One of my good friends is an avid athlete who has a genuine interest in reducing his animal product intake, but continuously finds himself choosing to eat meat post workout in order to get his protein fix. Given that he runs at least 30 miles a week and lifts, he, like my husband T who is also a runner, does have pretty substantial protein needs. While there are a lot of different opinions out there when it comes to how to calculate required protein intake, the most conservative estimates still recommend about .3 grams per pound for non-athletes, and up to .8 grams per pound for serious athletes. (See this really informative article on No Meat Athlete.) Being a petite woman who runs only a few miles a week, I need only about 45-50 grams of protein a day which I can get pretty easily by eating tofu, beans, and greens. My husband and my friend, though, could need as much as 150 grams. There’s no denying that’s a lot of protein.
Given that tofu and beans have only about 10g and 15g of protein a serving, respectively, I have to concede that my friend had a valid point that he wasn’t getting as much bang for his buck in the protein department as he would with a slab of meat. Luckily, though, I had some pretty impressive plant-based food stats up my sleeve.
Tempeh, I explained to my surprised friend, packs an impressive 31g of complete protein in a single cup, which is only a hair less than the same quantity of chicken or beef. An Indonesian soy protein far denser and more flavorful than its cousin, tofu, tempeh is packed with nutrients including pantothenic acid (which aids in the release of energy from carbohydrates and fats), calcium, and manganese (which supports bone and muscle health). And because tempeh is fermented, it is more easily and quickly digested than other proteins, making it a great choice for a post workout meal when your body needs to access energy from your food ASAP.
I developed this salad to make sure T was getting what he needed after his long runs. Packed with tempeh, as well as protein- and nutrient-rich tahini and avocado, this salad boasts almost 50 grams of protein per serving, or as much as a reasonably sized steak without the cholesterol, saturated fat, or cruelty. The avocado is also full of potassium, which helps stabilize your blood pressure post workout. And all this nutrition talk aside, with its crisp lettuce and a zingy lime dressing, it’s also a bright and refreshing meal that won’t leave you feeling sluggish.
Protein-packed Post-Workout Recovery Salad with Avocado, Tempeh, & Tangy Tahini Lime Dressing
(serves two very hungry and sweaty athletes)
- 1 head of romaine, butter, or other mild lettuce, chopped
- 4 tablespoons tahini
- juice of one lime
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 2 packages tempeh, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- a generous glug of oil
- 1-2 tablespoons of water
- Heat oil in a cast iron pan until smoking. Add tempeh in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan as this will cause the tempeh to steam and make it mushy. (You will likely need to do this in two batches). Once sizzling, splash a quarter of the soy sauce into the pan and allow to cook for another few minutes, until the bottom begins to brown. Flip, and add another quarter of the soy sauce, and cook until the other side browns. Repeat procedure for second batch.
- Mix tahini, lime juice, and water in a small bowl and stir until blended. Add additional water until the dressing is thin enough to pour, but clings to the back of a spoon.
- Combine salad, avocado, and tempeh in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with tahini dressing, and serve.