Who said that vegetarians don’t get enough protein? It turns out there are plenty of good sources of natural plant-based protein that are beneficial for making lean mass gains and promoting muscle recovery after hard workouts.
A 2012 study in the Strength and Conditioning Journal indicated that most intermediate and advanced weightlifters need around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. You might think that requirement is hard to reach without consuming meat but check out these 5 plant-based foods that pack on the protein:
Most varieties of nuts provide somewhere between 3 and 7 grams of protein per serving. While any variety of tree nut will provide good amounts of protein, almonds are becoming an increasingly popular protein source.
Health food stores carry lactose-free almond milk and even crackers made of almonds. Compared to other nuts, almonds offer the highest levels of protein, fiber, vitamin E, niacin and calcium.
An added benefit is that researchers are discovering that we might have the calorie-count wrong when it comes to almonds. In 2012, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study that shows the almonds may have 20% fewer calories than the package reports.
2. Tempeh and Tofu
These soybean-based foods are go-to protein sources for many vegetarians. They both offer high-levels of protein. Research indicates, however, that tempeh may provide higher quality protein.
It comes down to the way the soybeans are processed. Tofu is formed by a process that uses heat to breakdown the soybeans and form a solid. During the cooking process, the soybeans lose some of their nutritional value.
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Tempeh is formed by fermentation, a process that retains many important nutritional characteristics of the soybeans and delivers higher-levels of protein with more amino acids.
Quinoa is a grain indigenous to the Andes Mountain region of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Research published by the University of Wisconsin and University of Minnesota: Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products, indicated that quinoa is one of the most diverse and nutritious grains available.
The study is most interesting when it comes to the amino acid profile of quinoa. Amino acids are essential building blocks of lean body mass and quinoa offers a complete amino acid profile and an optimal protein to carbohydrate ratio.
Flax, chia, sesame, and sunflower seeds are filled with high quality protein for muscle building and “good” fats, including omega-3s.
Adding a small serving of flaxseed to a post-workout meal is the perfect way to get additional protein and the benefits of omega-3s.
Beyond available protein, flaxseed is known to improve arterial compliance—or the ability of your articles to increase in size and transport blood more efficiently.
Few studies have been performed with athletes, but in 1997, researchers determined that flaxseed improved arterial function in non-athletes who supplemented with flaxseed . Increased arterial function will help you recover faster so that you can hit the gym harder!
5. Beans and Legumes
Beans are a big part of an ideal diet. They supply protein, carbohydrates, essential vitamins and fiber—just about everything you need to promote recovery.
Pair them with rice and you have a “perfect protein” with a complete amino acid profile. Nutritionists have long recognized the importance of beans, particularly in their dried form. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, they are an inexpensive alternative to meat.
Plants can provide adequate amounts of protein for muscle building. If you want to gain lean mass, strength and conditioning research demonstrates that you need around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight per day. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian or a vegan, you can use vegetable-based protein as a healthy and inexpensive alternative to meats and dairy products.