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How To Manage Weight Gain On A Vegan Diet

Last Updated: June 26, 2024

Embarking on a vegan diet comes with numerous health benefits, including better digestion, increased energy levels, and improved overall well-being. However, a common concern for many is managing weight.

While weight loss is often associated with plant-based diets, gaining or maintaining a healthy weight can be just as challenging.

At Leafy Souls, we are not just concerned with weight loss or gain. In fact, we are more concerned with managing expectations around the task.

With this in mind, we'll explore some effective strategies to help you manage weight gain on a vegan diet (or loss), including the importance of consuming the right foods, and the right media.

Key Takeaways

  • Balanced vegan diets require strategic planning to effectively manage weight gain or loss while ensuring adequate nutrient intake.
  • Understanding your current calorie intake, metabolism, and body type is crucial for achieving your weight goals on a vegan diet.
  • Incorporating tips from vegan bodybuilders, athletes, and celebrities can provide valuable insights for sustainable and healthy weight management, but always with a grain of salt.
Why Do You Need to Gain or Lose Weight?

Why Do You Need to Gain or Lose Weight?

To gain or not to gain. "Why" is the question. Understanding the reasons behind your weight goals is essential to tackling everything you need to make it happen. Whether you're aiming to gain or lose weight, it's essential to have clear motivations:

  • Health Reasons: Addressing underweight or overweight issues can improve overall health and prevent diseases.
  • Fitness Goals: Achieving a specific body composition for athletic performance or bodybuilding.
  • Personal Preferences: Feeling comfortable and confident in your body.

Regardless of the reasons behind your decision, you'll need to do a bit more than simply exercise, unfortunately. 

“Vegans tend to be slim and strong, gorgeous and glowing, and that’s because a healthy, plant-based diet creates vitality and vigor— and weight loss simply happens as a result of not eating fatty animal protein. And lest you think a plant-based diet is for weaklings, consider bulls, elephants, gorillas, orangutans, and stallions. These plant eaters are pure lean and powerful muscle.”

Why is it Hard to Gain Weight on a Vegan Diet?

There's healthy weight gain and unhealthy weight gain. This is obvious, but what isn't so obvious is why it is hard to gain healthy weight on a vegan diet. The truth is, several factors make weight gain challenging on a vegan diet:

  • High Nutrient Density, Low Caloric Density: Plant-based foods are nutrient-rich but often low in calories.
  • Inadequate Caloric Intake: Underestimating the number of calories needed to gain weight.
  • Lack of High-Calorie Foods: Many vegan foods are low in calories, making it difficult to consume enough. It is also important to include foods that provide all nine essential amino acids necessary for building muscle.
  • Why is it Hard to Gain Weight on a Vegan Diet?

    When I first became a vegan, I struggled with finding foods that were actually vegan. Plenty of foods appear to be vegan, but contain processes or ingredients that harm animals or the planet. Still, I found it difficult to lose weight because the foods I ate contained ingredients that cause inflammation.

    It wasn't until after I started eating more whole foods from plants that don't come from manufacturing plants, did I start losing weight. This brings us to our next point.

    Why is it Hard to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet?

    Despite the common belief that vegan diets naturally lead to weight loss, some of us may find it difficult:

    • High-Carb Foods: Many vegan staples like grains and legumes are high in carbohydrates.
    • Processed Vegan Foods: Vegan junk food can be calorie-dense and low in nutrients.
    • Hidden Calories: Vegan diets can still include high-calorie items like nuts, seeds, and oils.

    All of these factors plus the stress of trying something new, food addictions, comfort eating, you name it. All of these make it incredibly difficult to take off the pounds. Still, if we are choosing to lose weight on a vegan diet, what must we do in order to achieve this goal? More importantly, what should we eat?

    What Do Healthy Vegans Eat?

    Vegans consume a variety of plant-based whole foods, including:

    • Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh, frozen, and dried options.
    • Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole-wheat products.
    • Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas.
    • Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
    • Plant-Based Proteins: Tofu, tempeh, seitan, and edamame.

    If you are anything like me you may find it fascinating to explore and indulge in impossible meats, fad proteins, and unexplored overly processed "vegan foods."

    If you want to be healthy, regardless of other factors contributing to your weight, choose foods that come from Gaia's bosom, that grow and flourish naturally, and seasonally.

    The other factors to consider are all about your body's specifications.

    Know Your Current Calorie Intake, Metabolism, & Body Type

    Do you know how much food currently satiates you? Have you counted the calories associated with your go-to meals? Understanding your current caloric intake, metabolism, and body type is crucial for effective weight management:

    • Caloric Intake: Track your daily calories from all the foods sources and any additives you use to enhance your meals. There are a few apps out there, but I like to use Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen App from Nutritionfacts.org for my purposes. 
    • Metabolism: Know your metabolic rate to determine how many calories you burn at rest. Try this BMR calculator from Garnet Health.
    • Body Type: Recognize if you are an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph, as this affects how you gain or lose weight. Performance Lab has an easy to read guide on on metabolic types backed by science.

    How to Gain Weight on a Vegan Diet

    To gain weight in a healthy way, you'll need to consume more calories than your body burns, ideally building lean muscle mass, which adds to your weight.

    Gaining weight on a vegan diet can be challenging but achievable with the right approach:

    • Increase Caloric Intake: Eat more frequently and choose calorie-dense foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole grains. It's important to gain weight healthily by consuming nutrient-dense foods, and not junk.
    • Prioritize Protein: Include high-protein vegan foods such as legumes, soy products, seitan, and nuts. Don't forget to try vegan gainer proteins like this one from Naked Nutrition. Personally, I like their Chocolate Pea Protein best.
    • Incorporate Healthy Fats: Add avocados, nuts, nut butters, and oils to your meals. Consuming healthy foods rich in good fats, protein, and carbohydrates is essential.
    • Nutrient Timing: Consume a meal or snack with a good balance of protein and carbs post-workout and a small, calorie-dense snack before bed.

    Tips for Weight Gain on a Vegan Diet:

    • Increase Caloric Intake: Eat more frequently and choose calorie-dense foods like avocados, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole grains.
    • Prioritize Protein: Include high-protein vegan foods such as legumes, soy products, seitan, and nuts.
    • Incorporate Healthy Fats: Add avocados, nuts, nut butters, and oils to your meals.
    • Nutrient Timing: Consume a meal or snack with a good balance of protein and carbs post-workout and a small, calorie-dense snack before bed.
    • Including a variety of plant foods can provide essential nutrients and help achieve healthy weight gain on a vegan diet.

    Sample Meal Plan for Weight Gain

    Breakfast

    • Smoothie: Blend banana, spinach, almond milk, chia seeds, and vegan protein powder.
    • Avocado Toast: Whole-grain toast topped with mashed avocado and hemp seeds.

    Snack

    • Trail Mix: A mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.

    Lunch

    • Quinoa Salad: Quinoa with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, and tahini dressing. Quinoa is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids, making it an excellent choice for building muscle and maintaining a balanced diet.
    • Sweet Potato Fries: Oven-baked sweet potato fries seasoned with olive oil and spices.

    Snack

    • Apple Slices with Almond Butter: Sliced apple with a generous spread of almond butter.

    Dinner

    • Lentil Stew: A hearty lentil stew with brown rice, tomatoes, spinach, and spices.
    • Steamed Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots drizzled with olive oil.

    Snack

    • Overnight Oats: Oats made with coconut milk, topped with berries, pumpkin seeds, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

    How to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet

    For weight loss, it's important to create a caloric deficit while maintaining nutrient intake:

    • Focus on Whole Foods: Prioritize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
    • Avoid Processed Foods: Limit intake of vegan junk food and processed snacks.
    • Monitor Portion Sizes: Be mindful of portion sizes, especially with high-calorie foods like nuts and seeds.
    • Increase Physical Activity: Regular exercise helps create a caloric deficit and boosts metabolism.

    Personally, I find supplementing my nutrition with a sustainably sourced vegan multivitamin combined with daily prebiotic supplementsMCT oil in my coffee, and this pre workout powder work best in fueling my motivation, energy, and willpower to hit the gym.

    Tips for Weight Loss on a Vegan Diet

    • Focus on Whole Foods: Prioritize whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
    • Monitor Portion Sizes: Be mindful of portion sizes, especially with higher-calorie foods like nuts and seeds.
    • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
    • Regular Exercise: Combine your diet with regular physical activity to boost weight loss.

    Sample Meal Plan for Weight Loss

    Breakfast

    • Green Smoothie: Blend spinach, kale, cucumber, a small banana, unsweetened almond milk, Greens & Fiber from Naked Nutrition.
    • Chia Pudding: Mix chia seeds with unsweetened almond milk, let sit overnight, and top with fresh berries.

    Snack

    • Veggie Sticks with Hummus: Carrot sticks, celery, and bell peppers with a small portion of hummus.

    Lunch

    • Quinoa Salad: Quinoa with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, and a lemon-tahini dressing.
    • Steamed Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots lightly seasoned.

    Snack

    • Apple Slices with Almond Butter: Sliced apple with a thin spread of almond butter.

    Dinner

    • Lentil Soup: A hearty lentil soup with tomatoes, spinach, and spices.
    • Mixed Green Salad: Mixed greens with a light vinaigrette dressing.

    Snack

    • Berry Bowl: A small bowl of mixed berries like strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries.
    Vegan Weight Lifter Kendrick Farris

    How do Vegan Bodybuilders, Athletes & Celebrities Manage Their Weight?

    Vegan bodybuilders like Kendrick Farris and Torre Washington, athletes, and celebs often have specific strategies for managing their weight and achieving their desired physique. Here are some of the key approaches they take:

    Structured Meal Plans

    They often follow detailed meal plans to ensure they are meeting their protein and calorie requirements. This usually includes:

    • High-Protein Meals: Incorporating sources like tofu, tempeh, seitan, legumes, and vegan protein powders. These foods provide essential amino acids crucial for muscle recovery.
    • Calorie-Dense Foods: Including nuts, seeds, avocados, and whole grains to increase caloric intake.
    • Frequent Meals: Eating 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day to maintain energy levels and promote muscle growth.

    Supplementation

    To meet their nutritional needs, vegans often use supplements:

    • Protein Powders: Plant-based protein powders like pea, hemp, and rice protein.
    • Pre-Workout Powders: While not everyone opts for these, there are some scientifically backed pre workout supplements to boost mental focus and support better results and motivation from the gym.
    • BCAAs: Branched-chain amino acids to support muscle recovery.
    • Creatine: A supplement that can enhance strength and muscle mass.
    • Multivitamins: Daily micronutrient supplementation from multis ensure the body gets everything it needs when recovering from tough workouts.

    Consistent Training

    Regular training is a cornerstone of athletic development:

    • Strength Training: Focus on lifting heavy weights with compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.
    • Cardio: Integrated cardio sessions to maintain cardiovascular health and manage body fat levels.
    • Meditation: Overcome mental blocks, and release emotional baggage that may prevent exercise consistency.

    Monitoring and Adjusting

    Continuous tracking of progress and making necessary adjustments is crucial to following through:

    • Progress Tracking: Monitoring weight, body measurements, and strength gains.
    • Diet Adjustments: Modifying caloric intake and macronutrient ratios based on progress.

    Vegan Sports Athletes for Inspiration

    Vegan athletes from various sports demonstrate that a plant-based diet can support high levels of performance and health. Here are some notable examples and their approaches:

    • Venus Williams: After being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, Venus adopted a vegan diet, which she credits for her improved health and sustained performance. Her diet focuses on whole foods, rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Rich Roll: An ultra-endurance athlete, Rich Roll thrives on a plant-based diet. He emphasizes the importance of nutrient-dense foods, such as leafy greens, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, to fuel his long training sessions and races.
    • David Carter: Known as the “300-pound vegan,” David Carter advocates for plant-based nutrition. His diet includes a variety of legumes, grains, vegetables, and plant-based protein sources to maintain his muscle mass and performance on the field.

    Consuming enough calories is crucial for athletic performance, as it ensures the body has the energy needed for training and recovery.

    Tips from Vegan Athletes

    • Balanced Nutrition: Ensure a balanced intake of macronutrients and micronutrients to support athletic performance.
    • Hydration: Maintain proper hydration to optimize physical performance and recovery.
    • Recovery Foods: Include anti-inflammatory foods like turmeric, ginger, and berries to aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

    Vegan Celebrities Presenting a Healthy Physique

    Many celebrities have adopted vegan diets and share tips for achieving their health and fitness goals. Here are some insights from vegan celebrities:

    Joaquin Phoenix
  • Joaquin Phoenix: A long-time vegan, Phoenix advocates for the ethical and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet. His approach focuses on whole foods and plant-based proteins to maintain his energy levels and overall health.
  • Natalie Portman: Portman follows a vegan diet for ethical reasons and emphasizes the importance of fresh, organic produce, whole grains, and legumes in her diet.
  • Billie Eilish: Eilish promotes veganism for its environmental and ethical advantages. She focuses on a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, grains, and plant-based proteins to stay healthy while on tour.
  • Tips from Vegan Celebrities

    • Simplicity and Balance: Focus on simple, balanced meals that are easy to prepare and nutrient-dense.
    • Ethical Choices: Emphasize the ethical and environmental benefits of a plant-based diet as additional motivation.
    • Lifestyle Integration: Incorporate vegan principles into all aspects of life, not just diet, for a holistic approach to health and well-being.

    Health Considerations in Following Weight Loss Tips

    While achieving, what society has proclaimed to be, the "perfect physique" can be impressive, it's important to note that this may not be the healthiest ambition for everyone. Extreme changes to one's physique often requires:

    • Extremely Low Body Fat: Maintaining low body fat levels can strain the body and affect hormonal balance.
    • Intensive Training: High-intensity training can lead to overuse injuries if not managed properly.
    • Strict Dieting: Rigorous dieting can lead to nutrient deficiencies if not carefully planned.

    For those seeking a healthier and more sustainable approach, looking to vegan sports athletes and celebrities promoting healthy lifestyles can provide valuable insights and inspiration. However, keep in mind that every body is different and just because someone looks fit, doesn't mean that they are healthy.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Can you gain weight on a vegan diet, and if so, how?

    Yes, you can gain weight on a vegan diet by consuming more calorie-dense foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole grains, and by eating more frequently throughout the day.

    Why is it difficult to gain weight on a vegan diet?

    It can be difficult to gain weight on a vegan diet because plant-based foods are often high in nutrients but low in calories, making it challenging to consume enough calories to support weight gain.

    Is it possible to lose weight on a vegan diet, and what strategies are effective?

    Yes, it is possible to lose weight on a vegan diet. Effective strategies include focusing on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, avoiding processed foods, monitoring portion sizes, and increasing physical activity.

    What are some high-protein vegan foods that can help with weight management?

    High-protein vegan foods include legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), soy products (tofu, tempeh, edamame), seitan, nuts, seeds, and plant-based protein powders.

    How do vegan athletes and bodybuilders manage their weight and maintain muscle mass?

    Vegan athletes and bodybuilders manage their weight and maintain muscle mass through structured meal plans that include high-protein and calorie-dense foods, regular strength training, supplementation with protein powders and other nutrients, and continuous monitoring and adjusting of their diet and exercise routines.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    Gaining or losing weight on a vegan diet requires mindful eating and a strategic approach to ensure you're consuming the right amount of calories and nutrients. You'll know for yourself what works best with trial and error, but by understanding your body's needs and incorporating some of the tips mentioned above, you are one step closer to achieving your weight goals while maintaining a balanced and nutritious vegan diet.

    Remember, consistency is key, and with time, you'll find the right balance that works for you. Have you experienced challenges with weight gain or loss on a vegan diet? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below!

    About the author, Cass

    editor

    Hi! My name is Cassandra, but feel free to call me Cass. I consider myself lucky because I got to marry my best friend, I love cats, journal every day and live a plant-based lifestyle.

    I am here to talk about all my favorite niches that I eat, live, and breathe, passionately about between Reiki, Chakras, Meditation, Breathwork, Kundalini Yoga, and Aromatherapy through the lens of being a plant-based groovy bio-hacking energy worker finding the best and most effective ways to keep it natural.

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