“…But Where Do You Get Your Protein?”

A Vegan Bodybuilder’s Day of Food

It’s about time we debunk the plant-based protein myth, isn’t it? John Thomas (AKA @thebodybuildingvegan) has followed a vegan diet for about fourteen years— twelve of which have been devoted to consistent weightlifting and bodybuilding. “Vegan for the animals, plant-based for the planet” is his motto, originally switching to a plant-based diet in an effort to reduce some of the animals subjugated to factory farming. He proves that you can easily reach your protein goal with a bit of prep (and passion).

So, how does he get his protein? “A split between whole foods and protein supplements,” he explains. “My favorite whole-food proteins come from tofu, tempeh, seitan, TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein), lentils, beans and some of the ‘fake’ meats like the Impossible Burger. For protein supplements, I have always preferred Pea Protein Isolate, specifically the TrueFlavor™ varieties offered at TrueNutrition.”


“As a bodybuilder I train often and heavy. My workouts consist of 5 sessions per week, usually up to 2 hours each. I focus on mainly free weights with each day having a heavy pressing or pulling movement.”

John’s current training split aims to improve his chest, delts and arms. Here’s what his weeks look like:

Monday - Legs
Tuesday - Off
Wednesday - Chest, Delts & Tris
Thursday - Back & Bis
Friday - Off
Saturday - Chest, Delts & Tris
Sunday - Bis & Tris
Quad Squad: Showing off hard work on Leg Day with his wife

“Currently I am in a bulking phase— so on training days, my calories total around 5200. On my non-training days, my calories are lowered to about 4300. On both training and off days the protein is kept high, usually 350 grams or more. To accomplish this, I have 3 whole-food plant-based meals: 2 meals containing True Nutrition Pea Protein Isolate with easy-to-digest carbs, and on training days I utilize peri-workout nutrition too.”

You Gotta Eat to Grow

As with any diet, preparation and planning is key. With a plant-based diet, it’s even more essential— often times requiring additional prep or cooking to ensure adequate protein consumption for muscle growth. John consumes a whopping 5188 calories: divvied up via 358g protein, 703g carbohydrates, and 109g fat. “[My] high volume heavy training is implemented for muscle growth,” he adds. “But without adequate nutrition, all the training in the world won’t help grow muscle.”

John’s meals are colorful, well-rounded and chock-full of nutrients. He uses protein powder to supplement any protein he’s not consuming via whole-food sources.

Meal #1

135g Cream of Rice
25g Almond Butter
45g TrueNutrition Pea Protein Isolate
100g Strawberries
180ml Soy Milk (used in my morning coffee)

Macros: 58P/129C/17F

Meal #2

2/3 Block High-Protein Tofu
50g Spinach
75g Broccoli
300g Sweet Potatoes
40g Ketchup

Macros: 57P/87C/24F

Meal #3

90g Oats
30g TrueNutrition Pea Protein Isolate (TrueFlavor Salted Caramel)
20g Walnuts
13g Flax seeds
26g Raisins
100g Blueberries

Macros: 44P/103C/25F

Meal #4

180g Seitan (made from 66g vital wheat gluten and 19g nutritional yeast)
120g (dry) Rice
65g Bell peppers
50g Kidney beans
20g Cashews

Macros: 76P/132C/10F

Food for Fuel

Most of us know that what you eat before and after you train is crucial. John prepares for tough workouts with a heavy dose of quick-acting carbs and amino acids to repair torn muscle fibers and improve recovery time.


50g TrueNutrition Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (Fruit Punch)
15g EAAs

Macros: 0P/42C/0F


55g TrueNutrition Pea Protein Isolate
1 Bagel
25g Peanut Butter
30g Grape Jelly

Macros: 60P/76C/15F

@theveganbodybuilder proves that you can still pack on muscle with a plant-based diet

Finishing the Day Strong

Meal #5

104g (2 cups) Pasta
80g TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein)
¼ Jar Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce
85g Green Beans
70g Avocado
30g Ketchup

Macros: 62P/138C/17F

Common Misconceptions

A bodybuilder’s diet is always under scrutiny, but more-so sans the beef. We asked what the most common questions he receives are— aside from the classic ‘But where do you get your protein?’, of course.

Q: “You’re a man, doesn’t protein from soy such as tofu raise your estrogen?

A: “Soy contains phytoestrogens, not actual estrogen. These phytoestrogens have no negative effects proven in the human body. Many studies have been done on soy supplementation, both with athletes and the normal population showing, soy does not decrease testosterone or raise estrogen levels.”

Q: “You can’t possibly build that much muscle as a vegan?”

A: “Muscle comes down to calories and amino acids. Plants provide all the nutrition needed to grow. If you eat enough to support your muscles and train hard you will grow. Look at some of the biggest and strongest mammals on the planet such as gorillas, elephants and rhinos that all follow a primarily plant based diet.”

Final Thoughts

“I have now grown to believe that we should strive for a plant-based diet whenever possible to reduce pollution and the harmful impact of factory farming on the environment,” John reflects. “I hope this post can shed some light on vegan bodybuilding and offer insights to both non-vegans and non-bodybuilders at the same time.” You can follow John on Instagram via @thebodybuildingvegan, and pssst— save 5% on your next True Nutrition order with code ‘bodybuildingvegan‘.

Hungry for more? We’ll be featuring a new day of food every Friday— join us to see what we’re snacking on. 😉

Yours in Health,

True Nutrition

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