We have previously covered the importance of regular protein in an athlete’s diet to assist in training recovery. However, a common misconception around vegetarian eating is that it is impossible to consume adequate quantities of protein to support training demands.
While greater attention to meal planning is required, it is certainly possible to achieve protein levels which will optimise muscle repair, growth and recovery – even without meat, chicken or fish.
Proteins are built from amino acids and different foods have different amino acid profiles. Protein foods have a combination of essential amino acids that we need to get from the diet. In order to get the full range of essential amino acids on a vegetarian diet, combinations of protein sources are required to support peak health and performance.
Below are nine examples of nutritious and balanced meals that include a combination of vegetarian protein sources for a more diverse amnio acid profile:
1. Eggs with baked beans, grainy toast & avocado
2. Muesli with milk, reduced-fat Greek yoghurt*, nuts/seeds & berries
3. Grainy bread sandwich with reduced-fat cheese* & salad, with yoghurt on the side
4. Curry with tofu, chickpeas & mixed vegetables, served with quinoa
5. Spag bol with Quorn mince, vegetables & wholemeal pasta
6. Salad with reduced-fat feta*, tinned 4 bean mix (drained), pepita seeds & boiled egg
7. Frittata cooked with eggs, reduced-fat cheese* and mixed vegetables
8. Lentil burger with reduced-fat cheese & vegetables on a grainy roll
9. Stir-fried tempeh with mixed vegetables & brown rice
*Reduced-fat dairy is higher in protein.
Protein quantity requirements of athletes vary based on physical demands, body size and personal nutrition goals. Athletes should aim for at least 20-25 grams of protein per meal for recovery.
The table below demonstrates the need for food combinations to hit that target.
Protein in vegetarian foods:
|Rolled oats||½ cup||6|
|Baked beans||130g can||6|
|4 bean mix||75g can||6|
|Tasty cheese (reduced-fat)||2 slices||12|
|Cow’s milk||1 cup||8|
|Greek yoghurt (reduced-fat)||200g||19|
|Peanut butter (natural)||1 tbsp||5|
|Wholemeal/seeded bread||2 slices||11|