Complete Blueprint to Gaining Weight as a Vegan

You could be an athlete trying to increase your muscle mass, or someone experiencing an unexpected change in dietary habits, which implores you to consider gaining weight. Despite consistent trials, you might have realized that your perpetual ventures on gaining weight, especially as a vegan, are rarely helping you in scaling up the weight machine!

Not the vegan diet alone, several corporeal characteristics like fast metabolism, medical condition, stress, inconsistent meal portions, limited appetite, or eating disorder could make your attempts fail.

Whatever the reason might be, gaining weight on a plant-based diet could indeed be far more difficult than losing weight. Though short-term solutions that surface with eating processed food for weight gain may appear to solve the issue, one must not overlook that eating unhealthy food comes at a heavy cost to your overall physical and mental well-being.

But worry not! After going through this vegan weight gain guide, you shall find it unnecessary to go unnatural with your dietary pattern for scaling up.

Is Gaining Weight as a Vegan any different than on a Carnivore Diet?

The answer is both YES and NO!

Yes, because animal products like meat, eggs, milk, etc., are high-calorie in low-portion foods. They have protein, carbohydrates, and fats in the right proportion to help you gain mass. Vegetables and leafy greens are often high in volume but less calorie-dense than most non-vegan food options. However, with strategic food choices, you can add vegan food with high-calorie content that will help you gain weight. So it’s no too!

Beyond the amounts of calories that an individual consumes in a day, several factors impede weight gain. These factors are independent of our dietary patterns, such as:

  • Higher basal metabolic rate
  • Higher stress levels
  • Inability to absorb fats (e.g. celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, or steatorrhoea)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Specific health conditions such as hyperthyroidism, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, or psychological causes such as anorexia and depression

A concept that perhaps must be clearer to understand now is that- weight gain is the resultant of the calorie expenditure subtracted from the calorie ingested. It is only influenced by how many calories one consumes and how much one spends in a day. 

How to Gain Weight as a Vegan – A Comprehensive Guide

Complete Blueprint to Gaining Weight as a Vegan

The strategic planning of a calorie-dense vegan diet for weight gain may seem too complicated to figure out. Yet, that’s the reason why we are here to simplify it for you. Here’s the list of 10 smart tactics to put on a few pounds with a vegan lifestyle!

1. Amp Up Your Calorie Intake

May seem a no-brainer that you need to eat more to gain weight. However, it is not so easy! It is not the volume of food that matters but the calories you take in. Eating more calories than your body’s total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the key contributor to weight gain.

If you are a hard gainer, calorie-dense foods or drinks, the likes of which we will elaborate ahead in the article, could help you add some extra calories to your meals. If you wonder what calorie density is about- it’s simple maths:

Calorie Density = Calorie offered by x amounts of the food/ weight of x amounts of the same food.

Plants and leafy vegetables offer considerably low calories against greater mass, which is why gaining weight as a vegan is tougher. The fibers in vegetables fill you up quicker, for which you may not want to eat anything more over the mealtime. However, if you take the cases of nuts or avocados etc., they are calorie-dense food.

Hard gainers are always recommended to cultivate a fair idea of the food portions and calories on their plates. This is to minimize any chances of calorie-deficiency. You don’t have to obsess over noting down or evaluating every tiny detail of what you eat- this might have a grave psychological impact and change your relationship with food for the worse.

For those interested, here’s a step-by-step guide to calculate your right calorie intake goal, through a TDEE calculator, that would help you achieve a healthy weight gain:

  1. It is recommendable to track your diet on any calorie tracking device or apps like MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, or HealthifyMe for a couple of days. Equip your kitchen with a digital scale or measurement cups to accurately track the stuff you consume.
  2. ​​Open an online TDEE calculator that will approximately lay down your total daily energy expenditure: how many calories you burn in a day.
  3. Increase this number by 300-500 calories to find your optimum daily calorie need.
  4. For example: if your TDEE is 3000 calories, it means you would need 3300-3500 calories on the plate for weight gain.
  5. Your optimum daily calorie need for weight gain needs commitment and consistency. Intake the suggested amount of calories until you see the desired results.
  6. ​If nothing happens, add 200 calories more to your daily optimum calorie need. Wait for a week or two and watch your bodyweight. If you still don’t see results, add 200 more and so on.

2. Reduce your Activity/Cardio

If you have heard us out thoroughly till this point, it must be clear that you have to consume more calories than you spend to gain weight as a vegan. While you must have been suggested, several times, to increase your calorie intake, you need to also monitor where you are spending your calories or energy. The quickest formula to weight gain is don’t just eat more but also spend less!

Try to limit your cardio sessions and increase strength training. Don’t completely put a full stop to your fitness activities. Increasing strength training can help you sleep better and whoop up your appetite. Additionally, yoga and meditation can lower your stress levels, which shall help you have a good appetite to gain mass.

3. Liquid Calories are Your Best Friend

High Calories Vegan Smoothies

A hard-gainer with poor appetite? Calorie dense smoothies and shakes are the magic potions that can help you in gaining weight as a vegan. It’s certainly easier to drink 1000 calories than chewing it up. The hydration provided by smoothies or beverages can be directed to your advantage in scaling up the weighing machine. But before we head on to learn further about how to gain weight as a vegan through liquid foods, understand that it may not go right if you drink it before a meal. Drinking anything before a meal may reduce your appetite. Therefore, follow up meals with calorie-dense drinks instead of the other way round!

But wait! Not every vegan smoothie or beverage fits the calorie-dense category. Full-fat plant/nut milk, juices, and smoothies made of fatty foods like banana, oat milk, berries, and so on, are more beneficial with weight gain than tea or coffee. Store-bought juices are generally loaded up with artificial flavors and preservatives which is highly unhealthy. It is recommended to prepare juices and smoothies at home to help you gain weight in a much healthier way.

4. Include more Energy Dense Foods in Your Diet

Now that you are aware of the concept of calorie density, elaborated under point number 1, it’s time to visit what food qualifies as calorie-dense. Depending on their macronutrient profile, an equal weight of different foods have different calories count. While carbohydrates and proteins are equally important, fatty foods are highly calorie-dense. Thoughtful inclusion of vegan foods with higher calorie density will help hard gainers consume the necessary energy surplus much more conveniently.

Say, for instance, Red lentils. They are a powerhouse of nutrition. Īt is easy to cook them up and attribute a lucrative flavor besides adding proteins and calories to your meal. 

Make a mush out of 200 grams of red lentils, without letting it soak up water and adding spices or herb mix to boost the taste. Making it, a staple can easily add 1000 calories to your diet! If that is not convenient, take up an effective mass-gainer shake of 1000 calories by blending the following ingredients:

More calorie-dense foods:

calorie dense foods

A. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are an excellent source of macronutrients. They are packed with protein, healthy fats, and calories, plus, they are vegan-friendly. For instance, walnuts have a nutritional value of 185 calories and about 4 grams of protein in a serving size of 1-ounce.

Nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, or pecans can add enough calories to your diet to assist in gaining weight in a plant-based diet. Additionally, nut butter could also serve as a high-calorie, quick and convenient option to increase calorie intake. Mixing nut butter with snacks, slices of bread, or smoothies can also help you increase the calorie count. But beware of the ingredients in store-bought items! Either they might not be 100% vegan-friendly or too high on added sugars and preservatives- making it an unsafe option for you.

Nutritional BenefitsCaloriesFatProteinFiberSugarCarbohydrates
Almonds (28 grams)16414.2 g6 g3.5 g1.2 g6.1 g
Cashews (28 grams)15712 g5 g1 g1.68 g9 g
Walnuts (28 grams)18318 g4 g2 g0.7 g4 g
Peanuts (28 grams)15914 g7 g3 g1.4 g4 g
Pecans (28 grams)19620.5 g2.5 g2.7 g1.1 g4 g

B. Avocadoes

What other than Avocados can pack the goodness of healthy fats without cholesterol, sugar, or sodium! They offer nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that can improve the vegan diet’s nutrient quality. It is also associated with reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and may protect against some types of cancers.

Simply one avocado can provide over 322 calories, 13.5 grams of fiber, and 30 grams of total fat. Avocados are also rich in a range of micronutrients, such as vitamin C, folate, pantothenic acid, and potassium.

Nutritional BenefitsCaloriesFatProteinFiberSugarCarbohydrates
Avocadoes (28 grams)454 g0.6 g2 g0.18 g3 g

C. Beans and Lentils

Legumes including beans, chickpeas, and beans can help you gain weight in a plant-based diet because they pack in essential micronutrients like fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folate. Beans are popularly known as a great protein source, suggested for vegans as a meat substitute. However, they are highly calorie dense too. Consuming 2 cups of legumes can add up about 500 calories to your meal.

Adzuki beans and chickpeas can contribute up to 294 and 269 calories per cup, respectively. Similarly, soybeans, navy beans, and white beans have about 249 and 254 calories in a 1-cup serving. Several other beans count up to 200 and 250 calories per serving.

Nutritional BenefitsCaloriesFatProteinFiberSugarCarbohydrates
Chickpeas (28 grams)1021.69 g5.4 g4.9 g3 g16.98 g
Lentils (100 grams)116<1 g9 g8 g1.8 g20 g
Adzuki Beans (100 grams)128<1 g7.5 g7.3 g25 g
Soy Beans (100 grams)44620 g36 g9 g7 g30 g

D. Quinoa

A single serving of 185 grams of Quinoa can offer you over 222 calories, 39 grams of carbohydrates,  8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of fats besides the goodness of fiber and high-quality protein. But that’s not an end to it!

Quinoa also packs in decent amounts of iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, folate, omega-3 fatty acid, and potassium. You’d be glad to know that Quinoa (check how long it last) is one of those few miraculous food items that have 9 essential amino acids. It is non-GMO, gluten-free, and is natural in its nutrition benefits.

Nutritional BenefitsCaloriesFatProteinFiberSugarCarbohydrates
Cooked Quinoa (185 grams)2224 g8 g5 g2 g39 g

Also Read: Vegan Quinoa Smoothie Recipe with Banana

E. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious, rich in fiber, sumptuous, and filling starchy vegetables which can be consumed boiled, baked, steamed, or fried. They are high in calories and fiber and also in terms of micronutrients like essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

200 grams of well-cooked sweet potato dish can supply 180 calories and 6.5 grams of fiber with a decent count of vitamin A, Vitamin C, manganese, potassium, and vitamin B6. Adding it to your snacks or staple can be highly beneficial in gaining weight on a plant-based diet.

Nutritional BenefitsCaloriesFatProteinFiberSugarCarbohydrates
Raw Sweet Potatoes (100 grams)86<1 g1.6 g3 g4.2 g20 g

Recommended: Best Vegan Multivitamins for a Plant-Based Diet

F. Olive Oil

The healthy monounsaturated fat in olive oil is popular for its health-promoting properties. They assist in healthily putting on weight by increasing the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, reducing the blood triglycerides, and alleviating blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. Rich in antioxidants, olives are useful ingredients in preventing oxidative damage caused to your somatic cells and reduce your risk of chronic diseases like heart-related ailments.

One tbsp of olive oil (check vegan status), of around 14 grams, has 119 calories and 13.5 grams of fat which proves to be a healthy way to add extra calories to a meal.

Nutritional BenefitsCaloriesFatProteinFiberSugarCarbohydrates
Olive Oil (100 grams)884100 g0 g0 g0 g0 g

5. Don’t Shy Away from Carbs

Carbohydrates, besides fats, are essential in your venture to gain weight in a plant-based diet. They can be extremely satisfying to eat, more sumptuous and filling than specific vegan foods that are rich in protein or fats. Eating and digesting carbs come more naturally, so you need not have to force food down your throat.

Eat more refined carbohydrates like pasta, tortillas (check flour tortillas vegan status), noodles, bread (check sourdough bread vegan status), flour-based products, white rice instead of brown varieties. The reason behind picking refined carbohydrates is that the refining process removes fiber and water from the food substance that increases calorie density. Refined carbs fill you less quickly than whole grains. Therefore, they can be the perfect fit for vegans who have a hard time putting on weight.

6. Never Skip Breakfast

Don’t spiral down the pothole of unverified dietary trends that guarantee improved focus, productivity, selective fat loss, etc. through intermittent fasting or water diet. While a lot of claims made by these trends continue to remain unsanctioned by science, it is also heavily taxing for those under different food habits since birth. Especially if you are looking forward to gaining weight, having a short window for eating, and a larger time gap for fasting could have adverse effects.

However, what is advisable is spacing out your meal evenly throughout the day that is elaborated further in the article. As we have suggested earlier, strength-training and related exercises can help you put on muscle mass while improving your focus and productivity. It can improve your sleep and appetite, unlike fasting. Following trends without due research can further undo your efforts behind gaining weight.

7. Spread Your Meals Evenly Throughout the Day

Vegan Meal Plans

Your busy lifestyle may make you bundle up all the food you need for a day into 2 large meals. It is understandable but not beneficial when a vegan is looking forward to gaining weight. Added to the fact that your body can not digest large meals properly unless you have extraordinary or superhuman-like abilities, your body even spends certain energy in digesting the meal.

If you are planning to overeat, both the circumstances can prove to be the greatest impediments. You can divide your meal into calorie-dense potions and make small lifestyle changes to improve productivity. 4-5 evenly spread out meals throughout the day is far more beneficial than clubbed-up 2 monster meals. This helps your body in digesting more food more efficiently. Further, eating faster can also make you feel satiated later. Here’s a sample meal timing to help you out:

  • 6:00 am – Good Morning snack (dry fruits, fruits, nuts etc.)
  • 8:00 am – Breakfast
  • 11:00 am -Pre-lunch snack (Avoid liquid foods)
  • 1:00 pm – Lunch
  • 4:00 pm – Post-lunch snack (smoothies/ shakes etc)
  • 6:00 pm – Evening snack (Avoid liquid foods)
  • 8:00 pm – Dinner
  • 10:00 pm – Good Night snack (smoothies/ shakes etc.)

For a more detailed guide on selecting the best vegan foods according to your body composition goals, refer this vegan bodybuilding meal plan.

8. Get Creative with Your meals and Make Them Enjoyable

You don’t have to always have 1000 calories from red lentils. Come on! A 1000 calorie vegan pizza could be as good. If you are on your way to amp up calorie count, you might explore the different styles of cuisine from Mexican, Indian, Chinese to Italian. Check out calorie-rich recipes online, which can be tried out at home. This would make the process of preparing vegan foods for gaining weight, enjoyable.

It is not always recommended to go for junk food every day but if you are checking out vegan ice creams, burgers, or pasta at a local store, once in a while, there’s no restriction on trying them out to treat yourself. Dip fresh fruit such as apples, bananas (check vegan status), or pears into a nut-butter or Include olives and sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil for salads. These small treats can substantially increase your calorie intake.

9. Keep small portions of Nuts and Dried Fruits Handy

If you are on a journey to gain weight, try to keep snacks (Vegan Travel Snacks) in your pocket. From some homemade granola bars stuffed with nuts and dried fruits to dates or dried mangoes, any calorie-rich snacking can make a huge difference to your daily calorie intake. Snacks, nuts, or dried fruits are wonderfully calorie-dense and are even loaded with fiber, protein, and a plethora of vitamins and minerals! It is advisable to have a handful of unsweetened dried fruits such as apricots, figs, dates, and apples whenever you have slight hunger pangs in the mid-day between meals or improve the taste calorie density of smoothies or porridge.

Calorie dense snacks and dry fruits do not fill you up quickly. They also contain less moisture which does not satiate hunger like hydrated smoothies. Just 2 small handfuls of walnuts can serve up to 327 calories which is the same amount offered by 100 g of oats! Who wouldn’t boost calorie count in food by replacing a medium-sized bowl of porridge with merely 50 grams of nuts? You do not even have to go unhealthy every time for overeating.

10. Limit Water Intake with Meals

Limit Water Intake with Meals

Hydration is necessary, but drinking a glass of water with meals will fill up space in your stomach, making you feel full earlier. Water, tea, and coffee are less dense in calorie counts, though some packaged sets may have vitamins and minerals added to them. Water, absorbed by fibers in your plant-based diet can also puff up quicker, releasing a signal of satiety to your mind. Drinking water before meals also reduces appetite. Check it for yourself- you tend to eat less when you drink water right before snacks or meals.

Liquid vegan smoothies can give you hydration, nutrition, and extra calories! You may take in juices or vegan smoothies after a meal or even in between the mealtimes, to feed yourself those extra calories more easily. Well, that’s easier than stuffing yourself till you feel gag-induced with larger loads of veggies.

Final Thoughts

Revise the guide in a nutshell:

  1. Increase your calorie intake by consuming 300-500 more calories than your TDEE
  2. Go for strength-training rather than cardio workouts.
  3. Take in calorie-dense food at regular intervals of time.
  4. Pack calories in your beverages by adding nuts and, fruits that are rich in energy
  5. Replace whole grain flour with refined flour
  6. Check out creative recipes and techniques to make your meals interesting.

So yes! This journey, which encompassed a detailed aspect of how to gain weight as a vegan, has arrived at its end, but your journey of gaining weight with a plant-based diet begins here. Since we had promised that by the end of this article, you would have no trouble figuring out how to increase calorie intake naturally, we hope to have kept our promise. It’s all on you to stay committed to your weight-gaining goals and follow the aforementioned tips thoroughly. Remember, it does take a lot of planning and monitoring to gain weight on a plant-based diet, but that would be worthwhile!

Tully Zander

My life literally revolves around optimum health and sustainable living by being a devotional vegan. My mission is to create a community of like minded vegans to go forth in creating a better and brighter world for humans, animals and the planet. Just like Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Gandhi

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