How Do Vegan Bodybuilders And Athletes Get Enough Protein
Looking at protein in foods is one thing, but translating that to a meal plan that you can actually follow is another. Obviously, try to focus on making meals with the best vegan protein sources for athletes.
I mentioned Nimai Delgado before. Hes a vegan IFBB professional bodybuilder who I believe has been vegetarian from birth .
He has some videos on YouTube about his training and diet. Heres one where he goes over what he eats in a typical day:
If you dont have time to watch that, heres a summary:
What Exactly Is Protein & Why Do We Need It
We need protein for our muscles, bones, hormones, immune system, digestive enzymes, nutrient absorption and to rebuild and replenish all kinds of cells.
Protein consists of 20 amino acids, some of which we can synthesize ourselves while 9 of them are essential meaning we need to get them from our diet.
If you dont get enough protein, you can lose muscle mass which can lead to increased falls, injuries or hospitalizations. While overt protein deficiencies are rare, even a suboptimal status can take a toll on our health!
What Else Do These Sources Contain
The foods we eat contain more than just protein. This is where we see some major differences between plant and animal protein sources.
Vegan protein sources contain several important nutrients and are cholesterol-free. Many of them are loaded with fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, and improve bowel health. They also contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy.
On the other hand, animal protein sources do not provide fiber but do contain cholesterol. Saturated fat content varies between different foods, but animal protein generally contains more saturated fat than plant-based sources.
Some dietary vitamins and minerals are provided mostly or solely through animal products. Talk with your doctor or dietitian if you are following an all plant-based diet, to learn whether any supplements are needed.
If you are vegan and experiencing unintended weight loss, read about the 15 best high calorie vegan foods.
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That You Must Eat Meat To Get Your Protein Fix Is A Myth
When you hear the word “protein,” you likely think of a chicken breast or a hunk of steak. That makes sense meat is one of the best sources of this macronutrient, according to the Heart Foundation. But its not the only source. In fact, its entirely possible to get the protein you need each day without eating meat like poultry, beef, and pork. When done thoughtfully, individuals can meet their protein needs exclusively from plant-based sources, says Nathalie Sessions, RD, of Houston Methodist Hospital in Texas.
What The Vegan Protein Sources Chart Includes
Our chart contains foods from a variety of food groups and includes each foods serving size and the amount of protein per serving. All of the foods listed are commonly available and contain at least 4 grams of protein per serving.
We have also listed some of the other nutrients each food provides at 10% or more of our daily requirements. This is not all-inclusivethese foods contain more nutrients than those listed. As you will see, many of these foods contain some of the7 key nutrients for senior nutrition.
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What About Vegan Protein Bars
I also did a detailed test of over 20 bars to find the best vegan protein bar.
And while bars are nice, theyre more expensive than protein powder and the macros arent as good.
Bars have a lot of other ingredients besides protein isolate. The best bars have around 40% of calories coming from protein, versus over 85% for protein shakes.
If you have money to spare and really like bars , plant based protein bars are an option. But theyre not something I think most vegans should focus on.
Alternatively, there are also many good vegan protein bar recipes that you can make to save some money.
What Are Complete Proteins
The term complete protein refers to foods or combinations of different foods that contain all essential amino acids and stems from a study that was conducted over a century ago.
It is an old myth that you need to eat grains and beans at the same time to produce a complete amino acid pattern that mimics human body protein this has turned out to be unnecessary!
Our bodies maintain a reserve pool of different amino acids from various sources for later use, which means we can do our own complementing. Plus, all plant-based foods contain all nine essential amino acids just in varying amounts.
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Can You Eat Too Much Plant Protein
As with everything in life, it is possible to overdo it. Even though plant-based protein is healthier than animal-based protein, if you eat more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, research suggests that this can cause long-term health problems.
Symptoms of eating too much protein include intestinal discomfort, dehydration and nausea. The overconsumption of protein can increase a persons risk of developing diabetes or osteoporosis!
However, these findings were mainly associated with animal-based protein and havent been studied for plant-based protein alone.
Eat Protein Throughout The Day
To preserve muscle mass, it is best for older adults to eat protein throughout the day. This means including good sources of protein at every meal and snack, starting with breakfast.
Here is an example of how protein-rich foods can be eaten throughout a day:
- Breakfast: A bowl of steel cut oats topped with hemp seeds and soymilk.
- Midmorning snack: A sliced apple with peanut butter.
- Lunch: A bowl of split pea soup with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and whole wheat toast.
- Afternoon snack: Hummus dip and vegetables.
- Dinner: Stir-fried tofu and broccoli over quinoa.
Try to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time to take the guesswork out of eating enough protein. And keep protein-rich foods on hand for when hunger strikes.
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Protein Source: Nuts & Seeds
In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama told the story of being a child and discovering that peanuts had protein and she refused to eat eggs for breakfast for years after. PB& J may be a vegan staple for quick protein, but theres a whole world to explore. Crunchy, roasted nut granola, hemp seeds blended into a smoothie, walnuts in a salad, cashew butter & pears, chia pudding all will give your day a boost of natural, plant-based protein!
Ask A Nutritionist: What Are The Best Sources Of Plant
Maybe youve heard of the EAT-Lancet Commission Report that outlines a healthy-people, healthy-planet eating pattern. This report, which was developed by 37 scientists and released earlier this year, found that the best diet for both people and the planet includes a variety of plant-based foods, is low in animal proteins, favors unsaturated over saturated fats, and limits refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.
Evidence suggests this pattern of eating is linked with a longer life expectancy, and just as importantly, a quality of life that includes a healthier body and mind.
Eating more plant-based foods can do your body a world of good. Past studies show this eating pattern may reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes promote a slimmer waistline and healthier body weight provide higher levels of important nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, and fiber reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that can promote cell damage , and promotes a sharper mind with fewer memory problems over time.
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Animal Vs Vegan Protein Sources: How Do They Compare
In the battle of beef vs. bean, many assume that vegan protein foods simply cant compete with their animal counterparts. This is largely down to the difference in their amino acid composition. When you consume protein be it animal or plant your body breaks it down into organic compounds called amino acids.
These amino acids are used to help with numerous essential body functions and processes, from tissue repair to nutrient absorption.
There are 20 amino acids in total, but only 9 are considered essential to your diet. This is because your body cant produce them, so they must be consumed in the food that you eat. If youre wondering how this relates to the animal vs vegan protein debate, this is where it should all come together.
Complete protein sources contain all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body cannot create on its own. Incomplete protein sources only contain some of them.
- Animal proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids, making them complete
- Most vegan protein sources lack one or more amino acids, making them incomplete
How Do You Get Enough Protein On A Plant
This is a very popular question. And an important one, but even if you arent following a plant-based diet, do YU know how much protein you should be eating on a daily basis?
How much protein do we actually need?
Well, in the United States, the Dietary Reference Intake for protein is 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. That number is about how many grams you need each day. Approximately 15-25% of your total calories should be from protein sources. Although protein is certainly an essential nutrient, which plays many key roles in the way our bodies function, we do not need huge quantities of it.
Many Americans consume about twice the amount of protein necessary, and its important to note that excess protein cant be stored in the bodyultimately, its elimination strains the liver and kidneys. Excessive protein consumption is linked to certain cancers , kidney disease and even osteoporosis. If youre consuming a variety of clean, whole foods, you should get all the protein you need, without taxing your body.
You may need more protein if you are Mentally/physically tired Suffering from injuries/cramping/muscle soreness Unable to concentrate or focus Losing muscle, or unable to build it Losing hair Suffering from headaches, fainting, nausea Cranky, anxious or moody or depressed
Want to see how delicious plant-powerful recipes can be?
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Plants That Provide Protein
Some plant-based foods are high in protein but low in calories. To put this another way, high-protein, low-calorie means few carbohydrates and fats. Eating plenty of these foods, especially leafy green vegetables and legumes, or beans, will help fill you up with plenty of protein and vitamins, but with few calories.
High-protein, low-calorie means few carbohydrates and fats.
Most raw foods have a combination of all three calorie generators. A food with very few fats and carbs would be close to 4 calories per gram, the amount produced by the protein. The more calories per gram over 4, the more there is a combination of fats and carbohydrates in the food. Other nutrients, such as water, minerals, and vitamins, although very useful to the body, do not have calories, but they do add to the mass. Also to note is that plant-based protein is sometimes calculated as less calories per gram. Although there are numerous benefits from plant protein, there is somewhat of a difference between these and milk, dairy, and egg proteins. Unlike many animal-based proteins, those found in plants are not always complete, with all the nine essential amino acids that the body needs from proteins. For this reason, its good to eat a variety of plant-based protein vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Soy is somewhat the exception, being a complete protein.
How to read this chart:
Top Vegetarian Protein Sources
If you’re eating a vegetarian or vegan diet or just trying to eat less meat and more plants, vegetarian protein sources make it easy to get your protein fill. Protein is a key nutrient for growing and maintaining muscles and keeping your skin and hair strong and healthy. It also helps keep you full.
Even though people wonder where vegetarians get their protein, it isn’t hard to meet the required amount on a vegetarian diet. According to the Dietary Guidelines, women need 46 grams of protein and men need 56 g of protein. However, the amount you need may vary depending on your activity level, age and more.
Yes, the list of vegetarian proteins extends way beyond tofu . Take a look at some of these high-protein vegetarian foods to add to your diet.
Recipe to Try:Homemade Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is delicious added to smoothies, layered with fruit and granola as a parfait and used as a sour cream substitute on tacos or in dips. It also delivers calcium and gut-healthy probiotics. Choose plain yogurt over flavored varieties to save added sugar.
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High Protein Fruits And Vegetables
All fruits and veggies contain small amounts of protein, but some more than others.
Fruits and vegetables are most often enjoyed raw, cooked, or blended into smoothies and sauces. You can enjoy them at any meal or snack.
Similar serving sizes of high protein fruits and veggies pack the following amounts of protein (
- Broccoli : 2.5 grams
- Sweet potato : 2 grams
- Artichoke : 3 grams
- Spinach : 2 grams
- Banana : 1.5 grams
- Blackberries : 2 grams
- Guava : 4.5 grams
Incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet is a great way to meet your protein needs. Guava is particularly rich in protein.
How To Eat Enough Protein Every Day
Eating the recommended daily amount of protein may feel challenging at first, but it can be done in a way that works for you.
Another strategy is to enrich your foods with extra protein. Try substituting almond flour for half of grain flours in your baked goods.
Use soymilk in smoothies in place of water. Add chopped nuts and seeds to your morning oatmeal. There is a lot of room for creativity with this!
Be sure to check out our High Protein Foods SERIES that includes a high protein food list, grocery list, and meal planner.
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Free Printable: 7 Types Of Vegan Protein Sources Chart
Where do you get your protein?! Learn the 7 types, get delicious recipes for each, and download a vegan protein sources chart FREE!
Whether youre a new vegan, a lifelong vegetarian or just working to improve your health by eating more plant-based meals: vegan protein sources are all around you!
Vegan Protein Sources Compared To Meat
Animal meat comes to mind directly on protein levels in foods, which is valid to some extent. In comparison, plant-based proteins are considerably lower as compared to beef.
The reality is that plant-based foods are way healthier than animal meat ones, as they have more nutrients and fewer calories, a fiber that meat doesnt have.
The meat, indeed, has more proteins and all other nutrients. Still, vegans prefer vegan protein sources over meat because its nutrients are healthier with higher calories than plant protein sources.
Well-planned vegetarian eating patterns can offer some nutritional benefits over traditional meat-containing diets.
- Roasted Chana Dal Masala Vada
- Buckwheat Dosa.
Being a vegetarian is quite a challenge for the person. It would help if you had to take care of many things: your calorie intake, carbs and protein levels, and whether the amount in the vegan diet is enough.
The most common vegan issue is their protein intake. They are taking enough protein or not. The solution is vegan protein sources, the most common of which are plant-based foods.
The most straightforward way to get yourself a well-planned vegan protein diet is to follow the vegan protein sources chart or consult a nutritionist to get a proper balanced diet.
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Vegan Protein Sources Chart
Vegan Protein Sources Chart was written by Kate Spurgin& reviewed/edited by Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND. Kate is pursuing her B.S. in Dietetics at Eastern Michigan University.
Eating ample protein every day can feel challenging, especially if you prefer vegan sources. Let us take the guesswork out of this for you!
Below, you will find tips on how to calculate your daily protein needs and make sure you get enough protein, plus access to a free vegan protein sources chart that you can use right away.
What About Protein Supplements
Some protein powders are plant-based. Depending upon the plants used to make the powders, they may be complete or incomplete proteins.
The position of the American Dietetic Association is that while food supplements can help people meet their daily nutrition goals, eating a wide variety of nutrients rich in protein is usually a better strategy for meeting daily goals.
Some protein supplements may also be high in sugar or sodium to improve the taste, so it is important to read the nutrition labels.
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How Much Protein Do You Actually Need
The British Nutrition Foundation advise that the Reference Nutrient Intake is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for adults.
This amounts to around 56g/day for men and 45g/day for women, but the exact requirements will differ depending on your weight. Your diet type does not affect your protein requirement. There is, however, an extra requirement for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.
This might sound hefty, but most adults in the UK get more than enough protein in their diet. If you make a conscious effort to include 1 or 2 vegan protein sources with every meal, youll be surprised at how quickly the numbers rack up. If you feel that youre getting enough, you might find our tips on how to increase your protein intake useful.
Regardless, when you first go vegan or embark on any major diet change, wed recommend tracking your meals and snacks on a free app to double-check youre getting enough protein and other nutrients.