Protein Needs for Vegetarian Athletes

feb 2

Chili Lime Veggie Burgers with Quick Guac

With a whopping 9.8 grams of protein per burger, add a bun and you’ve nearly got 15 grams of plant based protein fuel!

  • Prep Time 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time 5-7 Minutes
  • Total Time 25 Minutes
  • Serves 8 People


  • 2 (15-oz.) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup whole grain or enriched flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal plus more for rolling your burgers in to create a crust
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup red pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cilantro or cilantro paste
  • 2 tbsp. lime juice


  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until well combined. The consistency you are looking for is somewhere between cookie dough and muffin batter.
  2. Create 8 balls and form each into a "patty". Roll each patty in cornmeal to create a crust on your burger and refrigerate at least 1 hour before cooking.
  3. Heat panini, grill, or grill pan over medium heat. Coat lightly with cooking spray. Place the patties on the grill or in a pan and then cook until browned and heated through on each side. This should take about 5-6 minutes per side or 5-6 minutes total if you are using a panini grill or similar.
  4. Serve on a bun with your favorite toppings such as the quick guac (recipe below!).

Quick Guac

Use quick guac to top burgers, wraps, salads or to simply dip your chips in!

  • Prep Time 1 Minutes


  • 1/4 avocado
  • dash of garlic salt
  • 1-3 tsp. lime juice


  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mash with fork.

Protein Needs for Vegetarians

One thing athletes worry about when making the decision to eat more of a plant based diet is “How will I get enough protein?”

While it might seem a bit different from the general recommendations for athletes, getting enough protein as a plant based athlete is possible!  You just have to do a little more planning at first and know what is going to give you the best bang for your buck.

How much do you need?

To put it simply: you need more than your omnivore eating teamate.  Research has shown us that while plant based proteins can be hard to digest, absorb, and ensure you are getting all the amino acids (protein building blocks) you need,  plant proteins are powerful in numbers 1, 2, 3, 4.  By consuming a variety of plant proteins in a larger amount than we would with animal proteins, getting enough of the right stuff and seeing the desired results of protein intake with training is possible. 

Needs are individualized, but lets say your per meal requirement to reach your training goals about 20 grams per meal. A range of 33-50 grams of  a variety of plant based protein would prove more effective in ensuring you are reaching your essential amino acid goals for the day.

What do you mean variety?

It was once thought that you needed to combine different types of plant proteins at each meal (such as rice and beans) to ensure you met your amino acid needs.  It is now known that you do NOT need to do this! However, eating a variety throughout your day ensures you are reaching your amino acid needs.  In short, seek variety; aim for rice at lunch and edamame for dinner versus rice at each meal or feeling like you have to jam too much into one meal. 

What foods are good options?

Variety is key so aim for a wide variety of options from plants that contain higher amounts of protein such as soybeans, peas, corn, potatoes, rice, wheat/wheat products, barley, oats, rice, lentils, beans, quinoa, mycoprotein, chia, flax, hemp, and spirulina.

Do I need a Leucine Supplement?

As you may already know, leucine is one of the essential amino acids that is vital for building muscle. It is true that most plant proteins are low in leucine however you can counteract this again by increasing the amount and consuming a variety of plant proteins. Supplementation may still be helpful however please reach out to an RD (or myself!) to investigate further. 

What other questions do you have about plant based proteins?!

Looking for more information on plant based eating patterns for athletes? Start here!


Disclaimer: This post is for informational & educational purposes only. This post should not be taken as medical advice or used as a substitute. While I am a Registered Dietitian I am not your Registered Dietitian. You should always consult with your own medical provider or Registered Dietitian before putting this information into action on your own.

Scroll to Top