Jeff Anderson

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet: Building Muscle Without Meat

“Vegetarian bodybuilding diet”?!  Are you CRAZY?!

You can’t build muscle without meat! (Can you?)

Well not many people know that I was a lacto-vegetarian bodybuilder for 8 years before I bit into a Big Mac during one of my wife’s pregnancy cravings and was brought to the “Dark Side”.

But while I’m still a carnivore today, I have a friend who is a full-on vegan vegetarian bodybuilding fanatic…

…and stacked with muscle!

Recently he shared his vegetarian bodybuilding diet plan with me and I thought those of you who are looking to build muscle this way would benefit from knowing what he eats…

Can You REALLY Build Muscle On A Vegetarian Diet?

Jason Ferruggia Bodybuilding ExpertFirst of all, let me ask you – does THIS look like your “typical” vegetarian bodybuilding nut?

Jason Ferruggia is a world famous fitness expert renowned for his ability to help people build muscle as fast as humanly possible…AND he’s a proud vegetarian bodybuilder!

He’s written hundreds of articles for numerous top rated training magazines and websites and has authored four fitness books. He is also the head training adviser for Men’s Fitness Magazine where he also has his own monthly column dedicated to muscle building. For more great muscle building information, please visit

Since there is such great interest on the topic of “vegetarian bodybuilding diet” among my subscribers, I thought I’d ask Jason for a rundown of what he eats to build muscle on a vegetarian diet…

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet

Sample Meal Plan

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal #1: Breakfast

My day always starts with a protein shake.

This typically consists of a vegetarian protein source like rice, pea or hemp protein, or some combination of the three.

Blend 30-40 grams of protein in 8oz of organic coconut milk and 8-12 oz water.

I also add a banana, some mixed frozen berries, a Tbsp of cacao nibs, and 2 Tbsp maca powder to naturally increase my testosterone to build more muscle.

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal #2: Snack

About 2 hours later, I’ll have a couple of tangerines and some nuts like pistachios or cashews or maybe a couple of apples with some almond butter.

In fact, natural almond butter is one of my favorite foods and I could easily eat an entire jar of this stuff in one sitting!

Sometimes for a treat at night I mix it with organic honey and kill the entire container, washing it down with a cup of hemp protein with some almond milk.

The healthy fats in the almond butter and the high quality hemp protein powder is a great muscle-building combination for the vegetarian bodybuilder.

I’m also a big fan of high sodium intake for strength and energy production so I always have a few pickles every day and add sea salt to much of food.

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal #3: Lunch

Lunch for me typically consists of some kind of legumes or beans, which are a cornerstone in any vegetarian muscle building diet as far as I’m concerned.

I mix it with some organic brown rice or quinoa (a super high-protein grain).

I’ll sometimes sauté up some black beans with peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic and mix that in with the rice too and then top it all off with salsa and some fresh avocado for my personal Mexican style rice and beans.

Sometimes I go “Italian” and just mix the beans and rice or quinoa with marinara sauce.

I will sometimes have a salad with that or eat some raw veggies or mix some steamed kale or spinach into the whole thing.

As another alternative, I may have a couple of almond butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch (there’s that almond butter again!).

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal #4: Snack

In order to stick to my goals of building muscle, on a vegetarian diet you have to be prepared throughout the day.

When I’m not near food, I always carry raw organic food bars with me and a variety of healthy nuts.

If I’m home and I already had some fruit for my first snack, I’ll switch to raw veggies and hummus along with a decent amount of nuts for my second snack.

I also drink another protein shake some time during the day which is usually right after I train.

It’s similar to the shake above except that I don’t include the coconut milk or the cacao but I do still add a dose of the maca powder.

I blend a banana, almond milk, water, frozen spinach (you don’t taste the spinach at all so this is nowhere near as gross as it sounds) with Vega and some extra protein.

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal #5: Dinner

A high protein stew is the one of the easiest and best meals for a vegetarian bodybuilder.

I normally cook up a large variety of vegetables and some kind of legumes, like yellow peas which have 10 grams of protein per ¼ cup (you would have to eat a lot of meat to equal the protein in two cups of yellow peas).

Throw everything in a pot with vegetable broth, salt, and pepper and let that cook for 2 hours.

When it’s done, mix in some quinoa or brown rice but if I’m trying to get lean I’ll usually skip the brown rice.

Adding potatoes (even just one) to the stews makes them creamier and even more delicious.

Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal #6: Dessert

Occasionally, when I am going to “cheat” on my diet, I’ll have some organic coconut milk ice cream.

Coconut milk contains healthy medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT’s) and has none of the dangers of cows milk.

It’s sweetened with organic agave syrup (which is a low-glycemic natural sweetener) and I highly recommend it if you have a sweet tooth!

The only other cheat dessert that I will regularly eat is organic, dark chocolate which contains antioxidants and has shown a variety of health benefits.

Miscellaneous Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Tips:

  • During my workouts I drink coconut water or regular water. And I try to drink at least a half gallon of water throughout the day out glass or my Sigg bottle and do my best to avoid plastic because of the estrogenic effects.
  • I also drink a couple cups of green tea each day.
  • I’ve cut out peanuts and peanut butter completely due to the deadly toxins that they contain.
  • I’ve also cut out wheat because of its inflammatory properties (NOT a good combination when you’re trying to build muscle).
  • When I do get bread, I choose brown rice bread to avoid the problems associated with wheat.
  • I severely limit my soy consumption because of it’s estrogenic effects but for the occasional cheat meal I will have some tofu with brown rice or some kind of meat substitute with brown rice pasta.
  • I also eat soy and wheat free veggie burgers one or two nights per week and always have a huge spinach salad mixed with tomatoes, broccoli, olives, peppers, onions, carrots, apples, berries, nuts, seeds, avocado, and whatever else I can fit in there. I top that with olive oil, Vega oil and balsamic vinegar.

Click Here For Muscle Gaining SecretsSo that’s my vegetarian bodybuilding diet meal plan for a typical day!

It’s very easy to follow, and a whole lot healthier than eating pounds of red meat and saturated fat and I promise you that you won’t feel “deprived” once you taste how delicious it can be to build muscle while still following a vegetarian bodybuilding diet!

55 Responses to “Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet: Building Muscle Without Meat”

  1. cozy says:

    Unfortunately there is no way he can both do high protein and low carb and be Vegetarian at the same time. Look at all the brown rice, legumes, hummus etc. he has – all high carbs. Eating this much carbs is really bad for the intestines (but at least he has cut out wheat which is the worst culprit). I’m surprised you are advocating this diet especially when your Optimum Anabolics program could not be done with this.

    • alma says:

      I disagree! Its all about portion size! I went from 28% body fat to 16% in 10 weeks by consuming protein shakes or egg whites and brown rice, ezekiel bread, red potaotes, sweet potaotes and veggies. Of course, I had to weigh my food but I did it and never felt hungry. I have been vegetarian for 11yrs and I am proud of it! I never get sick and I always feel great :)

  2. Actually, Optimum Anabolics CAN be done (and has been done) with a vegetarian diet. In fact, the “protein deprivation cycles” are essentially a vegan diet plan.

    As for burning fat using Jason’s diet, it just takes a few tweaks and eating the right kind of carbs at the right times. He’s able to do it just fine. Even in my own weight loss plans, I advocate fresh vegetables as “freebies” but cut way back on the pasta, grains, cereals, etc.

  3. Michael says:

    Thanks Jeff,
    That was great info. Even if we meat eaters just want to mix up our diet and add some vegetarian meals into our routines. It carries considerably more weight since it’s from a guy who’s not exactly lacking in the mass dept.

  4. Leith says:

    Cutting our gluten seems a bit crazy. Gluten is PROTEIN! I buy pure gluten flour ( 15gm protein per 20gm serve) and mix it with eggs, milk and water plus spices to make anything from vegetarian sausages to pancakes. It can even be blended into a shake. Gluten intolerance is an intestinal disease and can be cured. My partner used to be intolerant and now she indulges in the gluten as much as I do.

    I gained 10kgs of muscle last year and about 6 so far this year (still have 6 months to go).

    I rely more heavily on carbs than protein. Carbs are where the energy is! I tried a few time having a whey protein shake before a work out but found it made me sluggish and tire quickly. These days I carb up before a work out.

    The World Health Organisation recommend eating only a palm sized piece of meat 2-3 times a week. When was the last time you heard its wasn’t healthy to eat ANY veggie every day and to your stomach’s delight?

    • I’m real curious about the gluten thing Leith.

      I’ve been reading some stuff recently about how it is extremely harmful for many reasons for people who are gluten-sensitive but I haven’t found a good comprehensive analysis of what that means or how to determine if you are sensitive.

      Many people have food allergies that they’re not aware of and are the cause of many health problems. I used to eat wheat gluten as a meat alternative as part of my vegetarian diet and don’t recall any problems.

      I’ll keep researching.

      Thanks for posting!

      • Leith says:

        Hi Jeff,

        Its called celiac disease. People with celiac disease normally don’t produce the enzyme that breaks down wheat protein. That’s why, when they eat anything with gluten in it, their body sees it as a foreign substance. To deal with it, the body produces cytokines and other inflammatory agents. This can then inflame the joints and make them sore.

        Its kind like saying the Flu makes your nose run and gives you a fever. Its not the flu, but your body’s defense against the flu virus.

        Its not the gluten itself. I’ve had no problems with it at all. (My knees click when I walk, but that’s because I’ve been a runner for the last 18 years and its not painful.)

        The Chinese use Seitan (fried gluten) as a duck substitute. You can find it canned.

        • Mike says:

          How can you cure gluten intolerance? There are so many gluten intolerant people in my life, would love to show them “the cure”.

          Also, has anyone got any tips for making the transition to become a vegetarian body builder? I’m thin, young, and have a super fast metabolism. Thanks :)

    • Ritch says:

      Gluten blocks your nutrients from being absorbed due plugging up the villi in the intestines. All grain does that.If that’s what you want. Eat all the gluten flour you want. It also causes inflammation. Eat up. Protien is protien right? Wrong.

  5. ROSIE says:


  6. Poul says:

    I’m sure this is fine for some but it is also a fact that vegetarian proteines are low quality and hard to digest. Most people might send the vegetarian protein straight through their system; especially if the digestion is not triggered by some amount of animal protein. A little cheese will do the trick. Also, blood types O and AB simply need more animal protein than others.

    All things considered it seems very hard to reach reasonable levels of quality protein intake as a vegetarian – unless testosterone depleting soy products are included in the diet!

    Please remember that most health related reasons for vegetarian dieting are pure myths and largely disproven.

    • This is true for the most part Poul.

      It’s a mistake to think that just because someone follows a vegetarian diet, that they are “healthier”. But advancements have been made in making plant-based proteins more bio-available to the body and are less of a concern these days. I know a lot of bodybuilders who are now using hemp protein and we’re even starting to see brown rice protein, pea protein, and others.

      All in all, if someone is willing to stick with dairy, whey proteins are still your best bet for bio-availability and effectiveness.

      However, “health” is not the only reason to be a vegetarian. I was a vegetarian for “spiritual” reasons but I now follow the rule that ANY food eaten without respect is a blasphemy (just my belief). This post is for those who simply ARE vegetarian but still struggle with building muscle.

      Thanks for your input Poul!

      • Sujit says:

        Dear Jeff,

        First of all my sincere respect to you for demonstrating such a wonderful topic. I’m a natural bodybuilder and practising for almost 17 years and I’m 37 years old. Now I’m fed up of eating meat, eggs and fish etc. It has been like this for last six months but I’m forcing myself to eat. I would like to be PURE vegan as something from my inner sense asking me to (could be spiritual!!). Now my question is what should be my diet during the competition which is in four months? Could you please advice me. Thank you in advance for your time and talent. God bless!

        Kind regards,

    • Troy says:

      Poul, I have no idea where you get your information but it isn’t from science. Sounds like “science” coming from the meat industry.
      PLEASE do yourself a favor and do some homework on how the body actually works. Oh my God I feel like I’m dealing with the dark ages here. Cheese? Really? I suppose your going to get your calcium from that???

      BTW. I have been a vegan bodybuilder for 5 years. I am 5’7″ 188 lbs and 9% bodyfat. With that, I guess I should worry about my body sending my vegetarian protein straight through my system! Oh, and I eat soy at least 6 times a week. Talk to my wife about my testoterone levels. LOL

      • Ritch says:

        I agree with you. The only thing I’d be careful with is soy. Not that I’m against it but 90%of it is gmo which is cancer promoting. When I see someone opt for soy milk, I say it’s a double edge sword. Not that I say you should choose dairy milk either.
        I’m a pescatarian (1year so far) and liking it. Should’ve done long ago. I eat fish because I don’t eat a lot of rice or beans. I don’t do well with carbs. Yes fish has its pollutants as well but I guess you have to pick your poison sometimes. I eat Brazil nuts (selenium) to remove mercury so that’s not an issue.

  7. Brian says:

    Thanks for this information! I am currently living in China and always struggle to find quality meat sources. Most of the fitness news I read comes from the US and some products are not readily available. So I have to learn the theories and adapt it to what I have available, so info like this is always welcome.

  8. Kurt says:

    Really interesting article!

    One thing that interested me was the part about peanuts, and how they contain deadly toxins?
    Whats the go with that? I hope that they’re not as bad as he just said because i have peanuts and peanut butter daily.

    Could you clear this up for me Jeff

    Thanks, Kurt

    • Emory says:

      I think it depends on the peanuts or the peanut butter. Jif makes one that is lower in sugar, with very low sodium and from my discussions with the reps at the company, are very stringent about quality control and testing for the aflatoxin mold that is the “toxin” of concern. It grows on old, moldy peanuts…so it really does depend on the brand and the source of peanuts.
      I’m 62, 12% bodyfat and have eaten peanuts and peanut butter my entire life. As they say in Spamalot…”I’m not dead yet”.

    • Ritch says:

      Peanuts are one of the mostly heavily sprayed with pesticides. Coffee is another. That’s the toxins people refer to. Make sure any all nut butters are organic. Most regular store bought peanut butters have added sugar as well. Natural sugars are different. Nuts have low amounts of sugar.

  9. Tom says:

    I was a vegetarian for 40 years. Then, about 3 years ago, I slowly started eating a little meat. My diet today is mostly vegetarian. To clarify–I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian. That is, eating dairy and eggs, but no flesh. (Sounds weird to say I eat flesh, but that’s what it is.) Anyway… thanks Jeff for the article. You may have heard of Andreas Cahling–vegetarian. Check out his Google Images link to see this guy. Pretty amazing.

    I’ve gained 20 pounds over the last couple of years–not all muscle, but for a skinny tall guy who was stuck at 178 pounds at 6’4″ I’ll take what I can get. It’s not just the meat, it’s eating more of the right food at the right time.

    Thanks for the article, Jeff.

  10. Hami says:

    G’day all,

    I noticed no one has discussed the financial side of this topic yet; I knew about whey protein alternatives (hemp, rice, soy etc), but they’re all way more expensive than whey and they all lack certain amino acids that can only be found in animal products!

    1) Muscle mass building can be quite expensive if you’re a vegetarian.
    2) Cutting will be more difficult when you’re a vegetarian because your diet consists of more carbohydrate. I agree you can tweak this a little but overall it won’t be that easy.

    • T- says:

      I’m not a vegetarian but this is ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. At least here in the U.S.A. I can find Pea, Rice, and Hemp protein cheaper online then any quality whey protein. The Amino Acid content of these three proteins seem to be pretty much complete or at least complete enough from what I can see. Here are a few websites to consider and I’m sure there are more.
      I don’t agree with point #1 at all, but I do agree completely with point #2

      • Ritch says:

        Really? I’d like to know where? I can get the best whey out there for the money at Trader Joe’s for 24 bucks. Metrx. There are 32 servings. I’ve never seen a vegan or veggie protien product for that good of deal. Very clean product also. Very few ingredients. It mixes with anything, tastes great. No I don’t work for them just love the product.

  11. […] more: Vegetarian Bodybuilding Diet Meal Plan To Build Build Muscle … Posted in Life Style Tags: considered-it-seems, depleting-soy, eat-wheat, lternative-as-part, […]

  12. Don says:

    Jeff, just wondering if you or Leith had any more information on how to cure gluten intolerance. I have a relative that is allergic and is going crazy watching all food intake to eliminate gluten. I would really like to pass some information or a website along that deals with this topic.

  13. sam says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks man for yet another great blog entry with some great and practical information for your subscribers! One thing I don’t understand though, is: why is not possible anymore to read the older entries you wrote in this blog. A couple of months ago this was still possible, but not any more now for some strange reason. What a shame, because I know you have been putting out tons of useful tips and information. This blog could be such a great knowledge bank for your subscribers, but all we are left with right now is your most recent article (great as it is). Please man, throw open the doors of your information vault once more!
    All the best,

  14. Rafiq says:

    From what I understand, Jason didn’t began bodybuilding as a vegetarian and only recently started becoming a vegetarian (Not saying to disregard going vegetarian).


  15. Damon says:

    WOW great veg deit!

    Doesn’t balsamic vinegar contain lead?

    Here in California they have warnings on the shelves.

  16. cozy says:

    “Actually, Optimum Anabolics CAN be done (and has been done) with a vegetarian diet. In fact, the “protein deprivation cycles” are essentially a vegan diet plan.”

    Yes, my point exactly – protein deprivation = vegan.

  17. Shami says:

    Great information, I am a vegetarian into weights training and martials arts. My bodyfat is very low less than 8 percent. My energy lvel is very high, however I have one question, to bulk what is advisable? Also is it advisable to use those protien powder available onthe maket

  18. Amir says:

    Hemp protein huh? 😉
    good luck passing a drug test.

    • rick says:

      the protein comes from the seed, not the stalk, leaf or flower which contains the THC, which these drug test look for.

    • Steve says:

      There is virtually no THC present in hemp, so eating all the hemp protein you could handle wouldn’t show up at all on a drug test.
      I live in BC, Canada, and there’s lots of both hemp and marijuana here.. they’re related of course, but not the same thing.

    • TJ says:

      Hemp protein is really my favorite of all powdered proteins. I usually do it with hemp milk as well. Problem is, those who suffer with candida should know that hemp protein and milk is somewhat fungus feeding and may not be ideal for that reason alone.

  19. Speaking of hemp protein, everyone should look into ‘hemp hearts’. sehlled hemp seeds. maybe the greatest superfood on t he planet for its superior nutrients.
    i had a question about beans. i never have a chance to ask this question so im taking the oppertunity here 😉
    i often want to buy beans, but never know what to buy or how to prepare them. there are so many different kinds… also, do you cook them? or just use them raw, and add them to rice and things. just looking for a cpl tips for someone wantring in on the whole world of beans :)

    thanks for the great article, this is some good info

  20. Krill says:

    I have had several health problems over the years and I have recently started eating 90% vegetarian and I love it. I have never felt better in my life. I have been consuming everything I can read on the topic. If you can’t go 100% veggies then flexitarian is the way to go! I would like to work my way to 100% whole foods but it’s a struggle.

  21. Geri Moc says:

    Concerning this topic, it is not so easy to find honest ideas on the Web. Thanks for sharing your recommendations on natural health and related topics. So, do you have any good recommendations on where I can search for more useful recommendations on the Web? Keep up the excellent work!

  22. Aili says:

    I am loving all this information! Thank you! All the bodybuilding information, esp on vegetarians, (which I have been for 22 years), is centered mostly around men. Do the same basic principles apply? In just starting with bodybuilding, I could really use all the help and suggestions as far as food goes for women vegetarian bodybuilders. I think that my body is at a plateau right now and my trainer and I are working through that, but that doesn’t mean that I am not up for a million suggestions! Thanks! :)

  23. Kay says:


    I’ve been a lacto-ovo-vegetarian for nearly six years (1 month away!). Within the last two years I have been weight training. However, I have recently been considering adding chicken, fish, and turkey back into my diet because I want to start competing. I have been able to find a lot of information for male vegetarian bodybuilders but not much at all for women bodybuilders. Do you have any advice for the ladies who want to build and compete?


    • bre says:

      Kay, I have the same question–what do women who want to do fitness, bikini or figure competitions eat to gain muscle if they are vegetarian….as I am! I want to compete and have looked everywhere for a diet plan for women. I do not want to gain fat–I need to gain muscle, but eating all those nuts and nut butter and carbs makes me nervous.

  24. Very interesting; I had no idea that yellow peas have that much protein. I need to start adding that to my diet. I am always looking to add more high protein vegetable sources to my staple of foods and that’s great that you mentioned quinoa. I love the stuff and I cook it similar to what you do minus the beans, I’m going to have to try that. You mentioned peanuts and toxins. What toxins are you talking about? I see in 5 out of the 6 meals you eat healthy fats for the calories. Does that give you issues with getting defined?

  25. Bob says:

    I am keen to get the complete diet plan and the training book, for me being a vegan body builder. Please assist. I reside in Jakarta, Indonesia. Thanks. Awaiting.



  26. Cecil Kelly says:

    Eating foods like beef, chicken, or fish to build muscle is not the only solution in the equation. Foods such as soy products, variety of beans, variety of rice, and so on can really help vegetarians or those in strict diet get their protein requirements. Fruits and vegetables have small amounts of amino acids too.

  27. Rick says:

    I want to limit the amount of meat that I eat, but also want to be free of all grains. I not only have problems with gluten, but also corn and rice. Legumes are aso problematic for me. What should I eat in terms of whole foods that will provide enough calories for me to gain muscle weight while on a weight training program?

  28. PANKAJ says:

    i m 36 yr old, n start gym now, i m dibetic kindly help me to make my dite chart so that i will caure my dibetis kindlyhelp me in this regard or pls suggest me few good protin supliment

  29. navdeep says:

    I’m 24 yr old guy.i have gone through hemithyroidectomy (surgery of thyroid gland) 1year ago.And I also suffering with slightly disk therapist told me that I will be ok with in three months. two years ago I went gym daily regularly for six months and had good physique.Now I’m again planning for workout.please suggest me what should I do for building muscle again.

  30. G Singh says:


    Ive been a vegetarian all my life and have also been training for a number of years. Im finding it hard at present to find a relatively good diet to build muscle. I am taking Optimum Nutrition Whey protein but seem to be putting on mass but not any lean muscle. Can anyone suggest a good diet/mass build plan to follow as I also need to lose fat around the belly.

    I also feel tied when it comes to training, can anyone suggest good Energy drinks/supplements do give me a boost before training.

  31. This is the greatest article for this subject I have ever examine. I will be genuinely very impressed by using it. Keep blogging!

  32. Kat says:

    This was so helpful. I’m a female who is currently eating 80% raw and am training for my first Figure Competition at 40! This article that you wrote is so easy to follow and some of the food I already eat. I’ve been using Sunwarrior Protein and Hemp Protein. Again thank you! Sincerely Kat

  33. Arnaud says:

    hi just to confirm Jason Ferruggia is not a vegan, just back from his website and his favourite meal is grass fed beef….just saying nothing against non meat eater ,in fact interested about learning more about building muscle without animal protein.

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