We’ve grown up believing that animal products are the only source of adequate protein. Regardless of your diet, try telling someone you don’t eat meat and workout; they’ll probably wonder how you’re still living… Literarily.
Before I begin, I’d like to state that this is meant as a basic informative post regarding protein to help clarify some misconceptions about protein and vegan diets.
- If you do eat meat than you’re getting all the amino acids (protein) necessary so no need to start defending your steak and ribs at least in regards to this topic
- If you do not eat meat for dietary/personal reasons, or simply cutting back on your overall meat intake and need alternative options then keep reading
Lets start with the basics:
What is protein?
Protein is a combination of 20 amino acids that link together to form peptides. Our bodies naturally produces 11 of them, but 9 of them are essential because we can’t create them.
*When protein is talked about, the concern is with the intake of the 8 essential amino acids through our dietary intake.
Daily Protein Intake Requirements
Protein studies have been done based on nitrogen balance because nitrogen is a component of protein that fat and carbohydrates do not have. A nitrogen balance is used to determine the ideal amount of protein to eat. Therefore, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is to consume 0.8-1.0 grams for every kilogram of body weight.
- Divide weight in pounds by 2.2 = protein g/kg/day
Animal Source vs. Plant-Based Protein
Yes, meat does contain all the essential amino acids needed and I am not denying it. A plant-based diet lacks all the amino acids within one particular food. This is why we eat a VARIETY of food! Mind boggling concept right!?The problem isn’t getting enough protein; it’s eating food that has high-lysine levels. Why?
Lysine: Limiting Amino Acid in Vegan Diets
Meeting the lysine daily requirement on a vegan diet means you will most likely also meet your daily protein intake. The RDA is 38mg/kg/day.
- Divide weight in pounds by 2.2 and multiply by 38 = lysine mg/kg/day required
Per serving the highest-lysine levels are found within the following:
- Raw Vegans: legumes (split peas, beans, lentils), quinoa, pistachios, pumpkin seeds
- Vegans: legumes (split peas, beans, lentils), quinoa, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and soy products: tofu, tempeh, soybean flour
Fitness and Protein
Generally active people require more protein, but they also need more carbohydrates and fats. Overall, they require more of all the nutrients and a higher daily calorie intake. An increase of approximately 10% protein is advised. Therefore, the approximate protein recommendation for vegetarian athletes is 1.3–1.8 g/kg/day.
(Endurance athletes 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg/day and Strength athletes 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg/day).
- Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
- Weight in kg x 1.3-1.8 g/kg = protein g/day
- Our bodies require 9 essential amino acids through our diet intake
- Variety is key to obtaining all the nutrients in a plant-based diet specifically high-lysine
- Yes, raw vegans can meet the daily required protein intake
As you can see, the necessary protein intake even with an athletics lifestyle can be met with a raw vegan diet!
Happy plant-based protein building xo
Reference Chart: Amount & Protein Found Within Some Plant-based Food
Cheeke R. (2007). Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://www.veganbodybuilding.com/?page=article_protein
Crosby, H. (n.d.). Plant-Based Protein Information & Chart. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://yumuniverse.com/plant-based-protein-information-chart/
Frazier, M. (n.d.). Protein for Vegetarians | No Meat Athlete. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-protein-primer/
Norris, J., & Messina, G. (2010). Protein. Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/protein
Protein | The Nutrition Source | Harvard School of Public Health. (2014). Retrieved April 5, 2014, from http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/