Maintaining a healthy lifestyle on a plant-based diet is quite simple, but gaining and muscle building can prove to be a difficult task for some. Figuring out the correct balance of proteins, carbs, and fats then applying the correct servings for your body size is the best way to lose weight and gain muscle.

Don’t worry about crunching the numbers yourself, the USDA has a great nutrition calculator where you can calculate daily nutrient recommendations for your weight. Make sure to select “Daily Calorie Needs”, “Carbohydrate”, “Protein”, “Fat”.

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Once you have determined your personal recommended daily intake, it’s time to learn the right foods and supplements to buy. Whether your whole food plant-based or vegan for the animals there’s a plethora of protein-packed choices in your local Whole FoodsTrader Joe’s or Sprouts. You can also make your own protein powder at home!

Protein Powder

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To start you’re going to need to buy some protein powder, something versatile that can be used as pre or post workout, with a good carbohydrate to protein ratio. Great brands to keep in consideration are SunwarriorGarden of Life and Vegan Smart.

Plant-based proteins’ often criticized for the fact that it lacks complete protein sources and contains less branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) than animal based protein powders. BCAA’s stimulate protein synthesis, which in turn promotes muscle gain. To build muscle mass your rate of protein synthesis needs to exceed your rate of protein breakdown, this is what BCAA’s help with.

BCAA’s can be taken pre, peri, or post workout because they are a free-form supplement, meaning they require no digestion and are quickly absorbed by the bloodstream and available for use by many metabolic functions. Great BCAA powders to try include Truth Nutrition and Women’s Best.

High-Protein Foods

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Now that you’ve gotten the supplements and information you need to increase your results at the gym, it’s time to talk food. Real, plant-based, protein-packed foods. There are many protein-packed, processed vegan foods that are great for meeting protein guidelines but tend have extremely high sodium content.

Brands like Gardein, Beyond Meat, and Boca make meatless products reminiscent of your favorite foods that you loved before you went vegan. Some vegans like to steer clear of mock meat products because of the high sodium and saturated fats levels, but they are still great alternatives to their meaty counterparts.

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1. Edamame

Zucchini and Edamame Miso Soup/One Green Planet

One of the healthiest unprocessed protein you can eat is edamame. Edamame is the soy plants seed, which you’ll find still in the pod or shelled. You can eat it after being steamed shortly. Most grocery stores carry frozen soybeans and other great soybean products like edamame spaghetti. Edamame packs an impressive 18g of protein per serving and can be used in recipes like Zucchini and Edamame Miso Soup, Cilantro Edamame Burgers or as it is for a snack.

2. Tempeh

TLT: Tempeh Lettuce Tomato Sandwich/One Green Planet

Tempehs’ a great option for minimally processed protein. It’s made of whole cooked, fermented soybeans and then pressed into a block. Tempeh and tofu are very versatile but can be intimidating to use if you’re unfamiliar with the flavor profiles. The texture is similar to cooked beans and the flavor is unfamiliar but mild and easy to manipulate with marinade or seasoning. When compared per serving, tempeh’s looked at as the healthier version of tofu because it has more fiber, protein, and vitamins. Tempeh is great for cooking Breakfast Scrambles, plant-based BLT Sandwiches (pictured above) and Raspberry Glazed Holiday Roasts!

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Some cooks recommend to steam or simmer the tempeh before cooking, then add marination/spices and continue cooking. Whether you choose to bake it, grill it, fry it, or sautee it you can pack it with flavor if you follow these steps.  

3. Tofu

Tofu Créme Brûlée/One Green Planet

Tofu is tempeh’s more popular cousin. Its mild flavor and texture make it more versatile. Tofu consists of curdled soy milk, similar cheese processing. Curdled milk’s then drained and then pressed into blocks. It’s known for its chameleon-like quality because it can be used in a wide variety of recipes from decadent Tofu Creme Brulee (pictured above), to Tofu Egg Breakfast Sandwiches and even Tofu Lasagna.

4. Black Beans

Butternut Squash Black Bean Enchiladas/One Green Planet

Something that is a little more familiar to everyone’s palette is black beans. They are great at absorbing flavor and have an impressive 15 grams of protein and only 227 calories per serving. Whether you’re in the mood for something simple like Black Bean Burgers, or something a little more complex like Butternut Squash Black Bean Enchiladas (pictured above) you can find endless recipes with great nutritional value on the Food Monster App.

Snacking is many peoples Achilles heel in the dieting world. Whether you’re vegan or not, household snacks like chips, crackers are often high in saturated fat, sugar, and calories.

5. Nuts and Seeds

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Nuts and seeds are great choices when looking for a high protein, low-calorie snack.The nutritional value is affected by salt and roasting, so purchase raw nuts and seeds in bulk. Some of the best nuts to eat include raw Pine Nuts, Almonds, and Pistachios.  

Seeds are a great source of fiber, protein, and unsaturated fats. They’re great to use as salad toppings in oatmeal or as they are for a quick snack. Flax SeedHemp Seeds, and Pumpkin Seeds are amongst the best seeds to consume when trying to gain muscle.

When snacking and eating meals keep in mind your daily recommended intake of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. If looking to build muscle, slowly increase your daily intake of protein and stay away from saturated fats and sugars. Protein powders and mock meats are great when you need a quick go to fix of protein. But, the bulk of your protein should come from whole food plant-based products like edamame, beans, and raw nuts.

For more muscle building recipe ideas, check out 5 Clean Muscle-Building Foods for Athletes That Are All-Vegan and download the Food Monster App, available in both the Android and Apple store. Want a daily dose of recipe inspiration?! Follow Food Monster App on Instagram and Facebook. With more than 10,000 plant-based and allergy-friendly recipes, there is always something to curve your cravings.


Lead image source: Protein-Packed Cheesy Zucchini Cornbread Waffles