Adopting a plant-based diet often comes with that age-old question: Where do you get your protein? You quickly learn that plants have plenty of protein, especially legumes, soy, and foods like tofu that are derived from plants. There are many sources of protein aside from animal products. As simple as it may seem, when you eat plant-based, you are getting your protein from the same source as animals do: Plants. You're just cutting out the middle man.

A typical plant-based meal offers up to 10 grams of protein per serving, which is between 15 and 20 percent of your daily protein requirement depending on your gender, size, age, and training goals. The average woman needs 45 to 50 grams of protein per day while a man requires about 10 grams more, or anywhere from 55 to 70 grams depending on whether they are training for an event or trying to build muscle mass.

Assuming you eat three meals a day as well as healthy plant-based snacks such as nuts, seeds, nut butter, or a healthy serving of edamame or hummus, it's actually easy to reach your daily protein goal on a plant-based diet.

According to Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (the author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook), protein intake shouldn’t vary between genders but is based more on size. She explains that protein needs are based on grams per pound of body weight. An easy calculator for protein tells you exactly how much you need based on weight, height, age, and activity level, which is one of the main factors in how much protein you should eat to maintain a healthy weight, and build lean muscle.

Proteins help the body rebuild muscles after a workout

The role of protein in the body is to build and repair damaged muscle cells. If you are active and work out daily, getting protein is a priority to rebuild cells that get damaged during your fitness session.

Getting fit and building muscle through training happens because, during your workout, you cause micro-tears in the muscle fibers, and when you eat protein afterward, the body responds by repairing the muscle fibers and making them larger, which is why strength training builds strong muscles.

As you eat protein it helps the muscles to rebuilt by replacing the muscle fiber that was broken down. Consuming protein shortly after a workout helps these muscles repair and rebuild larger and stronger than they were before.

Proteins play an important role in weight loss

Eating protein also helps in losing weight since proteins take more time to digest, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. A full stomach will prevent you from snacking. Additionally, when you build muscle mass in the body, it burns more calories at rest than fat does, so just sitting in your chair working will lead to more calorie burn if you build up your muscles at the gym.

Meanwhile plant-based protein is as good, or better, a source as any: A recent study shows that consuming a high-protein plant-based diet to support muscle strength works similarly to those using an omnivorous diet to build muscles.

8 High-Protein Foods To Eat To Lose Fat and Gain Muscle

Healthy vegan tofu tortilla wraps
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1. Soy Protein

Soy products are the richest plants in protein per serving since 36 percent of soybean is made of protein. We eat soy in different forms, however, and this makes the protein amount per serving vary slightly depending on the type of soy you eat.

  • Firm tofu (soybean curd) has 10 grams of protein per half a cup.
  • Edamame 8.5 grams of protein per half a cup.
  • Tempeh has 15 grams of protein per half a cup.

Since soy comes in various forms, it is easy to use in salads, as meat substitutes, and to add to soup to make it more filling. A 2018 study found that using soy protein is healthier for you than using animal protein if you want to add protein to your smoothies, since not only does it help in building muscles, it does so without raising your blood cholesterol the way saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy) does.

Seitan Tikka Masala on rice with soy yogurt and served with paratha bread
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2. Seitan

Seitan is the gluten found in wheat so some people avoid it who are gluten sensitive. It has a meaty texture so it makes a good replacement in meals. Seitan contains 21 grams of protein per ⅓ cup. It is a source of selenium and has minimum amounts of calcium, iron, and phosphorus. Due to the low amounts of lysine in seitan, it is not a complete protein like beans.

Seitan is low in calories, leaves you feeling full, and can reduce cravings, which in turn helps you in losing weight. The high protein content in seitan is one reason people love to eat it to help build muscles, as a perfect meal after working out.

Avoid seitan if you are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease.

vegetarian chili con carne, chili sin carne
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3. Lentils

Lentils are so versatile they are a great addition to soups, stews, and salads. A cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein.

Lentils also are high in dietary fiber, both the soluble and the insoluble types. One cup of lentils provides one cup of cooked lentils provides more than 15 grams of dietary fiber. or nearly half the fiber you need in a day. (Men need at least 30 to 38 grams of fiber each day. Women need at least 20 to 25 grams of fiber each day.) The fiber in lentils also feeds the good bacteria in your body, promoting gut health. Since you’ll feel fuller after eating lentils due to the high amount of protein and fiber, they help promote weight loss.

The soluble fiber in lentils helps slow down the absorption of food, making you eat less the next meal because you feel full longer. The high-protein and low-fat content of lentils help in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and coronary heart disease, studies show.

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4. Chickpeas and Beans

Chickpeas and all kinds of beans contain a rich amount of protein per serving. Beans and lentils have 15 grams of protein per cup when cooked. Not only are these legumes rich in protein, but they also contain complex carbs, iron, folate, phosphorus, and manganese.

A randomized trial indicated that the regular consumption of white kidney beans resulted in weight loss and a loss of body fat. This study measured one group eating white beans over 35 days, in comparison to the group that didn't, and showed a significant difference.

Studies have also proved that a diet rich in beans and chickpeas lowers blood pressure, controls blood sugar levels, and decreases cholesterol. Most varieties of beans help in building lean muscle, so if you are looking for a post-workout meal or snack, add beans.

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5. Nuts

All kinds of nuts are an excellent source of protein, but some are higher than others

  • Peanuts contain 20.5g of protein per half a cup.
  • Almonds have 16.5g of protein per half a cup.

Nuts are versatile so add nuts or nut butter to smoothies, soups, salads, or just eat them as snacks. Having a handful of mixed nuts every day combined with other protein-rich meals will help increase satiety, reduce cravings, and make you feel fuller for longer.

Nuts have other benefits like protecting you from heart disease and diabetes. A 5-year study also shows that regular intake of nuts leads to decreased risk of being obese or overweight.

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6. Spirulina and Chlorella

Spirulina is a blue-green alga that’s so full of nutrition that people often take a shot of spirulina or chlorella, another alga, after working out. Two tablespoons of spirulina provides your body with 8 grams of protein while also providing 22 percent of your daily iron and thiamine and 42 percent of your daily copper needs. There are few plant-based foods that can provide all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs, but spirulina and chlorella both contain all nine.

According to research, spirulina helps reduce BMI, waist size, and appetite in people who consume it regularly. It also helps in lowering blood lipids significantly.

Vegan buddha bowl with hummus, quinoa with curry, lettuce, sprouts, green and red cherry tomatoes, sliced radish and sesame and poppy seeds
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7. Quinoa

Though technically a seed, Quinoa can substitute for whole grains like pasta and rice in meals. Quinoa has 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per cup when cooked. Quinoa is also rich in all nine essential amino acids. You can enjoy Quinoa in place of grains, in salads, or in your smoothies.

Quinoa helps in weight loss by helping to boost metabolism and decrease appetite, research shows and it appears to help your body metabolize fat better. In the lab, rats fed a high fructose diet and then quinoa were healthier than those not fed the quinoa. And, because you eat quinoa in place of other high caloric grains, it can help reduce daily caloric intake. Quinoa contains significant amounts of phytochemicals including flavonoids, phenolic acids, squalene, fat-soluble vitamins, fatty acids, and it has a low glycemic index.

The fiber in Quinoa will keep you fuller for longer, pushing you to your weight loss goals. It also helps in increasing mass muscle index.

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8. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are low in calories and extremely high in protein and essential amino acids. Chia seeds contain 2 grams of protein per tablespoon. After a workout, add chia seeds to your smoothie, salads, or make a chia seed pudding to have as a snack. Or add flax seeds, which provide 2 grams of protein per tablespoon. Another high-protein seed is hemp. Hemp seeds offer 5 grams of protein per tablespoon. You can use them similarly to chia seeds.

Bottom Line: To build muscle, add plant-based protein to your post-workout snack.

Most plant-based foods high in protein tend to be low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Add plant-based protein foods to your day to aid in weight loss and build muscle, especially when combined with weight training. Plant-based diets are generally low in fat, and research has proved that they contribute to weight loss.

Consumption of proteins keeps the body fuller for longer, preventing you from eating now and then. Proteins are a necessary component too for strength, building muscles, and boosting immunity.

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