So, you’re wanting to “bulk up” while eating plants.. Is it doable?
OF COURSE IT IS!!!
I’m going to be sharing with you the three most important keys to successfully gain muscle mass while eating a plant-based diet.
My personal anecdotal evidence
I’ve been skinny throughout my entire life, so I’ve always been in the mindset of gaining weight and more muscle mass..
However, when I first became vegan, I noticed a significant drop in my weight.
By replacing my old calorically-dense animal-based foods with healthy plant foods of a naturally lower caloric density, I lowered my caloric intake without being aware of it.
At the time, I wasn’t tracking my calories and this was a major mistake!
I ate the same volume of food, but I was placing myself at a caloric deficit that resulted in me losing about 10 pounds in the first 3 weeks of being vegan.
I was pissed to say the least!
This is when I realized that I could lift all I wanted, but I wasn’t going to gain size by restricting myself from the calories I needed to grow bigger, which brings me to my first key to a successful bulk..
1) Place yourself at a caloric surplus
After coming to this realization, I started tracking my calories on Cronometer (the web version is FREE).
Like I said, you can hit the gym all you want, but if you’re not giving yourself an adequate number of calories, you’ll ALWAYS fall short in gaining muscle mass..
Once I started using Cronometer, I figured out my BMR (basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories you’ll burn in 24 hours if you were to do nothing) and the amount of calories I burn throughout the day from being active.
The picture above is a screenshot off the Cronometer app that shows the calories I burn on a daily basis through activity and my BMR. All I had to do was fill in a few personal measurements for them to calculate it.
I found out that I needed AT LEAST 2200 calories a day if I wanted to gain weight.
No if’s, and’s, or but’s..
This was something I was oblivious to when I first switched to the plant-based lifestyle..
I may have been eating MUCH healthier, but I was selling myself short on the number of calories I was consuming.
This was my first step toward successfully bulking.
But, the amount of calories isn’t the only thing that matters.
2) Consuming your calories from the right macronutrient
There are three macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
When I tell people that they need to be eating at a caloric surplus, most people instantly think that they should load up on more fatty foods and protein.
This is NOT the case.
Once you’re aware of you BMR and how many calories you need to be eating to offset your active lifestyle, your next step is optimizing which macronutrient your calories are coming from.
So, instead of getting your excess calories from eating more fatty foods and plant protein powders that are processed, you have to make sure you’re eating more complex carbohydrates.
This means you should be eating more WHOLE plant foods that are full of complex carbohydrates, not 5 extra avocados and extra scoops of your “glorious” processed protein powder formulas..
If you’re eating whole foods and not processed foods, your protein intake should never be a concern. The entire thought of “losing out on protein” is nothing but a marketing scheme for the meat industry, dairy industry, egg industry, and protein powder companies that strive to make money off of our protein doubts.
This is why most people don’t understand that protein doesn’t equal muscle growth.
Of course, protein is needed as a structural component, but our body doesn’t need nearly as much as we’re told to consume.
Our goal is to bulk in the healthiest manner possible, so we should be mimicking one of the populations who’ve ate in a way that allows them to live active lives in their 90’s, the Okinawans.
They became one of the healthiest populations throughout time by obtaining 86% of their calories through complex carbs in the form of whole plant foods. And before you have any doubts, yes, the Okinawans were primarily slim, but they often ate at a slight caloric restriction.
That won’t be the case for us!
Since our goal is to gain muscle mass and size, we should be obtaining the majority of our calories from carbs, ALONG with eating a caloric surplus.
This will guarantee that we’re getting enough calories and are aligning ourselves with one of the populations who have managed to live some of the longest active lives.
With that said, we just have to be conscious that we’re not getting the bulk of our calories through empty calories from refined carbs and refined protein powders/branched-chain amino acids. This will only lead to an unhealthy bulk that places unnecessary stress on our bodies.
Speaking of stress, this brings me to my last key to a successful bulk..
3) Make sure you’re experiencing hypertrophy
If you’re wanting to build muscle mass, weight training should be the highest on your priority list. This heavyweight stress on our muscles is what we’re after when wanting to grow in size!
This is because hypertrophy (the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells) occurs when you’re able to lift weights that are heavier than your body weight.
Calisthenics and practicing yoga are wonderful for staying toned and in-shape, but in terms of bulking, your muscles need to be experiencing heavy loads of stress.
Yes, push-ups are great, but bench pressing two times your body weight will be much more beneficial when you’re wanting to build mass in your chest and triceps.
Other than that, it’s obviously best to experience all types of stress on your muscles, but when your serious about bulking, you should never forget to experience hypertrophy during your workouts!
- Bulking on a vegan diet is easily possible, you just have to make sure you’re eating a larger volume of whole foods to offset the lower caloric-density of plant foods.
- Make sure you know you BMR and how active you are throughout the day so you know the exact number of calories you should be consuming to be at a caloric surplus.
- Do your best to obtain a macro ratio that favors complex carbohydrate, not fat and protein. You can set your desired macro ratio in the Cronometer app.
- Don’t forget to experience hypertrophy in ALL of your workouts so your muscles are aware that they need to grow in size to keep up with you 😉
All in all, I hope this post helps you with your bulking journey! I had troubles when I initially became vegan, but have now managed to gain my weight back AND SOME..
If you have any questions, contact me with the form below and I’ll be happy to help! It’ll subscribe you to this website so that you don’t miss anything. Until then, keep kicking ass!!