to a glass of raw egg whites in the morning. Hint: it’s not just because he’s an absolute savage.

Eggs are an awesome protein source. Each individual little muscle builder contains around 6 grams of protein. Plus, they’re dense in vital muscle building vitamins such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin B12
  • Riboflavin
  • Folic acid

These breakfast beauties also boast a complete amino acid profile. So, for vegetarians, they’re a great addition into a mass mustering diet.

Typically when we’re bulking, we’re hitting the iron as hard as the kitchen. Therefore, proper recovery is paramount to keep us strong enough to build again the next day.

Eggs are one of the ultimate recovery foods because they contain important minerals such as iron, zinc and calcium.

Plant Protein Power

a bowl of healthy plant based proteins

As we’ve already mentioned there are a tonne of plant based protein sources out there.

Each one having it’s own individual pros and cons, just like animal protein sources.

Some are complete, whilst others are incomplete but tastier and versatile. So, when putting together a simple high protein vegetarian diet, it’s a good idea to build meals based around these foods.

Complete plant based proteins include:

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Soy products
  • Seitan

In order to keep away from creating an overuse of one food try to rotate these. Eating too much of one thing can lead to developed allergies, which downright suck.

You don’t even have to use these ingredients in every meal. Combining a few of the following throughout the day should help you take on every essential amino:

  • Hemp seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Peas
  • Spirulina
  • Beans (such as blackbeans, kidney beans, butter beans and chickpeas)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Lentils
  • Brocolli

What we’re really trying to say it’s not just grass that grows from the ground. Jacked dudes can too.

Dairy Yourself Dench

bodybuilder drinks dairy

There’s a reason baby cows grow up so fast. It’s because milk is packed full of vitamins and proteins, making it natures original supplement.

If you’re lactose-intolerant, skip this section. We don’t want to give you gas. But, if you’re all good with the white stuff, read on…

Back before we could order stacks of fancy supplements from online stores bodybuilders relied heavily on milk. It’s said that Clancy Ross, one of the forefathers of modern physique sculpting, drank gallons of the stuff every single day.

Here’s a few reasons dairy goes hand in hand with a simple high protein diet:

  • It’s rich in protein
  • Contains vitamins
  • It’s affordable
  • Readily available
  • Doesn’t need to be cooked or prepared
  • Can be found almost anywhere
  • It contains vitamin D which promotes healthy Testosterone production

chart showing nutritional value of various different types of milk

Got milk?

Milk can come from different sources and in different levels of wholeness, refinement and quality.

Opposite is a table containing the nutritional value taken from 100ml of different types of milk.

As you can see, drinking one litre of cow’s milk per day you could raise your protein intake by 33g.

Therefore, it seriously makes sense to spread milk intake out across the day for a big boost in amino consumption.

We recommend mixing milk into your diet by adding it to whey protein shakes and oatmeal for a creamier texture than water. This way is also a lot tastier than drinking it straight from the carton.

But, if the idea of glugging a glass makes you want to run a mile. There is another alternative methods of getting your daily dairy dose without touching the white stuff, cheese.

High protein cheeses are a enjoyed by bodybuilders across the globe. The most popular of which include cottage cheese and goats cheese.

A simple meal such as baked sweet potato stuffed with cottage cheese and chives is a great muscle builder. Not only are protein and essential fats available from the cheese, but the potato provides a healthy base of complex carbs. Keeping you feeling both full and fuelled.

Macros for Muscle

bodybuilder eats a bowl of salad

Keep the carbs coming – grains for gains

whole grains that're complex carbs for muscle gainEven though we’re heading for a simple diet, we want to keep carbs complex. That means plenty of wholegrains and unrefined starchy veg.

Think brown rice, amaranth and potato instead of sweet sugary cereals and white bread.

Our bodies break down complex carbs a lot slower than refined sugars. Therefore, they’ll help you get through those tough morning workouts and keep you sleeping your best at night.

Plus, wholegrains like brown rice and quinoa are a legitimate protein source. Way more than a bowl of Lucky Charms and a candy bar anyways.

Here’s a list of healthy complex carbs that’ll help you smash your muscle building goals:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Baking potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Oatmeal
  • Wholegrain pasta
  • Wholegrain bread
  • Ezekiel bread

Some bodybuilders try to avoid carbs, but this isn’t such a good idea for building mass as a vegetarian. It might help you to get cut, but it won’t necessary make you any bigger.

This is because wholefood vegetarian ingredients often have less cals per gram than meat based feasts. Essentially putting bulking veggies at risk of falling into a calorie deficit and leading to weight loss.

Fats are your friend

home made peanut butter

Well, good fats anyway.

Vegetarians looking to put on size should embrace the humble nut. At 9kcal per gram, they’re an awesome way to boost up calories.

Plus, they’re tasty, filling and are packed with essential omega oils and other nutrients. Including the likes of:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin E
  • Potassium

A great way of getting more nuts into your diet is by throwing peanut butter onto literally everything. Blend it into a whey smoothie, throw a spoonful into a big bowl of oatmeal, spread it on a half chopped apple. Dang, we’re hungry!

However, if you can’t stand the stuff, here’s a list of great foods full of essential healthy fats:

  • Flax seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil

If in doubt whether you’re getting your necessary dose of muscle enhancing essential fats, try Udo’s oil. A non-fish based oil packed with omega goodness.

A Simple High Protein Vegetarian Diet: Daily Example

vegetarian high protein meal prep idea

Below you’ll find a basic outline for what a vegetarian bodybuilder on a bulking diet might eat in a day. You’ll find all your macros in there, plus a few extras thrown in for optimization.

There’s a call to take a scoop of creatine, which is an essential supplement for muscle building. Because vegetarians abstain from meat, along with vegans they’re the most at risk of suffering from a creatine deficiency. Take a scoop post-workout too.

You might notice there’s no pre-workouts or caffeine included in the example. But, you’re all big boys and can make your own judgement on these.

Breakfast 4 Egg Omelette
Mid-Morning SnackWhey Protein Smoothie + handful of Walnuts
LunchBlack Bean Burrito Bowl
Mid-Afternoon SnackWhey Protein Smoothie + slice of Watermelon
DinnerSoy Mince and Red Kidney Bean Chilli Sin-Carne
Evening SnackOatmeal + Casein Drink

Breakfast: 4 Egg Omelette


  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Whole chopped mushroom
  • Handful of spinach
  • 2 Asparagus stalks
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1tsp Coconut oil (for frying)

Mid-Morning Snack: Whey Protein Smoothie + handful of walnuts

Smoothie ingredients:

  • 1 Scoop of whey protein powder
  • 1 Brown ripe banana
  • 1tbp Smooth peanut butter
  • 1 handful of Blueberries
  • 350ml of cold milk
  • + scoop of creatine (optional)

Lunch: Black Bean Burrito Bowl


  • 220g pan friend black beans
  • Sauteed mushroom, pepper and onion
  • Mixed Mexican spices
  • 1/2 Avocado (Sliced)
  • 1/2 cup of brown rice
  • Handful of steamed broccoli
  • Tangy tomato salsa
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil (for frying)

Mid-Afternoon Snack: Whey Protein Smoothie + slice of Watermelon


  • 1 Scoop of whey protein powder
  • 1tbp Smooth peanut butter
  • 2 Whole pitted dates
  • 350ml of cold milk

Dinner:  Soy Mince and Red Kidney Bean Chilli Sin-Carne

Chilli sin-carne ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of Soy mince
  • 160g of Red kidney beans
  • 2 Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 240g Chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 Cup pre-prepared sweetcorn
  • 1/2 Sliced onion
  • 1/2tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2tsp Chilli powder
  • 1/2tsp Cumin
  • A few drops of liquid smoke
  • 1cup of Vegetable stock

Rice ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of Quinoa
  • 1/4 cup of Green peas

Evening Snack: Oatmeal + Casein Drink

Oatmeal ingredients:

  • 2/3 cups of Oatmeal
  • 1 + 1/3 cup of Milk
  • 1tbsp ground Flax seed
  • Handful of Goji berries
  • Handful of blueberries
  • 1 tbsp Maple syrup

Casein Drink:

  • 1 scoop of Casein protein supplement
  • 250ml of Cold milk

Final Food for Thought

picture of gorillaAs we’ve explored, it’s totally possible to build muscle on a simple high protein vegetarian diet. The key points to take away from the whole thing are:

  • Build meals from the protein upwards
  • Make the most out of every meal
  • Eat regularly
  • Use nuts and seeds to boost calories
  • Keep carbs clean and complex
  • Supplement throughout the day with protein based drinks

Remember to eat plenty of fibrous veg and greens to help your digestive system handle the abundance of protein it receives.

So, next time someone gets in your face about not being able to get enough protein, send them in the direction of this gorilla. Now go build that meat-free muscle, bro!

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