Vegans and Protein



I am often asked, “Where do you get your protein?  You can’t survive without protein.” This is a reasonable question -- Especially coming from those who have been duped by the American food industry.   For many years, companies that sell eggs and meat have been using this as a marketing strategy.  They have conditioned us to believe that protein emanates exclusively from animal products, and that we need a lot of it.  If you’ve ever noticed, most egg cartons have some mentioning of protein right on top of the packaging.  The same goes for Eggbeaters.  You won’t find Muscle Milk promoting their product with the help of a skinny little girl either.  It’s always some bodybuilder looking guy, who appears to have been etched from stone.  That’s the guy I wanted to look like.  Those were the muscles I wanted.  Well, here’s my story and what I have done to tackle the protein dilemma.

My Story

While training for my first half marathon, I followed a very strict regimen.  I held myself accountable for each training run I had planned.  I wanted to be absolutely ready come race day.  I began looking into what other runners were eating.  I knew that there must be some correlation between a runner’s performance and the foods they were consuming.  I saw that runners were on some of the healthiest diets I had ever seen.  Some ingredients that were mentioned: Whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, bananas, bagels, berries, oranges, quinoa, broccoli, peanuts, almonds, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, almond milk, etc.  Honestly, I didn’t see myself eating half of that stuff. I ate meat, like the tough guys.  I drank milk, because it made my bones strong.  I enjoyed the smell of flesh as it cooked on the grill, juicing up to provide me with that next dose of protein.  My joints were achy, muscles tender, and ankles weak.  I was dead set on taking in as much protein as possible, whether it came from eggs, tuna, chicken, pork, or beef.  It didn’t appear to help, but I had always been told that protein repairs damaged muscles.  Didn’t I need the extra protein?  I mean… I had to be running 20 miles a week.  Who could survive on just plants anyway?


Fast-forward one year

As of this writing, I am training for my first full marathon, logging between 40 and 60 miles a week.  My long runs on the weekends are right around 23 miles.  My elevation climb has increased.  My speed has improved.  And, I’m now running in barefoot shoes.  To add insult to injury (pun intended), I am accomplishing this all on a whole-food plant-based diet.  Speaking of injuries, I haven’t had one in over a year.  My turnaround time is quicker and the pain in my joints have all but disappeared.   Now, wouldn’t you think that I would need more protein to compensate for the added mileage? 



Little did I know, there is much more to protein than how many grams we take in.  We need complete proteins; proteins that contain an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids.  The essential amino acids include Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Lucien, Lysine, Methionine+Cystine, Phenylalanine+Tyrosine, Valine, and Histidine.   It is perfectly fine to get these aminos from separate sources to combine into one meal.  You can even get these from several meals throughout the day. (Note: You should be getting the right proportions of these essential amino acids.  Click here to see a list of the correct proportions and a list of usable proteins to aid in tissue protein synthesis.)


Here are some plant-based foods to include in your diet that are complete proteins.

  •    Soybeans
  •    Quinoa 
  •    Amaranth
  •    Buckwheat 
  •    Hemp Seed 
  •    Salvia Hispanica (Chia)  
 
    Other ingredients to include for added protein: beans, lentils, tempeh, seitan, avocado, broccoli, spinach, kale, nuts, oatmeal, and non-dairy milk.  You can also check out this site for a list of meal options that make up complete proteins.  
    The possibilities are endless.  Here are a couple of my recent dishes including plant-based protein.  On the top, stir-fried tofu with vegetablesUnderneath that, garlic and onion tofu with black beans and farroThese were both quick and delicious meals.   



    The protein question will always come up.  And that's OKPeople are entitled to believe what they wish.  Continue to stay informed and be prepared to learn more and more.  People tried to scare me away from my new found lifestyle when I was first starting.  It wasn't because they wanted me to fail, but because they cared about me.  The truth of the matter is, that with a vegan diet there are not any cases of protein deficiency.  That is, not without a calorie deficiency as well.  All plant-based foods have protein.  Some are higher than others and some are more complete than others.  As long as we maintain a wide variety of plant-based proteins, include healthy fats (avocados, olives, nuts, etc.), observe our B12 intake, and get plenty of calories and carbohydrates, there is no reason why our bodies won’t flourish.  You will find yourself with more energy than ever and able to heal quicker after strenuous workouts.  Remember to include an array of colors in your meals.  That is a good indication of a complete meal.

    For a protein-packed vegan meal, check out this Four Bean Chili.

    3 comments:

    1. Thank you for breaking it down and explaining about the amino chains.

      ReplyDelete
    2. I believe that knowledge is crucial when beginning a plant-based diet. A few questions by onlookers can lead to an immediate forfeit. I hope that we can continue spreading information to others so that they may open their eyes to a more beautiful way of life. Thanks for reading Bob!

      ReplyDelete
    3. This is great! I am also a runner and have been wanting to change to a vegan diet but was scared about not getting enough protein. Thanks for clarifying.

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