You might be wondering how the process of bulking on a vegan diet is different than any other diet.
The reality is, not much!
Veganism can actually improve your performance thanks to the healing properties and nutrients of a plant based diet!
Give it a try and see for yourself!
Without further due, let’s look at the vegan bulking cheat sheet!
Eat In A Caloric Surplus
People assume that just eating enough protein will make them bigger and stronger.
And while protein is essential for gaining both muscle and strength, if you’re not eating enough calories then you’re never going to gain muscle nor strength.
So how many calories should I eat in a surplus?
It depends on your bodyweight, height, sex, and activity level.
If you area a heavier male with a very active job, then you’re going to need a lot more calories than someone who is a female with a very sedentary job.
The easiest way to calculate your caloric surplus is through an online calculator on bodybuilding.com.
Try it out here – Bodybuilding Calculator
Just make sure you select the correct information as well as your current fitness goals.
If you wish to calculate your caloric surplus without a calculator, just take your current bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 16 and 18.
150lb x 16 = 2,400
150lb x 18 = 2,700
You should be eating between these two numbers in calories. For someone who weighs 150 pounds, this means eating between 2,400 and 2,700 calories a day.
If you’re a very active person who is burning calories throughout the day from a ton of other activities, try adding another 250 calories on top of these numbers.
Eat Enough Quality Protein!
Do you even protein bro?
Contrary to what society tells us, vegans do get more than enough protein.
There are a ton of different plant based proteins we can consume.
That being said, it’s still important to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet to facilitate the muscle building process.
How much protein do you need?
Research shows that anywhere between .6-.75 grams per pound of bodyweight a day is perfect.
Anything less and it’ll be harder for your muscles to grow, anything more has been shown not to have any benefits.
The best vegan sources of protein you should be eating are
- Dark Greens (Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard)
- Pasta and Grains
Combining your protein sources will give you the added benefit of getting all the amino acids your body needs to grow.
Remember, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. The more colorful and wider variety of proteins, the more amino acids!
Track Your Calories And Macros
Now that you know your nutritional goals, what’s the point if you’re not reaching them every day?
Unless you’re a human calculator it’s literally impossible to know if you’re eating enough food to consume a caloric surplus and enough protein.
This is why it’s so important to track your calories and macronutrients EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Don’t just assume you’re getting enough protein, calories, and carbs in your diet.
You could be totally off and it’ll limit your ability to gain muscle.
Remember nutrition is truly the key to getting bigger and stronger. Lift all the weights you want but not eating the right foods with the right nutrients will leave you where you started.
The best way to track all the foods you eat is through apps like MyFitnessPal and Cronometer.
They’re a saving grace for bodybuilders and strength athletes.
Not only can you input all your information like weight, height, and sex. You’re also able to input your nutritional goals and as well as how much weight you want to gain or lose a week (depending on your goal).
MyFitnessPal will let you know how many more calories, protein, carbs, and fats you need to consume to reach your daily goal.
The best feature is MyFitnessPal allows you to scan barcodes of foods so you can easily select and input how much you ate.
There’s an entire database of nutritional information on MyFitnessPal, so even if you don’t know the macros of your food, the app will automatically give you an exact estimation.
Sleep Like A Beast
Sleep is for the weak… said no one ever.
I’m all about working hard, but sleep is essential, not just for building muscle but for your survival and well-being as well.
If your main goal is strength and muscle gains, I recommend sleeping 8-9 hours a night. You might be thinking that’s a lot of sleep, but in order for your muscles to recover, it’s necessary.
I’ll tell you right now you have to stop the “I’m running on 4 hours of sleep” and pulling all-nighters.
If you don’t, you can kiss your gains and all that hard work in the gym goodbye.
But how much you sleep is just half the battle.
You can sleep for 8 hours but it might not be of the best quality.
That’s right, there are multiple mistakes you’re probably doing right before bed that’s killing your ability to obtain the best quality of sleep every night.
Here’s a list of the things you shouldn’t do for the best quality sleep:
Exposure To Blue Light – If you’re exposing yourself to your electronic devices (smartphones, computers, TV) 2-3 hours before bed, you’re already messing up your circadian rhythm and your body’s ability to get some quality rest. Invest in some blue light blocking glasses or just lock your devices in another room. Read a book and meditate instead and you’ll notice your sleep will be 100 times improved.
Caffeine After 4pm – Caffeine gives you energy boosts and gets you going! So why take it anywhere near your bedtime? Avoid coffee, pre-workout supplements, and other foods that may contain caffeine unless you want to be awake all night, mess up your sleep, and ruin your gains.
Eat Right Before Bed – Late night snacks and hunger can be pretty tempting when you wander into the kitchen. But eating late at night will cause your body to digest your food during your sleep which leads to worse sleep and a whole bunch of nightmares! Try to eat dinner no less than 3-4 hours before your bedtime.
Stress Out – Stressing never helps anything, especially sleep. If you had a stressful day the worst thing you can do is lie down in bed and stare off into abyss as you stress about your day. Take a moment to breathe deeply and express gratitude, read a book to distract your mind, or take 10 minutes to meditate.
Drink Alcohol – Shots and beers sound like a fun Friday night, but it won’t help you at night nor the following day. While alcohol has been shown to help induce sleep, it’s also been shown to affect the REM stage of sleep – the deepest stage of sleep. Alcohol also kills testosterone and gains on its own, so drink little or avoid it altogether.
Hard Exercise – Sleep is about the process of winding down, not speeding things up. Strenuous exercise before bed will make both your mind and body active. Light exercise like yoga and stretching are fine and can actually help you de-stress and relax before bed. Do these instead.
Take Creatine Everyday
You thought supplements were gimmicks right?
So did I…
But creatine has been and still currently is one of the most heavily researched fitness supplements out there.
Don’t worry it’s extremely safe in low doses.
And the benefits are wonderful.
Research shows that creatine helps increase both strength gains and muscle mass.
“Creatine-supplemented groups had significantly greater increases in lean tissue mass, chest press strength, and leg press strength compared with placebo.”
“When studies that combined creatine supplementation with other nutritional supplements were excluded one at a time, the increases in creatine-supplemented groups were still greater than that in placebo groups for all measures.”
Creatine works by increasing ATP and energy storages in your cells. When you workout, ATP is converted into energy and creatine helps to replace any lost energy. This gives you longer, stronger, and more effective workouts that help you push more weight than before.
And from what we know from progressive overload, as long as you’re increasing the weight every workout over a period of time, you’ll get bigger and stronger.
You’re not going to bulk up without the correct workout plan.
That means lifting heavy.
If you think lifting with super light weights just to get a massive pump is going to help you build lean muscle, you might as well stop all efforts right now.
You need to be training with weights that are between 60-75% of your 1RM for hypertrophy and 80-90% of your 1RM for strength gains.
Anything lower than 50% of your 1RM is just training for muscle endurance.
The best ways to lift heavy weights are through compound movements.
Compound exercises are full body movements that utilize multiple muscles in order to complete the movement.
Take the deadlift for example. While the majority of the lift is powered by your legs, other muscle groups like the back, traps, neck, arms, and posterior chain are worked as well.
Compound lifts put a good amount of stress on your body, causing a release of testosterone and growth hormone – the two most important hormones for building muscle. You won’t get this kind of effect from isolation exercises.
So be sure to incorporate a good deal of compound lifts in your workout routine. Around 80% of your exercises should be compound movements.
The most popular lifts you should be doing on a regular basis are:
- Incline Bench
- Overhead/Military Press
- Barbell Rows
- Pull Ups
- Tricep Dips
Workout More Often
How many people do you know that train each body part only once a week?
Maybe you’re one of them?
Monday is often known as international chest day, but if that’s the only day you’re training your chest, you’re in trouble.
You need to be working each body part at least 2-3 days a week if you want to maximize muscle gains.
Depending on how hard you work your muscles and the size of the muscle, it usually takes a maximum of 48-72 to fully repair.
If your muscles only take a maximum of 2-3 days to repair, you need to get right back to working them out as soon as they’re fully recovered.
Not doing so is just a waste of your body’s and muscles’ efficiency!
Try setting up a workout plan so you workout each body part multiple times a week with different rep ranges.
Train chest on Monday and Thursday
- On Monday train your chest for strength using the 3-5 rep range
- On Thursday train your chest for hypertrophy using the 8-12 rep range
Always be sure you’re enforcing progressive overload (increasing the amount you lift each workout). This is a positive way to ensure you’re going to keep getting stronger over time.
Bulking on a vegan diet or any diet for that matter is hard work!
But you can help yourself by utilizing the tips above.
- Eat in a caloric surplus
- Eat enough protein
- Track your calories and macros
- Sleep like a beast
- Take Creatine
- Lift heavy
- Workout more often