If your thinking of becoming a vegetarian or are already one you still need to utilize plant proteins that contain all the essential amino acids in order to maintain and build lean muscle. Some of the best sources are Hemp seeds and Pea protein. Besides vegetarians everyone needs to increase protein intake as they age to avoid muscle waste.
Hemp seeds pack 12 grams of protein in 3 tablespoons and are a complete protein, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids and the other non-essential amino acids. They are a significant source of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) which are 35% of all skeletal muscle and necessary for muscle growth. Plant proteins are more easily digested then animal protein and therefore utilized better by the body to create lean muscle.
Hemp seeds also provide all the essential fats your body needs in the perfect ratio of 3:1 for omega-6 and omega-3 as well as the hard to find GLA and SDA. Their protein content is significant and a great source of protein for vegans as well. They can be used on salads, in dips or in shakes alone and taste quite good. They should be considered by everyone as a first source for protein. A quality hemp seed product is made by Nutiva. Their site also contains lots of info on the hemp protein. Another great source is Whole Foods with a hemp product which is also organic and is a great price per pound.
Pea protein is another great plant protein which contains as much BCAA as whey protein and eggs. Pea proteins have also shown to provide more after meal satiety then the equivalent amount of animal protein, meaning you will feel more full. Plus as opposed to animal proteins pea protein has been shown to reduce free radicals and inhibit fatty acid oxidation, meaning the good fats in your body are not destroyed by oxidation and increased elimination of cancer causing free radicals. The health effects of pea protein compared to animal proteins have been shown to be extensive and are therefore a better option for overall health and muscle gain.
As people age their bodies utilize less protein and therefore the requirements for it go up. The average consumption of protein per pound of body weight for someone exercising 2-3 times a week for an hour should be approximately .55 grams per pound. Therefore a 160lb man should consume 88 grams of protein. It is assumed that increased exercise and strength training increases protein synthesis and the need for protein as the body utilizes more of it. As such extreme athletes working out 5 or more times a week for more then 2 hours at a time should consume no more then .88 grams per pound of body weight or for a 160lb man 140 grams of protein. Eating more then this is simply a waste as it requires the kidneys and liver to work harder to excrete the excess protein that is not used.
Remember, vegetarians and everyone else, utilize plant proteins to reach your goals in better overall health and make sure not to exceed the recommending limits for protein as mega dosing with protein will do damage to your body and not increase lean muscle mass, only a correct program, diet and form will accomplish that.