If there’s one question all vegans get asked, it’s: “But where do you get your protein?” Concern trolling has soured the inquiry for a lot of vegans, largely because the biological requirements for protein are, in fact, much lower than many Americans believe. Vegans know this, so they can see through the veneer of concern in their coworker’s casual question. Kevin’s pretending to care about my health only because it’s an easy vehicle for him to pick apart my values or lifestyle. (Fat people experience this a lot, too—even more so than vegans.)
But it’s a valid question! And many would-be vegans have this curiosity.
It’s an even more valid question for people who want to build muscle. While our basic protein requirements are pretty low (more on that later), it’s true that athletes should eat more than the bare minimum. When people know you’re trying to get buff with plants, the question is a bit more pertinent, and the answer a bit more interesting.
How much protein do you actually need?
As the author of this Popular Science article points out, protein is essential. But it’s also not hard to get the required minimums if you’re eating real foods (and not just, like, Double Stuf Oreos all day). Beans, grains, and veggies all have protein. People forget this because somehow the American consciousness has been programmed to think that all high-protein foods must also be low-carb. That’s not the case. Also, carbs are good. In fact, fiber is very, very good. But that’s the subject of another blog post.
Government experts in North America say non-athletic folks should get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This morning I weighed 136.6 pounds, or 62 kg. That means at minimum I would need only 50 grams of protein. That’s…not a lot!
But athletes (and aspiring athletes) do need more, especially if they’re trying to build muscle (hi) or are lifting weights (hi again). The expert Popular Science interviewed said “1.6g/kg of bodyweight would be likely sufficient for the recreational lifter,” he says, “but no harm is done if you consume more.” So that puts me at 99.2 grams of protein every day.
That sounds like a lot, but what you’ll see below is just how fast your protein count can add up. Eating 100+ grams of protein a day is not that exceptional for me. That’s likely in part because I’m like a heat-seeking missile. I can’t help it! High-protein foods keep me fuller longer, and keep my blood sugar from going a bit wild.
How do I get so much of that sweet, sweet macronutrient? Below are my secret weapons:
High-protein vegan foods
This list is in no particular order. I didn’t include any recipes or anything too complicated. This list is meant to be easy, grab-and-go meal options. Macros are included, of course.
High-protein vegan meats
- Gardein’s The Ultimate Beefless Ground
- In 57g or 1/2 cup: 12p, 5c, 1.5f
- Primal Strips (vegan jerky)
- In 1 strip: 11p, 7c, 3f
- Beyond Meat’s chicken-free strips
- In 6 strips: 20p, 5c, 3f
- Lightlife’s white bean and kale veggie deli slices
- In 3 slices: 11p, 7c, 3f
- Tofurky’s deli slices
- In 5 slices: 13p, 5c, 3f
- Tofurky’s kielbasa sausages
- In one sausage: 26p, 8c, 12f
- Gardein’s home-style beefless tips
- In 100g or 3/4 cup: 18p, 8c, 7f
- Trader Joe’s meatless meatballs
- In 6 pieces: 14p, 7c, 7f*
- Lightlife’s Smart Dogs
- In 1 link, which is an absurd serving because I can eat like 10: 7p, 2c, 2f
*The website I link in this bullet point has outdated nutritional info. What it says on my packaging is what I broke down here.
High-protein vegan snacks
- Raw Rev Glo Protein Bars
- In 1 bar: 15p, 17c (but 14g is fiber!), 11f
- Vega Sport protein powder (I like plain old vanilla) all shook up with organic, unsweetened soy milk (I get mine cheap at Trader Joe’s)
- In 1 scoop and 8 ounces of milk: 37p, 9c, 6.5f
- Clif Builders Bars (mint is the best)
- In 1 bar: 20p, 30c, 9f
- Vega’s protein “crisps” (chips! omg)
- In 1 bag: 15p, 19c, 9f
- Zing bars (expensive and a lotta fat but, wow, delicious)
- In 1 bar: 10p, 22c (10 is fiber), 11f
- Good old-fashioned beans on toast! (Great for when you don’t want to burn a ton of fat grams on a snack bar, which is totally fair.)
- In 100g of beans on one piece of sprouted wheat bread: 10p, 28c, 0f
And this is just what I’ve eaten recently.
Plus, there are new plant-based protein snacks and meals coming out all the dang time now. There’s so much I haven’t eaten—protein pancakes! protein cookies! protein donuts! protein lemon cake. UH YEAH, I’ll be testing them out and profiling them on this blog for sure.
What snacks help you hit your macros?
Also: do you have any killer high-protein recipes? Leave me a note in these here comments!