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When many people think of vegans and vegetarians, they typically don’t associate them with muscles or, let alone, body builders. But contrary to popular belief, plant-based eaters don’t have to be scrawny, weak, or sickly! In fact, many vegans and vegetarians are quite the opposite, like this 78-year-old vegan body builder! And, just last year, a vegan strongman lifted a record-breaking 1,212.54 pounds over 32.8 feet, while yelling “Vegan Power!” Now, that’s impressive.

It’s important to note that not all individuals are created equally, and gender, age, weight, etc. all play a factor in your muscle-building dietary journey. For most, protein is a key part in gaining and maintaining muscles. To build muscle “requires the consumption of 1.2 – 2.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight,” according to vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke via Chocolate Covered Katie. And to maintain it requires “0.8 – 1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.”

To intake such a high amount of protein isn’t an easy feat, but it is required to help you bulk up. Try breaking up your eating times to small meals several times a day. And let’s not forget the other two important macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats.

Carbohydrates gives you quick energy for intensive workouts, while fats helps slow down your body’s absorption of these carbs so that you can have constant energy.

“A 30/30/40 ratio of Protein/Fat/Carbohydrate is a good starting point and will help you achieve your bodybuilding goals,” according to Iron Age. And remember, if you are intaking a greater caloric intake, it is important to maintain a regular exercising and strength training schedule. You don’t want those excess calories to turn into fat.

So, the next time someone thinks the words “vegan” and “muscles” together is an oxymoron, show them your “guns.” You are about to get strong like Popeye the sailor with these five plant-based foods that will help you build muscles. Time to let out your roar: “Vegan Power!”

1. Nutspeanut butter and chocolate buttercream cups

There are so many nuts to choose from that it’s hard not to incorporate some into your diet. (Unless of course, you are allergic. Then, please kindly skip my advice here, and move on to the next plant-based food.) Nuts are packed with protein and are great to add into salads like this Vegan Kale Waldorf Salad, made into desserts like Raw Coconut Peanut Butter Cups with Chocolate and Peanut Butter and Chocolate Butter Cream Cups, or even baked into a Vegan Nut Cheese. This also includes nut butters. Try making your own Homemade Cashew Butter!

Did you know that just one cup of whole almonds provides 30 grams of protein and 71 grams of “good” fat! Go ahead and go nuts. Add some into everything you can.

2. Tempeh and Tofu Pan Seared Tempeh Soup

These two plant-based meat alternatives are great muscle-building foods. Both are versatile and can soak up the flavors of sauces, vegetables, and what’s cooked with it. Tempeh is easier to digest because of its fermentation process. But, both soy products are amazing substitutes for meat-laden dishes. Thought you’d never have Chinese food again? Think again. Try this Vegan General Tso’s Tofu or this Vegan Sesame Tofu for a Chinese dine-in night. One cup of tempeh gives you 30.78 grams of protein! Incorporate this traditional Indonesian staple into your diet more frequently.

Tempeh is a staple in Indonesian cuisine and tastes great in this Tempeh Reuben Sandwich. For a heartier fare, how about trying these finger-licking Tempeh Ribs. Who knows? You might even fool your meat-eating friends.

3. Quinoacheesy mexican quinoa

Quinoa looks a lot like rice, and many cook quinoa like any other grain. However, quinoa is actually a seed! It can grow to become a leafy vegetable if it’s not harvested. This super food is a complete protein, with all nine of the essential amino acids the body can’t always produce on its own.

Did you know? There are over 120 varieties of quinoa! Even the pickiest eater could probably find one type of this super food they like. One cup of cooked quinoa provides 8 grams of protein – a complete one at that! Quinoa is also a great source of carbs that won’t burn you out during a long, intensive workout.

For a simple quinoa dish, try Pineapple Fried Quinoa. Or, if you’re feeling fancy, how about this Cajun Quinoa Cakes with Lemon-Dill-Sriracha Rémoulade? For more information on the benefits and tips for quinoa, check out this guide.

4. Seedstropical-chia-pudding-2

Seeds, including flax, chia, sesame, and sunflower, are packed with protein and “good” fats. Add a tablespoon of flax or chia seeds to your post-workout smoothie for the ultimate recovery drink. Both flax and chia seeds have a nutty taste to them, with flax being more prominent. Both flax and chia seeds contain lots of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants.

Try this Chia Strawberry Smoothie, which is great for breakfast or pre/post-workout. Snacking on sunflower seeds or adding them to a salad is a great way to incorporate seeds into your diet. Or, learn how to make Sunflower Seed Milk.

5. Beans and LegumesKidney Bean and Lentil Curry

The combination of beans and rice make for a great complete protein. Beans and rice, of course, also provide you with the necessary carbohydrate fuel you need to keep going in a work-out. How about trying some hummus like this Spicy Sweet Potato Hummus or Pumpkincredible Hummus? Just one cup of chickpeas used in hummus boasts 39 grams of protein, 121 grams of carbohydrates, and 7.7 grams of unsaturated fat. Or try some lentils in this hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie or this incredibly delicious and filling Lentil Loaf. For a lighter fare, try this vegetable lentil soup.

Whether you are beginning or continuing your journey towards building muscle like the Hulk, take these five plant-based foods into consideration. Your body will thank you!

Recommendation: Download the Food Monster AppSunflower Seed Pate b


If you enjoy articles and recipes like these and want more, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant Food app available for both Android and iPhone. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and more find awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.

The Food Monster app has over 8k recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8k+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!

Lead image source: Vegan Bodybuilder Joel Kirkilis/

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