You may have heard a lot of vegetarian naysayers claiming people who don’t eat meat suffer from protein deficiency.
This is absolutely not true.
There are a number of athletes all over the world, including the likes of Venus Williams and Mike Tyson, who are either vegetarian or vegans.
For years, the conventional belief has been that athletes and bodybuilders who want to build muscles need to chow on animal products. Today, however, we understand that a plant-based diet, can help you develop the appropriate muscles — no meatloaf required.
How to Eat Plant-Based Protein to Build Muscles
People who complain about muscle loss and fatigue during plant-based diets often do not understand how best to eat proteins. Athletes need to consume small portions of protein throughout the day to ensure all the important nutrients that their body needs is available.
However, not every source of protein is equal. Our muscles are built with the help of amino acids in our bodies. Although many plants are rich in proteins, eating only certain types of plant-based food cannot ensure your body has all the essential amino acids it needs.
This means you need to consume a variety of protein sources through the day to get the right amount of essential amino acids, even though they all come from plants. Eat small portions of five to six protein-rich meals very day, including fruit, veggies, nuts, vegetable oil, and a lot of water.
Incorporate Meat Substitutes in Your Diet
Meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, and seitan are all great alternatives to eating meat.
Tofu: Tofu is condensed soy milk which is pressed into firm blocks. Tofu contains all the amino acids needed to ensure a good health. The best thing about tofu is that it very versatile and you can marinate it with various flavors to get the taste you want.
This means you can substitute it for eggs as well as mix it in stir-fries and soups.
Typically a single cup of tofu contains whopping 20 grams of protein.
Tempeh: This Indonesian meat alternative is made from whole soy bean that undergo a fermentation process. Tempeh has a drier texture than tofu and they also contain other grains and beans in the mixture.
This has an added advantage of having even more protein and fiber than tofu and it is a rich source of probiotics and prebiotics, thanks to the fermentation process. An excellent probiotic supplement is Seed Probiotic, and is summarized in-depth in this Seed Probiotic review.
People can use tempeh to make sandwiches, salads, stir-fries, or even a barbecue meat substitute.
A single cup of tempeh contains 33.7 grams of protein.
Seitan: Seitan is made from wheat gluten that has much of the starch removed. This turns it into a dense food that has texture similar to chicken. Because of this, it is used as a meat substitute in many dishes.
Seitan may also includes other products like legumes and seasonings and is high in vitamin B-6, riboflavin, and niacin.
Typically a single cup of seitan contains whopping 28 grams of protein.
Branching Out Into Branch-Chain Amino Acids
Three amino acids out of the nine essential amino acids are branched-chain amino acids (BCAA): leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAA are found in protein-rich foods and are also found in protein powders and accounts for 40% of the total amino acids required by a human body.
One of the major advantages of BCAAs is muscle synthesis. In fact, a study show that people who consumed a BCAA-rich drink after their resistance exercises had 22% greater increase in muscle growth than those who were given a placebo.
BCAAs can also prevent muscle breakdown, which happens when protein breakdown exceeds muscle synthesis. This is an indication of malnutrition and usually occurs if a person has cancer, chronic infectious diseases, or as a natural part of aging process.
Therefore, it is important that BCAAs be taken by people who want to build muscles as well as the aging population to stop muscle breakdown. This can do wonders to improve your health and quality of living.
Plant-based foods and mock meats are widely available and are a good source of getting all the essential amino acids needed for your body. Most of these foods are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but they are also great non-meat options for people who want to cut down on their meat consumption.
The key is to incorporate a wide variety of fruit, veggies, grains, and nuts in your diet and supplement them with protein powders and supplement to ensure enough proteins, fibers, and vitamins.
Written By: Elevate Nutrition Founders, Jillian Salomone and Paul Salomone