Question: “Hey, what’s a good way to bulk up without meat? Vegetarian or vegan options, it doesn’t matter.”
Answer: That’s a great question. There’s a huge misconception that vegetarians and vegans are unable to bulk up because they don’t consume meat, and that’s just incorrect. Since this is a vegan blog, I will only provide vegan answers.
Image of Rayshon Manley from veganbodybuilding.com’s Profiles page.
Whether you’re a vegetarian or vegan, bulking up is the same as being an omnivore. Your bulking ingredients:
1. A proper workout designed to increase muscle size.
2. A proper bulking diet (a shit ton of food).
3. Proper rest (both between gym days and sleep at night).
I don’t know how much you know about bulking workouts, so I’ll leave that out for now. If you want help with it, I’m happy to do so…just ask.
A proper bulking diet is one where you consume high calories. That’s it. Now, there’s “dirty bulking” and “clean bulking”, which just refer to the types of calories you consume. A good visual example is professional bodybuilder Lee Priest:
He does a dirty bulk, which just causes him to consume a shit ton of calories in any form. Muscle loves calories. Then he does a “cutting cycle” where his goal is to cut fat, so it’s a huge diet change with some change to workouts as well. This does cause a loss of muscle mass, which is why the bulking cycle is so important.
However, if you’re like me, you just want to eat all the things and you don’t want to have to pay for it with a huge fat gain. Folks like me do clean bulking. This is where we eat a lot of food from healthy, natural sources prepared in a healthy way. Dirty bulkers include things like fast food, fried foods and pizza into their diet, while clean bulkers avoid this. We tend towards things that are baked, broiled, boiled or pan-fried with little to no oil (hooray for nonstick cookware). This is not a high protein, low carb diet, but instead a high protein and high carb diet. If you find yourself gaining a significant amount of fat, I would play with the types and amounts of carbohydrates you take in, or cut down your overall calorie count for the day.
Clean or dirty bulking, you’re going to want to eat at least every 2 hours. This isn’t “three moderate meals with three snacks” or “six small meals throughout the day” like you may have heard recommended for people when they’re told to eat often. This is eating several meals throughout the day. Since you’re looking for meat-free, here are some classic tasty meals from my super bulking days (I can’t do them anymore due to my medical issues):
-1 block tofu cooked with onions, broccoli and spinach
-2 cups of vegan yogurt (no sugar added) + 1 papaya (or 1/2 papaya, 1/2 pineapple)
-2 cups of meatless chili (you can use veggie crumbles in this) + 2 cups steamed vegetables + 1 baked potato (no butter, but pepper, salsa, and vegan sour cream are fine)
-Quesadilla made with Ezekiel wraps (or other sprouted grain tortillas), vegan cheese (I prefer Daiya brand), vegan chik’n, tomatoes, onions + salad + rice and beans
-Homemade falafel (baked) served with homemade vegan tzatziki sauce (find a recipe, it’s stupid easy to make) and/or hummus, cucumber slices, raw spinach and raw tomatoes on pita bread + side of rice cooked with vegetables and some Mediterranean seasoning (I usually opted for something Egyptian)
-16oz non-dairy milk (I prefer hemp milk) + 1-2 cups of cooked oatmeal + 1 sliced banana + 1 tablespoon PB (stirred into hot oatmeal) + drizzle of natural maple syrup (optional)
-Open-face vegetarian BLT with 1 slice of Ezekiel bread (or other sprouted grain bread) and topped with tons of veggies (spinach, tomato, sliced carrots, sprouts, cucumber, minced garlic) and a little mayo for flavor (I prefer Vegenaise by Follow Your Heart brand), topped with several slices of vegan bacon (including homemade vegan bacon from tempeh…so good)
-2 cups homemade potato soup loaded with vegetables (for creamy consistency, puree cooked veggies + potatoes using a blender, or mash together) + 1 slice Ezekiel bread (or other sprouted grain bread) toasted and served with herbed olive oil for dipping + salad
-A large bowl of chopped fruit topped with 1-2 cups vegan yogurt (no sugar added), cinnamon, 1-2 handfuls of crushed nuts, 1-2 handfuls of uncooked oatmeal + 1 teaspoon of chia seeds if you have them
-Double burger (I like Boca brand, or you can get crazy and use one “beef” patty and one chik’n patty) made with plenty of vegetables (sauteed onions and mushrooms, sliced cucumber, sprouts of your choice, broccoli slaw minus the dressing [they sell it in bags at the store], tomatoes) and sliced avocado. You can serve this with two slices of Ezekiel bread (or other sprouted grain bread) or you can cook yourself some home fries in the oven (chop potatoes, season, bake until cooked through)…I don’t like doing both because it bloats me up on all the starch. Serve with a side of salad.
Those are just some ideas to get you started. Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of food and that’s the point. Paired with a proper workout to add mass, you will need this to repair the damage to your muscle tissue and prevent you from feeling too tired/fatigued to workout or do your daily activities. You’re not only fueling your body’s normal processes (which eat through 1600-2500 calories for the average person per day doing things like cell repair and maintaining brain function), but you’re also going above and beyond by demanding your body perform well and repair successfully. It’s not just about the protein content but about a well-rounded diet complete with protein, natural carbohydrates and healthy fats to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need.
In a pinch, yes, you can do something like grab a bag of nuts and a couple fresh fruits from the gas station or convenience store and a jug of non-dairy milk or juice to mix up a protein shake (always carry protein powder with you, have some at work, in your car, in a bag if you carry one). Or you can throw together a quickie peanut butter sandwich using Ezekiel bread (or other sprouted grain bread), 2-3 tablespoons natural peanut butter, sliced bananas (1-2), a dusting of cinnamon and try tossing some tasty sesame seeds on there and have it with a glass of water or non-dairy milk of your choice. It’s not ideal, but it gets the job done. You can do the same thing with scrambled or sliced tofu and veggie bacon and make a sandwich that way (add in some vegetables, though) if that’s more portable for you. Some people prefer sandwiches and that can be fine.
I hope this helps.