Veganism is on the rise, and according to the Vegan Society, over 600,000 Brits are now following a plant based diet. With popularity of plans such as the paleo diet and keto diet increasing, veganism is still leading the way, but can you still smash your workouts as a vegan? Whether you’ve ditched the meat for ethical reasons or are simply cutting back to support weight loss, read on to find out about how to eat vegan and the best vegan protein options to help you maintain muscle mass.

How to eat vegan and still get enough protein

Now, you’ve probably heard the hype around protein. If not, where have you been? Believe it or not, protein isn’t just for die hard gym-goers. It’s an essential nutrient that should be consumed by us all, regardless of how we choose to get our fix. Not only does it support muscle recovery and growth but it’s essential for the body’s optimal development.

So, if you cut key sources of protein from your diet, such as meat, fish and eggs, how can you make sure you’re still supporting your body’s recovery?

“When you don’t eat meat or animal-based foods, acquiring protein may be difficult,” said Team Grenade® ambassador Vinny Russo. “Vegans should utilise supplements and up their intake of plant based protein sources to meet their daily dietary requirements.”

Micronutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12 are all found in meat, fish and other animal-derived products. Don't worry though, vegans needn’t miss out. These essential nutrients can also be consumed in tablet or powder form, making them accessible to all. If you’re thinking about making the change, be sure to include vegan protein supplements in your diet.

What are the best vegan protein sources?

So, what are the best vegan protein options on the market? Believe it or not, popping a pill isn’t your only choice. While you may need to consume higher volumes of these in comparison to meat or fish, food such as lentils, beans, seeds and tofu are great sources of protein and will contribute to your recommended daily intake.

But what about vegan protein supplements? Protein powder is a popular choice with fitness enthusiasts and has become a true staple. I mean, have you even trained if you don’t finish off your session with a shake?

As a vegan, you may find that some protein powders are off limits, with many containing dairy. However, you have options! Soy, pea and hemp powders are all great vegan protein supplements and come in a range of flavours, meaning you don’t need to miss out on a protein hit just because you’re plant based.

“Soy is usually the go-to vegan protein as it’s low in fat,” said Vinny, “Pea protein, however, has a very high amino acid profile and hemp is a great source of fibre, essential fatty acids and iron.”

Don't forget about carbs and fats

Protein isn’t the only macronutrient vegans may be neglecting. Often, carbs and fats derive from animal products so it’s important to identify how to eat vegan whilst still supporting your dietary requirements for all of your macros. Flaxseeds and walnuts are also great sources of essential fatty acids. While they can be consumed alone, they’re perfect to add to foods such as oats and smoothies.

Vinny also recommends filling up on chickpeas and legumes: “They’re both good sources of carbohydrates and are packed with protein, whilst also being low in fat, so they won’t throw your calories out of whack if you’re trying to lose weight.

“Quinoa is also a great alternative to brown rice if you want to mix things up. It packs more protein too, due to its amino acid profile.”

Get creative with your cooking

Although many plant based vegan foods are packed full of flavour, staples such as tofu and tempeh are known for being a little bland. Make sure you stock up your spice rack to ensure you’re able to add flavour to your food.

“Get creative with how you cook,” said Vinny. “Seasoning is really important.”

Figuring out how to eat vegan can be a challenge, but with the demand for meat-free food rising by a huge 987% in 2017, there are so many more options on the market for those cutting out animal-derived foods. It’s also a great way to be more inventive with your cooking and the perfect excuse to try new ingredients.

With foods such as beans, veggies and tofu offering high levels of protein and some great vegan protein supplements on offer, there’s no reason that a vegan diet should hold you back.

“As discussed, there are plenty of ways for vegans to build muscle despite the fact they aren’t consuming animal products.” said Vinny, “Whether you become vegan out of necessity, a moral choice or because you believe that’s the best route for your body, that’s perfectly fine and should be your choice.”

For more nutrition and training advice, take a look at our blog, packed full of delicious recipes and expert information.