Who: The meat-free musclehead.
What: Dairy products (including whey protein), fish and combinations of beans, soy, nuts, lentils and vegetables.
Why: For vegetarians, deriving a big boost of protein from dairy products and fish can make their performance rival that of their meat-eating counterparts. Vegans can also get good results, but they’re at a noted disadvantage. “In my experience with athletes up to the professional and Olympic level, veganism is not a good match with elite athletic competition,” says Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, president of SupplementWatch (supplementwatch.com). “If the vegan [is willing to break from their dietary standards and] tolerate some dairy foods, they will get some great benefits.”
When: In place of meat, the vegetarian should consume low-fat fish and dairy throughout the day. The vegan should use a combination of beans, soy, lentils, nuts and veggies each day to get the complete protein package. “Vegans must be careful to mix all these protein sources to provide a diet with all the essential amino acids,” says Wingfield. David L. Katz, MD, MPH, author of The Way to Eat, notes that there are a number of soy-based protein powders that can give vegetarians a plant-based protein boost.
How Much: All these sources should be combined to create a total of around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.