“In order to build muscle, you need a diet heavy in meat.” This oft-quoted axiom got thoroughly disproven in 2020, where concerns about the meat supply chain and grocery store shelves picked clean of cheaper options forced more people than ever to adopt a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diet.
With gyms closed and meat options slimmed down, many thought there was no way to build muscle. However, people still managed to bulk up during quarantine. How did they do it? They pulled it off with the aid of high protein vegetarian foods for muscle building.
Wait, Vegetables Are High Protein Foods?
We know, we know, when you think of ‘high protein foods’, vegetables and plant-based products are the furthest things from your mind. You will likely have to consume more vegetables to get the same amount of protein that a single serving of meat would offer you. However, this also grants you additional fiber, more nutrients, and a host of other benefits, all while letting you eat more food to bulk up.
That sounds like a win-win to us!
What Are the Best High Protein Vegetarian Foods for Muscle Building?
While any good bodybuilder knows that exercise is as much a part of your bulking routine as food (a well-proven link for years), let’s get down to brass tacks. You’ll need to eat about a gram and a half of protein for each kilogram that you weigh, spread evenly throughout the day.
With that in mind, what are the best high protein vegetarian foods for muscle building? You’ll find our favorite picks, the grams of protein they contain, and their other health benefits below.
Go Nuts for Nuts
Ah, nuts. Whether you opt for classic peanuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, or any of the other tons of nuts on the market, you’ll get one hundred and sixty calories in each healthy fat and protein-loaded ounce. Almonds alone have six grams of protein per serving.
This also applies to peanut butter, though you have to be picky about the kind you buy. Many commercial varieties of peanut butter add loads of sugar and other waistline-widening ingredients. Stick to no-sugar-added, or even better, grind your own from home. If you do, you’ll get seven grams of protein in every two tablespoons.
Beans Are a Magical Fruit
Beans are magical, and we don’t just mean that in terms of their fiber benefits. Every single bean variety out there offers around fifteen grams of protein per serving. So whether you’re cooking Japanese food with adzuki beans or going hard on Taco Tuesday with black beans, you can count on getting a full serving of protein.
Don’t Let Go of Legumes
Chickpeas, peas, soybeans, and lentils: what do these veggies have in common? They’re all legumes!
Soy’s been the protein substitute of choice for many years, but peas are becoming more and more popular. Lentils have a whopping eighteen grams of protein per cup, so don’t neglect your lentil soup.
Do you enjoy hummus? The health benefits you receive mostly result from the chickpeas and tahini used to make it. At a gram of protein per tablespoon, you can happily slather hummus on any meal you enjoy and receive the benefits.
Plant the Seeds
Chia, flax, and hemp seeds have taken off in recent years as smoothie add-ins, puddings, and even milk and meat product substitutes. Mixing in a tablespoon of chia seeds adds three grams of protein, but only sixty calories. Hemp offers about the same amount, and if you’re looking for a protein-packed snack, pumpkin seeds hold a walloping nine grams of protein per ounce.
Greens and protein don’t tend to mix in common knowledge. However, dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and mustard greens can add heaps of protein to your diet without compromising fiber and other nutrients. While they won’t pack much more than two to four grams at a time, if you spread your servings out through the day, you can add fifteen to twenty grams of protein to your diet without adding many other calories.
We get it; not everyone wants to go full-on vegan right away. Some people, due to pre-existing health conditions, can’t do it. Others just love milk, cheese, and eggs too much. We’re not here to judge.
However, if you do include dairy products and eggs in your vegetarian diet, you’ve got access to amazing high protein foods. A single cup of Greek yogurt offers a massive twenty grams of protein per cup. Eggs give you six grams of protein each, and a glass of milk offers eight.
Protein Powders and Supplements
While diet can help you in building muscle as a vegetarian, we understand that it may not get you all the way. If you’ve tried all of the foods suggested above, and you’re still not seeing results, you can always opt for protein powders or other supplements. Just make sure to check your ingredients list when you do, as there are plenty of pea and hemp-based protein powders out there.
If you opt for supplements, you should discuss them with your doctor before you begin your regimen. They can let you know what options are safe, and what you should avoid.
Thinking of Joining the Plant-Based Revolution?
With so many healthy and delicious options available, it’s easy to see how people can get involved with a high protein vegetarian diet. With beans, legumes, nuts, and many other high protein vegetarian foods for muscle building, you don’t have to sacrifice taste to cut meat from your bulking routine.
If you’re ready to start your vegetarian muscle-building journey today, but need some recipe ideas or other help getting started, don’t worry. The health section of our blog has everything you need. Check us out every day for more articles like this one!