Best Plant Protein Sources for Athletes and Active People

Best Plant Protein Sources for Athletes and Active People

Could you be a vegan athlete or vegetarian and still meet your protein needs? An outdated myth exists that it is tough to meet the requirement of your daily proteins from plants. Here selecting your approach for eating must be as per your lifestyle. This means it must include individual health needs and personal reasons too.

Besides, the eating preferences you have should not be labelled. Does everything have to be in moderation? Here there is no denial of the fact that proteins are necessary for one’s health. Frankly, proteins are important for keeping our bodies up and running. They play a major role in the growth and repair of the cell, function of the brain, and even workouts and recovery.

Also, proteins take longer for our body to digest compared to carbohydrates. This will make us feel fuller for a longer time. This is the major reason why proteins are necessary for those people that are trying to lose weight.

Many people assume proteins with meat and chicken. In fact, most of the proteins come from an animal source in the USA alone. A large part of the basic population gets healthier benefits by opting or replacing some of the animal proteins with plant-based proteins. There has been a huge belief that one needs to take animal-related proteins for achieving the requirements of the body. Such proteins are called as ‘complete’ proteins.

What Are Complete Proteins?

Complete proteins are those that will be having nine major amino acids. These are called the building blocks of proteins and are not something that our body cannot produce by itself. Here the truth is that a plant-based or vegetarian or vegan diet will provide your body with whole proteins. In fact, when required our body can easily create the required proteins by taking in plant-based proteins either eating it separately or along with other regular food.

For those who are following the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, there are various reasons for going with plant-based proteins. Also, there are plenty of options to take with the plant-based foodstuffs to provide your body with the required proteins.

There Are not Any Right Methods of Eating

A brand new and flashy diet might seem enticing. However, all the nutrients are individualized and there is not just the right manner for anyone to eat. Here try to consider the personal food preferences, cooking skills, health requirements, activity level, schedule, and take into account the experience of eating for the enjoyment of the food.

If you have been thinking of going with a plant-based diet just like your physical training, you need a plan that meets your goal. Here the meal planning is quite challenging work as the eating is an ongoing procedure and something that is required constantly.

Basically, you cannot just go to the grocery store, cook a meal, and then consume it on time. Whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, etc; nutrition is simply about achieving your individual requirements. Extensive planning is necessary for individual dietary intake. Also, the on-going vegetarian or vegan route would require one to consider some extra consideration for achieving the protein needs.

What Is Protein and Why Is It Necessary?

Just think of protein as one of the commonly found substances found in our cells, just after water. It functions or you can say has almost endless functions in our body. They are responsible for the tough fibrous nature of our nails, hairs, ligaments. Also, they are required for the structure of our muscles including the heart.

Protein functions in building and maintaining the body tissues and structure. It is often involved in the synthesis of hormones and enzymes. Keep in mind that the greatest number of proteins is required when the body is trying to build some new tissues like increasing the muscle mass. Also, it is even required when one loses proteins after suffering from injuries, infections, and other diseases.

Furthermore, proteins are required for creating antibodies that will secure the body from harmful infections. Amino acids are considered the building block of proteins. The human body uses about 20 amino acids for creating the required proteins. In addition, there are nine major amino acids (these cannot be made by our body and is created by consuming food) and eleven non-essential ones (which our body can make).

How Much Protein Is Required for A Vegetarian or Vegan Athlete?

Here this varies. There is not any proper research regarding the amount of food a vegan or vegetarian athlete needs to have. Well, if you think they need to have high protein and somewhat a mixed diet, then it is a bit right. However eating various foods, along with complementary proteins and important amino acids should be added in to account for the whole balanced intake.

As per the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance), an average individual requires 0. 8 grams or kilograms of proteins each day. If you check active individuals would require increased protein requirements. Training five or exercising form more days each week will make you have 1.2-1.7 g/kg each day.

Now with higher intensity exercises, there is a huge increased protein utilization leading to tissue repair and protein development. Here this would be equating to around 82-116 grams of protein each day and that too for a 150-pound person.

There would be an adequate amount of carbohydrates and whole calorie intake for the muscles to grow. This is for the proper utilization of the proteins as well. Keep in mind that not consuming the required amount of fat and carbohydrates will make your body to break down the proteins for getting energy.

However, protein is not the required energy source for your body. It is reserved for the major function of repairing and building tissues. Sometimes people consume a lot of proteins, along with other nutrients. Here the excess one will be stored as fat.

Would You Be Able to Get Enough Protein from Plants?

Well, the answer is yes. The deficiency of protein is very much rare in countries like the USA. Vegan athletes and vegetarians need to consume a good amount of proteins. They have to intake various kinds of food like legumes, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, soy products, etc.

Sometimes the bioavailability of protein (which would be lower in required amino acid) will be lesser in certain plant foods like cereals vs beans and soy food. Here you can encourage huge sources of protein intake just like any diet. This is the key to achieving the adequately required dietary needs.

Best Plant-Related Protein Diet

With the right plant-based food, you can get the best source of protein and other major nutrients. These are ones that have fewer calories compared to animal products. Now certain plant products like quinoa and soybeans are filled with proteins. Hence, it means that they contain all the nine necessary amino acids required by humans. Other various amino acids are missed, so it is important to consume various diets.

Some of the major plant-based and healthy food containing high protein content is –

Tofu, Tempeh and Edamame

Do you know that soy products have the highest sources of protein? They are the best plant-based diet and the protein content in them varies based on how the soy is cooked or prepared.

For example, firm tofu which is nothing, but a soybean curd will have around 10 grams of proteins per ½ cup. Concerning the edamame beans which are immature soybeans, it will have 8.5 g of protein per ½ cup. Also, the tempeh will have 15g of proteins per ½ cup.

The tofu will take the flavour of the dish it is creating so that it can be an added versatility to the additional meal. Now people can try tofu as a meal substitute in various favourite soup and sandwiches. Frankly, tofu is one of the popular meat substitutes used in certain dishes like sweet and sour chicken, kung pao chicken.

Also, such soy products will be having good levels of iron and calcium. This will help in making them a great substitute for various dairy products.


If you check the green or red lentils will be having a huge amount of fibre, proteins, and some of the major nutrients like potassium and iron. If you check cooked lentils will be having 8.84 g of proteins per ½ cup.

Also, lentils are the greatest source of proteins that can be added to your lunch and dinner routine. You can even add them to your curries, stews, rice, and salads for getting some extra portion of proteins.


Cooked chickpeas have a high amount of proteins. They would be containing somewhere around 7.25g per ½ cup. Chickpeas can be consumed either as a hot or cold dish and they are very much versatile. You can make various dishes out of them from the online recipes. For example, you can add them to your curries and stew or even with the spiced paprika and roast them in the oven.

Some people consume them as hummus and even add it to the sandwich for protein-rich, healthy, and alternative to butter.


Of course, peanuts are protein rich. They are filled with healthy fats and can improve one’s heart health. Roughly, they would be containing around 20.5g of proteins per each ½ cup. Peanut butter is rich in proteins and each of the 8g per tablespoon of them which is used in making a peanut butter sandwich is a healthy protein snack.


Almonds provide 16.5g of proteins per ½ cup. They are even filled with a good amount of vitamin E which is best for the eyes and skin.


Well, the Spirulina is a green or blue alga containing 8g of protein per two-tablespoon. It is even rich in nutrients like iron, vitamin B, however, they are not rich in vitamin B-12 and manganese.

Do you know that you can get Spirulina online as a supplement or powder? You can add it to the water, fruit juices, and smoothies. Some people even sprinkle it over salads and snacks for increasing the protein content.


Quinoa is the finest grain having high-protein content. It is filled with complete protein. Cooked quinoa will be having 8g of protein per cup. Also, this grain is filled richly with various nutrients like iron, magnesium, manganese, and fibre. Plus, it is hugely versatile.

Quinoa is filled with pasta in stews and soups. Also, it can be sprinkled with salad and even eaten along with the main course.


Mycoprotein is a fungus-related protein. The Mycoprotein product will be having around 13g of protein per ½ cup serving. Nowadays, products with mycoprotein are commonly advertised as meat substitutes. They are available in various forms like chicken cutlets and nuggets. However, most of the products will be containing egg white, so people need to check the label before making the purchase.

Chia Seeds

Seeds are simply low-calorie food that is extremely rich in fibre and heart healthy. They even have Omega-3 fatty acids. The Chia seed is filled with a huge source of protein and they would be having 2g of protein per tablespoon.

You can try adding chia seeds to a smoothie and then sprinkle them in various plant-based yogurt. You can even soak them in water or almond milk for making puddings. Chia seeds are available from various supermarkets, online stores, and even health food stores.

Hemp Seeds

Like the chia seed, hemp seeds are filled with a huge amount of protein. The Hemp seed provides 5g of protein per tablespoon. You can even use them just like the chia seed. Plus, you can get them from online stores too.

Meal Planning Is the Major Key

Always keep it simple. If you are going for a plant-based protein diet, then make sure it is simple. Add various varieties so that as an adult or athlete, you can enough energy to do workouts or exercises. Plant proteins can even be used for making great dishes.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.