I was wondering if you could help me with a particular situation I have been faced with for a few weeks now. I am currently training a client who is after a significant amount of muscle mass; however, he's a vegetarian which doesn't make things easy in terms of protein intake. I suggested fish, cottage cheese, legumes, etc., however I doubt it will be enough.
One thing he refuses to take is protein, as he's very watchful of processed foods. Is there anything on the market that is natural and loaded with quality protein that my client could include in his diet?
It is not surprising that your client is concerned about protein. For most individuals looking for more muscle, protein intake is the number one nutritional concern; for vegetarians, this concern is amplified. However, keep in mind that any intake of protein over 2.0g per kilogram of body weight will not make any significant impact on muscle mass as the human body is unable to convert dietary protein above this level into bodily components (e.g., enzymes, skeletal muscle). Thus, the correct diet plan (and of course, high-intensity weight training) containing fish, cottage cheese and legumes as well as other protein foods will more than meet protein requirements. If your client includes dairy products and eggs (lacto-vegetarian) in his dietary lifestyle, then he has access to very high quality proteins that will help repair and synthesize muscle. For example, just half a cup of cottage cheese can supply 15 grams of protein and an egg has the highest-quality protein of any whole food. If these foods are not included (vegan), he will have to focus on the highest quality plant proteins, which are soy and hemp.
Your client’s belief that protein powders are processed is somewhat of a misjudgement. Processed foods are foods that have had most of their nutritional quality removed and a whole bunch of junk added back. Examples are TV dinners, white bread and many cereals. Protein powders are developed by just extracting a particular ingredient from a food such as whey from dairy and soy protein from soybeans. Newer protein powders are more natural than ever in that no sugars and artificial sweeteners are added. If your client can learn more about the great potential for protein powders such as whey, soy and hemp to help meet protein requirements, then these tools can help him reach his goal of more muscle.
Natural foods containing high-quality protein include quinoa (a grain with more protein than any other grain), hempseeds from which hemp protein powder is derived (great on salads) and tempeh, which is a fermented soy product with an ample amount of essential amino acids needed for muscle repair and growth.