If you haven’t gotten it already, be prepared to hear , “How do you get protein on a vegan diet?” when you inform someone that you are vegan or making the transition.
It’s a very reasonable question, and its helpful to have an “elevator pitch” of sorts prepared in response.
So check this out… I‘m in the line at Whole Foods, and the lady behind me asks, “Wow, I want to know what you do to have legs like that!” (yes, this type of scenario happens quite frequently!) I reply, “Well thank you! Besides kickboxing & the variety of workouts I do, I am vegan and eat a plant-based diet which keeps me in the best possible shape!”
The lady immediately asks, “But you have great muscle definition… being vegan, how do you get protein?” To which I answer, “Its simple! I get plenty of the top quality protein found in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, peas, beans, quinoa, and other whole grains. By cutting out animal products that are so harmful to our health (not to mention animals, and environment), I am full of energy and look and feel better than ever!”
The point of this silly little story is that it’s really important not only to learn for yourself about getting protein on a vegan diet, but also to help spread the word and let other people know how you get protein from plants. Its a good deed to say the least, and necessary to spread awareness and actually ultimately saving people’s lives!
What’s the problem with high protein diets?
One of the main reasons diets high in animal protein can be detrimental is that high protein diets are generally low in fiber.
- Blood sugar control
- Heart health
- Stroke prevention
- Weight loss and management
- Skin health
- Diverticulitis prevention
- Hemorrhoid prevention
- IBS relief
- Gallstones and kidney stone prevention
What is the recommended protein intake for overall health?
I’m not a fan of counting calories or macros, but it can help at the beginning when you’re working on getting into a food routine that is in line with your goals.
The RDA (recommended daily allowance) of protein in grams can be calculated using the following equation:
Body weight (lbs.) x .36
Using the formula, a 140 pound person requires 50.4 grams of protein per day to be healthy.
If you’re wanting to gain lean muscle however (I’m NOT talking to the level of bodybuilding here), you may want to intermittently up that number. The following equation may work:
Body weight (lbs.) x .5
In this case, a 140 lb person should consume 70 grams of protein per day.
How do you meet your protein requirements on a vegan diet?
It’s easier than you may think to take in plenty of protein on plants alone! Here comes you’re proof…
Let’s take a look at a day’s sample vegan meal plan:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal (1 C cooked oatmeal, 1 C flax milk, 1 TBSP hemp seeds, 7 walnuts
- Snack Post-Workout: Powerootz Nutritional Superfood Shake (12 oz unsweetened nut milk, 1 serving nutritional powder)
- Midday: Salad (1 C spinach, ½ a tomato, ½ C garbanzo beans, ½ C lentils, ½ an avocado, 3 TBSP unhulled sesame seeds
- Dinner: Sushi Restaurant (1 C edamame, 1 vegetable roll with brown rice)
Can you guess how many grams of protein this sample vegan meal plan contains?
85 grams of plant protein! And just FYI, this menu provides 110% RDA of iron, 100% RDA of calcium, and 161% RDA of fiber… Not bad eh?
How do you get “complete protein” on a vegan diet?
One myth is that you need to eat all the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) at the same meal. You don’t! As long as you get all 9 essential amino acids over the course of the day you’re good to go. This chart references what plants, when combined, give you complete protein:
Basically, and this is what I tell all my clients, as long as you’re eating a wide variety of plant foods (vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains) you will be getting your requirement for all 9 essential amino acids on a daily basis. (Read more about vegan nutrition as a whole if you want to know more about creating a balanced vegan diet plan.)
What are some quick and convenient ways to supplement extra protein?
If you want to get extra protein so that you can build more lean muscle, but you don’t think you can do it with whole foods alone every day, a high quality plant-based protein powder can be used to supplement.
Powerootz Superfood Nutritional Shake is honestly the only protein powder I actually enjoy. When Lisa Hunt, the founder, sent me out samples over a year ago I fell in love immediately. I’m super picky with any sort of powders but she truly got the formula right with her products. My absolute favorite flavor is Peanut Butter Bliss, but the Vanilla and Cacao Mania (both of which are also raw) are also great.
I am now affiliated with Powerootz, so if you place an order, be sure to use the code “ELLA” at checkout for 20% off!
There are vegan protein bars, like the 22 Days Protein Bar and Cliff Builder Bars, some of which are more whole foods based than others so make sure you read the ingredients carefully for added junk.
There’s also a product I started to use just recently that has made a noticeable difference in my performance while working out. I’m always skeptical with all types of supplements, but after doing the research, and listening to the doctor who formulated it speak, I am convinced it’s the “real deal.”
The product is called “MAP® (Master Amino Acid Profile). These tablets are composed of a unique pattern of amino acids in a highly purified, free, crystalline form that’s absorbed quickly (23 min) and effectively. This supplement contains zero inactive ingredients and is great for optimizing muscle endurance, mass, strength, and improve/speed muscle recovery. I am not affiliated with this product, but like I said, I believe in it so I’m sharing it with you. MAP is available on Amazon among other online retailers.
In case you haven’t read my bio, I’d like to share that I’ve been vegan for 21 of my 36 years, and vegetarian for 28 years (since I was 7). This means I’ve built my physique on plant protein. I consider myself a walking vegan muscle experiment and the results are proof that you DO NOT need animal protein to build a muscular, strong body. In 2007 I competed in the FAME World Championships and took 1st place in the bikini division, 2nd in the fitness model and fitness categories. Competing is definitely not “my thing” but I’m so glad I went through with a competition to show the world that a vegan diet plan is the way to go for a strong, lean, healthy body!
So there you have it… pretty much everything you need to know to put together a vegan meal plan with plenty of protein!