How To Count Macros on a Vegan, Vegetarian, or Plant-Based Diet
Counting macros while on a vegan or plant-based diet is a great idea because it ensures that you are giving your body all of the essential nutrients that it needs in order to thrive.
As a macros coach, I’ve helped hundreds of people meet their weight loss goals and muscle-building goals but there is some confusion when it comes to the right diet plan to follow if you’re vegan or plant-based.
Can you count macros when vegan or vegetarian?
The simple answer is yes, most definitely.
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, plant-based, 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 Dieting
The Best Vegan Macro Ratios
- 25% protein
- 45% carbohydrates
- 30% fat
One of the most challenging aspects of doing this diet when plant-based 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 when eating whole plant-sourced foods since most plant-based protein-rich foods also come with their fair share of carbs and or fat.
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.
Sample Vegan Macro Diet 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.
- 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal (1/4 cup raw)
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 scoop vanilla Vega protein powder (or similar)
- 1 banana with 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
- 1 cup Campbell’s Organic Lentil Soup (or similar)
- 1.5 cups broccoli
- 1-ounce walnuts
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
- Protein: 99 g (25%)
- Carbs: 173 g (45%)
- Fat: 51 g (30%)
- Fiber: 34 g
- 1 slice whole-wheat toast
- 1/2 cup vegan refried beans
- 1/2 medium sliced avocado
- 1-ounce almonds
- 6 ounces Tofu
- 4 cups spring salad mix
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette dressing
- 1 medium apple
- Vega protein shake (2 scoops) (preferably after your exercise)
- 1 cup white beans
- 2 cup zucchini
- 3 mini sweet peppers
- Sauté the above with 2 teaspoons 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
- Protein: 119 g (25%)
- Carbs: 204 g (42%)
- Fat: 72 g (33%)
- Fiber: 42 g
Getting Enough Plant-Based Protein as a Vegan
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.
- 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.)
The more densely the food is in protein the less impact it will have on your other macros.
Plant-Based Protein Supplementation
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.
Vegan Protein Brands
I tried The Plant Era and it’s lightly sweetened with stevia while using plant protein derived from peas and brown rice to provide a wide range of amino acids. It also includes vitamin B12 which often can be lacking in vegan diets. It comes in dark chocolate and strawberry basil flavors. You can try it or learn more here.
Another brand I’ve tried is Vega Sport Protein (see at Amazon).
Mezcla Bars are also a good option. They are plant-based and contain 10 grams of plant protein. I recently tried some and they are also delicious. A lot of plant protein bars can taste “gritty” but Mezcla uses pea crisp for a much better texture. Also, each bar is only 160 calories. Here’s their website.
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.
FAQs about vegan weight-loss diets.
Do vegans count calories?
Not all vegans do, but if you are trying to lose or gain weight as a vegan, counting calories can be helpful for getting your energy balance right. You have to be in a negative energy balance (calorie deficit) for fat loss to occur. Counting calories or macros helps one achieve this.
Do vegans need to eat more calories?
No, vegans will have the same calorie requirements as other people with similar stats and activity. The only thing vegans need to account for is all the fiber they eat as discussed above. Vegans may need to eat more carbs to make up for the increased undigestable fiber they consume on a daily basis.