Building muscle is challenging enough as it is, and doing so on a vegan diet makes it even more challenging. It’s certainly not impossible though. Much like many of life’s challenges, success boils down to how well you prepare. And when it comes to fitness goals, a big part of preparation is planning your diet in advance. That is exactly what I’ll be helping you do today. In this post you will find a comprehensive index of 101 grocery items for your vegan muscle building shopping list. This post is intended to provide you with many options and ideas to help vegan dieting feel less restrictive, and to help prepare you to reach your fitness goals.
Muscle building is the practice of breaking down your muscle fibers through progressive overload, then nourishing them so that they grow back bigger and stronger. An important factor of building muscle mass is protein synthesis, or the process of using amino acids to create new muscle tissue.
Getting Protein As A Vegan
If your goal is to build muscle then you’re going to need protein. One of the disadvantages of consuming a vegan diet is that you’re forced to exclude foods that are otherwise high in muscle-building protein, such as beef, chicken, fish, pork, dairy, and eggs. Not to mention some of the helpful supplements on the market that can help you hit your daily goals when your diet falls short, like whey protein and BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids.)
Getting enough protein to build muscle as a vegan requires that you find foods that are not only high in protein, but are also plant-based. Below you will find a list of vegan protein sources and other foods to help complement your muscle-building goals.
Vegan Muscle Building Shopping List
In order to help make navigating this shopping list a little easier, I’ve broken down each grocery item by category. You can navigate through the categories using the links below, or simply browse through the entire list if you’d like. Whichever you prefer!
Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day. Starting your day off with a meal that aligns with your health fitness goals is a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day. Here are some protein-packed breakfast options to add to your vegan muscle building shopping list.
- Oatmeal: Not only does oatmeal contain plenty of complex carbohydrates and fiber, but it also packs 6 grams of protein per cup. A warm bowl of oatmeal with some soy or hemp milk can be a great way to start your day off with some protein.
- Barley: Barley is a cereal grain that packs a whopping 23 grams of protein per cup! Combine that with some soy milk and a handful of pumpkin seeds and you’ve easily taken care of a third of your protein needs for the day.
- Oat bran: Oat bran is the outer layer of the oat groat, and it is typically consumer as a hot cereal. Just a single cup of oat bran will provide you with 16 grams of muscle-building protein.
- Muesli: Muesli is a packaged mixture of rolled oats, corn flakes, nuts, seeds, and sometimes dried fruits. It can be eaten as a hot or cold cereal, and it contains 6 grams of protein per cup.
- Shredded wheat cereal: Shredded wheat is a processed form of whole wheat that is formed into little biscuits and consumed as a cold cereal. It’s an excellent source of whole grains and that provides 5 grams of protein per serving.
- Kellogg’s Special K Protein: A tasty variation of the Kellogg’s brand of Special K cereal, only it contains a higher protein content, much of which is soy-based. This cereal contains 15 grams of protein per servings, making it an excellent choice for your vegan muscle building shopping list.
- Kashi Peanut Butter Crunch: Kashi’s Non-GMO Project Verified peanut butter crunch cereal is one of only a handful of vegan options in their line of cereal products. A tasty breakfast meal that will provide you with 10 grams of protein per serving.
Pancakes & Waffles
- Paleo pancake and waffle mix: How does a hot stack of pancakes to get your day started sound? Pancakes are typically not a food that you would consider for a muscle-building diet, but this paleo variation of pancake mix by Bob’s Red Mill will help you get your day started with 11 grams of vegan protein as prepared.
- Buckwheat pancake mix: Unlike regular wheat, which is a seed of grass, buckwheat is a seed, but not of grass. Pancake mix made with buckwheat edges out standard pancake mix in terms of protein content, making it a better choice for muscle building.
- Soy milk: Soy milk is a dairy-free milk alternative made of soybeans. One of the benefits of substituting with soy milk is that it has high protein content, clocking in at 8 grams per cup.
- Almond milk: Much like soy milk, almond milk is also a dairy-free milk alternative, only its made of almonds instead of soy.
- Cashew milk: Another dairy-free milk alternative to use for your vegan breakfast meals.
- Hemp milk: Hemp milk is made by blending hemp seeds with water. The result is a dairy-free milk product that contains 7.3 grams of protein per cup, making it a welcomed addition to your vegan muscle building shopping list.
- Dairy-free yogurt: Plant-based yogurt is typically made with almond milk rather than traditional cow’s milk. Although it is lower in protein than regular yogurt, it does make a good vegan alternative for use in breakfast and snacking.
Now let’s take a look at some vegan lunch options that you can easily prepare at home and take with you on the go.
- Sprouted grain bread: Sprouted grain breads are made of seeds and grains that have already begun sprouting and germinating. Sprouted grain breads are not only lower in carbohydrates than standard bread variations, but they also contain more protein, more nutrients, and less anti-nutrients.
- Whole wheat bread: Whole wheat bread is made of the entire wheat grain, which typically means a slightly higher protein content than white bread.
- Whole grain bread: Similar to whole wheat bread, whole grain bread contains whole wheat grains along with other grains as well. Both have roughly the same protein content though, so choose at your discretion.
- Peanut butter: Peanuts are high in protein, making peanut butter an excellent vegan source of protein that you can use on sandwiches, toast, and as a dip.
- Almond butter: Similar to peanut butter, almond butter is made of almonds. Although almonds tend to have slightly less protein than peanuts do, they make up for it with increased fiber.
- Cashew butter: Cashew butter is another excellent lunch spread that can be taken on the go. The difference in nutrition between cashew butter and the other nut butters is negligible, which provides for more variety.
- Hazelnut spread: Hazelnut spread, like Nutella, tends to be lower in protein and higher in sugar than traditional nut butters, but it can still make for an occasional alternative when you’re craving something sweet.
- Tahini: Made of ground sesame, Tahini can make for a great low-carb sandwich spread.
- Sunflower butter: Butter made from sunflower seeds can be a good alternative for someone with nut allergies.
- Hummus: Another alternative for those with nut allergies would be hummus — a spread made from chickpeas rather than nuts or seeds.
Here are some snack items you can add to your vegan muscle building shopping list to tide you over between meals.
- Peanuts: Peanuts have the most protein of all nuts, they’re cheap, and they’re easy to take with you on the go. Peanuts will provide you with 24.4 gram of protein per 100 gram serving.
- Almonds: Almonds only have slightly less protein than peanuts do, but they pack more fiber which can help you feel fuller.
- Pistachios: Not only are pistachios loaded with protein and fiber, but they taste delicious!
- Cashews: Cashews may not contain as much protein as they peanut and almond counterpart, but they’re a great option if you’re looking to keep your carbohydrates low.
- Trail mix: Why choose between nuts when you can simply have a little of everything?
- Walnuts: Walnuts are another good option for those looking to keep their carbohydrates low, and they also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Pine nuts: Pine nuts are both high in protein and low in carbohydrates compared to other nuts, making them an excellent choice.
- Pecans: Pecans lag behind their peers in terms of protein content, but they make up for it in being the lowest in carbohydrates.
- Macadamia nuts: Another variety of nut that would be ideal for those looking to keep their carbohydrates low at the cost of protein.
- Sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds contain more protein than any nut, and they’re packed with both fiber and potassium.
- Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds don’t necessarily pack the nutritional punch that sunflower seeds do, but they can serve an occasional alternative when you want to switch things up a bit.
Other Snack Items
- Popcorn: Popcorn isn’t traditionally seen as a health food, but without a bunch of butter and salt slathered on it, it’s actually a nutritious plant-based snack with a bit of protein as well. Sprinkle on some nutritional yeast and you’ll have an excellent vegan snack that will also help you hit your daily protein target.
- Lentil chips: Baked chips made of lentils are an excellent alternative to the traditional fried variety. Not only are they made of healthier ingredients, but they won’t leave your fingers greasy either.
- Roasted chickpeas: If you’re looking for another healthy snack to graze on, try roasting up some chickpeas and throwing a little nutritional yeast on them for flavor. Or you can purchase they already roasted.
- Terra chips: Another healthier alternative to traditional chips, Terra chips are made from root vegetable like beets and sweet potatoes — complex carbohydrates that are crucial for muscle building.
- Sun Chips (original flavor): Sun Chips are packed with whole grains, but make sure to stick with the original flavor. Some of the flavored varieties are not vegan.
- Dry roasted edamame: An excellent snack for vegan muscle building, dry roasted edamame come packed with 14 grams of protein per serving!
- Vegan jerky: Believe it or not, there is vegan-friendly jerky. It’s typically made of soy protein, mushrooms, and other various ingredients.
Coming up with dinner ideas can be tricky when following a vegan diet. Dinner traditionally includes some kind of meat or animal byproduct in Western culture, but there’s plenty of options for those of us who follow plant-based diets.
- Quinoa: Cooked editable seeds of a flowering plant, Quinoa is a great source of vegan protein.
- Brown rice: Complementing your protein consumption with complex carbohydrates like brown rice is a great way to facilitate the muscle building process.
- Wild rice: Wild rice comes from a mix of 4 different species of grass. A single cup of wild rice packs nearly 4 times as much protein as a single cup of brown rice!
- Whole wheat pasta: The whole wheat variety of pasta offers more protein, fiber, and potassium when compared to traditional semolina varieties of pasta.
- Lentil pasta: As I went over in a post I wrote about the benefits of red lentil pasta, a single cup serving delivers 18 grams of protein!
- Chickpea pasta: If you’re looking for a milder-tasting pasta alternative, consider pasta made from chickpeas, which is nearly identical to lentil pasta in terms of macro nutrients.
- Vegetable pasta: Vegetable pasta contains slightly more protein than traditional semolina pasta, and it’s an excellent way to sneak some more greens into your diet.
- Tofu: Made from coagulated soy milk, tofu can make for a formidable meat substitute and delivers 20 grams of vegan protein per cup.
- Tempeh: Tempeh is similar to tofu, only it’s made from fermented and compacted soybeans as opposed to coagulated soy milk. Also a good source of protein.
- Seitan: Seitan is wheat gluten that is made to mimic the texture and consistency of meat, and it packs a whopping 75 grams of protein per 100 gram serving!
- Black bean burgers: Burgers made of black beans intended to mimic the taste and texture of beef can make for a healthier vegan alternative that also pulls its weight in terms of protein content.
- Boca Burgers: Don’t forget about good old Boca Burgers if you’re looking for some variety in your meat substitutes. Their vegan veggie line will provide you with 13 grams of protein per burger!
- Daiya cheese: A dairy-free cheese alternative made from cassava and arrowroot to complement your meat substitutes.
Let’s have a look at some side dish options to pair with your vegan main courses.
Beans are an absolute staple for anyone looking to build muscle on a vegan diet. They provide a good mix of complex carbohydrates along with a decent amount of protein, and they’re a simple and versatile health food that is surely deserving of a home on your vegan muscle building shopping list.
Beans come in many varieties and flavors, including…
- Kidney Beans
- Black beans
- Lima beans
- Green beans
- Pinto beans
- Navy beans
Much like beans, lentils are also a simple and versatile legume that delivers a good mix of carbohydrates and protein. One benefit that lentils have over beans is that they can be cooked relatively quick.
Below is a complete list of lentil varieties, ranked from top to bottom based on which ones have the most protein.
- Puy lentils
- French green Lentils
- Yellow lentils
- Brown lentils
- Green lentils
- Black/Beluga lentils
- Red lentils
No diet that aims to improve health and/or fitness is complete without greens and veggies. Some vegetables actually have more protein per calorie than meat does! Don’t let the stigma fool you; vegetables never fail to pull their weight as far as protein goes.
- Sweet corn
- Artichoke hearts
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Brussels sprouts
Starches like baked potatoes and sweet potatoes deliver much needed complex carbohydrates to help you build muscle as a vegan.
- Baked potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
Here are some vegan dessert options for when you’re craving the occasional sweet snack.
- Dairy-free ice cream: Ben & Jerry’s has an entire line of dairy-free vegan ice creams to choose from.
- Hemp protein bites: Check out these hemp protein bites for a protein-packed vegan snack that can aid you in your muscle building journey.
- Lenny & Larry’s cookies: Finally, don’t forget to check out the Lenny and Larry’s brand of vegan protein cookies. These cookies can be found in stores virtually anywhere in the U.S.
Cooking & Baking
If you love to cook and bake then you’re in luck! There’s no shortage of vegan-friendly ingredients that can help you on your muscle building journey.
- Almond flour: Not only is almond flour lower in carbohydrates than standard wheat flour, but it also has double the protein! Almond flour can work as a flour substitute at a 1:1 ratio.
- Peanut flour: If you’re okay with slightly more carbohydrates then peanut flour is an even better option because it has even more protein than almond flour! You can read a comprehensive comparison of almond flour vs peanut flour here.
- Buckwheat flour: Buckwheat flour has less protein than its nut flour alternatives, but still more than standard wheat flour, making it a good choice for anyone with nut allergies.
- Whole wheat flour: Whole wheat flour has slightly more protein than white flour, but much more fiber and significantly less carbohydrates.
- Oat flour: Much like whole wheat flour, oat flour has slightly more protein than white flour does.
- Flax seed meal: Ground flax seeds make for a great topper for cereals and desserts, and they also act as a thickening agent for baking and smoothies. Flax seed is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, but low in net carbohydrates.
- Chia seeds: As demonstrated in this keto vegan peanut butter cookies recipe, Chia seeds can be soaked in water and used as an egg substitute.
- Cocoa powder: Cocoa powder packs 20 grams of protein per 100 gram serving and is a great way to add a rich, chocolate flavor to your recipes.
- Nutritional yeast: Nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of yeast that acts as somewhat of a cheese substitute. Sprinkling some on a bowl of popcorn. A 1/3rd cup serving will provide you with 8 grams of protein.
- Dried coconut: Add some coconut flavor to your baked goods and desserts.
- Hemp seeds: A 2 tablespoon serving of hemp seeds provides you with 6 grams of protein.
- Flax seeds: Add protein to your baked goods by throwing in some flax seeds.
- Sesame seeds: A great source of plant-based protein and relatively low in net carbohydrates.
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
Finally, if you can’t meet your macro nutrient needs with your diet then there’s plenty of vegan-friendly supplements to help you build muscle.
- Protein powder: There’s no shortage of vegan protein powders on the market. The Olly brand in particular is a great tasting low-carb alternative.
- Pea protein: Protein made from dried ground peas is an excellent way to sneak an additional 20 grams of protein into your diet.
- Spirulina: An editable form of cyanobacteria that also that also delivers and impressive 4 grams of protein per tablespoon.