3 Protein Sources for Vegetarian Athletes

09 July, 2020
Amaranth protein contains lysine, an amino acid, found in many other seeds such as wheat. In this article, we'll suggest some more protein alternatives for vegetarian athletes.
 

One possible issue that vegetarian athletes can encounter is protein deficiency. But protein is really important for building muscle mass and repairing tissues. So what options do vegetarians have?

Plant proteins have low biological value because they lack some essential amino acids and are less easily digested. As a result, the way to get enough protein is by combining diverse protein sources.

By getting protein from a variety of plant sources, you can be sure of getting a complete supply of amino acids and avoiding a protein deficiency. In this article, we’ll tell you about the three types of proteins that vegetarian athletes can’t eliminate from their diets.

By eating the foods we suggest below, it’ll be easier for you to get enough protein without needing to use supplements. However, as always, if you have any doubts, you should visit a professional to get the correct advice.

Vegetarian athletes: nuts

Nuts contain a lot of protein, as well as a lot of minerals, such as zinc, which is linked to the metabolism of testosterone.

They also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for your cardiovascular health, as stated in a study published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases. Nuts are also rich in calcium, which is important for keeping your bones healthy.

However, despite all of these benefits, you need to be careful. Firstly, they don’t contain all the essential amino acids that you need, so you’ll need to combine them with other plant proteins.

 
A pile of nuts.

Secondly, they contain a lot of calories, so you’ll have to eat them in moderation. Otherwise, you could end up eating far more calories than you need. And that’s another problem altogether.

Legumes

Legumes are honestly one of the most underappreciated foods there are. The WHO recommends eating them at least once a week. Their nutritional quality should make them a preferred option for many kinds of cereal or whole grains. 

Like nuts, they’re rich in protein, but they do lack the amino acid methionine. However, they’re also a great source of fiber, and fiber is important for healthy gut microflora, as you can see in this study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Good fiber intake is also linked to improved intestinal transit and a healthier cardiovascular system. It also has positive effects on the lipid profile.

As if this weren’t enough, legumes are a great source of minerals and group B vitamins, which are involved in energy metabolism. They also contain a lot of flavonoids, antioxidants that help prevent aging and DNA damage.

A selection of legumes.
 

Amaranth for vegetarian athletes

Amaranth has an incredible 17 percent protein as well as containing a lot of fiber, calcium, and vitamin C. It also contains folic acid, which is really important for pregnant women because of the role it plays in the development of the baby’s neural tube.

Amaranth wasn’t commonly consumed until a few years ago, but these days, it’s becoming more common in western cuisine. This vegetable also contains large amounts of the amino acid lysine, an essential amino acid that’s normally lacking in other cereals.

This is why it’s a good idea to combine these seeds with wheat or rice. Amaranth also contains another limiting amino acid, leucine, which is involved in tissue creation.

Protein sources for vegetarian athletes

Vegetarian athletes need to carefully plan their diets to make sure that they get enough good-quality protein. The best way to do this is to combine different sources of plant protein to compensate for the lack of certain amino acids in some of them.

The three foods we’ve mentioned above contain a lot of protein. Try to eat them almost every day in combination with other vegetables.

They’re all ingredients that are easy to find, and there’s a wide range of recipes to be found online to give you some inspiration.

If you suspect that you’re not getting enough protein, make a visit to your doctor. With professional advice, you’ll be able to balance a vegetarian diet properly. They may even be able to recommend some vegan protein supplements to address any deficiency you might have.

 
  • Colussi G., Catena C., Novello M., Bertin N., Sechi LA., Impact of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on vascular function and blood pressure: relevance for cardiovascular outcomes. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2017. 27 (3): 191-200.
  • Kassem M., Edward Deehan C., Walter J., Backhed F., Cell Host Microbe, 2018. 23 (6): 705-715.