Lean Muscle Gain 6 MIN READ 94 VIEWS May 26, 2022

Can We Trust Whole Foods Diet for Lean Muscle Gain?

Written By HealthKart
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Whole foods diet
The Basics of Whole Food
Understanding Macros in Whole Foods
Whole Foods Diet Plan for Bodybuilding
Benefits of Whole Foods Diet
Getting the Best Results with a Whole Food Diet

When it comes to building lean muscle, your diet plays as important a role as your training regime. However, if you are planning to switch to a plant-based diet, you may have concerns about adequate nutrition to support your goals and training regime. Whole foods diet is the best option for those who wish to make more health-conscious and ethical dietary choices. As vegetarian athletes and bodybuilders get more notoriety globally, there is enough proof to suggest that you can achieve all your goals with a whole food plant based diet. All you need to do is understand the basics and prepare a plan that will suit your specific requirements. 

The Basics of Whole Foods

Whether you are building muscle or trying to lose fat, it all comes down to the calories and the macros, irrespective of your dietary preferences. If you have been training for a while, you would know that the secret to building muscle is consuming more calories than you would burn. 

When you choose a whole foods diet, you need food sources like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. These are also your protein sources. 

A whole food plant based diet is tricky as the composition of nutrients in these sources is lower than that of animal-based sources. This means, you just have to include more quantity and a variety of foods. While this is tricky, it is quite doable. The most common question that is asked when you talk about whole foods for muscle building is “where will my protein come from?”  

Understanding Macros in Whole Foods 

There are several plant-based foods that contain protein. In fact, almost all plant sources have some amount of amino acids, even if it is negligible. As you increase the intake of food, as you need to do with a whole food plant based diet, you will see that gaining strength is not as challenging. 

This type of diet also means that you are eliminating processed foods from your diet, allowing the body to perform optimally. Protein is undoubtedly the most important macronutrient when it comes to lean muscle development. No doubt, animal-based foods are packed with protein but you can get your daily required intake from whole foods as well. You need to choose whole foods like nuts, beans, seeds, and whole grain fibre foods that are protein-dense. 

These foods are also rich in calories, which are very important for vegetarian athletes and bodybuilders. The goal is to combine these foods in a manner that gives you at least 1-1.5g of protein per kilo of body weight that you wish to achieve. So if you weigh 50 kilos and want to weigh 55 kilos, you must consume at least 55g of protein each day. 

The next set of macros that you need to consider is fats. They are important because of the role that they play in the production of hormones such as testosterone. This is an important hormone for you to build muscle. You need to maintain your fat intake at 0.5g per kilo of bodyweight. 

The good news with a whole food plant based diet is that you mostly derive good fats from these foods. The same food sources that you include to improve your protein intake help you get the necessary fat intake to build muscle and get your daily required calorie intake. 

Whole Foods Diet Plan for Bodybuilding 

The most important factor when it comes to a whole foods diet is the number of meals and the timing of your meals. You should consume at least 6 meals each day in order to reach your daily required nutrient intake, particularly the macros. Here is a simple whole food plant based diet plan that you can follow initially: 

Meal 1: 

  1. Fresh raw juice made with kale, parsley, cucumber, ginger, celery, green apple and lemon- 450-500 ml 
  2. Protein shake with almond milk and banana- According to recommended usage of the brand that you have chosen. 

Meal 2: 

  1. 1-2 servings of scrambled tofu 
  2. 2 cups of oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of peanut or almond butter. 

Meal 3: 

  1. Whole wheat vegetable sandwich + ½ slice of avocado/ Chapati with dal and a side of sprouts. 
  2. Dark leafy green salad with tomato and paneer/ tofu. 

Meal 4: 

  1. 2 cups of oatmeal with a sprinkle of cinnamon 
  2. 1 apple with peanut butter 
  3. Protein shake 

Meal 5: 

  1. Quinoa and fresh vegetables salad / Lentil soup with a side of steamed vegetables 
  2. Grilled tofu with a side of steamed vegetables and a handful of nuts. 

Meal 6: 

  1. Banana shake or protein shake 
  2. A bowl of broccoli soup

The first meal must be consumed right after you wake up and the last meal must be consumed an hour or two before you go to bed. The rest of the meals can be spaced out throughout the day at intervals of 2-3 hours. 

If you want to maintain a whole foods diet, then you must choose a protein shake that is made with protein sources like soy. Whey protein is a vegetarian food source but not vegan. So, you can opt for a protein shake as per your food preferences. 

Benefits of Whole Foods Diet

Most athletes and bodybuilders are switching to whole foods because of the benefits that they have for health. They are just as effective as animal-based foods when planned well to help you reach your fitness goals. The additional health benefits of a whole foods diet are as follows: 

1. You Feel More Energetic 

Whole foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This diet also keeps you feeling lighter. As a result, your energy levels are elevated. The antioxidants in whole foods protect you from free radical damage which is one of the primary reasons for fatigue and reduced athletic performance. 

2. Fewer Hunger Pangs

This diet plan includes several whole grain fibre foods that keep you feeling fuller for longer. As a result, you do not have unwanted hunger pangs that increase the urge to eat fatty and sugary foods. As a result, you are able to build a leaner physique easily. 

3. Improves Heart Health

In comparison to animal-based foods, a whole foods diet contains fewer saturated fats. As you know, excessive saturated fats increase the risk of developing cardiovascular issues. Plant-based foods are also rich in healthy fats that bring down your blood cholesterol level, thereby boosting your heart health

4. Better Gut Health

Fibre-rich foods are essential to maintaining a healthy digestive system. Plant sources are rich in fibres which also serve as food for the symbiotic microflora in the digestive tract. As a result, you are able to assimilate and absorb food better. This allows you to make the most of your regular diet and get the results that you want faster. 

5. Enhanced Immune Response 

Plants are loaded with phytochemicals that are powerful antioxidants. They prevent any oxidative stress to your cells and tissues. They are also known to reduce inflammation. The vitamin and mineral content in these food sources also support immune health. This is extremely important in helping you recover from strenuous training and maintaining a consistent training regime. 

Getting the Best Results with a Whole Food Diet

There are some additional tips that will help you get maximum benefits from a whole foods diet

  1. Drink a lot of water. Staying hydrated is extremely important when you consume fibre-rich foods as fibre absorbs water so if you don’t drink enough water, there is a tendency of getting constipation.  
  2. Choose organic produce which is free from any unwanted pesticides. 
  3. Add as many raw fruits and vegetables as you can to get maximum fibre intake. 
  4. Include several food sources to add variety to your diet. This will help you stay consistent as the diet is not boring or repetitive. 
  5. Carry a handful of nuts with you whenever you are on the go. This will prevent you from choosing processed and unhealthy options in case you have a hunger pang. 
  6. Don’t underestimate the rest. You must take at least one day off from your training regime in order to get the results you want. You also need 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Only when your body gets enough time to recover will you be able to perform to your best abilities. 


If you are making a transition from a predominantly animal-based diet to a whole foods diet, it is a good idea to take it slow. Start by replacing one meal each day with only plant-based sources. As you feel comfortable with the transition, increase the number of meals each day. If you are unsure of the quantity of food that you need, consult a dietician to prevent any deficiencies. 

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