It’s no secret that getting adequate amounts of protein and calories is crucial for bodybuilders, so what about those who want to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet? One of the most common questions for those who choose not to eat any meat or animal products is, “where do you get your protein?”
Not only is it completely possible to get more than enough protein with a plant-based diet, but it can also be an option for bodybuilders looking to build lean muscle without the usual chicken breast and whey protein shakes. Here are nine plant-based foods to add to your menu in order to build muscle and fuel your body with a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Quinoa is one of the latest superfood trends, and is for a good reason. This tiny seed packs in eight grams of protein in every one cup serving, and is one of the few plant-based complete protein sources. This means it supplies your body with all nine of the essential amino acids it needs to build muscle. Try swapping out your usual side of rice or pasta with quinoa at dinner for an extra helping of protein, fiber, and healthy fat.
Vegan protein powders are a great way to make a quick and easy breakfast or post-workout recovery snack, especially for bodybuilders. Instead of the usual whey protein, vegan and vegetarians can opt for plant-based powders such as hemp, pea, or soy. Blend a scoop into your morning smoothie, or simply mix with a glass of water after your workout for a simple meal or snack.
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds are great sources of nutrients and fuel for vegans or vegetarians. They are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and even protein. Since these snacks also tend to be higher in calories, it can be an easy way to make sure you are taking in enough fuel to take on your workouts. Sprinkle them on top of salads, or pair with a piece of fruit for a filling and nutrient-rich afternoon snack.
Made from soybeans, tofu is another plant-based complete protein, and can be a great alternative to meat. Each ½ cup serving has 11 grams of protein, and most varieties are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D. This makes it a star source of nutrients for muscle and bone health. Add tofu to a quick stir fry, scramble together with fresh veggies, or marinate and bake for a simple entree anytime of the day.
If tofu isn’t quite your thing, tempeh may be a tasty alternative. Much like tofu, it gets it dose of protein from soybeans, but also has the added benefit of gut-healthy probiotics due to the fermentation that goes into making it. Wrap tempeh and veggies in a tortilla, crumble in a soup, or slice and toss on the grill.
Beans & Legumes
One of the easiest and most inexpensive sources of protein in a vegetarian or vegan diet are beans and legumes. This includes black beans, lentils, kidney beans, and split peas to name a few. Packed with both fiber and protein, adding a serving of beans and legumes to your meal can help keep you full for longer, and give you the energy you need to power through the day’s workout.
Yes, even leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale contain some protein! Aside from that, they also are one of the highest sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals in the diet such as vitamin A, calcium, and folate. Add a handful in a smoothie, sautee with olive oil, or make into a salad are just a few of the simple ways to incorporate these powerhouse veggies into your daily meals.
Some vegetarians choose not to cut out all animal products completely from their diet, such as eggs and dairy foods. If you consider this as an option, eggs can be an inexpensive and delicious source of protein and nutrients your body needs to build lean muscle. Scramble into an omelette or pack a couple hard-boiled eggs for a quick and easy snack on the go.
BONUS CARBS: Sweet Potatoes
These starchy sweets are not only delicious, but are a great post-workout recovery food. Loaded with the complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals your body needs to replenish muscles after a tough workout, sweet potatoes are the perfect package for keeping your body in top shape. Serve them up baked, roasted, mashed, or steamed for a colorful and nutrient-rich side dish or recovery snack. Pair with a source of protein such as tofu or tempeh for maximum muscle recovery.
Though the above plant-based protein sources may not be as dense as your usual chicken breast and whey protein shake, with careful planning it’s still possible to build muscle and strength on a vegetarian and vegan diet. An added bonus is that you will find your diet will be much more varied than the rest of your meat-eating bodybuilding friends!