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March 07, 2023
Once a diet that only your health nut friend followed, the vegetarian diet has risen in popularity, becoming much more mainstream. And as we know, the more attention a diet gets, the more people, particularly those in the fitness community, become interested.
This rings particularly true for vegetarianism, as there's no denying that a plant-based diet is incredibly good for you. However, a concern many lifters have with switching to vegetarianism is whether it's possible to stop eating meat and still hit protein goals.
It's a valid concern, as protein is essential for muscle growth.
Fortunately, with proper planning and a solid understanding of high-protein plant sources, it's entirely possible for lifters to build muscle and be vegetarian. Read on, as we're about to show you how to put together a high protein meal following a vegetarian diet.
Table of Contents:
Before we get into tips for eating a protein-packed vegetarian meal, let's first define what vegetarian means. Vegetarianism refers to a diet that allows no animal meat of any kind, including red meat, pork, lamb, poultry, or fish, to be eaten.
Because dairy isn't actually meat, many vegetarians allow it. However, it is important to note that some followers believe that anything that comes from an animal is off-limits. This is important because different forms of vegetarianism have their own rules.
Three types of vegetarians include:
Vegans and vegetarians frequently get confused. Concerning the diet, nothing is drastically different if you're a vegetarian who avoids all animal products. In fact, it's likely you'll find these high protein vegan breakfasts to be right up your alley. In general, however, vegans tend to have more restrictions regarding what they can and cannot eat.
Alternatively, if you opt to be a vegetarian who consumes dairy and eggs, you're going to have more flexibility and protein options compared to someone following a strict vegan bodybuilding diet.
All dairy products, including things like eggs, dairy milk, feta and goat cheese, and Greek yogurt, are available to include in your vegetarian meals if you're a lacto-ovo vegetarian. On the other hand, if you're an ovo vegetarian, none of those foods, except eggs, would be options for you to eat.
In the world of protein, there are two options: animal protein and plant protein. When comparing plant-based proteins and animal-based proteins, plant proteins have more challenges than animal proteins, particularly when it comes to amino acids.
Quality protein is made up of a bunch of amino acids. In total, there are 20 with 9 of them labeled as essential amino acids. These 9 amino acids are only found in food sources, meaning you must consume them through your diet to get adequate amounts.
When examining animal protein, every animal source provides all 9 essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. As a result, you could only eat one source of animal protein and get all you need for muscle protein synthesis to occur effectively.
In comparison, most plant proteins are either missing one or more amino acids or only provide them in small amounts. Remember that sufficient amounts of all 9 essential amino acids must be present.
As a result, those who follow a vegetarian diet must get their protein from a variety of sources. The strategy is to eat enough sources that have overlapping deficiencies so that they fill in each other's gaps. It's not a huge issue, and certainly shouldn't be a deal breaker, but it does require some planning.
Another thing to keep in mind is even if you were to get all your essential amino acids from one source, like through extra firm tofu, for example, which contains all 9 essential amino acids, the amount of protein you get just isn't as much as with animal protein.
Let's compare an animal and veggie protein source. Consuming 100 grams of chicken breast provides around 120 calories and 25g of protein. That's 80% protein from a natural source.
In comparison, a serving of chickpeas, which is generally considered a top plant protein source, provides 249 calories and 14.5 grams of protein. This only provides 23% protein, making eating the typically prescribed amount of protein for bodybuilders, between 1.8g-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, difficult to eat.
We strongly recommend you check out our article on the best veggie protein sources as it discusses this topic in far more detail. That said, here are some of the top protein sources.
Some vegan athletes may try to downplay the role of protein, making the argument that the numbers are exaggerated and that you actually need far less. If this were true, the major issue with protein on a vegetarian diet dramatically lessens.
However, as far as we know, the same macros apply whether you're on a vegetarian diet, omnivore diet, or carnivore diet. That said, you can aim for the lower end of the suggested protein recommendation in terms of protein.
When altering your calories and macro content, your primary macro to assess is the protein amount. It needs to go up during weight loss and can go down for weight gain. Your fat intake should typically remain the same, and you can then adjust your carbs to match your remaining calories.
When you are cutting, you actually want to increase the amount of protein you eat. For example, you might be fine eating 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight when building muscle. However, when losing weight, you can bump this as high as 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
This is because protein has several unique benefits for weight loss, including keeping you feeling full, mitigating muscle loss, and burning more calories through digestion compared to fat and carbs (TEF, Thermal Effect of Food).
From here, set your fat intake at 30% of your total caloric intake, and then use carbs to fill in the rest.
For total calories, you want to be in a 300-500 deficit. This means you must first calculate your maintenance weight (there are tons of great calculators online), and then reduce your maintenance by 300 to 500 calories.
To gain weight, you can drop your protein intake but still aim to eat at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
From here, fat stays at 30% of your total calories, and the remaining calories are allocated to carbs.
When gaining weight, you want to be in a 300-500 surplus. This again means finding your maintenance weight using an online calculator and then adding anywhere from 300 to 500 calories to your daily total.
When setting up high protein vegetarian meals, your priority should be finding a foundational, plant-based protein you enjoy. For example, tempeh and tofu are often used as they have higher amounts of protein and they're complete proteins. Learn how to prepare these in different ways, so you can add them to any protein-packed, healthy meal.
In addition to your protein base, add a large variety of other quality plant foods for even more protein (more info on this shortly). That's why things such as protein bowls and vegetarian chili are so popular, as you can throw a bunch of foods together.
Don't be afraid to use a protein powder, whether you opt for a whey protein powder or choose a plant-based option like these pea protein powder supplements.
With protein powder, the issue of "low protein" is virtually eliminated. Just make sure you don't solely rely on it, as you should still aim for most of your protein intake to come from whole foods.
Make an effort to mix various proteins throughout the day. In addition, try to pair complimentary proteins together when possible. Some examples are:
We just listed some of the vegetarian foods with the most protein and discussed how to put together meals using them. These high-protein foods should be your first priority when making high-protein vegetarian meals. Think of these sources similar to how meat eaters think of chicken. It can be used as the base for a variety of meals.
Once you learn how to cook and prepare these protein sources differently, you then have some freedom with the other vegetables you use. Just keep in mind you still need to include other quality protein sources. Ideally, you will combine complementary proteins in order to hit a full range of essential amino acids.
A quick protein-packed idea for vegetarians is incorporating protein shakes into their daily routine.
Another delicious high protein vegetarian dinner that includes a variety of amino acids is a rice bowl with crispy tofu, sweet potatoes, and pinto beans. To make it, just measure it out, throw the ingredients in a bowl, and mix with some oil, peanut sauce, salt, pepper, and any other warm spices you like.
For more great ideas, check out the meals featured in our 7-Day Vegan Bodybuilding Meal Plan, all of which will also work well for vegetarian lifters.
Here is everything you'll need to prepare the 7 days of high protein vegetarian meals we're about to discuss. Remember, high protein vegetarian meal prep and having the foods you need on hand plays a critical role in your dieting success.
We're now going to give you one 7-day meal plan that you can use three ways: for bulking, cutting, or maintenance.
All you have to do is take the meals we've listed and adjust each one to meet your daily calorie goals and macros. To do this, use our meal ideas as guidelines, distributing your calories and macros for each meal to ensure you hit your goals.
It's important to note that each weekday includes two snack options. Depending on your calorie intake, you can incorporate both options throughout the day, or just one of them. The best thing about this plan is you can personalize it to your goals.
Measuring out your food will be your best friend here and is key to success.
Whether you're planning to build muscle and pack on some serious weight, shed fat following this meal plan and a cutting workout, or maintain your weight, this 7-day vegetarian meal plan works great!
Veggie burger on a potato bun
Sweet potato wedges
Granola and high-protein vegan yogurt
Granola with maple syrup
High-protein vegan yogurt
Veggie wrap with hummus
Roasted spaghetti squash
Chia seed pudding
Tofu scrambled (or eggs)
|Lunch:||Lentil vegetable soup
Massaged kale salad with olive oil
Veggie stir fry
Mixed berries with yogurt
Veggie burger on a salad
High protein vegan yogurt with almond butter & berries
Soy chorizo stuffed sweet potato
Spicy roasted tofu
Whole-grain tortilla roll-up with almond butter & granola
Mashed chickpea salad (vegan mayo, chives, & lemon juice)
Spicy roasted tofu
½ avocado & an orange
Carrots & hummus
After following this meal plan, you have several options. One, you can just keep following it exactly as is for as long as you need to.
Two: You can use the same meal ideas but switch them up from week to week. So your Monday breakfast one week can be your Wednesday breakfast the following week. Or, if you really like your Tuesday breakfast but not your Thursday one, you can use the Tuesday morning meal for multiple breakfasts throughout the week.
Your third option, which is particularly relevant if you don't enjoy grocery shopping, meal planning, or food prep, is to consider a vegetarian meal delivery service, like Trifecta. If you'd like to learn more about meal delivery, check out our Trifecta Meals Review for more information.
Let's now answer some frequently asked questions regarding following a high protein vegetarian meal plan.
The highest protein vegetarian foods are tempeh, tofu, and edamame.
To eat 150 grams of protein per day, be very conscious about what you're eating and the quantities you're consuming. Protein powder, edamame, tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein, hemp hearts, and spelt are great protein sources to incorporate into your meals to help you reach 150 grams of protein.
The easiest way to get an extra protein boost in vegetarian high protein meals is by utilizing protein powder. Adding a protein shake to drink with your meal, or serving breakfast with protein coffee are a few easy ways to boost your protein intake.
There are quite a few protein-packed options that vegetarians can enjoy. This article has gone over the best plant-based foods that deliver a decent amount of protein. Some of your best choices include edamame, tempeh, seitan, textured vegetable protein, hemp hearts, and spelt.
Just like omnivores, vegetarians will center their meals around a quality protein source. This is often a form of tempeh or even hemp hearts. From here, add other quality proteins to ensure you're getting all of your essential amino acids.
As you can see, vegetarian high protein meals and plant-based protein sources are plentiful. Claims that you can't get a lot of protein from following a vegetarian diet are only true if you don't put in the forethought.
To be clear, it's much easier to hit your protein goals by eating animal protein. However, plant protein is pretty amazing as well! You just have to work a little harder to ensure you're getting enough.
The point is that if you've ever thought about following a vegetarian diet and have been worried about protein, you now know that issue isn't really an issue anymore.
Interesting in following a vegetarian meal plan without the hassle of meal planning, shopping, and cooking? A food delivery service, like Trifecta Meals, may be the perfect option for you! It's all of the delicious high protein vegetarian meals, without any of the work, delivered right to your doorstep.
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