I am an unapologetic omnivore and would miss animal protein too much to ever cut it out of my meal regimen. However, I understand and respect the fact that other people may choose to avoid meat. Though it can be a challenge to consume sufficient protein if you’re vegetarian or vegan, it can be done, even if you compete in bodybuilding contests or other sports.
Daily protein intake for the average individual should be around 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, but I recommend a MUCH higher intake for weightlifters. For example, though I am 116 pounds, I typically consume anywhere from 120 to 170 grams of protein per day, spread out over 5 to 7 small meals. If I were vegan, though, I would consume one or two additional meals per day to ensure that I got enough protein in my system to maintain muscle mass.
Vegans and vegetarians need to be careful with their consumption of nuts and seeds, because they have a high caloric density and are packed with fat. Another challenge is the fact that plant protein sources are notorious for being incomplete proteins, which means that they don’t provide all the amino acids the body needs to function. Soy is a main source of complete plant protein which I never recommend (exceptions are tofu and tempeh), and I advise my patients and clients to avoid soy protein powder, soy milk, and other soy based products like the plague for a multitude of reasons. That leaves grains like quinoa and amaranth on the very small list of complete plant proteins which I recommend to vegetarians and vegans.
A certain amount of creativity must exist in the diet of a vegetarian or vegan in order to ensure that all the amino acids the body needs are eaten. What I mean by this is that protein sources should be combined so that whichever amino acids are absent in one protein source will be provided by another. In general, grains, seeds or nuts can be paired with legumes to form complete proteins. One great example is nut butter on bread. Another great option is brown rice and chick peas.
Below is a list of the best vegan protein sources.
Pinto, kidney, or black beans