By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS
If you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just someone who prefers not to eat too much meat, it can be tough finding suitable veggie protein sources. You may find that you need a veggie protein powder to supplement your diet. Indeed, it’s not always easy to maintain a well-rounded diet, especially if you’re trying to put on muscle at the gym. People who choose to go plant-based may not know how to manage getting enough macronutrients. Your choices in veggie protein sources need to balance the proper amount of carbs, proteins, and fats, which can lead to malnutrition and a harder time reaching fitness goals.
Fortunately, there are many products out there, and more and more restaurants, supplements, and grocery stores, that are stepping their game up when it comes to plant-based protein alternatives.
Here, we’ll walk through where you can find plant-based protein, and how to put on muscle with a vegetarian diet.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that our body needs to function properly. We cannot live without it. Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids, and 9 of them cannot be generated by our bodies. They must come from the food that we eat.
We need around 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight a day, and the rest of your allotted calories should be filled with complex carbohydrates and vegetables. That protein amount, of course, changes as our goals change—or if you are a woman who is pregnant or nursing.
Lucky for plant-based eaters, there are many vegetable protein sources that can serve as awesome meat alternatives. Here’s a list of what you can serve up to replace the meat in your diet.
|Food||Amount||Protein per Serving|
|Tempeh||1 cup||41 grams|
|Soybeans||1 cup||29 grams|
|Lentils||1 cup||18 grams|
|Black beans||1 cup||15 grams|
|Veggie burger||1 patty||13 grams|
|Chickpeas||1 cup||12 grams|
|Tofu||4 ounces||11 grams|
|Peanut butter||2 tablespoons||8 grams|
|Lima beans||1 cup||10 grams|
|Quinoa||1 cup||9 grams|
|Kidney beans||1 cup||13 grams|
|Chia seeds||1 ounce||4.7 grams|
|Eggs (for non-vegans)||2 large||12 grams|
|Greek yogurt (for non-vegans)||1 container (170 grams)||17 grams|
There are also many reputable plant based protein powders that can supplement a low protein diet.
While a plant-based diet obviously looks a bit different, some rules-of-thumb remain the same. If you are looking to gain lean muscle while losing fat, these tips will help you.
You need to be eating vegetable protein at each meal. Take your allotted protein for the day and split it up into your meals for the day for optimal muscle growth. You can find protein in many ingredients, even as a vegetarian. For starters:
Don’t be afraid of them! If you limit carbs, you won’t have the energy needed to perform at the gym. The key is making sure they are the right carbohydrates. You want the low-glycemic carbohydrates that don’t spike your blood sugar, like quinoa or brown rice. Save your fast-digesting carbs like potatoes and white rice for post-workout, to replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores so they can start rebuilding.
Like we discussed earlier, proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. By eating two complementary proteins, you can feed your body all 20 amino acids at once. Most plant-based proteins are incomplete, except for soy, hemp, and quinoa, whereas all animal proteins are complete.
Pair your beans, brown rice, and lentils with other veggie protein sources that make them complete proteins. Here are a few combinations:
There are plenty of plants with significant levels of iron. However, our bodies don’t absorb iron from plants like it absorbs iron from animal proteins. If you don’t eat enough iron, your body can’t make enough healthy blood cells that help it carry oxygen throughout the body. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, which has its own set of serious problems.
Make sure to eat plenty of nuts, seeds, and dark leafy greens. If you can’t seem to get enough that way, you can always supplement with a superfood green powder drink which will help fill in those gaps.
There are 14 grams of protein in a half cup of soybeans. They also have a substantial amount of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, including iron.
Many different types of beans come packed with protein, but black beans are one of the better options. Not only are they high in protein; they are also high in magnesium, iron, fiber, and B-vitamins. 1 cup of black beans packs 14 grams of protein. They are low-fat, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, fat-free, and sugar-free.
Edamame is composed of soybeans that have not yet matured. They are good on almost anything, and are a lovely snack with just a little bit of salt.
A cup of these green beans contains around 17 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. They have a substantial amount of folate, which helps your body process those amino acids from the protein in other areas of your diet. It is also an important substance when it comes to muscle mass and strength.