One of my biggest concerns as I dipped my toes into the plant-based world was how on on earth I would get sufficient protein!!
The biggest argument against plant-based eating (especially in my world of fitness) is that plant based proteins are a lower protein source, and it is nearly impossible as a plant-based eater to get your daily recommended intake of protein. Let's explore this a little bit, and see if eating plant-derived protein is as effective.
WHAT IS PROTEIN
It is very important to understand what protein is and how it affects the body. Here are some fast facts about protein:
-Protein is an essential part of our diet. It helps build, repair and maintain the body's structures
-Protein is not 'stored' in the body (like fat and carbohydrates are), so it must be consumed throughout the day in our diet
-Proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 22 types of amino acids and 9 of them are ESSENTIAL (meaning the body does not produce them)
-A complete protein (what we strive for) is made up of all 9 of these essential amino acids
ANIMAL VS PLANT PROTEIN
One of the main differences between animal and plant protein involves amino acid contents. Remember, we are looking for 'complete' proteins (with all 9 essential amino acids) in order to promote healthy muscle, skin, and other tissue development.
Here are some foods which contain complete proteins:
Nearly ALL of them are animal products! Quinoa and Buckwheat are the only 2 plant-based options that make the list.
Now what about other plant-based options to make complete protein?
Most plant-based proteins are incomplete, meaning they are missing 1 or more of the 9 essential amino acids. When getting protein from plant-based sources, it becomes very important to have a wide variety of plant protein throughout the day to ensure you are making a complete protein. Combining these incomplete plant-based protein sources will result in satisfying your daily dose of complete proteins. Make sure you are mixing and matching your plant protein options.
Here are some plant-based protein options:
-soy (edamame, tofu, tempeh)
-rice/pea protein powder
Keep in mind that women should be consuming 30g of protein per meal, and men 50g per meal. It IS possible to get complete proteins (with all 9 essential amino acid) and enough protein when combining options!
PROTEIN AND WORKING OUT
Protein helps repair muscles after a rigorous workout.
Many athletes and exercise enthusiasts turn to Whey protein after a workout, which is an animal product. As a plant-based eater, there are many alternatives to Whey.
For example, a smoothie with pea/rice protein powder with nut butter and hemp seeds.
Simply getting enough protein should be a more important focus than where the protein is coming from.
Eating a wide variety of foods will help ensure a plant-based eater gets all 9 essential amino acids, AND a healthful balance of other vital nutrients.