The Vegetarian Weightlifter’s Diet
Most of the work you put into weightlifting comes in the form of eating, which would be easy enough if you didn’t have targets to hit. Those targets will vary based on your weight and goals, but a high-protein diet supports muscle-building at all stages of strength training. Andreas Abelsson wrote an excellent primer on this topic.
And you don’t need meat (literally). For fellow vegetarians who weightlift, here’s my cheatsheet:
- Whey protein (19g protein/100kcal)
- No-sugar yogurt (18g)—Traditional yogurt sold in American supermarkets is weirdly sweet and loaded with added sugars. Better options include sugarless varieties sweetened with stevia such as Chobani Zero Sugar and Oikos Triple Zero.
- Cottage cheese (13g), cheese
- Tofu (10g)—While tofu can be time-consuming to prepare, it can be made in batches. One method is baking: Cube 3-4 pounds (about eight servings), layer on a baking sheet, and then bake for 60-75 minutes at 350ºF. Cooked tofu can be stored in the refrigerator for about ten days.
- Eggs (9g)
- Soy milk (9g)—There’s no “one” recipe for soy milk. Some soy milks are bad. Silk and Rolling Farms, in their unflavored unsweetened varieties, are good. While soy milk is not a new hip milk, most alternative milks don’t provide the amount of protein soy does and don’t taste as rich. (Cow’s milk is of course vegetarian, but I prefer soy milk to moderate my otherwise dairy-heavy diet.)
- Plant-based burgers (9g)—Recent disturbing food safety concerns notwithstanding, Beyond Meats’ faux beef is savory, versatile, and easy to prepare. Cook on medium-high for five minutes, flip, and then cook for another two, done.
- Beans (6g)—If you dislike beans, perhaps you just haven’t met the right bean yet. I’m partial to pinto and dark red.
- Protein-fortified oatmeal (4-6g)—While you could presumably add unflavored protein to any oatmeal, I like Health Warrior’s Grains & Seeds Oatmeal (sold in bulk at Costco) or Kodiak Protein-Packed Maple & Brown Sugar.
- Nuts and peanut butter (4g)
Once you see the protein content of various foods, you can’t unsee them. Choosing the “right” foods will eventually become second nature. I use Cronometer to record what I eat and track my daily progress.
I still enjoy grains—bread, tortillas, crackers, and rarely rice—but I mostly limit myself to their whole-grain varieties, with no or few added sugars, like Dave’s Killer Bread. As for flavor, I’m neither a cook nor a foodie, but salsa, hot sauce, squeezed citrus, and sour cream are no-effort methods of improving the taste of the savory-but-bland foods listed above. ￭