Gaining weight and muscle mass is something many vegan athletes strive for, especially if they are beginning a bodybuilding program and are not sure where to start. I know when I first converted to a plant-based diet I lost 10lbs and was left scratching my head over what to do about it. I eventually came to realize the recipe for gaining weight is same with any diet: Take in a calorie surplus, consume plenty of whole food protein sources, and perform heavy weight training several times per week. This recipe is pretty straightforward, but it is by no means is it easy. Consistency is critical, and often times someone who is trying to gain weight has a naturally fast metabolism, and will have to consume a daunting amount of food every day in order to see their goals realized. I have had this problem with adding muscle mass in the past, and the easiest way I’ve found to substantially increase my calorie intake (without resorting to a lot of junk food) is using a whole foods weight gain shake between meals.
I’ve dubbed this shake the ‘Bean shake’, because my secret ingredient for getting the protein and calories up is beans. They may be an unorthodox ingredient in a shake, but beans provide lots of protein, carbs, and calories, so they really make the shake pack a punch in terms of getting your intakes where they need to be. The beans I have found to work the beast are canellini/white kidney beans, or great northern beans. Both varieties are high in protein and have a very mild flavor, so their taste can easily be covered up with other ingredients.
My second secret ingredient for this shake is pepitas, or hulled raw pumpkin seeds. Pepitas have more protein and less fat per calorie than almost any other seeds I’ve come across, have an excellent amino acid profile (which means they have all the amino acids your body needs) and they are rich in minerals (Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, and Phosphorus). A detailed nutritional analysis on Nutritiondata.com even rated their protein score as higher than eggs! (and instead of the whopping amount of cholesterol and nutrient void they have minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals). Pepitas do have a fairly strong flavor though so if you don’t like their taste I recommend reducing the amount you use, or possibly adding peanut/almond butter instead.
The other ingredients I use are pretty straight forward, and the whole list looks like this:
- 1/4 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds (153/5/7/13/1)
- 1 scoop protein powder (190/9/25/2/2)
- 1 cup soymilk (90/7/7/3.5/1)
- Water to desired consistency
- 1 banana (121/31/1/0/4)
- 1 can canellini beans, rinsed [aka white kidney beans] (420/73/28/0/35)
- [optional] peanut butter, almond butter, other sliced fruit, fruit juice, avocado (anything palatable to add calories)
- I’ve also been adding spinach to keep my greens intake high and because it doesn’t affect the flavor. Spinach is extremely valuable to a bodybuilder’s diet. Popeye knew his stuff!
Directions: Blend all ingredients to desired consistency
Total stats: 974 calories, 125g carbs, 68g protein, 18.5g fat, 43g fiber
Or, for an all whole foods shake omit the protein powder for stats like:
784 calories, 116g carbs, 43g protein, 16.5g fat, and 41g fiber
Either way, a great and highly nutritious gainer shake with stats to match. I use this shake in between breakfast and lunch, as an afternoon snack, and before bed when I’m looking to gain weight. For someone starting out trying this, I would use half a shake per day and slowly work your way up to your desired calorie intake. All the beans means this shake has a TON of fiber, and if you aren’t used to it you will feel it. So, give this a try and if you come up with any alterations of your own please write on the forum!
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
T. Colin Campbell Foundation/ Cornell University Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition