There’s a popular myth that veggies don’t contain enough protein to sustain serious muscle growth.

Try telling that to Roman Gladiators, probably some of the more muscular dudes in human history, who also happened to be mostly vegetarian.

However, not all plant-based proteins are equal. Some veggie protein sources lack adequate amounts of essential amino acids.

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Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Your body can make some of them, but there are nine that have to be obtained through your diet. These are referred to as “essential amino acids” and you can find a list of them here

Animal products like beef, fish, dairy, and eggs contain every one of these essential amino acids. They’re considered “complete proteins.” 

However, if you’re looking to lower your meat consumption and pack on muscle, there are several tasty plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids:


Quinoa doesn’t grow from grasses like other cereals and grains. It’s technically considered a ‘pseudocereal’ and it is naturally gluten-free.

It’s also considered an ancient grain, and for some reason that makes us feel like mythological Greek Gods when we eat it. 

In addition to being a complete protein, quinoa provides more magnesium, iron, fiber, and zinc than many other grains.

Essential Edamame 

These tasty crunchers are actually just immature soybeans. You can eat them on their own steamed, boiled, or raw. You can also toss em in salads, soups, or grain bowls.

Don’t let their immaturity fool you: a 1/2 cup of edamame packs 8 grams of protein along with a good amount of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamin C. 

Superfood Spirulina 

Who doesn’t want to add some algae into their diet? 

Spirulina comes in a powder and boasts a whopping 4 grams of protein in just 1 tablespoon. 

In addition to being a source of complete protein, spirulina is rich in antioxidants and a good source of several B vitamins, copper, and iron.

Toss it in smoothies, soups, or salads and get those gains (flex). 

Hearty Hemp Seeds

Yes, these come from the same species of plant as cannabis. No, they will not get you stoned.

Although they are technically considered a nut, hemp seeds are insanely nutritious.

Three tablespoons contain an impressive 10 grams of protein and 15% of the DV for iron. They’re also a good source of phosphorus, essential fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. 

Sprinkle these bad boys over your salad or yogurt, or toss them into smoothies and homemade granola.