Vegetarians are thought of as having less access to high protein foods, making it harder for them to build muscle up and sculpt their bodies. But while that suspicion may be true for some vegetarians (as it is for anyone who doesn’t pay much attention to his or her diet) it is a hurdle that is very easy to overcome.
Athletes who are actively working to build up muscle should get about 1.6 grams of protein per day for every kilogram their bodies weigh. That translates into about .73 grams of protein per pound of weight you have, assuming you follow a rigorous exercise plan for building muscle.
However, most people don’t consistently follow such a rigorous workout routine, and the typical American already gets more than enough protein in his regular diet without even thinking about high protein foods. Even the typical American vegetarian gets too much protein, partly due to the fact that the typical American does not exercise enough.
Working out and physical fitness burns calories, and the right kinds of workouts eventually build up muscles. That’s true whether you’re a carnivore, omnivore, vegetarian or vegan.
What changes based on your diet is simply that — your diet. There are many high protein foods available to vegetarians, not to mention that most protein supplements are suitable for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Whey protein powder is a good vegetarian protein supplement, and it’s the main active ingredient in most protein shakes. It is worth checking the ingredients on protein bars because some contain gelatin, as do many pill-form supplements. But usually any protein shake will be free from meat and fish, so dust off that protein shaker.
For vegans, the options are narrowed. Whey is a dairy product, and so is casein, another popular source for protein in supplements. Soy is a good option, but beware: protein shakes and bars which contain soy often also contain whey or casein, so be sure to check the ingredients.
Two other options for vegan protein supplements are flax- and almond- or peanut-based proteins. The problem with these is that they just don’t have as much protein in them as whey, casein and soy options do, because flax, almonds and peanuts naturally contain less protein per gram. They do have other health benefits, though: all three contain very healthy fats that will boost your health.
But it’s possible to fill a muscle building diet for vegetarians or vegans without using a single protein supplement. Following the philosophy of supplements, nutrition-conscious raw-food enthusiasts do a great job of absorbing the proteins their bodies need without crossing the boundary into processed or manufactured food, using simple options such as peanuts and grains.
Any lacto-ovo vegetarian will have an easy time getting enough protein by including these foods in his diet: eggs, 2% milk, nuts, beans, lentils, quinoa, tofu, and cheese. And for vegans to do the same, removing the eggs and dairy in favor of additional legumes and grains will do the trick every time.
There is even a benefit to being a vegetarian bodybuilder, or a strength-building vegan. What some vegetarian foods lack in the macronutrient of protein, they almost always make up for in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. At the top of the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) charts, there are no meats or fish. Only vegetarian foods are so rich in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants that they can claim the top spots on the ANDI chart.