How Much Protein Do Vegans Need
Not as much as people would have you believe. Somehow, everyone got the idea that we need exorbitant amounts of protein, way more than is even recommended. I know, its fun to blame government agencies and cry conspiracy, but if you actually look at the recommendations, theyre not that high at all.
For example, the U.S. recommended daily allowance of protein is .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for the general population.
Protein for vegan athletes is somewhat more complicated, as greater tissue-repair need require more protein and general, and athletes tend to pay more attention to amino acid balance.
Some successful endurance athletes get as little as 5% of their calories from protein and since a gram of protein contains about four calories, thats less than 35 grams of protein a day for a 2500-calorie-per-day diet!
At the other extreme are vegan bodybuilders and those new to the plant-based diet who are accustomed to higher amounts of protein and worried about what will happen when they stop eating meat. They aim for higher amounts of protein, often 25 to 30 percent of calories. Its hard to get this amount from whole plant-foods, so they often turn to vegan protein supplements to get the extra boost theyre looking for.
Warning: Dont Ignore Amino Acids
All protein is not created equally. Protein is made up of amino acids, and there are certain ones, called essential, which your body cannot produce on its own and must get through food.
As long as youre eating a wide variety of whole foods a good practice to follow for many reasons youre probably getting a nice mix of amino acids. One, though, thats particularly tough for vegetarians to get, is lysine, as explained in this article on protein from Vegan Health.
Only a few vegan foods contain lysine in large amounts, but fortunately, theyre staples in many of our diets: tempeh, tofu, and legumes. If you dont eat beans or soy, because of allergies or some other reason, youll need to pay special attention to lysine, and it might be worth considering an amino acid supplement.
See another No Meat Athlete article for a breakdown of various plant-based protein sources and their amino acid content.
I Have A Protein Powder That I Loveand I Mean Really Love
My best advice to anyone looking to increase their protein is to find a protein powder that you love, now. Protein powder is one of the easiest ways to add more protein to your dietwhat’s not easy is finding one that you love the taste of, especially one with clean ingredients. After years of sampling, I’ve found my go-to’s: specifically PEScience Vegan Select or the chocolate ALOHA protein, which are both plant-based. A shake or smoothie in the morning or post-workout will typically deliver anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein, which is crucial for muscle repair and recovery and, for me, knocks out a large chunk of my goal. I always have at least one protein shake a day, and sometimes I end up having two . I usually mix protein powder with almond milk post-workout, and add spinach, banana, and chia seeds if I want something more substantial.
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Whip Up Some Vegan Energy Bites
Using ingredients like nut butter, chia seeds, and vegan protein powder will help increase the protein content in these bites. If you are new to energy bites, try this recipe on for size:
- ½ cup natural peanut butter
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup coconut flakes
Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Using your hands to form the mixture into 12 balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to enjoy.
Vegan Diets May Support Weight Goals Blood Pressure Heart Health And More
For starters, vegans tend to have lower body mass indexes than non-vegans, which may be associated with lower chronic disease risk in some populations .
In addition, studies suggest that vegan diets are more effective at helping people lose weight than many other diets, including the Mediterranean diet .
A vegan diet has also been linked to a lower risk of cancer. Whats more, it also appears to reduce pain from arthritis and may further reduce your likelihood of experiencing age-related cognitive decline .
Plant-based diets are also linked to several other health benefits, including lower blood pressure, better-regulated blood sugar levels, and a healthier heart .
Learn more about potential benefits of plant-based diets here.
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A Note On Processed Foods
Remember that the term processed foods includes a wide variety of products, many of which are more convenient and less expensive than other foods. Not all foods that undergo processing are considered unhealthy or harmful.
Learn more about different levels of food processing here.
Using supplements and fortified foods to bridge any nutritional gaps can also minimize your risk of experiencing ill effects from a vegan diet.
Well-planned vegan diets offer several health benefits but may also pose a few risks. To maximize benefits and minimize risks, choose whole plant foods whenever possible, and use supplements and fortified foods if needed.
Avoid Too Many Carbohydrates
Many a times when people decide to keep away from meat, they do end up eating extra carbs or simply go in for too much snacking that adds on to a lot of calories adding up to weight. Even simple carbohydrates can slowly add up to blood sugar levels and result in hunger pangs requiring the urge to eat more. We would recommend including fruits high in fiber such as berries, banana, and apple in your diet while pairing them up with a source of protein to progress in a healthy way.
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Why Do We Need Protein
Forget the protein shakes, powders and supplements, let’s get back to basics. Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids and is essential for repairing damaged cells and building new ones. It’s essential in the building of tissues, muscles and bones, so it’s important to make sure your body has what it needs.
What Is A Complete Protein
Protein is the macronutrient in your body that builds and repairs muscle tissue. Its essential for digestion, metabolic function and creating infection-fighting antibodies. Your brain, heart, liver and muscles consist of protein. In short, a healthy body and mind really need it.
So, what makes a protein complete? It depends on whether it has all 22 amino acids. Amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein. Our bodies naturally produce 13 amino acids, but the nine others need to be sourced elsewhere.
A protein is considered complete when it has nine essential amino acids in somewhat equal amounts, says Meagan Ballard, a registered dietitian at INTEGRIS Health. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be made by the body and therefore must be eaten in our diet.
Animal proteins are the richest food source for complete proteins, but there are also options for vegetarians and vegans. Of course, there is no right or wrong way to consume complete proteinswhether youre a meat-lover or veganas long as you are eating enough complete proteins.
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Incorporate Protein Shakes In Your Diet
If you are one of those fitness freaks, there could be nothing better than going for a thick creamy protein shake post your workout session. Eating any source of protein post workout is not only what fitness trainers suggest but also adapt them rigorously to improve their workout results. Post workout protein helps to repair body and prevents soreness of muscles too. Here, your ideas to get proteins without meat work perfectly well, to give you a blend of taste, energy and nutrition.
You can just add any protein source of your choice to a regular milkshake or smoothie and enjoy it without having to worry! If you do not want to go for a dairy product then, brown rice, hemp, pea protein would work best too.
How Much Protein Is The Right Amount
As you can see, your body needs protein for many reasons. How much protein? It largely depends on your age, weight, activity level, overall health and many other factors. The current U.S. recommendation is 0.36 grams of protein per 1 pound of body weight, which translates into somewhere between 40 and 60 grams of protein per day for an average adult.
To give you a better idea:
- McDonalds Double Cheeseburger: 25 grams of protein
- Subway 6 Pastrami Melt: 27 grams of protein
- KFC Chicken Pot Pie: 29 grams of protein
Of course, there is no such thing as an average adult athletes, as well as pregnant or nursing women will need more protein than someone whose physical activity is limited to walking a dog, for example. Talk to Cara-Michele to determine how much protein is the right amount for you if you feel like you might not be getting enough.
The majority of the U.S. population, however, doesnt suffer from protein deficiency. Quite the oppositewe might be consuming too much protein due to our reliance on animal-based protein sources.
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A Note On Serving Sizes
Its important to note that the recommended serving sizes, jointly determined by the USDA and the FDA, arent necessarily how we all eat in real time. We all should be eating the amount of food that we personally feel we need to fuel us!
These images below arent meant to depict a days worth of calories. We used these recommended serving sizes simply as reference when calculating what a daily serving of protein looks like to keep things consistent, but its important to take these serving sizes as suggestions and then adjust accordingly based on what you know to be the amount of food thats good for you, your lifestyle, and your energy needs.
How Much Protein Do You Need Daily
Please remember that it is dependent on other factors like age, activity level or whether you are recovering from any chronic illness. We suggest you talk to a nutritionist from a reputed platform like HealthifyMeto determine your exact daily protein requirement.
So, if youre planning to increase your protein intake but are vegetarian and think thats going to be a problem dont worry. You can still get the nutrients from a regular diet. In addition, a diet rich in the goodness of whole plant foods can also lower the risk for many chronic illnesses.
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Tips For Meatless Eating
While it is possible to just dive in and cut meat out of your diet, not everyone can make such an abrupt transition. Instead, try taking smaller steps to move towards a meat-free diet that meets your protein needs:
- Pick a few of your favorite meat dishes and use meat substitutions such as seitan or tofu.
- When you begin the meatless diet, use meat substitutions in meals that are less dependent on the meat for their flavor . This will make the change in flavor slightly less jarring.
- Start small with âmeatless Mondaysâ or similar once-a-week periods. Then gradually extend the meatless moments until they cover the whole week.
- Move meat from a main part of the meal to a side dish. Instead of chicken breast with a side of greens, for instance, try a salad with chicken strips.
Learn To Love Lentils
Many of you may already know that lentils are a great source of protein and theyre one of the best to choose if youre not eating meat, eggs, or dairy. Lentils are high in amino acids, fiber, and many key minerals you need to build lean muscle including iron, zinc, and magnesium. Lentils are also high in potassium, a mineral that helps reduce high blood pressure and can reduce water weight gain from excessive sodium or processed foods.
Lentils contain 11 grams of protein per ¼ cup which equals about ½ cup once prepared. They also include 13 grams of fiber and only 1 gram of fat per ¼ cup of dry lentils which makes them an incredibly lean source of protein that will also promote a healthy heart and digestion.
Try Them Out In
Opt for lentils next time you make a chili, soup, stew, or even a meatless casserole. You can also use them to stuff tacos with in place of meat, top salads with them, or use them anywhere you would normally use ground beef since they have a similar texture and hearty flavor.
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How To Get Enough Protein Without Meat
One of my son’s eighth-grade friends recently became a vegetarian. He joins the approximately 4 percent of youths in this country who eat meatless. As much as my boys respect his choice and recognize his passion for the environment that spurred the decision, neither of them truly understands it.
Although my sons eat plenty of vegetables, their most requested dinners include sausage, pork or ground beef. In fact, their favorite meal is grilled pork tenderloin with bacon corn relish. We call it pig on pig. We eat it with loads of green vegetables and rotate fish, chicken and quinoa on other nights. But I wont lie: I make it a lot.
The boys asked how their friend could put on enough muscle, possess enough energy or be such a good athlete without meat. I told them that meat can be very good for growing boys and athletes, as its protein helps to build muscle, repair tissue, provide energy and balance mood but it is by no means necessary. If he’s eating enough vegetarian sources of protein, iron and B vitamins, their friend will perform just as well. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ position on vegetarian diets is that “well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
How Much Protein Do You Need
The amount of protein you need per day depends on your age, gender, and activity level.
The current U.S. recommended dietary allowance is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight per day . However, this estimate does not account for active people. Studies suggest that 0.55 grams per pound of body weight per day is the level from which most people can benefit.
To calculate your daily protein needs, multiply your body weight by .55. Thats about 82 grams per day for a 150-pound person.
Now that you know what your daily protein intake needs are, you can use these tips to meet them.
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Tofu Tempeh And Edamame
Tofu, tempeh, and edamame all originate from soybeans and are especially popular in East Asian cuisine.
Soybeans are considered a whole source of protein. This means that they provide your body all the essential amino acids it needs.
Edamame are immature soybeans with a sweet and slightly grassy taste. They need to be steamed or boiled before you eat them. Then, they can be enjoyed on their own or added to soups, salads, sushi, wraps, stir-fries, or rice rolls.
Tofu is made from bean curds pressed together in a process similar to cheesemaking. Meanwhile, tempeh is made by cooking and slightly fermenting mature soybeans, then pressing them into a block.
Tofu doesnt have much taste on its own, but it easily absorbs the flavor of the ingredients its prepared with. Comparatively, tempeh has a characteristic nutty flavor.
Both tofu and tempeh can be used in a variety of recipes, ranging from burgers to soups, stews, curries, and chilis.
All three soy-based proteins contain iron, calcium, and 1220 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving (
They can be used in a variety of dishes, ranging from fresh salads to hearty soups and spice-infused dahls.
Lentils are also a great source of fiber, providing over half of your recommended daily fiber intake in a single cup .
In addition, lentils are rich in folate, manganese, and iron. They also contain a hearty dose of antioxidants and other health-promoting plant compounds .
Start Your Day With Nuts
Starting your day with a handful of nuts is a great way to incorporate protein into your diet and overcome sugar cravings throughout the day. Soak almonds overnight and break your fast with them. If you forget soaking almonds overnight, start your day with a few walnuts for the protein boost you need. In addition, they help control the portion size during breakfast since most vegetarian breakfasts are usually high in calories.
Along with protein content, the cherry on the top is the micronutrients and minerals that come with it! Nuts are antioxidant powerhouses that are low in carbs and a great source of countless other nutrients.
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Vegetarian Ways To Eat Your Daily Protein
Breakfast: 1 cup rolled oatmeal with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter swirled in and 1 small bananaLunch: A salad of 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup chickpeas, and 1/4 cup feta , plus 1 ounce roasted almondsDinner: 1 cup spaghetti with 1/2 cup tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons shaved Parmesan
TOTAL = 56 grams of protein
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with 1 slice whole-wheat toastLunch: 1 cup lentil salad and 1 string cheeseDinner: Mixed vegetable and tofu stir-fry over 1 cup brown rice
TOTAL = 53 grams of protein
Breakfast: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup blackberries and 1 ounce roasted almondsLunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole-wheat breadDinner: 2 cups lentil soup with 1 cup arugula salad and 1 whole-wheat dinner roll
TOTAL = 54 grams of protein
Breakfast: 1 smoothie made with 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup of fruitLunch: 1/2 whole-wheat pita filled with 2 tablespoons hummus, 1 sliced hard-boiled egg, lettuce, and sliced tomato, plus 1 string cheeseDinner: A salad of 2 cups spinach, 1/2 cup white beans, 1/2 sun-dried tomatoes, and 1/4 cup feta
TOTAL = 50 grams of protein
Breakfast: 1 slice whole-wheat toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butterLunch: 1 cup cooked quinoa with 1/2 cup chickpeas, plus 1 string cheeseDinner: 2 eggs cooked in tomato sauce sprinkled with 1/4 cup feta
TOTAL = 52 grams of protein
TOTAL = 51 grams of protein
TOTAL = 50 grams of protein
TOTAL = 51 grams of protein
TOTAL = 52 grams of protein
TOTAL = 53 grams of protein