Yes, I admit, red meat provides an abundance of protein and being a vegetarian fitness fanatic, the question I get asked the most goes pretty much like this: “But you’re so healthy / muscular! Where do you get your protein from?! The truth is, do you know anyone with a protein deficiency? I am sure that there are some; however, they are few and far between – even when you include the sudden influx of vegetarian homo sapiens.

For some strange reason, it is a common belief that if you don’t eat meat, then it’s a constant struggle to keep up with the required protein amount. But it just isn’t true! In other words, flame-grilled steaks aren’t the only source of protein, but if that’s the case (and it is) you’ve got to wonder:

How do vegetarians get their protein?

One thing to bear in mind here, is that protein is found in nearly every food, including plants. Our bodies find it a simple nutritional component to identify and absorb. Amino acids are the backstage star and are often overshadowed by a general lack of understanding as the collective hears the word ‘protein’ connected with ‘meat’ and nods in agreement.

Amino acids are known as the building blocks of protein and the best part is that they are present in all sorts of yummy vegetarian foods including nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains. Just think of amino acids as the yin to protein’s yang.

What foods should a vegetarian be focusing on?

In general, every person whether vegetarian or not (bearing in mind natural dispositions such as allergies) will benefit from including a wide and interesting array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds and grains. Specifically; oats, yams, broccoli and rice are fantastic sources of protein for the body. There is also an abundant choice of specifically developed powders and bars to add to your diet for an extra protein-kick.

It is important to be aware that while certain supplements, powders and bars (and the likes thereof) are great for a protein boost; they are not essential! They do assist with muscle recovery and energy output but opting for the most natural powders and supplements is best for your body.

A little gem I have come across is hemp powder. All natural and swiftly absorbed, this is nature’s (little) giant for athletes, body-builders, or just those looking for extra protein. For an all-in-one effect, keep your eyes open for a hemp-based protein powder that has essential fatty acids and Vitamin B-12 included.

Need more?

A general consensus on protein is for the average athlete to have 1 gram per 0.5kg of bodyweight (that’s 1 gram per pound) and for the athletes interested in bulking up 1.5 grams is required. Now, there are countless opinions on this subject and while there are many that are valid, I suggest taking some time to look at research and find what suits your body. I am not saying give self-discipline the ditch but rather be present to how your body feels and give your muscles ample opportunity to be their best, whether it be through a vegetarian diet, vegan diet, or all meat consumption.

The bottom line

Every physical body is unique and will have its own preferences as to what suits it best. Read up on studies done and opinions of others and take these as guidelines. Equipped with these guidelines, you can decide what is best for your muscles; vegetarian or not.

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