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Can plant-based protein help me reach my fitness goals?

Can plant-based protein help me reach my fitness goals?

Plant-based lifestyles have risen in popularity, leaving many wondering where they can get their protein from.

Whether you’re an athlete, bodybuilder or just someone looking to optimise their fitness routine, you’re likely wondering if plant-based protein can help you achieve your fitness goals.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why is protein so important for fitness?

Protein is a crucial macronutrient for muscle growth and overall body function.

Many plant-based protein sources are rich in protein and can help you meet your daily requirements. Protein aids in repairing microtears in muscle fibres promoting muscle hypertrophy and overall strength development, which is why it’s vital in the post-workout recovery phase.

One key consideration for a plant-based lifestyle is paying attention to amino acid profiles. Unlike some animal proteins, many plant-based sources don’t provide all essential amino acids in the same proportion, making them incomplete proteins individually.

Essential amino acids are those the body can’t produce on its own and you need to get them through your diet. While animal-based proteins typically contain all essential amino acids in adequate amounts, some vegan sources may lack certain amino acids, making it crucial to combine various plant proteins to achieve a complete amino acid profile.

However, this doesn’t mean plant-based protein is inadequate. By incorporating a variety of plant foods into your diet, you can get all the essential amino acids over the course of a day or week.

You can combine complementary proteins, like beans and rice or hummus and whole grain pita, to create a more balanced amino acid profile, supporting muscle synthesis and optimising performance.

How you can achieve your fitness goals with plants

You can absolutely reach your fitness goals by following a plant-based diet.

Contrary to popular belief that animal-based proteins are superior for muscle building, studies have shown that plant-based proteins can be just as effective.

As long as you meet your daily protein requirements, the source of your protein doesn’t make much of a difference to your performance.

Where do vegans get their protein?

Many people believe a plant-based diet is lacking in protein. However, you can get protein from a variety of plant sources.

Some key protein sources for vegans include:

  • Legumes and pulses
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Plant-based protein powders, typically including hemp or pea protein.

How much protein should you aim for?

Optimal protein intake varies based on individual factors such as body weight, activity level and fitness goals. If you exercise regularly, your protein requirement will be higher than someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle.

Many experts recommend aiming for a daily protein intake of 1.6 – 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight for strength training or engaging in intense physical activity. This range ensures an adequate supply of amino acids to support muscle growth, enhance recovery and optimise performance.

It’s best to distribute your protein intake evenly across meals throughout the day to maximise its effectiveness.

Is there a ‘right’ time to eat protein?

After an intense workout, our muscles undergo stress and fatigue that demands effective recovery strategies. Consuming protein as soon as possible after your workout is crucial for replenishing energy stores and speeding up your recovery.

For example, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a high-impact workout with short bursts of intense activity followed by shorter periods of rest.

Muscle proteins typically break down during these types of workouts. Therefore, consuming protein after physical activity provides the necessary amino acids to prevent further muscle breakdown. Aim for 20-40 grams of protein following a training session.

How to consume protein post-workout:

  • Protein bar
  • Oatmeal with protein powder
  • Protein shake
  • Protein smoothie
  • Tofu scramble
  • Cereal with soy milk.
Can plant-based protein help me reach my fitness goals?

The benefits of plant-based protein for fitness

Beyond muscle repair and growth, plant-based protein provides additional benefits for improving your overall fitness.

Here are some of the key benefits: 

  • Weight management and satiety: Plant-based protein sources are often lower in saturated fats and calories, making them great for weight management. Additionally, plants are higher in fibre, promoting a feeling of fullness and assisting appetite control.
  • Digestive ease: Many plant-based proteins and protein powders are easier on the digestive system compared to some animal counterparts like whey. Additionally, the higher fibre content contributes to improved digestion and absorption of essential nutrients, ensuring your body efficiently uses the fuel provided.
  • Joint health: Some plant-based protein sources, like legumes and nuts, come with anti-inflammatory properties. These can potentially contribute to joint health by reducing inflammation and easing discomfort.
  • Heart health: Plant-based foods can improve heart health and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Reach your fitness goals with plants

Plant-based protein can indeed play a significant role in helping you reach your fitness goals.

Whether you’re focused on muscle building, weight management, endurance or overall health and wellbeing, incorporating a variety of plant-based protein sources into your diet can provide the necessary nutrients for optimal performance.

Beth Rush - Writer - SHE DEFINED

Beth Rush

This article was written by Beth Rush.

Beth is the nutrition editor at Body+Mind and has more than 5 years of experience writing about how to sample global cuisines sustainably. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag. Subscribe to Body+Mind for more posts by Beth Rush!