I’m part of a weekly Veggie Challenge, and we post pictures of our food that we made utilizing the chosen vegetable of that week. This week I had a comment on my picture that was basically “Where’s the meat, that’s not a complete meal” This is one of the things I hate the most when people hear that I’m Vegan! I often hear things like “How do you get protein?”, “You can’t be eating enough protein?”, “You NEED meat at every meal” etc. Especially being in the fitness industry and being surrounded by people like body builders etc that think you can only sustain health, strength and muscle building on JUST animal protein!! Don’t get me wrong, I know how important protein is to all of those things, but the fact is you need far less than everyone thinks you really need. Not to mention that you don’t have to have just animal based protein to be strong and healthy.
For instance, take a look at one of the largest muscular animals such as the elephant, who only eats plants. They are able to get all the nutrients they need from a plant based diet to support and maintain their shape and muscular makeup. If you think about it even further, plants (which have all of the important amino acids your body needs) are often eaten by animals, and which in turn humans are eating. So you are essentially get a diluted source of natual amino acids. Why not go right to the source? Plants!!
So how much protein do we really need? The RDA, set by the Food and Nutrition board recommends 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight! I’ve seen/heard of many bodybuilders eating WAY more than this. Even has an athelete you don’t need much more than this! So for me, being 6’4″, weighing 205 and being an endurance athelete (of sorts) and training to bike long distances, I need to shoot for a daily intake total of 75-130 grams of protein. 75 grams of protein being the bare mininum. You can easily remember this too by thinking that 10% of your daily calories should be protein. Again, 10% of your total daily calories, that’s not a lot. As a society today we are eating waaaaaayyyy too much meat.
Let’s also take into consideration that eating TOO MUCH protein can actually be a bad thing! The more proetin you eat, does not a bigger muscle make! Taking in too much protein can eventually cause stress in your body as it works to break it down. Too much protein causes keytone buildup and the liver and kidneys work to flush those out. This can cause dehydration, and bone calcium loss, as well as further issues with the liver and kidneys in the future. Also, more recent studies are showing how harmful eating too much meat can be, causing stress on the body that is resulting in diseases, and even some cancers. Studies are now proving that the best way to reverse certain types of diseases such as diabetes, and to help prevent cancer is to eat a fully, plant based diet.
“How do you get enough protein as a vegan?” Easy!! Your body actually takes something like meat proteins and further works to break them down into the amino acids your body needs. So one step nutrition would be to eat something like a green that is chock full of amino acids and doesn’t recquire being broken down further like a meat! Your body can easily and more quickly breakdown and use say Kale, than it could say a steak.
Some of the best sources of Vegan proteins (other than beans, nuts and seeds) is Hemp, Quinoa and Chlorella. Hemp is a complete protein, containing 10 essential amino acids, which aids in muscle and tissure recovery! Hemp is also a complete renewable source (let’s save the eco topic of veganism for another blog post shall we?) that is raw and keeps all of it’s active enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants! Quinoa is 20% protein and is great to serve with beans for even more protein intake! Chlorella is known as a superfood because it contains 19 essential amino acids making it 65% pure protein!! It also provides tons of essential fats, minerals and vitamins including B12! I take a supplement that contains Blue Green Algae and Chlorella among other things.
As far as the protein you need for an activity like endurance running, you have to remember two simple things: carbs for fueling before and during and endurance workout such as a long run or bike ride, and protein for recovery! It’s not great to ingest too much protein prior to your runs. Protein (especially from an animal source) recquires a lot of water to break down, leaving you possibly dehydrated during endurance workouts, and can causing cramping. Save the protein to have within 30 minutes after your endurance workout to help with recovery and repair of muscles and tissues!
The best source of information I’ve found for Vegan nutrition, especially for athletes is Brendan Brazier’s “The Thrive Diet”! Check it out!!