3 Plant-Based Proteins Health Experts Swear By To Gain Muscles & Shrink Belly Fat

plant-based quinoa salad bowl
plant-based quinoa salad bowl

Plant-based proteins, sourced from legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, and tempeh, are essential for building and maintaining muscle while also aiding in the reduction of belly fat. These proteins provide the necessary amino acids for muscle growth and repair, and they are as effective as animal-based sources without the saturated fat and cholesterol. Additionally, plant-based diets, typically rich in fiber and low in saturated fats, promote healthier weight management and can help shrink belly fat.

We spoke with Catherine Gervacio, registered nutritionist-dietitian and a certified exercise nutrition coach at the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC.org), to learn about three plant-based proteins she recommends for gaining muscles and melting away belly fat. Gervacio revealed that seitan, tofu, and lentils are the ones you should include more of in your diet, as they provide numerous health benefits. Read on to learn more.


Seitan, often referred to as "wheat meat," is a versatile plant-based protein known for its hearty texture and versatility in a variety of dishes. It has a savory, slightly nutty taste and is an excellent meat substitute. Seitan is a standout plant-based protein choice for those looking to build muscle and reduce belly fat due to its high protein content.

"Seitan is made from gluten and it is very rich in protein. A cup (about 146 grams) serving of this plant-based protein provides approximately 19 grams of protein. The high protein content of seitan helps in building lean body mass by increasing the thermic effect of food (TEF), which means the body burns more calories during digestion. This contributes to the reduction of belly fat. Seitan can be made at home, but there are ready-to-cook options in grocery stores. They can be considered as pre-cooked meats that can be made into stews or stir-fries," Gervacio says.


Tofu, a staple in many plant-based diets, is a versatile and mild-tasting protein source that can be used in a wide range of dishes. With a subtle, slightly nutty flavor, tofu readily absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it's cooked with, making it a versatile ingredient in both savory and sweet recipes. Tofu is an excellent choice for those looking to gain muscle and reduce belly fat due to its high protein content and low levels of saturated fat.

Gervacio shares that "tofu contains the essential amino acids to gain muscle mass, and it has a low amount of saturated fat to help shrink belly fat. It contains about 10 grams of protein for a 100-gram serving. It only has approximately 83 calories. Tofu can be prepared in many ways. It can be stir-fried with leafy greens, cooked into scrambled tofu (instead of egg) for a vegan breakfast, or added to salads."


Lentils, known for their earthy and slightly nutty flavor, are a powerhouse of plant-based protein that can be incorporated into a wide range of culinary creations. These versatile legumes are a fantastic choice for those looking to build muscle and reduce belly fat.

"Lentils are rich in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, which makes it a good option to prepare a one-dish meal that has all the macros needed for muscle building and fat loss. A cup (about 198 grams) of cooked lentils contains approximately 225 calories, 18 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of fat (mostly the healthy polyunsaturated), and 39 grams of carbohydrates," Gervacio states.

Lentils, tofu, and seitan can be a valuable additions to a plant-based diet, contributing to muscle growth and assisting in the reduction of abdominal fat, making them an excellent choice for those pursuing a balanced and health-conscious approach to nutrition.