Protein is an essential nutrient for building and repairing muscle tissue. It also helps your body maintain a strong immune system, organ function, and a healthy metabolic rate. The recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight for the average person. This can be adjusted based on activity level and goals but one thing that remains constant is the need for protein in your diet whether or not you’re an athlete or vegetarian or vegan!
Getting enough protein may be a concern for vegetarian athletes.
So, getting enough protein may be a concern for vegetarian athletes. But it’s not as dire as you think.
The good news is that most plant-based foods contain some protein, and the non-dairy sources have high levels of complete amino acids—the building blocks of protein that help build muscle tissue.
These include: soy products (tofu, tempeh), quinoa, seitan (wheat gluten), pumpkin seeds/pepitas and peanuts/ground nut butters (like almond or cashew butter). If you’re eating these foods regularly and getting enough calories from them to support your activity level then it’s likely that you’ll still be able to achieve the recommended daily intake of 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight.
Choose protein rich plant based foods.
Beans, lentils and chickpeas are all excellent sources of protein. Quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth are other grains that can help you meet your daily protein needs. Nuts, seeds and nut butters are also good choices for vegetarians who want to add more protein to their diets. Soy products such as tofu and tempeh can be an excellent source of vegetarian protein as well.
Protein powders are an easy way to get more protein in your diet, but they’re not a substitute for real food. Protein powders can be useful as a supplement, but they won’t replace the nutritional value of eating whole foods.
If you’re going to use a powder, start with small amounts and work up from there. They can be expensive and high in calories, so don’t overdo it!
And finally…be careful about which brand you choose. Many protein powders contain artificial sweeteners or other unhealthy ingredients that aren’t good for your body.
Be sure to add protein every meal.
You’re probably used to thinking of protein as something that comes from meat, poultry, or fish. But if you’re a vegetarian (or even if you eat seafood) it’s important to make sure that you get enough protein every day. And don’t worry about getting enough from just one source—your body needs a diverse range of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.
Amino acids have many functions in the human body including muscle repair and growth; they also assist with blood sugar regulation and hormone function. They can be found in animal sources such as whey powder or eggs but also come naturally from vegetables such as beans which contain all 20 essential amino acids needed by our bodies. Other plant-based options include nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, lentils or peas (pulses).
Combining plant based proteins will complete the amino profile.
You may have heard that plant based proteins are incomplete and therefore cannot be used by the body to create a complete amino profile. This is not true! Plant based proteins can, in fact, be combined to create a complete amino profile. Even if your diet consists of only one type of plant based protein (for example all quinoa), you can still get a complete amino profile by combining it with complementary foods: other grains or beans for example.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that vegetarians don’t need to worry about getting enough protein; there are many more steps involved than simply combining two whole grains together and calling it good enough.
Just remember that it’s not about going out of your way to find the “perfect” plant-based protein source, but rather choosing foods that are already in your diet and adding more of them. Don’t forget about other sources like soy milk, rice milk or almond milk which will also help round out your amino acid profile.
If you need additional help, don’t hesitate to reach out!