Protein on A Plant-Based Diet

"...being plant based doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the essential protein your body craves."

There’s a huge misconception surrounding vegans and their protein in-take. People assume that because someone eats plant-based, omitting meat and other animal products, they lack the protein our bodies require. Whether you’re a body builder or a pregnant mother, it is possible to thrive on a plant-based diet. There aren’t any limitations, because being plant based doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the essential protein your body craves.

When you’re choosing a protein powder, you don’t want something super highly processed. You want a powder that contains protein in the least processed form possible. You want to avoid isolates- that’s code for “we processed the crap out of this natural protein source so we extracted just the protein and then we powdered it.” You want to avoid soy protein isolates, whey, casein, etc.” Animal based protein powders are just so heavily processed and acidic that I recommend avoiding them.

You can get all the protein you need from plant-based protein sources. Beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts and seeds are excellent sources we typically think of. If you do eat soy, always buy organic soy to avoid GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and other nasty things and go for tempeh most often- it’s fermented so the phytoestrogen content is much lower and it contains good probiotics! Besides the sources we often think of, dark leafy greens and a lot of vegetables are chock full of protein. Veggies are actually about 40% protein.

Not only are plants full of protein, but that protein is much more digestible and better utilized by the body than animal protein. Animal protein is much more complex than plant protein, therefore, it requires many more steps for it to be completely digested. Plant protein is already in it’s amino acid form and so it’s a “one step” food that digests rather quickly and puts less stress on your digestive track. Animal proteins take much longer, and requires more energy expending for the body to digest.

To increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that strength and endurance trains regularly eat a range of 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Protein can also come from grains, nuts, veggies, and other foods throughout the day so you can see how humans get plenty of protein, especially if they consume animal protein daily. Athletes might need a bit more, around 0.9-1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight but athletes [or active people in general] need more calories overall. This means that as you increase calories you’re inevitably eating more protein.

"Aim for a protein source at each meal."

Most plant foods are incomplete proteins. This means they don’t contain all the essential amino acids. For years it was believed that you had to eat certain plant foods together to form a “complete protein.” Between the two foods you were getting all the essential amino acids. That’s not true though. You don’t have to eat beans with rice or toast and peanut butter to get a “complete protein.” Our bodies are smart and when a protein is digested, no matter what kind of protein it is, metabolic processes break it down into amino acids. Then when the body needs to make a protein it pulls from its endogenous and exogenous amino acid stores to build the protein. As long as we are getting a variety of plant protein in our diet over the course of the day you’re good to go. Aim for a protein source at each meal.

Some people complain of low energy, lackluster workouts, etc. after switching to a plant-based diet. More often than not, it’s because they’re not eating enough. When you swap higher calorie animal foods for low calorie + high nutrient plant foods and you don’t increase the volume of food you’re eating and make an effort to get in plenty of higher calorie healthy fats you end of eating a lot less energy. And whenever our bodies aren’t getting enough energy [aka calories] we don’t feel our best and our bodies aren’t functioning optimally.

Want help finding the right diet for you?

If you’d like to stop stressing over the details and find a way to get control of your food choices while creating a healthier lifestyle, check us out at Power 3 Fitness Coaching.


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