There are many successful vegan and vegetarian athletes and bodybuilders to prove the point such as tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams, and Olympic rower David Smith.
Of course not everyone wants to ‘bulk up’ like a bodybuilder, usually women want to ‘tone up’ without increasing size. But the core principals are the same, to support your muscles you need to eat enough protein.
Getting enough protein as a vegetarian or even vegan is definitely possible; all plant sources contain some protein. Protein is actually made up of smaller particles called amino acids, of which there are several types.
A ‘complete protein’ is a food that has all the amino acids present, and this is the case with animal foods. Plants tend to have just ‘some’, and it varies which amino acids and in what quantities are in different foods. The aim, if not eating animal products, is to get the complete range of amino acids into your diet in sufficient quantities.
Incidentally, quinoa, a seed (often mistaken for being a grain) is a ‘complete protein’, making it very popular for vegetarians, vegans and meat eaters alike, as well as people who can’t tolerate gluten. Hemp is also a ‘complete protein’.
You don’t have to combine the right amino acids in the same meal or even the same day, you just need to be getting all of them overall during about a three day period (the time your body stores amino acids).
Of course if you are just vegetarian not vegan then you can’t go wrong with eggs, and low fat dairy such as cottage cheese, milk, Greek yoghurt, and ricotta cheese also supply lots of protein.
A simple way of ensuring you get enough protein is to use vegan protein powders such as rice, pea, or hemp protein powders, or even better, one that’s a blend of all of them.
These have been shown to be almost as effective as whey protein, the most popular powder in sports nutrition, in terms of protein quality and quantity at least.
Here is the protein content for some vegan foods:
(Watch this afterwards too: The best Vegan Proteins)
Adzuki beans, 1 cup: 17g
Black Beans, 1 cup: 15g
Black eyed peas, 1 cup (cooked): 13g
Chia seeds, 10g: 1.9g
Chickpeas, 1 cup: 14g
Flaxseed, 10g: 1.8g
Hemp seeds, 10g: 2.3g
Kidney beans, 1 cup: 18g
Lentils, 1 cup (cooked): 16g
Miso, 2 tbsp.: 4g
Quinoa, 1 cup: 22g
Soy cheese, 1 oz: 6g
Soy milk, 1 cup: 6g
Split peas, 1 cup (cooked): 16g
Tempeh, 3 oz, 16g
Tofu, 4 oz: 9g
Nuts and seeds contain protein, but these fall more into the ‘fat’ food category. Grains like oats and wheat do too, but these are way more carb than protein.
Protein content of vegan protein powders, per 25g powder (a typical serving):
Soy protein: 23g
Rice protein: 20g
Pea protein: 21g
Hemp protein: 12.5g
You can see why vegan protein powders can be so useful in making sure you get enough protein! Pulsin’ do unflavoured versions of all of these, get 20% off orders over £20 with code PTC20 at the checkout.
Examples of high protein vegan meals and snacks are: