Question:

Hello, I am vegetarian and do not eat meat or eggs but do eat dairy products. Can you let me know the following?

  1. What kind of diet should I take to improve muscles?
  2. Also, what to eat before and after exercise?
  3. How would protein powder help?

Thanks for your help.

– Sunil J.

Answer:

Here are your three-fold answers:

  • A well-balanced lacto-vegetarian diet can be sufficient to promote muscle growth and strength when paired with an appropriate workout plan. The bigger you are and the more you burn the more nutrition you need – but also the more you can eat! A sample 2,800 calorie day might look like the following. Also see our recent suggestions for meatless meals.
  • 2 vegan sausage patties
  • Medium waxy potato with onion and peppers cooked in tablespoon oil
  • Banana
  • ½ multigrain bagel with tablespoon peanut butter
  • 5 cups of low-fat milk
  • ½ cup whole beans, two 8” wheat tortillas, 2 oz reduced fat cheese, ½ avocado, unlimited salsa
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • Orange
  • 6 oz. plain non-fat Greek-style yogurt with ¼ cup dried fruit and ¼ cup granola
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables and 3 oz meat substitute, stir-fried in teaspoon oil
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Apple

Nutrient analysis using www.FitDay.com by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist = 127 gm Protein (16% calories). Findings were used along with RDN’s professional judgment.

  • Before strength training (assuming last meal was more than 3 hours prior) a small snack incorporating a carbohydrate with some protein, but little fat can fuel your workout and help prevent muscle protein breakdown. One example is rice or oat square cereal with non-fat milk and strawberries. Another would be noodles and chunky marinara with a soy meatball. After working out, replenish energy stores and promote muscle repair and rebuilding with a similar recovery snack within a half hour. Graham crackers with peanut butter and banana slices is an option.
  • Protein powder aids in providing variety and convenience to meals or snacks on the go. When mixed with fluid as a beverage, protein powder is more readily absorbed than a solid protein you’d need to chew and break down. A balance of soy, casein, and whey can offer a more sustained delivery of protein.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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