How To Count Macros as a Vegan or Vegetarian

As a macros coach, I help hundreds of people meet their weight loss goals.

I often get this question: “Can I start counting macros if I’m a vegan or vegetarian?”

The simple answer is yes.

A macro-based approach can be used in conjunction with any dietary preference. The macro philosophy is about eating the foods you prefer and still reach your fat loss and/or fitness goals.

Eating vegan or vegetarian is no different.  However, there are some adjustments that can help make reaching your macro goals more realistic and manageable.

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3 Tips for Vegan or Vegetarian Macro Counting

1. Don’t be afraid to adjust your macro ratios

One of the most challenging aspects of doing this diet as a vegan or vegetarian is hitting the recommended protein target, especially if you are weight training or strength training.

While eating more protein has been shown to increase the rate at which muscle mass can be added, the human body can still build muscle with fewer grams of dietary protein although the process will take longer.

There are many great athletes that are vegan and you would never know it by looking at their physiques.

For vegetarians and vegans, a more realistic macro ratio would be 25-30% protein 40-45% carbs and 30-35% fat.

This will make hitting your macro targets much more achievable eating whole foods since most plant-based protein-rich foods also come with their fair share of carbs.

2. Buy a good vegan protein supplement

For those more interested in building muscle and strength training, a plant-based protein supplement can really help with getting some extra protein in. These supplements have come a long way over the years and there are many brands that taste delicious.

I suggest you choose a brand that is at least 20-30 grams of protein per scoop and one that’s low in carbs and fat. One brand we’ve tried is Vega Sport Protein (see at Amazon).

3. Be mindful of your fiber grams

Since plants are often rich in fiber, vegans and vegetarians often get a lot over the course of the day. This is one of the reasons a vegan diet can be so healthy. However, if you are consuming 30-50 grams of fiber a day, you may need to eat more carbs to compensate for the indigestible nature of fiber.

On nutritional labels, fiber is included in a food item’s total carbs but much of the fiber you eat isn’t digestible and doesn’t provide the body with energy.

If you are active and trying to lose weight, it’s important that you are fueling that activity properly – avoiding too much of a calorie deficit.

Vegans should really eat about 50-75% of their fiber intake back as more carbs. For example, if you eat 50 grams of fiber in a day, you should eat an additional 37.5 grams of digestible carbs to compensate for the indigestible carbs that are included in your total carb goal.

The other option is to track net carbs but this can be challenging since most tracking apps track total carbs and not all foods have been calculated to show their net carb amount.

vegan meal

Sample Vegan Macro Meal Plan

Here’s a sample rest day and a sample exercise day from a vegan flexible dieting meal plan. The calories and macros for the day are also included at the end of each day.


Rest Day

Breakfast

  • 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal (1/4 cup raw)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop vanilla Vega protein powder (or similar)

Snack

  • 1 banana with 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

Lunch

  • 1 cup Campbell’s Organic Lentil Soup (or similar)
  • 1.5 cups broccoli
  • 1 ounce walnuts

Dinner

Stir fry: Saute the veggies in a nonstick skillet until they are slightly tender. Toss in the Seiten and seasonings. Stir till heated. Serve over cooked quinoa.

  • 5 ounces Seiten
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • Garlic, ginger, and soy sauce to taste.
  • 2 clementines (to offset undigestable fiber grams)


Total approx. 1547 calories

Macros:

  • Protein: 99 g  (25%)
  • Carbs: 173 g (45%)
  • Fat: 51 g (30%)
  • Fiber: 34 g


Exercise Day

Breakfast

  • 1 slice whole wheat toast
  • 1/2 cup vegan refried beans
  • 1/2 medium sliced avocado

Snack

  • 1 ounce almonds

Lunch

  • 6 ounces Tofu
  • 4 cups spring salad mix
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette dressing
  • 1 medium apple

Snack

Dinner

  • 1 cup white beans
  • 2 cup zucchini
  • 3 mini sweet peppers
  • Sauté the above with 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounce whole wheat pasta (1 oz offsets the undigestible fiber grams )
  • Top with 1 cup organic marinara (Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 squares dark chocolate (72%)


Total: approx. 1940 calories

Macros:

  • Protein: 119 g (25%)
  • Carbs: 204 g (42%)
  • Fat: 72 g (33%)
  • Fiber: 42 g


Getting Enough Protein

Even with adjusting macros in a way that requires less protein, some may struggle with knowing what to eat to get their protein grams in.

Plus, there’s the added difficulty of making sure you are getting enough complete protein since many plant protein sources lack all the essential amino acids.

A good rule of thumb is to combine plant proteins. Usually eating a legume along with a grain does the job nicely.

Examples:

  • Beans and rice
  • Lentils and rice
  • Hummus on whole grain toast

Seeds and nuts are high in protein and hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and quinoa are among some that contain complete proteins.

Here are some good resources for identifying good sources of plant proteins. (Some lists include dairy and eggs since some vegetarians eat those foods.)

  1. No Meat Athlete
  2. One Green Planet
  3. Eat This Not That

The more densely the food is in protein the less impact it will have on your other macros.

Being a vegan or vegetarian isn’t a deal breaker when it comes to macro counting and this is just another way this eating method embraces flexibility.

With a little planning and adjusting you can be successful in reaching your diet and fitness goals regardless of whether or not you eat meat.

7 Comments

  1. Jennifer Morales 2 months ago

    Hi there! I just came across this website today, and I was SUPER excited to find out that the coaching program that has a vegan option. Could I ask your thoughts about the importance (if any) that macros play between endo/meso/ectomorph body types?

    I had read an article earlier this week that suggested different macro percentages between the body types. It also mentioned that people can be a cross between two body types, which might make it a bit harder to pin point what might be best for yourself.

    Falling into the endomorph body type, it advised someone like me to lay low on carbs and pump up the fat. For this article, it’s advising “25-30% protein 40-45% carbs and 30-35% fat”.

    Appreciate your time reading this!

    Reply
    • James 2 months ago

      Hi Jennifer, the science around the endo/ecto concept is vague. However, we’ve found there is a small portion of people who can be more sensitive to carbs than others. I suggest you get a set of macros (and if you go the coaching route, our coach will figure the best macros for both resting and exercise days). Then you monitor. If things aren’t changing for you, we adjust the macros. What sort of exercise you are doing can also play a critical part in you reaching your body composition goals.

      Reply
  2. Roy Arrowood 3 months ago

    I thought that it was hard for me because I was a vegetarian. Then I started looking at meat labels and realized something. Veggie meats are leaner than any meat on the market. My macros told me to hit 170p 170c 37f. If I eat nothing but the leanest chicken (55g protien for every 15g fat) I would still hit my fat limit before my protein. Interestingly if I eat nothing but tofurkey (14g protien for every 3g fat) I hit fat and protien Max at the same time with a little fat to spare. So actually eating meat is a disadvantage. What this really tells me is two fold. 1.) I will achieve superior results far more easily with a vegan supplement 2.) I could technically hit my macros on nothing but beer and tofurkey lol. Which tells me that macros are clearly not all I should be considering.

    Reply
  3. Nikki 8 months ago

    what macros as a vegan should I follow if I am trying to lose weight? Currently I am doing 120 carbs a day as a vegan because I read this was accurate for weightloss. Now as I read this article I am not sure if I am on the right track. I am losing some weight but I don’t want to become deficent.

    Reply
    • Ted Kallmyer 8 months ago

      Hi Nikki, it’s not about carbs but creating a calorie deficit. Use our calculator to find what’s best for you and then adjust your macros like this article advises.

      Reply
  4. Vince 9 months ago

    This is one of the things I like most about flexible dieting and related concepts. You can change them and apply them to pretty much any diet type – regardless of whether that diet is simple or complex.

    Reply
    • James 9 months ago

      Agreed. There’s a lot of energy spent agonizing over various diet regimes… clean eating, paleo, atkins, etc. But flexible dieting is exactly that… flexible.

      Reply