Protein is the powerhouse behind your gains. When you lift heavy, protein repairs the tiny tears that strength training creates in your tissues, which helps your muscles grow bigger, faster. You already know that meat is your friend here: chicken, beef, and fish are all packed with the filling macronutrient.
But what if you prefer tofu over turkey? Or beans over beef?
No sweat, you can absolutely build and maintain a built physique on a vegetarian diet. In fact, a recent Arizona State University study found no difference in measures of strength or endurance — or levels of lean body mass — in vegetarian athletes compared to meat eaters.
The caveat? Because animal-based proteins tend to be higher in the essential amino acid leucine (the most important for triggering your gains), you’ll need to eat a wide variety of foods — like Greek yogurt, tempeh, and lentils — to make sure you’re getting enough without meat. (Here’s everything you need to know about gaining muscle on a vegetarian diet, including the foods that will help you get there.)
Not sure where to start? Here’s how you can serve up a day’s worth of protein-packed vegetarian meals and snacks that won’t leave you feeling like your muscles (and appetite) are taking a hit.