We all know we need protein to grow muscles. And we all know that many body builders increase their protein intake with chicken, eggs and lean meat. But there are many other sources of protein. Some will probably surprise you because we are not referring to meat. What other sources are there? How much protein do they really contain? Will they really help you?
Alternative Sources to Increase Your Protein Intake
The protein sources we will discuss are not coming from meat. There are many vegetarian body builders who never eat meat and still manage to grow muscles as much as they want. How do you get enough protein if you don’t eat meat? It turns out not to be hard at all. There are great vegetarian proteins that taste amazing. And you don’t have to eat a bucket full to get the amount of protein you need.
There are many alternatives to meat with a similar amount of protein. We put together a list of 20 of these excellent sources that are as good as meat. But there are even more All the vegetarian options on our list have at least 20g of protein per 100g. Many have even more than chicken!
Why Try Alternative Sources to Increase Your Protein Intake
There are good reasons to eat more meat-free meals. Calisthenics Worldwide does not specifically advocate a vegetarian lifestyle. Everyone should decide for themselves whay they want to eat. But we very much favour informed decision making. As always, we promise you the best evidence-based knowledge out there. We asked several body builders why they changed from a meat-based diet to a vegetarian one. Some of the reasons they have are:
- It provides health benefits for your intestines and immune system
- Eating less meat increases your lifespan, according to many studies
- Less meat consumption is better for our environment and helps combat climate change (less cattle means less greenhouse gases, less water pollution, etc.)
- Vegetarian options are often cheaper than meat
Food That Will Help You Increase Your Protein Intake
Whether you are vegetarian or not, it cannot hurt to have a varied and balanced diet. So, here is our list of protein-rich vegetarian options. All information about the amount of protein in these foods is taken from FoodData Central. And the number of grams is per 100 gram. In a future article, we will provide you with recipes based on these nutrients. Because we don’t want you to have to wait for the recipes, you can find many of them in our Clean Eating Guide right here.
Soy beans are one of the best ways to increase you protein intake, containing eight of the essential amino acids. Soy is higher in fat than other legumes but it’s mainly good fat (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids). Unsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Soy beans are also a good source of calcium, iron and magnesium.
Parmesan cheese does not just taste great. It also has great nutritional value. Besides providing protein, it is easily digested and an excellent source of calcium and vitamin A, which is good for your eyes and skin. Even though Parmesan is salty it is perfectly safe in small amounts to amplify taste and nutritional value.
Hemp seeds have a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6. Click here to read our article about the benefits of Omega fats. In addition to protein and Omega 3 and 6, it also contains magnesium, zinc and phosphorus. If hemp seed is not available in your supermarket, then you can find it in a health food store. Hemp is a variety of cannabis plant. But no worries, it will not get you high. It has no negative affects and is completely safe and legal.
Pumpkin seeds have high levels of protein and magnesium. They also contain L-tryptophan, which improves mood naturally, and phytosterols, which reduces LDL cholesterol levels. Pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, which is good for your skin and strengthens your immune system. Did you know pumpkin seeds can help you increase your protein intake?
Apart from being high in calcium and phosphorus, Gruyere cheese is also a good source of vitamin B. The cheese is semi-soft and a light yellow, full of small holes, with a natural brown and hard rind. It has a mild nutty flavor and is known as one of the best cheeses for baking. So if you did not know this already, you now have a reason to try it.
Swiss cheese is very well-known for its holes, which is the main way you can tell it apart from other cheeses. It has a mild savory taste but is low in sodium and has far less salt than many other types of cheese. Swiss cheese is a good source of protein and of vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus.
Peanuts can be a good part of a weight loss diet. They are a great source of manganese, which helps metabolic activity and burns carbs. Eating peanuts also appears to help prevent heart disease. Since peanuts generally cost less than nuts like almonds and pistachios, it is easy to reap these benefits. A cheap and delicious way to increase you protein intake.
Seitan is a meat substitute made out of hydrated gluten, the main protein found in wheat. It is sometimes called wheat gluten, wheat meat or wheat protein. Seitan has more protein than many meats. It’s an excellent source of proteins, with almost no fat and no cholesterol. Seitan can be a great substitute for meat in many recipes because of it’s texture and consistency. But be careful if you are intolerant to gluten or wheat.
Lentils are a source protein that is cholesterol free, high in fiber, low in fat and low in sodium. Lentils also have a high amount of thiamine, which maintains a healthy nervous system, and folate, which protects against heart disease, cancer, and dementia. Lentils can be used in all sides of dishes so why not incorporate them in your diet?
Kidney beans are not just great for protein but also a good source of folate and iron. They are low in fat and high in fiber, which is good for blood sugar levels.
Mozzarella contains many vitamins that help maintain healthy skin and vision, as well as vitamins that are beneficial to bone growth and the protection of cell membranes. They also assist in the absorption of calcium. Since it is made from dairy, mozzarella also has high levels of calcium.
Green peas are low in fat and sodium but high in fiber. They contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which keeps your eyes healthy. Both the fiber and lutein in peas are good for your heart because they lower cholesterol and prevent the buildup of plaque along your artery walls. They provide vitamin C for a strong immune system. The proteins and high fiber help regulate blood sugar levels.
Cheddar is a hard cheese that comes in a range of colors and tastes. It can add extra flavor to any dish. Cheddar cheese is high in calcium, phosphorus and proteins so it is great for your bones.
Navy beans are very low in saturated fat and sodium, and a great source of fiber. They’re actually not blue in color but white. And they are perfect for making baked beans. Navy beans are a source of folate, which is good for your heart and brain.
Who doesn’t like peanut butter? We already mentioned peanuts so it’s no surprise that peanut butter is in this list too. It is a great source of protein, but also high in magnesium, which will help your muscles recover. Additionally, it is rich in niacin, which keeps your brain healthy.
Beans appear in our list a lot because they simply are a great source of protein. Black beans are also great because they have a low fat content and help you feel fuller longer. They are rich in fiber and improve digestion by keeping your body clear of toxic elements, and they also help balance unhealthy cholesterol levels.
It’s kind of superflues to mention that lima beans are rich in protein. So let’s skip to the other good stuff. They contain small amounts of isoflavones, which protect against certain kinds of cancer. They also contain plant sterols that help lower cholesterol levels. And like most beans they are a good source of fiber, minerals and folate, which is important for your heart.
Almonds contain high amounts of vitamin B2 and manganese, which helps you burn carbs. They also are a rich in phosphorus for bones and teeth and vitamin E for the skin. Almonds are a great help if you are inclined to snack in front of the TV in the evening.
Sunflower seeds are one of the richest sources of vitamin E. This vitamin is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin against damage and reduces signs of aging. They also contain a copper, which again is beneficial for your skin and prevents grey hair. Sunflower seeds are extremely high in B vitamins (B1 + B6) which helps calm and maintain your nervous system.
Chickpeas are full in proteins and high in fiber, which keeps you feeling full longer, helping you stay slim and looking better. They also contain potassium, calcium and magnesium, which is an excellent mix of minerals that strengthens bones.