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The fitness industry loves to bang on about protein. Guys in the gym will be chugging on their whey protein shakes: "Bruh this shake has 50 grams of protein and it’s going to make me mahoosive, yeah bruh totes about the gainz!"
Personal trainers often instruct you to get your protein intake up, but what if you don’t want to consume meat, whey protein shakes or any other animal products?
Below I have picked out some of the best plant-based protein sources. Even if you are not veggie, these are still great go-tos.
Squeeze more bone-fortifying calcium into your diet by loading up on nuts like peanuts, almonds and pistachios (though obviously not the honey-roasted type!).
One serving of each has about 160 high-quality calories, because they’re made up of a well-balanced blend of protein, fiber and fat.
Aside from being the perfect snack on the go or in the office, nuts are a great power food that will help fill you up and trim you down.
Nut and seed butters are higher in fat than protein but these ‘good’ fats can actually help to make you lean. But remember to watch portion sizes - you shouldn't be eating so many in a sitting that you actually put on weight!
Beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. While there is variation among varieties, they average about 15 grams of protein per serving. They are also exceptionally low in fat, high in fiber - and best of all ,they’re cheap!
Though it’s true that beans are not complete proteins, they do have many of the essential amino acids necessary for muscle building.
There is also research that shows how adding beans to your diet could help lower your blood pressure and improve overall heart health.
Legumes are similar to beans, so think: lentils, peas, chick peas, soybeans. They’re low in fat, have no cholesterol and are one of the greatest sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Cooked lentils boast nearly 18 grams of protein; add the brown variety to soups and the green to salads for an added boost. These flavorful beans are packed with B vitamins, folate, as well as fiber.
For optimal muscle building, you want your diet to be as nutrient-dense as possible. Peas, spinach, kale and broccoli are the highest protein green veggies. Kale and spinach can help you up your protein intake.
Two portions of kale have about 4 grams of protein, and spinach has 2 grams. This isn’t a lot, but if you add leafy greens to your morning breakfast, have a salad for lunch and cook spinach for dinner, you can easily consume up to 15 grams of protein in one day.
Just one small glass of calcium-fortified hemp milk has about 3 grams of protein and 30 percent of your daily calcium needs.
For an even bigger protein punch, drink soy milk. Again one small glass packs around 8 grams of protein. Have a glass with breakfast, pour some in cereal, or add a splash to your smoothies.
Pea protein is one of the best protein sources out there, nutritionally and amino acid-wise, because it is similar to animal protein. Most supplement companies and stores stock it now.
Loaded with protein, good fats and omega 3s, chia seeds are great to snack on or add to dishes.
Well-known in both running and vegan circles, chia seeds have been around for a very long time but have only recently become very popular.
Make chia pudding, or sprinkle chia seeds on your morning porridge, for a boost of protein. One tablespoon of chia seeds contains around 60 calories and yields 3 grams of protein.
The United Nations dubbed 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa - and with good reason. This grain is packed with important vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and folate. It's also a protein powerhouse.
The best part of all? Unlike many other meat-free sources of protein, quinoa has all nine essential amino acids your body needs, making it a ‘complete’ protein.
Tell that to the people who say you can’t get complete proteins unless you eat animal meat!
This soybean-based ingredient is firmer than traditional tofu, which makes it a great stand-in for meat in sandwiches, burgers and stir-fries. In addition, it’s a protein hero. A small portion of this Indonesian favorite contains 15.4 grams of the muscle-building ingredient.
Just like tempeh, seitan is starting to become a fixture on veggie menus across the country. Made from wheat gluten, this meat-alternative has both the satiating protein - a whopping 21 grams a per serving - and the texture of chicken or beef.
Seitan is a culinary chameleon and will take on pretty much any flavor you prepare it with.
Tom Nash is a Personal Trainer and 3 x Obstacle Course Racing [OCR] World Championship Qualifier. You can follow him on Instagram @tomnashpt or on Twitter @ThomasENash for updates and training ideas.
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