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The 21 best muscle building foods for vegetarians

Updated May 11, 2017

There’s a popular perception that you can’t improve on your muscle mass if you’re a vegetarian. “You’ll never build muscle mass,” detractors say. “You won’t get enough protein.” Well, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. Here are 21 veggie-friendly muscle-building foods that are power houses for workouts.

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Quinoa is a tasty grain-replacing sidekick. It’s a great source of plant based calcium, protein (24 grams per 25 grams) and fiber. And for gluten-free peeps, it’s safe.

Pea-rice-hemp protein powder

It’s high in protein and fiber, low in carbs, and tastes great. Start and end your day with a protein shake made with this stuff.


These green are chock full of antioxidants and heart healthy fats - including saturated fats that help support the production of testosterone, the hormone you need to produce muscle. Avocados taste great on just about anything.


A favourite breakfast dish. Porridge is loaded with minerals, fiber, and protein. Combine it with coconut milk, crushed walnuts, and Stevia (for sweetness) and you’ll have a nutritionally potent vegetarian way to start your day.


Never leave home without a handful of almonds in your bag. They’re great-tasting, and are high in fiber, protein, and minerals, making them the perfect snack for satisfying late-morning hunger.

Black beans

Black beans are one of the tastiest and most nutrient-packed bean around, hands down. Use them in black bean soup, on salads, and in homemade black bean hummus.


This cruciferous veggie is nearly 40% protein and high in fiber and low in calories making it a great way to get a lot of nutrition out of food that’s easy on the waistline. Enjoy dipping raw broccoli in hummus as a snack.

Coconut milk

This milk is now readily available in a low-calorie, high nutrient product that tastes great in coffee, on cereal, or by the glass. Coconut milk is higher in calcium and lower in calories than traditional milk and generally fortified with plant-based B-12.

Sweet potatoes

Cut them up and fry them with onions, mushrooms, and garlic for a ridiculously delicious breakfast potato dish. Added bonus: Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium, vitamins A and C, and fiber.


Seitan is sometimes called "wheat meat" because it’s derived from wheat protein and can be made into amazing "mock" meats that are comparable to steak in protein content but far lower in calories – and have virtually none of the fat.


It generally goes without saying but green leafy veggies probably have the most concentrated nutrition of any food you can find. Replace lettuce in your salads and sandwiches with spinach and you’ll be adding extra protein, iron and fiber to your diet.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds provide a terrific amount of Omega-3’s, which fight inflammation and help speed muscle recovery, and may also help improve muscle protein synthesis (the process by which your body produces muscle). These extremely versatile seeds can be easily added to a shake, and even can be used as an oil substitute when baking.


The black bean's little white counterpart is also packed with nutrients, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Try them mixed with cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar for a great Chickpea salad.

Brown rice

Brown rice has 3 more grams of fiber per serving than white rice, so stick with the darker option whenever possible. It's especially good if you're rolling some homemade sushi.

Natural peanut butter

Most processed peanut butter like you’ll find at the supermarket are stuffed with added sugars and other rubbish that take away from this food’s natural goodness. Stay away from those, and instead opt for the natural kind, which is high in fiber and protein.


Walnuts are another great source of Omega-3's, and are also packed with Vitamin E - a powerful antioxidant that can help your muscles recovery from tough gym sessions. They make a great addition to oatmeal and shakes, but are also delicious on their lonesome.

Collard greens

Another nutrient-dense veg in the green leafy veggie family, eating collard greens is like taking a potent multivitamin: They're packed with vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, as well as Folate. Try them as wraps for your favourite sandwiches.


Super low in calories, cauliflower is loaded with vitamins and is about 30 percent protein. Always keep cooked-mashed cauliflower in the fridge to use as a mashed potato substitute.


These legumes are a protein powerhouses, that we often use around our dinner table on salads or as a grain replacer. Lentils are another great source of fiber.

Portobello mushrooms

These substantial fungi make great "meat replacers" in burgers or on sandwiches. Portobello mushrooms taste amazing, and are close to a whopping 50 percent protein while also providing fiber and a host of other nutrients. Try taking a big one, marinating it in a little oil and balsamic vinegar, and tossing it on the grill.


Throw peas into stir-frys, salads, and spaghetti sauces. Or even eat them straight when you want to get a protein-packed, high fiber, vitamin- and mineral- filled food in your system.

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About the Author

Coach Robert dos Remedios has worked in strength and conditioning for more than 22 years. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on biomechanics, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the NSCA, and is a strength and conditioning collegiate coach as recognized by the CSCCa. Coach Dos has written two bestselling books: "Men's Health Power Training" and "Cardio Strength Training."

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