Protein is the building block for muscle. One of the challenges vegetarians face is getting enough protein into our diets. An even bigger challenge is getting enough protein into our diet, when we exercise. We should be looking to increase our protein intake by AT LEAST 3 times our recommended daily amount (RDI). Impossible right?…Wrong.
Fuelling our bodies with protein is the most effective way to tone and build muscle. Whether you are training for a marathon or just aiming for a toned core, it’s vital that you are putting enough good fuel in the tank. The simplest way to get more protein into our bodies is to ditch the carrot sticks and grab some high protein snacks. Having small intakes every 3-4 hours gradually builds and repairs muscle tissue before or after training. The most efficient way to do this is to incorporate plant protein into your 3 main meals, making sure your optimum protein time is 30 minutes after you train.
If you prefer an AM training session like me, then having a protein shake supplement in the morning seems like an easy breakfast…although, are you getting enough?. Top up your protein at breakfast time by having fruits that are naturally higher in protein (bananas & blueberries) mixed with high protein yoghurts, oats or seeds. By reaching out for protein rich fruits and yoghurt, you can easily increase your protein during your first meal of the day by between 15-20g.
Topping up your salad with chia seeds, avocados or even dropping in some cooked falafel are all natural, simple and affordable protein rich foods. Swapping your semi-skimmed milk for soy milk is an easy protein gain. If you’re like me who never goes long without having a snack, then nuts must be your bulk buy of the week. Two handfuls of dry roasted nuts will give you a protein boost of around 11g – not bad for a quick pocket snack.
Tofu along with soy, lentils and beans are some of highest plant-based proteins out there. Curries are an effective and versatile meal choice that can keep your protein levels up and your meal times down. Cooking with tofu or lentils alongside high protein vegetables can contain more protein that a breast of chicken; proving that we can have a rich protein plant-based diet without the use of supplements.
Late night snacking is commonly portrayed as the ultimate weight gainer and should be avoided. Although, more statistics show that protein intake before bed can be more beneficial for us than during or after training. My experience found that having a protein shake before bed increased recovery and gave off a slower release of energy before my early morning session.
There is still a common belief that a vegetarian or plant-based diet while training can deny us of the nutrients our bodies need to grow and define muscle. With the conscious effort to incorporate more naturally high protein foods and high protein food alternatives at regular consumption, a plant-based or vegetarian diet can provide us with not only a healthy muscle growth, but a healthy heart and planet.
Written by; Sara Jeffrey is a plant based fitness enthusiast who speaks directly on her own experiences with nutrition and exercise.
You can follow her on Instagram @gymlifewithsara