3 Reasons Why You Are Putting on Weight on Your Plant-Based Diet

We're going to show you the reasons why you may be gaining weight, despite following a plant-based diet. All these mistakes can be corrected.
3 Reasons Why You Are Putting on Weight on Your Plant-Based Diet
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

You may be putting on weight despite being on a plant-based diet. Some people start this type of diet with the aim of losing weight, but often it has quite the opposite effect.

This phenomenon has an explanation that we’re going to tell you about today, so that you’ll be able to adjust your diet and achieve your goals.

Before we begin, we must emphasize that plant-based diets haven’t been proven to be better for your health than a varied and flexible diet. In fact, they need to be supplemented to avoid nutritional deficits that may affect how your body functions. For example, extra vitamin B12 is needed.

This is why you’re putting on weight on a plant-based diet

Here are the main reasons why you’re putting on weight on a plant-based diet. The problem comes from small mistakes that compound the problem. The reason isn’t only in the food you eat, but also in lifestyle habits.

1. You’re consuming too many calories

A plant-based diet can create a hypercaloric framework that favors weight gain and fat production. If you consume more calories than you expend on a daily basis, you’ll end up accumulating subcutaneous adipose tissue. For this reason, it’s a good idea to alter the energetic balance.

One thing you need to take into account is that these kinds of diets contain a lot of sauces to improve the flavor of the dishes. These condiments are made from lipids, so they have a high calorie content.

Not only should sauces be consumed in moderation, but industrial sauces should be avoided. They can contain trans fatty acids, elements that have been shown to favor inflammation and the development of metabolic pathologies.

A salad.
Vegan dishes can be high in calories, even though they don’t include animal foods.

2. You eat a lot of processed food

In the plant-based diet it’s common to include processed foods that act as substitutes for meat. These aren’t always good quality. They can contain sugars and a number of artificial additives that negatively impact the microbiota.

In fact, regular consumption of sugar leads to insulin resistance, which is one of the stepping stones to diabetes. This is shown in research published in the journal Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences . When this condition develops, it becomes much more difficult to lose weight.

When it comes to ensuring a good protein intake, it’s better to combine various types of natural and fresh plant foods than to resort to meat substitutes. You can find some good quality ones, but you’ll have to read the labels carefully.

3. You don’t do strength training

Modifying and optimizing your diet is very beneficial when the objective is to enjoy a good state of health and experience improvements in terms of body composition. However, this isn’t enough.

A series of habits must be maintained over time to achieve noticeable results. The practice of physical exercise is essential.

In fact, the focus should be on muscular strength work, as this increases energy expenditure at rest. A study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise certifies this.

For many years there was speculation about the possibility of increasing cardio training to achieve efficient fat burning. Nowadays, however, the current trend is to give priority to strength training, in combination with some aerobic exercise as well.

A woman weight lifting.
If you don’t train your strength it will be difficult to achieve your weight loss goal with diet alone.

Don’t neglect the reasons why you’re putting on weight on a plant-based diet

There are a number of reasons why you’re putting on weight, despite following a plant-based diet. Keep in mind that maintaining a good body composition is crucial.

Many times diet and exercise alone aren’t enough. The problem may be more complex than it seems. For example, alterations in the intestinal microbiota affect digestion. Consult a nutrition professional if you have any questions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • de Souza, R. J., Mente, A., Maroleanu, A., Cozma, A. I., Ha, V., Kishibe, T., Uleryk, E., Budylowski, P., Schünemann, H., Beyene, J., & Anand, S. S. (2015). Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)351, h3978. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3978
  • Softic, S., Stanhope, K. L., Boucher, J., Divanovic, S., Lanaspa, M. A., Johnson, R. J., & Kahn, C. R. (2020). Fructose and hepatic insulin resistance. Critical reviews in clinical laboratory sciences57(5), 308–322. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408363.2019.1711360
  • Hunter, G. R., Fisher, G., Neumeier, W. H., Carter, S. J., & Plaisance, E. P. (2015). Exercise Training and Energy Expenditure following Weight Loss. Medicine and science in sports and exercise47(9), 1950–1957. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000000622

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.