Let’s be honest, vegetarians have a harder time following a high protein diet than people who eat meat.
If you’re trying to build build muscle on a vegetarian diet, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself “how can I get enough protein?”
Equally, if you’re trying to lose weight and tone up with a high protein diet, I bet you’ve asked yourself the same question.
So, we’ve carefully created the “High Protein Veggie” meal plan! We’ve also taken into account the difference in calorie requirements and made one version for building muscle and one for losing weight and toning up. The plans contain loads of quick and tasty recipes high in protein, ideal to support you with your fitness goals. See below for more details.
1. Our High Protein Vegetarian Meal Plan
To cover a wider range of possibilities we designed each meal plan slightly differently. Due to differences in calorie requirements between men and women, Version One took a 5’6’’ 160 lbs female as an example. Version Two took a 5’9” male. Naturally either meal plan is suitable for any gender, please see the notes below on how to personalise them for your exact needs.
The goal is to lose weight and tone up.
The daily caloric intake is 1600 kcal – and is geared towards a 5’6’’ 160 lbs female.
- 18% protein in a 1600 kcal diet equals 80g protein
- You’ll get roughly 0.5g of protein/lb
This meal plan is designed to build muscle.
The daily caloric intake is 2500 kcal – ideal for an avg. sized male (around 5’9”).
- 20% protein in a 2500 kcal diet equals 125g protein
- You’ll get roughly 0.75g of protein/lb
Note: We’ve created these meal plans in a way that most of you can use them. But of course you should be following your own needs. Luckily calories are super easy to adjust with our “meal add-on”.
Not hungry anymore? Stop eating or skip the snacks. Or is it just not enough? Support your dishes with another meal add-on or add some fruits, nuts, yogurt or hummus to the daily snacks.
You might think that the protein share in our meal plan is still not high enough. After all, it doesn’t reach the 1g protein/lb rule often promoted in the bodybuilding world – although that’s a very contested issue, as you’ll see further on down.
Of course it’s possible to amp up the daily protein intake as a vegetarian to that amount. But let’s do two things first: see what options we have and read up on how much protein we really need.
2. Vegetarian Protein Sources
Dairy: If you eat a bowl of yogurt with oats as a snack and some cheese on a sandwich or in a salad then you already take in a very decent amount of dairy. If you overdo it, you might get problems with acne (back to age 16, yaay!) or your poop.
Legumes: To eat 2-3 cups of cooked legumes you will probably need two meals. In my opinion that’s enough. Here’s why: first, the more beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils you eat the more of a fart festival you’ll be.
Second, even though legumes are considered to be super healthy in mainstream medicine, there is some controversy about the dangers of their high phytic acid content. Phytic acid makes it more difficult for your body to absorb nutrients like iron, zinc and calcium. BUT: if you cook legumes properly you reduce the phytic acid amount to a safe degree. Still, like with everything – better not to overdo it.
Soy: Obviously soy belongs to the family of legumes. But it deserves a separate paragraph as it’s used in so many meat replacement products. It has been stated it’s safe, but also I’m sure you’ve heard many people say soy can cause health problems (here’s an excellent piece on that issue). I’d aim for a soy yogurt, some soy milk or tofu every second day or so. Again, moderation is key.
Grains (Bread, Pasta, Rice, Oats, etc.): Grains are a great way to accompany almost any dish. Be it oats in your yogurt, brown rice with a veggie curry or a slice of bread for your soup. Plus they contain a decent amount of protein.
The drawbacks: Similar to legumes, they contain a high amount of phytic acid. And of course ramping up on grains also increases your calorie count a lot due to their high carb content. That again can lead to fat pads above your muscles 😉
Nuts & Seeds: It’s great to have them in your diet, not only for protein but also for various other nutrients (iron for example; flax & chia seeds for omega-3). By increasing your protein intake through nuts, you’ll move up your overall calorie intake a lot. They are incredibly nutrient dense.
Also, too many of them might lead to digestion problems. There’s a reason you feel usually pretty stuffed after two handful of nuts or seeds.
Eggs: Are healthy and among other nutrients are an awesome source of protein. I personally think two a day is enough though. I mean seriously. This literally means you have 2-3 chickens running (or standing) around somewhere producing eggs ONLY FOR YOU.
When I see high protein recipes calling for 6 egg whites I can only shake my head. It’s the epiphany of “I don’t care, I need to look good. Me”. At some point it’s got to go beyond me and my body.
Green Vegetables and Leaves: The more the merrier. We should try to get some greens on our plates every day, ideally twice. If you eat more greens to improve your protein intake, you probably won’t get health problems, nor will you put on weight.
The only downside is you’ll have to eat loads! I’d love to see you munch two bunches of broccoli a day for 18g of protein. Difficult task.
As vegetarians these are pretty much the options we have, when we’re looking for protein. As you can see many sources can have drawbacks, if you overdo them. Admittedly, some of them are less confirmed than others.
Either way, this is reason enough for me to put the first priority of our vegetarian high protein meal plan on a balance. If you put the focus first on adding as much protein as possible, it is likely to result in an unbalanced diet, which might lead to health problems.
3. How much protein do we actually need?
The RDA, recommended daily allowance, is at 0.36g of protein per pound of body weight (0.8g per kg). By percentage that would be roughly 10% of your daily caloric income. Note that is the minimum requirement for a non-active sedentary person to not get sick. That means a full-on couch potato would just get by on that daily intake.
But how much protein do we need to thrive?
Of course this depends on your goals. But in general you can say if you want to build muscle you need more protein than if you just want to maintain your weight. A higher protein intake is also likely to be beneficial for weight loss. Although the guys from Harvard aren’t as sure as some others about the impact.
So, if you’re hitting the gym – be it for building muscle or losing weight – a healthy recommendation would be to aim for 17 – 20% percent of calories in protein per day. That would translate into roughly 0.5g – 0.7g per pound – up to double the RDA.
The more protein the better?
In the bodybuilding world often times 1g of protein per pound is recommended in order to make sure you don’t lose any “gainz”. The validity of this rule has been doubted times over in the past. Various studies found that your body can take advantage of anything up to about 0.8g of protein per pound – given that you train like an athlete (check out this study of 23 power lifters for example).
There’s also some discussion, without a clear conclusion, about the dangers of high protein diets (around 30% of calories in protein), especially in regards to kidney disease.
Whether it’s true or not – as with everything – moderation is key. Not to mention that you’d have a really tough time to reach such a high volume of protein on a vegetarian diet (well, on any diet actually) without using protein powder.
To sum things up
We have to admit that the question “where do you get your protein, bro?” is not such a bad one after all – especially if you’re pursuing fitness goals. But just filling up the meal plan with vegetarian high protein recipes and then just sending you off is not our style. This post has been prepared to give you as much information as possible as a vegetarian seeking a high protein diet.
For a vegetarian it is definitely possible to get in loads of protein in a healthy and this is what we’ve done with our meal plan. Though getting all the way up to the “bodybuilding rule” of 1g/lb is very tough. You can do it, but we have serious doubts that it’s very healthy and whether it’s actually necessary.
See you in the gym!
We would like to take a moment to note that this post is for information purposes only. It does not claim to provide medical advice or to be able to treat any medical condition. It makes no claims in respect to weight loss or building muscle, either in terms of the amount or rate at which said could be achieved. If you have any concerns regarding your health please contact your medical practitioner before making changes.
Check out our Breakfast in Six Cookbook
Our beautiful ebook, Breakfast in Six is out! It’s our favourite 30 vegetarian and vegan breakfast recipes – all made with six or less ingredients. They’ve never been seen on the site before (and never will). Check it out!