T Nation

Vegetarian Protein for the Poor Man

Just thought I’d share some info for any newbies trying (for whatever reason) to build muscle on vegetarian/vegan diets. I’m not a vegetarian/or vegan myself, but I’d reckon I eat meat only when it is offered or when I can afford it with a teacher’s budget (maybe once every month).

I’m not terribly big at 5’10’’ 215 lbs, but I’ve made decent progress in my lifts with a 415 squat, 295 bench, and a 525 deadlift since I started lifting 2 1/2 years ago (weighing in 150 lbs wet and barely deadlifting 2 plates).

Here’s 6 things I’ve found to be useful while eating mostly rice and beans for the past 4-5 years.

  1. try to eat eggs even if you don’t like them. They’re cheap and inexpensive. Go for 5-20 a day depending on how much you want to buy.

  2. legumes, grains, and seeds are your best/only sources of vegetable protein. However, any of these eaten by itself is NOT a complete protein. You have to mix one with another, or have all three at the SAME time to count as a complete protein.

ex: rice and beans, hummus on toast, curried daal with rice, lentils and barley…

If you don’t think you can live off rice and beans for more than a year you’re wrong. Many Mexicans have tried this, it seems to work.

  1. I think Thibs said once that he does not count calories, but counts protein. Don’t stress about the little things when you eat, but make sure you’re hitting 20g of whole protein or more each meal. Try to eat at least 4 meals, NOT SNACKS, a day. More is always better.

i.e. a handful of almonds is NOT a meal

  1. Buy a spice rack, some pots, cast iron pans, a food processor, and LEARN HOW TO COOK. You won’t have a problem eating if your food tastes really good.

  2. As you probably don’t have money to buy meat, forget supplements (except for a little B12 from time to time) and invest in a lot of olive oil. Put it in or on everything you eat.

  3. Vegetable protein powders are relatively expensive compared to eggs/a sack of beans and generally not that tasty. I’ve found a really good and cheap post-workout shake is 3-4 whole raw eggs, a couple spoonfuls of brown sugar, ice cubes, a dash of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Blend it all and drink. It costs about $0.45 or less to make and is actually pretty tasty.

If anyone else has some good inexpensive vegetarian protein ideas please share.