What Should a Vegetarian Eat to Build Muscle?

Vegetarianism has been gaining popularity in recent years, with many people making the switch to a plant-based diet. However, there is a common misconception that vegetarians cannot build muscle. This is far from the truth. Vegetarians can indeed build muscle, but it requires a little more effort and planning compared to their meat-eating counterparts.

At the core of building muscle is protein. Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. As a vegetarian, there are plenty of plant-based protein sources that can help you achieve your muscle-building goals.

Also Read: high protein vegetarian diet for bodybuilding

Here are some of the best vegetarian protein sources for building muscle:

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. They are also high in fiber, which can help keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer. Some of the best beans and legumes for muscle building include chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and black beans.

Tofu and tempeh

Tofu and tempeh are both soy-based products that are high in protein. Tofu is a versatile food that can be used in a variety of dishes, while tempeh has a firmer texture and is great for grilling or stir-frying. Both are excellent choices for vegetarians looking to build muscle.


Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own. It is also a good source of fiber, iron, and magnesium. Quinoa is easy to cook and can be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, stir-fries, and soups.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Some of the best nuts and seeds for muscle building include almonds, cashews, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. They can be added to smoothies, salads, or eaten as a snack.

Dairy and dairy alternatives

Dairy products and dairy alternatives are also good sources of protein for vegetarians. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and milk are all high in protein, while non-dairy options like almond milk and soy milk are fortified with protein and other essential nutrients.

In addition to protein, it’s also important to consume enough calories and other essential nutrients to support muscle growth. Here are some tips for vegetarians looking to build muscle:

1. Eat enough calories

To build muscle, you need to consume more calories than your body burns. This is known as a calorie surplus. However, it’s important to get those extra calories from nutrient-dense foods, rather than junk food or sugary snacks.

2. Focus on nutrient-dense foods

In addition to protein, you also need to consume enough carbohydrates and healthy fats to support muscle growth. Focus on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

3. Consider protein supplements

If you’re having trouble getting enough protein from food alone, consider adding a protein supplement to your diet. There are many vegetarian options available, including pea protein, soy protein, and rice protein.

4. Stay consistent with your workouts

Building muscle requires consistent exercise, whether that’s lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, or practicing yoga. Aim to workout at least 3-4 times per week and gradually increase the weight or intensity of your workouts over time.


In conclusion, vegetarians can indeed build muscle, but it requires a little more effort and planning compared to their meat-eating counterparts. By focusing on plant-based protein sources, consuming enough calories and other essential nutrients, and staying consistent with your workouts, you can achieve your muscle-building goals on a vegetarian diet.

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