Protein in Vegetarian Bodybuilding

The building block for vegetarian bodybuilding is protein. Without protein and other key items in your diet, it will be very difficult to bulk up. Protein allows you to build muscle mass and fuel your muscles before and after a work-out session. This is one of the most difficult parts of bodybuilding as a vegetarian, due to the fact that protein is typically found in meats.

Your diet should typically be comprised of 4 main points (there are obviously more than just four points in your diet, however those are smaller, these are the “required foundation” for any vegetarian bodybuilder diet)-

  1. Protein
  2. Carbs
  3. Vegetables/Fruits
  4. Fats

Today we will speak about protein, one of the most essential ingredients when becoming a bodybuilder. When you consume protein, it absorbs into your muscles to allow them to grow and recover quickly. The main issue-protein is primarily found in meats. So, how do you get the needed protein without consuming man’s best friend? Below is a list of vegetarian alternatives to meat that are high in protein.

Soy– Soy foods are the most common way for vegetarians to get protein in their diet. They include soybeans, soy milk, and tofu.

Soy Foods Protein Calories Fat
Soybeans, 1 cup cooked 29 g 298 10 g
Tempeh, 4 oz cooked 21 g 223 13 g
Edamame, 1 cup shelled 20 g 240 10 g
TVP, 1/4 cup dry 12 g 80 0 g
Soy nuts, 1/4 cup roasted 11 g 200 1 g
Tofu, 4 oz raw 9 g 86 5 g
Soy nut butter, 2 tablespoons 7 g 170 11 g
Soymilk, 1 cup sweetened 7 g 100 0.5 g
Soymilk, 1 cup unsweetened 7 g 80 0.5 g

Legumes- Legumes are made up of dried beans, peas, and lentils. And are the second most common way to get protein in your vegetarian bodybuilding diet. Enjoyed by both vegetarians and omnivores alike! These will typically have a lot more “bang for their buck” in reference to the amount of protein they typically contain per cup.

Legumes, 1 cup cooked Protein Calories Fiber
Soybeans 29 g 298 10 g
Lentils 18 g 230 16 g
Split peas 16 g 231 16 g
Navy beans 16 g 258 12 g
Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) 15 g 269 12 g
Black beans 15 g 227 15 g
Kidney beans 15 g 225 11 g
Lima beans 15 g 216 13 g
Pinto beans 14 g 234 15 g

Keep in mind folks, just because something has protein, that doesn’t mean it is the correct choice to revolve your meal around or gives you everything you need for energy. Make sure you are not just looking at whether or not a food choice has protein, but that it is a Complete Protein. When referencing complete proteins, that means that it contains the Nine Essential Amino-Acids. Incomplete proteins will only have some or few of these amino acids. Amino Acids are known as the building blocks of protein (what makes up a protein macro-nutrient), and all together are essential in creating enzymes, antibodies, and muscle tissue. Keep in mind, it is very difficult to find protein in a vegan bodybuilding diet that has all amino acids, so typically you will want to combine different proteins together to create a “complete protein”.

The Nine Essential Amino Acids:

Leucine– Used in the liver, muscle and adipose tissue, and muscle protein synthesis.

Isoleucine– Creates Ketone Bodies (broken down for energy in the liver, heart, and brain) and fatty acids.

Lysine– Important in calcium absorption, building muscle protein/recovery, and producing enzymes, antibodies, and hormones.

Phenylalanine– Helps convert into dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine.

Methionine– Used in the liver, skin tone, nails, and hair. Helps the body process and eliminate fat in the body.

Threonine– Helps the body with keeping teeth healthy, digestion, immune system, and nutrient absorption.

Valine– Helps with muscle endurance, growth, repair, and maintaining the proper amount of nitrogen in the body.

Tryptophan– Helps the brain produce serotonin (lack of serotonin is what causes depression), niacin, and melatonin.

Histidine– Helps with sexual function, detoxification in the body, the immune system, and digestion.

If you liked this article, don’t forget to check out my article How I Started Vegetarian Bodybuilding  and our Facebook at

There are also many different protein supplements for vegetarian bodybuilding, how do YOU get your protein in your diet, comment below!


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