6 High-Protein Meals Vegetarians Should Eat Before or After a Workout

Protein is an important nutrient that your body needs before and after you hit the gym. A Calorie Counter explains that eating a balance of carbs and protein for your pre- and post-workout meals will fuel your sweat session and help you recover afterward. For vegetarians, this means eating meals that incorporate protein-packed grains, eggs, lentils, and vegetables. Whether you work out in the morning, afternoon, or evening, we’ve compiled six meatless, high-protein recipes that are perfect for your pre- and post-workout meals.

1. Pesto, Mozzarella, and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

eggs on English muffin

Breakfast sandwich | Source: iStock

Eating Well’s breakfast sandwich is the perfect meal to enjoy before or after hitting the gym. If you’re an early bird who likes to work out before heading to the office, you can even make this recipe once you get to work. One breakfast sandwich contains 362 calories, 15 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbs, and 21 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole-wheat English muffin
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon prepared pesto
  • 1 thin slice fresh mozzarella cheese

Directions: Toast English muffin. Combine egg and roasted red pepper in a small microwavable ramekin or bowl. Cover and microwave until the egg is set, about 1 minute. Spread pesto on 1 English muffin half, then top with cheese. Place the egg on the cheese. Top with the remaining English muffin half.

2. High-Protein, Low-Sugar Blueberry Muffins

blueberry muffin on a plate

Blueberry muffin | Source: iStock

For a quick, on-the-go breakfast, prepare SparkRecipes’ high-protein, low-sugar blueberry muffins. The recipe yields 12 servings, with each containing 173.1 calories, 7.4 grams of fat, 19.2 grams of carbs, and 8.7 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup protein powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup canola oil
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups partially frozen blueberries

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the soy milk and vinegar in a glass measuring cup, then stir and set aside. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Create a well in the middle of the bowl. Add the wet ingredients, except for the berries, and stir just until combined. Fold in the berries.

Spray a muffin tin liberally with nonstick cooking spray, or use paper liners. Using a tablespoon or a cookie scoop, fill each well of the muffin tin ⅔ full. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving, and refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 week.

3. Black Bean Quinoa Salad With Basil Lemon Dressing

quinoa with beans, corn, and tomatos

Black bean quinoa salad | Source: iStock

If you go to the gym during your lunch break, you’ll want to make sure you eat a lunch that’s high in protein. For an easy midday meal, prepare this dish the night before and store it in the refrigerator until lunch rolls around. Cooking Light’s recipe yields 10 servings; each contains 232 calories, 6.2 grams of fat, 35.1 grams of carbs, and 9.8 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups uncooked quinoa
  • 3 cups organic vegetable broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, cut into ¼-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen baby lima beans
  • 4 cups chopped tomato (about 3 medium)
  • ½ cup sliced green onions
  • ½ cup chopped carrot
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Directions: Combine quinoa and vegetable broth in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed and quinoa is tender. Remove from heat. Place tofu on several layers of paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Let stand 5 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Sauté tofu 9 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from heat; cool completely. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, basil, and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk until blended.

Stir in quinoa. Cook lima beans according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Cool completely. Add the lima beans, tofu, chopped tomato, green onions, chopped carrot, and black beans to quinoa mixture; stir gently to combine. Store, covered, in refrigerator until ready to serve.

4. Sweet Potato Quesadillas With Cucumber Relish

quesadillas

Sweet potato quesadillas | Source: iStock

Beans, vegetables, zesty seasonings, whole-wheat tortillas, and cheese create this protein-packed supper. Better Homes and Gardens’ recipe yields 4 servings; each has 461 calories, 12 grams of fat, 67 grams of carbs, and 23 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • ⅓ cup snipped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 small fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper
  • ½ cucumber, quartered and sliced
  • 3 medium radishes, halved and thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces sweet potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 (10-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • 1½ cups coarsely chopped baby spinach
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)
  • Paprika

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine beans, ¼ cup of the cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño, and chile pepper; set aside. For cucumber relish, in another bowl, combine cucumber, radishes, and remaining cilantro; set aside. In a medium saucepan, cook sweet potato in lightly salted boiling water, covered, for about 15 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; drain. Return potatoes to saucepan; coarsely mash. Stir in cumin.

Spread sweet potato mixture over half of each tortilla. Top each with bean mixture, spinach, green onion, and cheese. Fold each tortilla in half over the filling, pressingly gently. Heat a grill pan or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook quesadillas, two at a time, for 6 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once halfway through cooking. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Cut into wedges. Serve with cucumber relish and Greek yogurt sprinkled with paprika, if desired.

5. High-Protein Vegetable Bake

casserole

Vegetable bake | Source: iStock

You can prepare Food.com’s high-protein vegetable bake as a hot dinner dish and then bring the leftovers with you to work for lunch the following day. This recipe yields 4 to 8 servings, and each contains 303 calories, 22.6 grams of fat, 9.7 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of protein.

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups broccoli, cut into small pieces
  • ½ cup kale, shredded
  • 3 eggs or 5 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons milk or ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 28 grams isolated powdered soy protein concentrate (note: 1 scoop has about 24 grams of protein)
  • 2 cups textured vegetable protein, flakes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh salsa
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, crushed very fine
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese or 2 ounces Romano cheese, grated very finely, divided into 2 (1-ounce) portions
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ or 1 tablespoon matzo meal

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly coat the inside of a 9-inch square baking dish with butter, vegetable shortening, or cooking spray. Boil or steam vegetables until tender. Drain if necessary. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and protein powder until smooth.

Add vegetable protein, olive oil, salsa, garlic, 1 ounce cheese, and spices. Mix well. Add green vegetables. Mix well. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Sprinkle wheat germ and remaining ounce of cheese evenly on top. Bake in 350 degree-Fahrenheit oven for 35 to 45 minutes, until firm. If necessary, broil for 5 minutes to melt cheese and brown top.

6. Protein Bars

protein bars

Protein bars | Source: iStock

Whether you need a quick portable breakfast or a protein-packed pick-me-up to eat before you hit the gym, Food Network’s Protein Bars are great to have on hand. One serving contains 167 calories, 5 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein, and 23 grams of carbs.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces soy protein powder, approximately 1 cup
  • 2¼ ounces oat bran, approximately ½ cup
  • 2¾ ounces whole-wheat flour, approximately ½ cup
  • ¾ ounce wheat germ, approximately ¼ cup
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 ounces raisins, approximately ½ cup
  • 2½ ounces dried cherries, approximately ½ cup
  • 3 ounces dried blueberries, approximately ½ cup
  • 2½ ounces dried apricots, approximately ½ cup
  • 1 (12.3-ounce) package soft silken tofu
  • ½ cup unfiltered apple juice
  • 4 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately ½ cup packed
  • 2 large whole eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup natural peanut butter
  • Canola oil, for pan

Directions: Line the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish with parchment paper and lightly coat with canola oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large mixing bowl, combine the protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt. Set aside. Coarsely chop the raisins, dried cherries, blueberries, and apricots and place in a small bowl and set aside. In a third mixing bowl, whisk the tofu until smooth.

Add the apple juice, brown sugar, eggs, and peanut butter, one at a time, and whisk to combine after each addition. Add this to the protein powder mixture and stir well to combine. Fold in the dried fruit. Spread evenly in the prepared baking dish and bake in the oven for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven and cool completely before cutting into squares. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.