Everybody knows that in order to build muscles proteins from food are required. But what happens when you are on a vegetarian diet?

This can be a surprise for some of you, but building muscle on a vegetarian diet isn’t that different from a normal meal plan. Actually, regardless of what you eat, if you want to build muscle then you need to eat more calories than you burn in a day. And of course, you need to make sure that you emphasize protein.

Build muscles on a vegetarian diet. Calories

The first thing you need to do is to know what is the calories you must eat to keep your weight the same. In order to have this information you need to do the following:

  • Be sure what is your weight goal. Think of where you want to be, not where you are right now.
Use that goal number to calculate an estimate of your daily intake. You can do this by  using the following equation: goal weight x (workout hours per week + 9.5) = daily number of calories
  • Keep a track of how much you eat. There are numerous apps that can help you with this.
  • Monitor what you eat and your scale weight for a couple of weeks. Do the measurement in the morning. If your body weight holds steady, then you made it.

If you lost the desired weight, you can add 100 calories per day in a week. If you see that you are gaining weight, do the opposite and drop 100 calories per day.

But if you want to build muscles, then you should not stop here. But how many more calories you should eat to gain muscles? We will give you some examples so you will understand better.

  • If you are a woman or smaller men, you will probably have to eat an extra 100 to 200 calories above your maintenance amount.
  • If you are larger, taller, bigger, you will have to focus on an extra 200 to 300 calories.

This ritual should help you gain one to two pounds per month. From this point, you will have to monitor your weight and keep this ritual until you have reached your goal.

Do vegetarians need more protein, fat or carbs?

So, you know how many calories you have to at to gain muscle. From this point, you can see exactly what your macronutrients should be. More exactly how many grams of protein, fat, and carbs you should aim for in a day. Take them in order:

1. Protein. The protein intake will not actually be based on total energy intake. The target protein number should be based on lean body mass. For example, if you are 180 pounds and wish to weigh 200 pounds you have to multiply that weight by .8 to 1.0, and you’ll have your target protein intake in grams. You can eat more than that, but it is not necessary. Protein is filling, so going above your bodyweight-based target may help you feel fuller longer.

2. Fat. Let’s take an example of 3,000 calories per day with a goal weight of 200 pounds. That means 200 grams of protein per day. It will equal 800 calories from protein. That will result in 2,200 calories remaining for fat and carbohydrates.

A good range for fat somewhere between 20% and 40% of total calories from fat. For the above example, here’s what it would look like:

  • Goal weight: 200 pounds
Protein: 200 grams
  • Fat calculation: 20-40%
  • If 20% of 3,000 calories = 600 calories from fat
If 40% of 3,000 calories = 1,200 calories from fat

3. Carbohydrates. Divide what is left by four and you’ll get the number of carbs you have to eat in grams.

What Vegetables are the best source of protein?

When keeping a vegetarian diet, it is difficult to find foods that are pure protein. This is because most vegetarian sources have combined composition. The stricter the vegetarian diet, the harder to find edibles pure in protein.

If you are a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian, eggs and dairy will provide an ample opportunity to get sufficient protein.  For this kind of diet, it’s not hard to keep your protein up. You can consume whey protein or non-fat Greek yogurt, and both are high in protein while being low in carbs and fat.

For a vegan, it is more difficult to find complementary proteins. Basically, many plant-based protein sources don’t have all nine essential amino acids. This means that you’ll have to mix different sources of plant-based protein in order to get a complete set of amino acids. One of the best examples is rice and beans. Mixed, the two foods provide a complete protein source, but here are some of the best vegetarian protein sources:

High in Protein

  • Tempeh (3 oz.) = 16g
  • Edamame (1 cup, cooked) = 16g of protein
  • Seitan (6 oz.) = 15g
Hemp Hearts (3 tbsp.) = 10g
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (¼ cup, dry) = 12g
  • Spelt (1 cup) = 10g

Moderate in Protein

  • Red lentils (½ cup) = 9g
  • Red Beans (½ cup) = 8g
  • Kidney Beans (½ cup) = 8g
  • Peas (1 cup) = 8g
  • Quinoa (1 cup) = 8g
  • Tofu (3 oz.) = 8g
  • Great Northern Beans (½ cup) = 7g
  • Black Beans (½ cup) = 7g
  • Garbanzo Beans  (½ cup) = 6g
  • Almonds (1 oz.) = 6g
  • Pumpkin seeds (1oz.) = 5g
  • Collard greens (1 cup, raw) = 5 g
  • Hubbard Squash (1 cup, cooked) = 5g

Lower Protein

Spinach (1 cup) = 4g per cup
  • Asparagus (1 cup) = 4 g per cup
  • Beet Greens (1 cup) = 4g
Sweet potatoes (1 cup, roasted with skins)= 4g
  • Brussel sprouts (1 cup) = 3.9g
  • Broccoli Rabe (1 cup, cooked) = 3g
Mushrooms (1 cup) = 3g
  • Broccoli (1 cup) = 3g
Kale (1 cup, raw) = 2.5g
  • Mung Bean Sprouts (1 cup, cooked) = 2.5g
Zucchini (1 cup, sliced) = 2g
  • Cauliflower (1 cup, chopped) = 2g

Vegetarian protein powder

For a vegetarian is recommended to consume pea protein. But why pea and not soy? Because soy protein if taken in a large amount can harm the sperm’s quality. Also, it can affect estrogen levels.

However, this doesn’t mean that you should not consume tofu.  If you have a scoop of soy protein once a day, that’s totally fine. Just be sure that the protein intake that comes from soy will not exceed 40-50%.

You should consider buying a protein blend that is high quality, complete and doesn’t have those issues. From this category, the pea and rice-pea versions are the best.

Pea protein is probably the best out there. It is also known as “vegan’s whey,” and is roughly a 70/30 blend of pea protein and rice protein.  There are actually studies that show that people perform just as well in terms of body competition change and performance when they eat pea protein after a workout, compared to whey.

The only problem that this type of protein has, is its earthy flavor. To make it less strong, you can mix small amounts of vegan protein powder into things like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Is the vegetarian diet working for me?

Just as in any kind of diet, the first thing you need to do is to track your weight, but also workout performance. Whether or not the weights you are using, or the reps you can perform, are going upward or downward can tell you a lot about how well your lifestyle is supporting your goals.

But looks are not the only ones that matter. So be sure to check other factors such as: hunger, mental clarity, energy, sleep, mood and workout quality.

Also, be sure that this kind of diet will not make you constipated. Another thing you should keep in mind is the increased vegetable consumption may also increase the level of gas. But if you are keeping the correct diet, you should not have problems. However, if you feel bad even though you are doing all the right things, you should consult a doctor.

Why do you want to go on a vegetarian diet?

If you are interested in athletic performance,  before starting this kind of diet, you need to be sure why you want to take this step.

So, there are several things that often play with people’s viewpoints:

1. It’s normal for people to see only the positives in data, especially when they are driven by an ethical belief. Someone who advocates for a vegetarian diet, or who believes it is unethical to eat meat, may only highlight case studies that show that vegetarian diets are healthier.

2. If you look at the broad spectrum of quality research, you will see that vegetarians are healthier and live longer compared to the other part of the population. The issue here is that most people tend to eat very bad and don’t care about other factors than taste. So a vegetarian is a person who made a serious decision about its nutrition. Which means more attention to general health. Vegetarians are typically more active, are more conscious of their calorie intake, and have a lower BMI. All of these things are the reason for longer life and better health. So yes, compared to the general population, vegetarians typically live better.

But if you put face to face a vegetarian and a person who is just as careful with the alimentation and lifestyle but who eats meat, the differences start to disappear. This doesn’t mean that a vegetarian diet isn’t healthy. Fruit and vegetable are very important for health. But you can eat meat along with them and be just as healthy.

So before you start a vegetarian diet you need to figure out if your decision is based on an ethical motive or on a clinical trial that is not 100% true.