Can You Build Muscle Without Vegetables? (What Science Says)

Vegetables are important for general health, but they may not be as important for muscle building itself.

Is it possible to build muscle without eating vegetables? Yes, it is possible to build muscle without eating vegetables because vegetables don’t provide a significant amount of protein or carbohydrates, which are nutrients that increase muscle-building potential.

Although you can build muscle without eating vegetables, it’s still important that you eat your vegetables for your body to function optimally.

After reading this article you’ll learn:

  • If vegetables are necessary to build muscle
  • Why some pro bodybuilders don’t eat vegetables
  • What the consequences are of not eating vegetables for muscle building
  • Which vegetables you should include while building muscle

Are Vegetables Necessary To Build Muscle?

No, vegetables aren’t necessary to build muscle because they don’t have enough protein or carbs to make them useful for muscle building.

Protein is the most important nutrient for muscle building because it encourages muscle protein synthesis, which is a signal for muscle growth. If you’re not consuming enough protein, then you will not build muscle.

If you’re not eating enough carbs, it can affect muscle-building potential because carbs are the body’s preferred energy source. If you don’t have enough energy to strength train effectively to give your muscles a reason to adapt, you won’t build muscle.

Vegetables aren’t plentiful in either of these nutrients, so they technically aren’t required to build muscle. However, vegetables are important for the body to function optimally because of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that they provide.

For this reason, vegetables will still be important for your overall health, even if they aren’t specifically linked to muscle building.

Addressing The Controversy: Why Some Pro Bodybuilders Don’t Eat Vegetables

Some pro bodybuilders don’t eat vegetables because they’re trying to achieve extreme levels of muscle mass and therefore need to consume as many calories as possible to support this goal.

Pro bodybuilders probably have a hard time eating enough calories to maintain their current muscle mass and build additional muscle mass, so they cut out vegetables because they’re low in calories and high in volume.

Some bodybuilders who are struggling to eat enough avoid high-volume foods that don’t provide adequate calories. If they’re filling up on these foods, it will be harder to eat enough calorically-dense foods to retain or gain muscle.

The most important thing for pro bodybuilders is consuming enough protein for muscle hypertrophy, dietary fat for additional calories, and carbs for the energy required to train hard. 

If eating vegetables prevents pro bodybuilders from getting enough of these macronutrients, it may not seem worth it to them to eat their vegetables. However, this could be detrimental over time.

The Consequences of Not Eating Vegetables While Bulking

The main consequence of avoiding vegetables while bulking is that you may end up deficient in important vitamins and minerals because vegetables are one of the best sources of many micronutrients.

Your body requires vitamins and minerals from food because it cannot produce these nutrients itself. Therefore, by not consuming vegetables, you will likely be deficient in one or more of these nutrients.

If you’re deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, you may not have the same immunity, energy, and gut health that you would if you were consuming vegetables in sufficient quantities.

Any of these issues could affect your overall health and muscle-building potential because you won’t be performing at your maximum capacity.

Benefits of Eating Vegetables for Bodybuilders (or Muscle Building)

benefits of eating vegetables for bodybuilders (or muscle building)

The benefits of eating vegetables for muscle building are:

  • Improved Digestion
  • Better Health Outcomes
  • Increased Time to Exhaustion

Improved Digestion

Vegetables are beneficial for muscle building because their fiber content helps with digestion by providing bulk and slowing digestion.

Fiber is important because if you’re not eating enough fiber to go to the bathroom regularly, you’re going to feel too uncomfortable to train at your maximum capacity.

Additionally, fiber may help you to absorb more of the amino acids from the protein you’re consuming because of its ability to cleanse the intestinal wall.

Better Health Outcomes

Consuming adequate vegetables can improve your health outcomes, which is beneficial for muscle building. If you’re able to stay healthy for longer, your potential to build muscle will only increase.

It takes time to build muscle, so it’s important to stay healthy over time to continue putting in the consistent effort that is required for general muscle building and extreme muscle-building like in pro bodybuilding.

As well, the micronutrients in vegetables may lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of infection, and help prevent certain types of cancer.

Increased Time to Exhaustion

Eating enough leafy green vegetables could potentially help with your muscle building because of the nitrates that they contain, which could help you get in more repetitions in your workouts.

Nitrates have been shown to increase the time to exhaustion, meaning that you may be able to do more reps at a certain load than you would if you didn’t have enough nitrates in your diet.

If you could do more repetitions per set, this would increase your muscle-building potential by increasing the amount of work you’re able to do over time.

5 Vegetables That Could Help With Muscle Building

Five vegetables that could help with muscle building are:

  1. Spinach
  2. Potatoes
  3. Bell Peppers
  4. Edamame
  5. Broccoli

1. Spinach


Spinach could help support your muscle-building endeavors because it contains ecdysterone, a plant steroid that could help with muscle strength and development.

Additionally, spinach has nitrates which help with the delivery of blood to the working muscles. This can help increase the amount of work your muscles are able to do before becoming fatigued.

2. Potatoes


Potatoes are another vegetable that could help improve your muscle-building potential. They are higher in carbs because of the starches they contain, which will help provide you with energy for training and promote recovery.

Potatoes are also high in potassium, which is an important electrolyte that can help prevent muscle cramping and weakness.

3. Yams


Similar to potatoes, yams are high in carbs, which can provide you with energy for your workouts and help with the muscle-building process after a workout.

Additionally, yams provide potassium, which can help to prevent muscle cramping so that you’re performing your best in the gym.

4. Edamame


Edamame is one of the best vegetables for muscle building because it is high in protein, offering 18.4 grams in a one-cup serving.

Edamame is a great option for muscle building for those who are plant-based or those who want a budget-friendly protein source.

5. Broccoli


Broccoli is a great option for muscle building because it is so high in fiber that it will help with digestion. This is beneficial because it can help keep the intestinal wall in a better state to absorb more amino acids from the protein that is consumed.

Additionally, the vitamin C that broccoli has can help improve your immune health so you can remain healthy and continue training efficiently to build muscle.

Final Thoughts

Although vegetables don’t directly contribute to the muscle-building processes, they are important for your digestion, overall health, and immunity. If you consume vegetables regularly, they could improve your health long-term to enable you to continue building muscle over time.


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About The Author

Amanda Parker

Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath.  She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.

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