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Meatless Muscle Recovery

from Nutrion and Wellness Solutions by Heather Fink, MS, RD, CSSD

Along with carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes, protein is essential for recovery from exercise. Many times athletes focus heavily on beef, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs for their main dietary protein sources. While these are nutritionally excellent selections, they are not the only sources of protein.

Plant proteins such as grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy products can contribute not only protein but also iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium required for optimal recovery and fueling. Athletes do not need to become vegetarian to enjoy plant proteins; they can be included into any dietary pattern as a delicious and nutritious meal alternative.

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins in food, as well as in our bodies. There are nine amino acids are considered essential, which means that they cannot be produced in the body in sufficient quantities for the development, growth and repair of muscle and other bodily tissues. Plant-based proteins contain all essential amino acids but in varying amounts. Therefore, in order to consume adequate amounts of all essential amino acids, athletes should consume a variety of protein sources daily. Some examples of plant-based, protein-rich meals and snacks include:

  • Vegetable lentil soup or hearty veggie chili
  • Black bean and vegetable burritos
  • Whole nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.) in trail mix or nut butters on whole grain toast (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)
  • Tofu stir fry over quinoa or scrambled tofu with vegetables
  • Smoothies that contain soy milk, nut butters, and/or seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds, etc.) along with other ingredients such as fruit

The following recipe for lentil sloppy joes is a quick, hearty, protein-rich dish. Pair with a green salad tossed with walnuts or sunflower seeds for a delicious dinner!

Lentil Sloppy Joes

1/2 cup lentils
1-1/4 cups water
1 T. olive oil
1/2 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
6 oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
Sprinkle of steak seasoning (a seasoning mixture found in the grocery store with other spices and herbs)
2 whole wheat buns

1. Combine the lentils and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the peppers and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils and the rest of the ingredients, and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Serve on the whole wheat buns.


For questions, or to schedule a coaching session, contact:
Heather Fink, MS, RD, CSSD
Nutrition and Wellness Solutions, LLC

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