Protein Rich Alternative Foods for Bodybuilding
Contrary to what most people think, proteins don’t necessarily have to come from red meats and chicken. After all, it’s not unusual to find bodybuilders that are vegetarians, who rely completely on non-meat sources for their protein requirements.
In my opinion, there’s a certain type of wisdom behind this practice. For instance:
1. Not as expensive as meats
2. Contain fewer calories
3. Kinder to the environment
It’s just as easy to get protein without having to resort to meat.
Recently I overheard a conversation at my gym where two guys were discussing whether becoming a vegetarian would affect the muscle building process. One thing that caught my attention immediately was when one of the guys probed whether non-meat protein sources offered “complete proteins”.
Around a fortnight prior to that, I read a long article discussing “complete proteins”. For those of you wondering what complete proteins are, this term refers to amino acids that are the fundamental building blocks for protein in the body.
Did you know that there are up to 20 different types of amino acids that form protein? Did you also know that 9 of these amino acids aren’t naturally produced by the body?
These nine amino acids are often referred to as “essential amino acids”. Our bodies aren’t capable of producing these, and that’s where “complete proteins” come into play, because they help supplement “the missing nine”.
So it’s important to know what foods offer you “complete proteins”, and what foods don’t. For instance, eggs and meat will offer “complete proteins”, whereas nuts won’t. This doesn’t mean that you have to have every type of essential amino acid in every meal; you just need the right amount daily.
According to dietitians, diets that are purely plant-based contain a vast range of amino acids, meaning vegetarians are certain to get all they need with relatively little effort.
I used to be the type of guy that had to have “complete proteins” in all of what I ate. This wasn’t necessarily a problem, but at the same time it was and always necessary. Everyday foods like dairy products and eggs more than supplemented my requirements, but I was always on the lookout for new protein sources that didn’t necessarily come from meats.
Here’s what I found…
Contrary to what you may have been told in the past, Spirulina is not a “complete protein” source because it doesn’t contain any cysteine and methionine. It’s pretty easy to supplement these missing two elements by adding nuts, oats, grains, or seeds.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 4 grams of protein in a tablespoon
2. Peanut Butter
When you combine legumes like peanuts, lentils, and beans with certain grains like corn, rice and wheat, you will ultimately create “complete protein”. This is exactly why peanut butter mixed with whole wheat for instance is such a great snack! It’s high in calories, yes accepted, but it also provides an abundance of essential amino acids along with healthy fats that we all need.
Suggeseted serving size: Approximately 7.5 g of protein in a tablespoon
Rice and wheat contain a similar type of protein, which lacks lysine. Chickpeas on the other hand ooze in lysine, and this makes the proposition of eating hummus accompanied by pita very interesting. Chickpeas contain an almost identical amino acid profile to most legumes, and they should leave you free to experiment with different types of hummus, i.e. made from:
Suggested serving size: Approximately 3.5 g of protein in a tablespoon
4. Rice and Beans
The combination of rice and beans is probably one of the cheapest and simplest vegetarian meals around. Not only this, rice and beans is one of the best sources of non-meat proteins you’ll find anywhere. Beans themselves are low in methionine and extremely high in lysine. Rice on the other hand is low in lysine, and high in methionine. See where this is going? The two dovetail together to provide you with protein that is on par with what meat offers.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 7 g of protein in a cup
Yes agreed, gluten doesn’t really have a very positive image in health circles, but provided you are not gluten intolerant, it can be a very good source of protein. By combining gluten with certain herbs and spices, hydrating it with water, and letting it simmer, you end up with seitan. Although this won’t give you “complete protein”, by simply adding soy sauce will make up the lysine-deficit that you initially started with.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 21 g of protein in a 1/3 cup
This stuff was originally created to help combat chronic food shortages. It is created by growing certain fungus into meat-like substances that offer “complete proteins”. Although it might sound like something out of a science fiction movie, Quorn belongs to the mushroom family, and in all honesty, it’s quite tasty.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 13 g of protein in a 1/2 cup
With a similar appearance to couscous, quinoa is extremely nutritious. It’s packed with iron, fiber, manganese, and magnesium; and it’s a great substitute for rice. Quinoa is extremely versatile because it’s used in cookies, breakfast casseroles, fritters, and even muffins.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 8 g of protein in a cup
Buckwheat is related to rhubarb, and has absolutely nothing to do with wheat. Buckwheat is a favorite in Japan because it’s used to create “soba” (popular noodles). The seeds are usually grounded together to create a flower like substance which can be used to cook pancakes, and oatmeal. This ingredient is super healthy because trials have shown it to help enhance circulation, keep blood glucose levels in check, and lower blood cholesterol.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 6 g of protein in a cup
Related to hemp, and contains massive amounts of all of the nine essential amino acids plus calcium, iron, zinc, and magnesium. Moreover, hempseed is a great source of essential fatty acids such as omega-3s that are known to help alleviate symptoms of depression.
Suggested serving size: Approximately 5 g of protein in a tablespoon
As stated earlier, beans are known to be low in methionine, whereas soy is considered to be a “complete protein”, and according to nutritionists, it thoroughly deserves this status. Soy comes in a number of forms, “natto”, “tempeh” and “tofu”. The former two are created by fermenting the beans, but the latter is said to be the best known soy product out there. In terms of finding the best protein, it’s believed that the firmer the tofu, the more protein it contains.