High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan – Build Muscle and Tone Up!

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com

Let’s be honest, vegetarians have a harder time following a high protein diet than people who eat meat.

If you’re a male trying to build build muscle on a vegetarian diet, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself “how can I get enough protein?”

And if you’re a vegetarian female trying to lose weight and tone up with a high protein diet, I bet you’ve asked yourself the same question.

So, we’ve carefully created the “High Protein Veggie” meal plan – one version for females, one for males! The plan contain loads of quick and tasty recipes high in protein, ideal to support you with your fitness goals. See below for more details.

1. Our High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan

Version for females

The goal is to lose weight and tone up

The daily caloric intake is 1600 kcal – geared towards a 5’6’’ 160 lbs female.

  • 18% protein in a 1600 kcal diet equals 80g protein
  • You’ll get roughly 0.5g of protein/lb

Version for males

This meal plan is designed to build muscle.

The daily caloric intake is 2500 kcal – ideal for an avg. sized male (around 5’9”)

  • 20% protein in a 2500 kcal diet equals 125g protein
  • You’ll get roughly 0.75g of protein/lb

Note: We’ve created these meal plans in a way that most of you can use them. But of course you should be following your own needs. Luckily calories are super easy to adjust with our “meal add-on”.

Not hungry anymore? Stop eating or skip the snacks. Or is it just not enough? Support your dishes with another meal add-on or add some fruits, nuts, yogurt or hummus to the daily snacks.

You might think that the protein share in our meal plan is still not high enough. After all, it doesn’t reach the 1g protein/lb rule often promoted in the bodybuilding world – although that’s a very contested issue, as you’ll see further on down.

Of course it’s possible to amp up the daily protein intake as a vegetarian to that amount. But let’s do two things first: see what options we have and read up on how much protein we really need.

Let’s go.

2. Vegetarian Protein Sources

Dairy: If you eat a bowl of yogurt with oats as a snack and some cheese on a sandwich or in a salad then you already take in a very decent amount of dairy. If you overdo it, you might get problems with acne (back to age 16, yaay!) or your poop.

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com
Yogurt with cinnamon, grapes, walnuts and a Drizzle of maple syrup

Legumes: To eat 2-3 cups of cooked legumes you will probably need two meals. In my opinion that’s enough. Here’s why: first, the more beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils you eat the more of a fart festival you’ll be.

Second, even though legumes are considered to be super healthy in mainstream medicine, there is some controversy about the dangers of their high phytic acid content. Phytic acid makes it more difficult for your body to absorb nutrients like iron, zinc and calcium. BUT: if you cook legumes properly you reduce the phytic acid amount to a safe degree. Still, like with everything – better not to overdo it.

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com
Lentil Bean Salad

Soy: Obviously soy belongs to the family of legumes. But it deserves a separate paragraph as it’s used in so many meat replacement products. It has been stated it’s safe, but also I’m sure you’ve heard many people say soy can cause health problems (here’s an excellent piece on that issue). I’d aim for a soy yogurt, some soy milk or tofu every second day or so. Again, moderation is key.

Grains (Bread, Pasta, Rice, Oats, etc.): Grains are a great way to accompany almost any dish. Be it oats in your yogurt, brown rice with a veggie curry or a slice of bread for your soup. Plus they contain a decent amount of protein.

The drawbacks: Similar to legumes, they contain a high amount of phytic acid. And of course ramping up on grains also increases your calorie count a lot due to their high carb content. That again can lead to fat pads above your muscles 😉

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com
Toast with avocado, brie and cranberries

Nuts & Seeds: It’s great to have them in your diet, not only for protein but also for various other nutrients (iron for example; flax & chia seeds for omega-3). By increasing your protein intake through nuts, you’ll move up your overall calorie intake a lot. They are incredibly nutrient dense.

Also, too many of them might lead to digestion problems. There’s a reason you feel usually pretty stuffed after two handful of nuts or seeds.

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com
Various nuts and seeds

Eggs: Are healthy and among other nutrients are an awesome source of protein. I personally think two a day is enough though. I mean seriously. This literally means you have 2-3 chickens running (or standing) around somewhere producing eggs ONLY FOR YOU.

When I see high protein recipes calling for 6 egg whites I can only shake my head. It’s the epiphany of “I don’t care, I need to look good. Me”. At some point it’s got to go beyond me and my body.

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com
Banana Egg Pancake

Green Vegetables and Leaves: The more the merrier. We should try to get some greens on our plates every day, ideally twice. If you eat more greens to improve your protein intake, you probably won’t get health problems, nor will you put on weight.

The only downside is you’ll have to eat loads! I’d love to see you munch two bunches of broccoli a day for 18g of protein. Difficult task.

High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan - Build Muscle and Tone Up! | hurrythefoodup.com
Roasted green beans and broccoli

As vegetarians these are pretty much the options we have, when we’re looking for protein. As you can see many sources can have drawbacks, if you overdo them. Admittedly, some of them are less confirmed than others.

Either way, this is reason enough for me to put the first priority of our vegetarian high protein meal plan on a balance. If you put the focus first on adding as much protein as possible, it is likely to result in an unbalanced diet, which might lead to health problems.

3. How much protein do we actually need?

The RDA, recommended daily allowance, is at 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight (0.8g per kg). By percentage that would be roughly 10% of your daily caloric income. Note that is the minimum requirement for a non-active sedentary person to not get sick. That means a full-on couch potato would just get by on that daily intake.

But how much protein do we need to thrive?

Of course this depends on your goals. But in general you can say if you want to build muscle you need more protein than if you just want to maintain your weight. A higher protein intake is also likely to be beneficial for weight loss. Although the guys from Harvard aren’t as sure as some others about the impact.

So, if you’re hitting the gym – be it for building muscle or losing weight – a healthy recommendation would be to aim for 17 – 20% percent of calories in protein per day. That would translate into roughly 0.5g – 0.7g per pound – up to double the RDA.

The more protein the better?

In the bodybuilding world often times 1g of protein per pound is recommended in order to make sure you don’t lose any “gainz”. The validity of this rule has been doubted times over in the past. Various studies found that your body can take advantage of anything up to about 0.8g of protein per pound – given that you train like an athlete (check out this study of 23 power lifters for example).

There’s also some discussion, without a clear conclusion, about the dangers of high protein diets (around 30% of calories in protein), especially  in regards to kidney disease.

Whether it’s true or not – as with everything – moderation is key. Not to mention that you’d have a really tough time to reach such a high volume of protein on a vegetarian diet (well, on any diet actually) without using protein powder.

To sum things up

We have to admit that the question “where do you get your protein, bro?” is not such a bad one after all – especially if you’re pursuing fitness goals. But just filling up the meal plan with vegetarian high protein recipes and then just sending you off is not our style. This post has been prepared to give you as much information as possible as a vegetarian seeking a high protein diet.

For a vegetarian it is definitely possible to get in loads of protein in a healthy and this is what we’ve done with our meal plan. Though getting all the way up to the “bodybuilding rule” of 1g/lb is very tough. You can do it, but we have serious doubts that it’s very healthy and whether it’s actually necessary.

See you in the gym!

Disclosure

We would like to take a moment to note that this post is for information purposes only. It does not claim to provide medical advice or to be able to treat any medical condition. It makes no claims in respect to weight loss or building muscle, either in terms of the amount or rate at which said could be achieved. If you have any concerns regarding your health please contact your medical practitioner before making changes.

19 comments

  1. Tons of ways to get all the nutrition we need! Great guide!

  2. Meal plans are such an awesome gift to your readers! I have done a few and they are very time consuming, especially with a shopping list, but so amazing! Love your version of high protein!

  3. It seems like there’s no danger in getting a high percentage of plant-based protein.
    it definitely helps with muscle recovery, in my experience.

  4. my boyfriend needs to read this! we are constantly arguing about plant-based protein not being ideal 🙁

  5. Great meal plan! to be honest, I’m vegan and I never worry about how much protein I’m eating throughout the day. If anything, I usually consume more than the daily recommended allowance. It’s all about eating a variety of whole foods.

  6. Great post! enjoyed till the end 🙂 My family became vegan since month, we are not at all worried about our protein consumption…

  7. That’s a great meal plan and I do try to include lots of different source of vegetarian protein. I feel the day I have a protein rich diet, I feel most energetic 🙂

  8. I’m looking for a diet plan but I’m getting confused and unsure what plan to go with. Is their anyone on here following any of these plans ? If so how’s your results ?

    • Haha, Dipak. Your post sounds like you’re the last person on the internet 😉
      But no worries, I’m around as well!
      I used this plan to build muscle and it works, absolutely (I’m 184cm tall, now at 77kg, formerly at 73kg). Here’s the gist, when it comes to building muscle for “amateurs”: Go to the gym regularly (at least 2x a week). Eat 4 times a day, 5 times with a snack. At the end of the day the tricky thing for most people is to eat enough calories in general, not just to eat enough proteins. Don’t focus too much on the proteins, just make sure you don’t skip any meals. Then you’ll see results.

  9. Hey, I think it’s kind of weird to assume that females goals are only to lose weight/tone up, I’m a female who actually wants to build muscle and I know many others do too. It’s not just something for men 😉

    • Fair shout and I think your right! I would also agree that it’s wrong to assume all men only want to build muscle. Unfortunately there’s just not enough space to be entirely politically correct. 🙂

  10. Some really useful info here, thanks… For those of us heading in to our 50s 2500 cals sounds a lot but at the same time maintaining muscle mass is important. Is there a way to maximise a vegie diet to this end whilst reducing the cals..?

    • Glad you found the content helpful, Mike!
      I understand you’re considering adding more protein to your diet while keeping the calories low? I’d say the simplest way would be a high quality protein powder. That would give you the biggest bang per gram. Otherwise I find it relatively tough to increase the protein intake further than in this meal plan without “overeating” on eggs, lean dairy products or soy products. Adding a significant amount with leafy greens or broccoli is quite tough too.
      My questions would be: what’s your current protein intake ratio? And are you worried it’s not enough to maintain muscle mass?

      • Thanks for the reply Hauke, I’m realistic about the changes lay ahead as I get older, muscle loss being a factor. There’s much info around some suggesting protein is hard for the body to deal with as we get older, I’ve also heard veggie protein is good for women but not so good for men, soya especially. I never made a decision to go veggie yet it seems to have happened naturally over the last 5 years. I could go on and on, anyway my goal is to maximise overall nutrition at lower calorie intake and am hoping that can be done on a vegetarian diet. I’m no expert but what you’ve written here rings true with me. Thanks

        • Sure thing, Mike! It really sounds like you are eating pretty well and are now trying to further optimize. That would require some testing and more research from your side to see what works for you and what doesn’t. There are some vegetarian/vegans out there that focus more on (maintaining) high performance on a vegetarian diet. Check out Brandan Brazier, Rich Roll or Mat Frazier from nomeatathlete.com. I also like content from Ben Greenfield, he’s not plant based though. Would be cool to hear back from you at some point in time to see how things are going, if you find the time. All the best 🙂

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