When you exercise, your body needs an increased amount of protein. Specifically, it is the amino acids in the protein—like leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and methionine—that help your muscles heal after a grueling workout and grow in size and strength.
In the world of body building, this is called “recovery” and it tends to present an issue for some vegans since most protein suggestions are in the form of meat or other animal-based foods.
Though the human body does not need as much as protein as some people like to promote, it's an essential macro nutrient that people who like to work out should be on the lookout for.
So what are the best post-workout protein sources if you choose to live a vegan lifestyle and need plant-based foods instead of meat or dairy? Here are eight to consider.
To give your body a protein punch, simply grab a handful of nuts after your workout. Some of the healthiest nuts to consume include almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and cashews. Just be sure to choose the ones with no added salt so you don’t boost your blood pressure, too.
Another way to get your nuts in is to buy nut butter. All you do is spread it on a piece of whole wheat toast and then you’ll get your necessary protein with
Be cautious though if you're trying to lose weight because calorically dense foods like nuts or seeds can be counterproductive here.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are high in fiber as well as protein. And there are many ways to roast them, if you don't like them plain, so that you get different tastes depending on what you crave.
Some are savory (think Worcestershire sauce and garlic) and some are sweet (imagine them baked in maple syrup), allowing you to pick the one that suits your taste buds best. Make a bunch of different ones and mix them together for a taste explosion in your mouth!
3. Chia Seeds
We simply cannot talk about high-protein seeds without mentioning chia. With 10 grams of protein for every ounce, adding this seed to your post-workout regimen can really help your muscles recover and grow.
Just as with the other seeds, they also go great in a shake. But they can also be sprinkled on or mixed in with many other foods to increase their protein power. Play around with them a bit and see what you can come up with. Special tip: make a chia pudding!
4. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds can be added to most any post-workout snack to increase the amount of protein you get as two tablespoons contain approximately five grams. Put them in your smoothie or juice, or sprinkle them on your oats, which are also higher in protein.
Read More: Healthy Granola Recipe
Hemp seeds also make great additions to homemade protein bars or granola. Be creative and see what you can come up with. You’ll find that you can add this ingredient to a lot of different foods to give them a protein boost.
One tablespoon of chickpeas has over two grams of protein, making it another great vegan option. You can either roast them and eat them as a snack (they’re fantastic with a sprinkle of cumin and chili powder) much as you would nuts, or you can mash them up and make a hummus that goes well with rehydrating veggies like celery and peppers.
Store bought hummus is good too, in case you don’t have time to make your own but like the idea of eating it to replenish your protein stores. There are many different flavor options available, ranging from garlic infused to hummus which is flavored with red pepper. Just make sure they are oil-free.
6. Soy Milk
Soy milk contains protein as well, and it’s easy to consume post-workout, especially if you like to drink protein shakes. Simply add it in with your protein powder, ice, and any other ingredients you prefer (maybe a little nut butter to get in more protein yet?) and you’ve got a great post-workout recovery drink.
If you work out at the gym and normally buy your shakes there, simply ask them to use soy milk when they prepare them. Most will oblige in an effort to keep their customers happy.
Although most people don’t think of spinach as a good protein source, one cup contains around four grams. Make a post-workout spinach salad and top it with nuts and seeds for a mega-shot of protein. Another option is to add the greens to your after-exercise juice and reenergize your muscles that way.
Edamame is another high-protein option that's great after you’ve worked up a sweat. And it’s easy to eat on the go. Simply remove the soybeans from the pod beforehand and all you have to do is grab them when you’re ready to refuel.
They’re also high in iron and calcium, which makes them good for your bones as well as your muscles.
Getting your necessary post-workout protein doesn’t have to be difficult, even if you choose to follow a vegan lifestyle. And with these eight food items, it isn’t. Simply incorporate these options into your after-exercise routine and your muscles will thank you in increased size and strength. That’s what you’re after anyway, right?
What are your favorite plant-based protein sources? And how do you like eating them? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author
Shelly is a Denver, Colorado-based freelance writer. She typically covers anything in the field of healthy eating and exercise, and you can follow her career on Twitter at @shellystins.
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