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Simple Guide To Choosing Complementary Proteins

One of the main concerns for anyone chasing fitness goals on a vegetarian, vegan, or other plant-based diet is getting enough essential amino acids. They might phrase that concern as “getting enough protein,” but it’s actually all about aminos.

Here’s why: Not all proteins are the same! Animal proteins are a common source of “complete proteins,” which are proteins that contain all 9 amino acids that your body can’t produce on its own. These are labeled “essential” because you must acquire them from dietary sources.



On their own, nearly all plant-based proteins are incomplete because they lack one or more of these essential amino acids. However, despite what some people might tell you, this doesn’t mean they’re not worth eating! Getting all your essential amino acids can be as simple as pairing two or more plant-based sources of protein together. These are referred to as “complementary proteins.”

Use this chart to help create complementary proteins for any meal or snack. Then use the Bodybuilding.com Recipe Database to find recipes to put those proteins on the menu! We’ve included 8 delicious chef-designed recipes below.

complete proteins infographic v2 35x35 Want To Keep Your Gains? Stay Hydrated!

Building a meat-free meal with complete protein doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t require cooking. There are many plant-based protein powder options for your pre- and post-workout nutrition to supplement your meatless lifestyle.

Vegetarian Complete Protein Recipes

Rice + Beans: Chef Robert Irvine’s Vegetarian Burger

Rice + Lentils: Lentil Burgers with Mashed Avocado

Oats + Beans: Black Bean Burger

Rice + Chickpeas: Tangy Chickpea Burger



Wheat + Chickpeas: Vegetarian Hummus Wrap

Corn + Beans: Bean and Sweet Potato Salad

Corn + Beans: Spicy Vegan Freekeh Chili

Quinoa + Beans: Quinoa and Bean Chili

Tired of hunting for food that checks all your boxes? The Bodybuilding.com Recipe Database has these recipes and hundreds more to match an immense variety of tastes, goals, and cravings.

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