Vegan Muscle Building on a Budget

Forget what you’ve heard about plant-based diets! Eating vegan doesn’t have to be expensive. It doesn’t have to make you feel deprived either. Plant-based diets have risen in popularity throughout the last few years, but there are still many myths surrounding a vegan lifestyle – especially those that insist you can’t get enough protein. We’re here to set the record straight about seriously investing in plant power.

If you’re interested in improving your health, saving money on groceries, and building muscle mass, keep reading!

Vegan bodybuilder eating cheaply

Why is Protein Important for Muscle Building?

Protein repairs the muscle tears your body develops when you’re lifting weights.

Have you ever thought about why lifting something heavy feels so uncomfortable? It’s because your body is literally tearing itself apart. Lifting an object outside your current level of strength creates tiny tears in the muscle fibres since they can only stretch so far on their own.

Don’t worry. These aren’t permanent and they are just micro-tears.

When you nourish your body with protein, amino acids (the building blocks of protein) heal the tear, making the muscle bigger and stronger.

The more consistent you are with this process (both lifting and eating properly), the more muscle you’ll build.

You need 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, so track accordingly when you have specific goals in mind. You should be reaching this count per day.

Can You Make Good Gains on a Vegan Diet?

This talk of nutrition and protein raises the question — how can you build muscle on a vegan diet? Do plants even contain enough protein for this process?

Vegetables on their own won’t help you build a muscular physique. But a vegan diet isn’t limited to just low-calorie fruits and vegetables. A vegan diet is also made up of nutritious and filling foods such as lentils, tofu, quinoa, chickpeas, texturised vegetable protein, seitan, nuts, seeds, and beans.

The short answer is, yes! You can gain muscle on a vegan diet, no matter what your goals are. Several vegan athletes have had fantastic success upon making the switch to a veggie-fueled lifestyle.

Famous runners, powerlifters, bodybuilders, swimmers, and even wrestlers have all succeeded on the diet. Track your macros to make sure you’re eating enough and don’t make the mistake of eating from just one food group. Diversify your vegan diet, and you will thrive.

Top Vegan Foods for Bodybuilding

If you want to gain some mass, it’s not enough to eat a bowl of tofu every meal and call it a day. The body needs a full range of plant foods. Especially if you’re trying to pack on more mass. The perfect post-workout meal should contain adequate protein, carbs, and fats. 

Let’s take that bowl of tofu, for example.

Use some sweet chilli oil and pan-fry the tofu. Add sticky rice, cashews, and leafy greens for a complete meal! If you don’t like nuts, some avocado slices can also add flavour and nutrition, as avocado adds a delicious and creamy fat source. 

Examples of other muscle-building foods include:

  • Oats
  • Polenta
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Garbanzo beans or chickpeas
  • Tofu
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Russet potatoes
  • Vegetables, like spinach and kale
  • Grains, like rice or quinoa
  • Fruits

What About Fake Meat?

Fake meat is often made from soy, gluten, or texturised vegetable protein. It gets a bad rap for being overly processed and unhealthy. The truth is, it’s safe to eat and typically contains less fat than real meat. It can also have as much protein as animal products. However, don’t rely on eating fake meat at every meal. Consuming these products in excess can take a toll on your health. Not to mention, these plant-based products can be pretty expensive if you’re eating them often.

Consider incorporating them sparingly into rich, vegan dishes.

For example, try some faux meatballs with red lentil pasta and zucchini. Vegan ground beef tastes excellent with potatoes, red bell peppers, salsa, and guacamole. Make a burrito or a burrito bowl. If you want to make the most of your vegan diet, find products you love to satisfy a meat craving, but always centre your meals around whole foods. Otherwise, you will risk becoming a junk food vegan, which won’t help you reach your strength and fitness goals.

What Supplements Should You Consider?


Creatine is an excellent supplement if you’re trying to build muscle. It is thought to improve lean muscle mass and decrease recovery time so you can get back into the gym ASAP. Look for straight, concentrated creatine. Some powders can contain whey protein, which is not vegan. It’s derived from cow’s milk, but creatine on its own is vegan, safe, and useful.

If you’re first starting to take creatine, ensure you’re taking the suitable amount for your weight, and height. It varies from person to person. Also, drink enough water throughout the day to cancel out any uncomfortable side effects, like muscle cramping.

Soy Protein 

Soy gets a bad rap for being unhealthy. However, soy isn’t inherently bad for you, especially when you’re conscious of how much you’re consuming in a day. In fact, soy is a fantastic source of protein. It’s the primary source of nutrition found in many vegan protein powders on the market. Consider investing in a soy or pea based protein powder if you’re struggling to eat enough in a day. When mixed with plant-based milk, it makes for a perfect post-workout meal.

A typical shake can contain 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving. You can also find soy protein in bulk at a cheaper price online than you would at the supermarket.

Pea Protein

However, soy isn’t your only option when it comes to vegan protein powder. Pea protein is one of the most popular choices. It also comes in various flavours, depending on the brand you choose to purchase from. Pea protein can also improve your heart health by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Vitamin B12

Typically found in meat, dairy, fish, and eggs, vitamin B12 is crucial for your overall health. You can find vitamin B12 in fortified foods on the plant-based front, such as soy milk and certain cereals.

Keep in mind; it’s much harder to get a suitable source from plants alone. To ensure you’re not missing out on this essential vitamin, take a supplement.

A daily, chewable vitamin is an excellent choice. However, there are also tablets, liquids, and sublingual sprays that will provide your daily dose. It’s easy to ignore this step when embarking on a vegan journey, but don’t risk getting sick! A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause vision loss, nausea, fatigue, weakness, numbness, and balance issues. You won’t notice the deficiency right away either. The effects may appear years down the line.

Benefits of a Vegan Diet

More Energy

Since a vegan diet is made up of a rainbow of fruits, veggies and other great foods, you’re likely to have way more energy! This is mostly because your body won’t have to use excess energy to process sugars and saturated fats that typically weigh you down with a meat and dairy filled diet.

Improved Skin

Dairy has been linked to increased acne, due to the amount of hormones and fat-laden in the food group. If you’ve been experiencing skin issues, cutting out dairy and following a vegan diet can be a gamechanger. High quality dairy alternatives taste great and can help you reduce inflammation in the body as well.

Decreased Risk of Heart Disease

Red meat contains high values of saturated fat. Fat from plants is healthy; however, this saturated fat from meat is one of the leading causes of heart disease.

More Variety in Your Diet

A vegan diet forces you to branch out and try new healthy foods. You can’t stop by a fast food place when you’re looking for a quick meal. While this isn’t convenient, it undoubtedly improves bad habits! If you’ve been stuck in a rut on your clean eating journey, try veganism. It’s challenging but in the best way possible!

Weight Loss

A vegan diet may also help you lose a few pounds. If you’re hoping to build muscle while losing some fat, a vegan diet may be the missing link you have been looking for.

Improved Recovery Time

A vegan diet is made up of anti-inflammatory and fibrous foods. When eating more of these foods, you’ll also improve your recovery time so that you can lift heavier and heavier weights at every gym session.

Are There Any Downsides?

Like with any special diet, there are a few factors you need to take into consideration. Plant-based diets make it difficult to obtain vitamin B12, so ensure you’re eating fortified foods when planning your meals.

It may also be challenging to eat out at restaurants. While many eateries are getting better at providing filling meals for vegans, that’s not always the case!

When eating out with friends, check the menu beforehand. Eat a nice meal early, or wait until after if the restaurant doesn’t have plant-friendly fare on the menu.

How Frequently Should I Eat?

Meal frequency depends on various factors such as your appetite, schedule, or just your personal preference! As long as your caloric values are met throughout the day, it doesn’t matter how many meals you eat. Furthermore, be conscious about your meals and ensure you’re eating enough of each macronutrient.

Many people make the mistake of dining on bread and pasta, only. While carbs are necessary for any healthy diet, you’re missing out on various nutrients and vitamins when you eat simple carbs.

If you find yourself hungry throughout the day, consider munching on nuts and seeds. This high-calorie snack will keep you full and help you meet a suitable macro and calorie count. The average adult will need around 2,000 to 2,500 calories to sustain their daily energy level; however, this can fluctuate based on gender, level of activity, and age.

How Can I Save Money on a Vegan Diet?

Now, we’re getting to the money-saving part! If you choose to purchase mock meat and dairy products, there’s no doubt your shopping bill will sky-rocket! These products are not in as high demand as their non-vegan counterparts, thus contributing to the higher cost.

However, canned goods, dried foods, fruits, and vegetables are cheap, especially when bought in bulk.

Preparedness is also a key factor, so outline your meals in advance before going to the store. This prevents you from buying unnecessary foods that will go bad within a week! Look for a detailed meal plan online, or follow the one we have created down below!

An Example Diet Plan Optimised for Building Muscle

We’ve included a 5-day muscle-building plan, filled with examples of nourishing meals that any new vegan or plant-based dieter is sure to love. These meals are full of flavour, but most importantly, they are delightfully healthy, so you can see how uplifting the lifestyle can be. Don’t forget! You may want to supplement with some form of vegan protein powder as mentioned above.

Day One

For breakfast, start with a bowl of porridge or oats. Pile it high with fruits, seeds, nuts, and add a drizzle of agave for extra sweetness.

For a snack, eat a few pieces of dark chocolate with a handful of almonds. Dark chocolate contains valuable antioxidants that can improve your immune system. Not to mention, the additional calories can help you eat in a surplus. Eating at a surplus is one of the best ways to increase your muscle mass fast!

Now, it’s lunchtime. Consider packing a light lunch, perhaps an Asian salad with greens, tofu, peanut sauce, and sesame seeds. If you wish to eat something with more protein, consider a chickpea coconut curry with jasmine rice.

For dinnertime, make some zucchini stuffed lasagna rolls. Add lentils to the marinara sauce to add a protein source. If possible, look for a pasta sourced from chickpeas or lentils. This will add even more nutrition to your day. Finish the day off with a protein shake. Add a banana and oat milk for the extra calories.

Day Two

On your second day, start your morning off right with some toast piled with baked beans or avocado. Toast, like oatmeal, is exceptionally versatile. Have a sweet or savoury slice! You can make it gluten-free by using Ezekial bread instead of wheat.

For lunch, have a simple meal of brown rice and spiced lentils, topped with cilantro. Later in the day, make a nice dinner of shepherd’s pie. Use mock meat instead of beef. You can also substitute the meat with a portobello mushroom. Add peas, corn, and potatoes as well.

Finish off the night with a cup of non-dairy ice cream! You don’t want to deprive yourself of sweets, even if you’re bodybuilding on a vegan diet.

Day Three

Start your morning off with some ‘nice cream’. Nice cream is vegan ice cream made from blended bananas, milk, and ice. It has a similar consistency to soft-serve when made correctly. Stir in some granola or protein powder to add some additional nutrition.

For lunch, make yourself a chickpea salad sandwich. Start with a can of chickpeas. Drain the water and mash the beans into a paste. Add mayo, dill, salt, pepper, and garlic seasoning to taste. Place this spread in between two bread rolls. Add lettuce and tomato as well.

Finally, for an enjoyable dinner, have some breaded and BBQ tofu and roasted sweet potatoes.

Day Four

Have another bowl of oats in the morning. Drizzle some peanut butter over your meal and add dark chocolate nibs on top.

For lunch, eat a bean and potato burrito. Add some hot sauce to complete the meal.

For dinner, try your hand at sweet potato tacos with corn tortillas. These are great with black beans, vegan cheese, jalapeno sauce, and roasted bell peppers!

Sweet potatoes are an excellent food for bodybuilding, as they are simple carbs that can be easily digested, and thus offer an abundance of energy for your workouts.

Day Five

For this final day of meal inspiration, look for a vegan waffle recipe online. Alternatively, you can look for a pre-made mix at the store that doesn’t contain eggs or dairy. Use plant-based milk and one of these vegan substitutes for eggs:

  • Chickpea brine
  • Chia seeds
  • Mashed banana
  • Unsweetened apple sauce

Add some protein powder to the batter as well.

For lunch, consider making some BBQ tempeh, with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.

If you’re in the mood for a snack, have a serving of fruit. Lastly, for dinner, consider a chickpea Mediterranean salad with falafel, and couscous on the side.


Now you know the basics of eating healthy while on a vegan diet. It doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be relatively cheap and satisfying! The diet can also help you bulk up your physique, and tap into new levels of strength. Whether you’ve been confused about the basics of the diet, or need meal inspiration, we’re here to provide everything you need relating to this excellent and healthy lifestyle!

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Team MT

Team MT is the editorial team of MuscleTalk. With over 20 years experience we write quality, evidence based, articles. In addition to creating original content, we also edit and fact-check any articles we feature by external writers.

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