Zero to Hero Week 6: This Guy Has Found 3 Plant-Based Protein Powerhouses That Actually Work

Kirsten Curtis |

Our Features Editor Kieran Legg is taking on his biggest challenge – taking his twiggy frame to titanic status. And he’s doing it vegan. The goal: lift his body weight. The dream: break triple digits with one of the three main compound lifts.

Want to play catch-up: here’s how week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, and week 5 went.

Let me take you back to a fateful day: the moment I first crossed paths with top strength coach David Cross. The straight-talking Brit took one glance at my food diary and delivered his diagnosis: I was eating so little protein that I was officially the most dangerous carbohydrate on Tim Noakes’ red list.

Fortunately, nobody was going to eat me. But more importantly, it was easy to turn around. Now I want to let you know, if you’re vegan you can cheat and knock back protein shake after shake. Soy is protein dense, and so are the pea protein isolates. However, with a bit of experimenting, cooking and figuring things out – I’ve pinned the whole foods that are helping me progress faster with every lift.

1. Chickpeas
19g protein, 6g fat, 61g carbs, 364 calories (per 100g)

I’ve become addicted to hummus. But not that store-bought, “we’ve added so much oil that a first world country is plotting to invade the container” variety. Homemade is the way to go. Grab a blender, empty your can of chickpeas and add a splash of tahini and a few spices, beat it into a pulp and you’re sorted.

But don’t just limit your chickpea binge to the smearable stuff. Making a curry? Spill the beans. Got a salad that needs a kick of protein? Garbonzo hombre.

2. Lentils
9g protein, 0.4g fat, 20g carbs, 116 calories (per 100g, boiled)

You’ll look at this and probably let out and say: “Lentils? Nature’s cardboard? No thanks.”

Sure, this pulse has the potential to plummet in taste – but you’re just cooking it wrong. Trust me. The best use of I’ve discovered for this cheap ingredient? Spaghetti Bolognaise. Swop out the pasta for a few zoodles (yes, I said zoodles – that’s zucchini pasta for the uninitiated) and you’ve got a protein power meal on your hands.

And it ain’t half bad in a curry either.

3. Tempeh
19g protein, 11g fat, 9g carbs, 193 calories (per 100g)

You probably haven’t heard of it, but this food is the blue cheese of Veganism. It’s an acquired taste, but I’m hooked – and it’s a versatile morsel. My favourite use? Fry it up and layer a TLT (that’s tempeh, lettuce, and tomato for the rest of ya). Or even better: flick it into your next stir fry to join the family of black beans already simmering with the other veggies.

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