Plant-Based Protein Sources for Vegetarian Athletes


So you’ve decided to go vegetarian – that’s awesome. As an athlete though, you know how important protein is for muscle recovery and performance. The good news is, you don’t need meat to get enough protein. There are plenty of plant-based sources that can provide all the amino acids your body needs. The key is to eat a variety of them and in the right amounts. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best ways for vegetarian athletes like yourself to meet your protein needs and stay at the top of your game. Buckle up, it’s going to be a delicious ride. Whether you’re pounding the pavement, crushing it in the gym, or training for your next competition, these protein-packed vegetarian foods will fuel your fitness and have you wondering why you didn’t go meat-free sooner.

Why Protein Is Essential for Vegetarian Athletes

As an athlete, your body requires more protein to build and repair muscle. For vegetarian athletes, getting enough protein from plant-based sources is key.

Vegetarian Athlete

Why Protein Is Essential for Vegetarian Athletes

Plant-based protein sources tend to be less concentrated compared to animal proteins, so you’ll want to eat a variety of them throughout the day to meet your needs. A good target is 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

Vegan Protein Sources
  • Legumes like beans, lentils, and peas contain 8-10 grams of protein per half cup. Add them to salads, soups, and stews or have a bean burrito.
  • Nuts and seeds are portable protein sources with 5-10 grams per ounce. Snack on almonds, peanuts, pumpkin, or hemp seeds. Nut butters also work great in smoothies or on whole grain bread.
  • Grains such as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat have 6-10 grams of protein per cooked cup. Use them as a side dish, or add to yogurt or salads.
  • Plant-based protein powders made from pea protein, rice protein or hemp protein provide 20-30 grams per scoop. Add to smoothies for an easy protein boost.
  • Tofu and tempeh contain 10 grams of protein per half cup. Marinate and bake or grill tofu, or add crumbled tempeh to chili and pasta sauce.
  • Seitan, made from wheat gluten, has a whopping 30 grams of protein per half cup. Use it in place of meat in dishes like stir fries, kebabs, and sandwiches.

By consuming a variety of these protein-rich plant foods throughout your day, you’ll gain the fuel you need to power your athletic performance.

Best Plant-Based Sources of Protein for Vegetarians

As a vegetarian athlete, you need to get enough protein from plant-based sources. Some of the best options are:

Vegan keto Protein Diet


Beans, lentils, and peas are packed with protein. A cup of chickpeas has 15 grams of protein, black beans have 15 grams per cup, and lentils have 18 grams per cup. Add them to salads, burritos, or enjoy a hearty lentil soup.

Nuts and Seeds

Almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds are perfect for snacking and provide a good amount of protein. Two ounces of almonds has 12 grams of protein. Peanut butter is also a great option – two tablespoons contains 8 grams of protein.

Tofu and Tempeh

Made from soy, tofu and tempeh are staples for vegetarian athletes. A half cup of tofu contains about 20 grams of protein. Tempeh has 15 grams per half cup. Tofu can be grilled, baked or stir-fried and used in place of meat in many dishes.

Plant-based protein powders

For a quick protein boost, try a plant-based powder like pea protein powder or hemp protein powder. Two scoops of pea protein powder has 24 grams of protein. Add it to smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt.

Getting enough protein as a vegetarian athlete is definitely doable with these healthy, whole food options. By incorporating a variety of these into your diet and staying within your total daily calorie needs, you’ll meet your protein goals in no time and perform at your best.

Tips for Meeting Your Protein Needs on a Plant-Based Diet

To meet your protein needs on a plant-based diet as an athlete, focus on the following tips:

Eat a variety of plant-based protein sources

Aim for eating a variety of protein-rich plant foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. Some great options include:

  • Black beans, chickpeas, and lentils which contain 8-10 grams of protein per half cup.
  • Tofu, tempeh, and seitan which provide 10-20 grams of protein per half cup.
  • Nut butters like peanut butter and almond butter with 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving.
  • Nuts and seeds which have 5-10 grams of protein per ounce.

Include protein with each meal

Try to include a good source of plant protein with each meal to help you meet your needs. For example, have tofu scramble for breakfast, a bean and veggie burrito for lunch, and lentil bolognese for dinner.

Eat protein snacks

Healthy plant-based snacks with protein include nut mixes, hummus and veggies, peanut butter and banana on whole grain bread or a smoothie made with nuts, seeds and non-dairy milk. Keep snacks with you for an energy boost before or after workouts.

Consider vegan protein powders

Vegan protein powders, made from pea protein, rice protein or hemp protein, can help boost your protein intake. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein from a powder to use in smoothies. But focus first on whole foods, using powders only when needed to meet higher needs.

Track your intake

Use a food tracker to make sure you’re getting 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day or more for muscle gain. Most plant-based foods are less concentrated in protein so you may need to eat more to meet needs. But a varied diet with the tips above can absolutely provide enough protein for any athlete.


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