Some people can find stars and planets in other galaxies, but no one can figure out where vegans get their protein…
Hands down the one question that ALWAYS rears its head every time a non-vegan finds out you are a vegan. Damn dude, haven’t you ever heard of beans? Alright, I can admit that not knowing a potato has 4 grams of protein might not be common knowledge, but….Tofu? Almonds? Lentils? Let’s put this question to rest once and for all. There’s no mystery to it – though certain special interests might want you to THINK there is. In this day and age, as nutrition sciences become more and more developed, it has become clear that vegans and vegetarians can get more than enough protein to suit their needs. So without further ado, here’s all you need to know about how vegans get their protein – and build ‘dem massive muscles! Sneak preview: It’s super easy!
HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO YOU NEED?
First off, let’s get an idea of how much protein you should be shooting for in a day. There is a lot, and I mean A LOT, of varying information out there as to how much protein people actually need. There are two different categories. The first is your average sedentary individual, and the second is your highly active individual or athlete
The recommended protein amount for the average sedentary individual is:
.8g/KG or .36g/LB bodyweight
The recommended protein amount for the highly active individual or athlete is:
1.5g-2g/KG or .68g -.91g/LB
Many of you likely fall somewhere in between those two categories. Maybe you are pretty active (but not going to the gym every day) and you have a desk job (sorry, dude). In that case, you should shoot for the middle ground.
MAKE THE CALCULATION
Go ahead and do a quick calculation to figure out how much protein you need.
Avg. Sedentary Individual:
Weight (KG) x .8 = Protein (g) per day
Weight (LBS) x .36 = Protein (g) per day
Minimum : Weight (KG) x .8 = Protein (g) per day
Maximum: Weight (KG) x 1.5 = Protein (g) per day
Minimum: Weight (LBS) x .36 = Protein (g) per day
Maximum: Weight (LBS) x .68 = Protein (g) per day
Highly Active Individual/Athlete
Minimum : Weight (KG) x 1.5 = Protein (g) per day
Maximum: Weight (KG) x 2g =Protein (g) per day
Minimum: Weight (LBS) x .68 = Protein (g) per day
Maximum: Weight (LBS) x .91g =Protein (g) per day
The Sahy-fi Story
I weigh 57KG (125LBS) – all muscle, of course. I am highly active and spend 10-15 hours per week training. Here is how much protein I would need, based on activity level.
Sedentary Sahy-fi: 46g
Moderately active Sahy-fi: 46g – 86g
Highly active Sahy-fi: 86g – 114g
Now that you have an idea of how much protein you need, here is a complete list of the best protein sources in a plant-based diet. You will be amazed how easy it is to reach the amount of protein that you need. You will barely be out of breakfast territory when that happens!
THE 7 BEST SOURCES OF PLANT-BASED PROTEIN
BEANS & LEGUMES
Most beans and legumes will get you around 15g of protein per cup, cooked. That obviously depends on the type, but here are a few examples to give you an idea:
- Black Beans – 15.6g per cup (172g)
Adzuke Beans- 17.3g per cup (230g)
Chickpeas – 14.5g per cup (164g)
Brown Lentils – 18g per cup (198g)
Split Peas – 16.3 per cup (196g)
Soy deserves its own category because it is a protein powerhouse and a staple in many vegan diets. Obviously you can still get your protein from other things if you are allergic or can’t find the good stuff in your area, but generally speaking, SOY IS THE SHIT.
- Soybeans – 28.6g per 1 cup, cooked (172g)
- Tempeh- 31g per 1 cup serving (166g)
- Tofu – 2og per 1 cup serving (124g)
- Edamame – 17g per 1 cup (155g)
- Soy Milk – 7g protein per 1 cup (8oz)
Also known as wheat meat, seitan is a meat substitute that was developed by the Chinese back in the 6th century to cater to the needs of their Buddhist population, who were strictly vegan or vegetarian. Seitan is delicious and currently taking the modern western world by storm. There are even vegan “butcher shops” popping up now, largely due to this invention. Thanks, dudes!
- Seitan – 21g per 3 oz serving
GRAINS & PSEUDO GRAINS
The key to a healthy plant-based lifestyle is balance and variety. Therefore, I do not recommend cutting all grains out of your diet. Grains compliment beans and legumes very well, kind of like those heart necklaces that are cut in two and worn by you and your best friend. Here are some of MY best grainy friends! Protein amounts for 1 cup, cooked:
- Rolled Oats – 10.6g per cup (81g)
- Quinoa – 8g per cup (185g)
- Whole Wheat Pasta – 7.5g per cup (140g)
- Couscous – 5.9g per cup (157g)
Buckwheat (Kasha) – 5.7g per cup (168g)
White Rice – 4.4g per cup (158g)
NUTS & SEEDS
Healthy snack time! You should always have a good variety of nuts and seeds on hand. They are great for condiments, baking and just plain ‘ol snacking. I really don’t know what I would do without my nut butters. Oh wait, I do know. I’d CRY.
- Almonds – 6g per 1 oz serving (28.4g)
- Cashews – 5g per 1 oz serving (28.4g)
- Walnuts – 4.3g per 1 oz serving (28.4g)
- Pumpkin Seeds – 5g per 1 oz serving (28.4g)
- Hemp Seeds- 8g per 2 tablespoon serving (28g)
Chia Seeds – 4g per 2 tablespoon serving (28g)
Peanut Butter – 8g per 2 tablespoon serving (32g)
- Almond Butter – 6.8g per 2 tablespoon serving (32g)
- Sunflower Seed Butter – 6.2g per 2 tablespoon serving (32g)
VEGGIES & FRUIT
Most people do not realize that pretty much all vegetables and fruit have some amount of protein. Vegetables tend to have more than most fruits, however. Here are some of the notable players in the produce protein pageant. The protein amounts are for one cup, cooked.
- Green peas – 8.6g per 1 cup (160g)
- Spinach – 5.3g per 1 cup (180g)
- Collard Greens – 5g per 1 cup (190g)
- Yellow Corn – 5.4g per 1 cup (164g)
Broccoli – 2.6g per 1 cup (91g)
Kale – 2.5g per 1 cup (130g)
Potato – 4.3g per 1 medium size (213g)
Finally, for those of you who want to have an easy added protein boost after a workout or when you are on the go, a little plant-based protein powder can go a long way. My particular favorite is hemp, but they are all very, very good options for my gymrats out there who need their PROTEIN.
- Hemp – 15g – per 3 tablespoons (30g)
- Pea – 24g per 3 tablespoons (30g)
- Brown Rice – 24g per 3 tablespoons (30g)
PROTEIN BREAKDOWN PER MEAL
To give you an idea of just how much protein you are likely getting in one meal, here are two examples:
Meal Example #1, Breakfast
- 1 cup rolled oats, cooked – 10.6g
- 1 cup soy milk – 7g
- ½ cup water
- 1 banana – 1.5g
- 2 tbs chia – 4g
- 1/2 oz almonds – 3g
- 1 tbs peanut butter – 4g
*This breakfast has a whopping 30g of protein!
Meal Example #2, Lunch or Dinner
- 1.25 cup cooked lentils – 22.5g
- 1 cup mashed potatoes – 4g
- 1 cup broccoli – 2.6g
*This lunch has 29g of protein!
As you can see, if you are a sedentary individual, you have already achieved your daily protein needs in just two meals. Active people need a bit more protein, but even with an average of 30g of protein per meal, you will already be at 90g of protein with 3 meals, without any snacks whatsoever. Add in a smoothie, protein shake or a couple of other snacks during the day and WHAM! You are through the roof of your protein requirement for the day. Easy, right?
COMPLETE VS. “COMPLIMENTARY” PROTEIN
The idea that animal proteins are better because they are “complete” is one that continues to dominate the health and fitness world. While it is true that most animal products do contain adequate amounts of the 9 essential amino acids your body needs to fulfill its protein requirements, there are a lot of other terrible things in animal products that are not exactly healthy. Let’s not even get started on the range of diseases currently plaguing the western world and proponents of the “western diet”. But, if you are gung-ho about the superiority of complete proteins, just know that there are quite a few sources of plant-based complete proteins, like soy and quinoa, that can fulfill your complete protein dream without that extra serving of heart disease and cholesterol.
So what is a “complimentary protein”? The complimentary protein theory was popularized in the 1971 bestseller, Diet for a Small Planet by France Moore Lappé. In her novel, which addressed the global hunger epidemic, Lappé explained how all of the essential amino acids could be obtained by combining various types of plant-based food sources. This inadvertently laid the foundation for the complimentary protein myth that persists to this day. Readers took this to mean that it was ok to be a vegetarian or a vegan, as long as you eat complimentary protein sources IN THE SAME MEAL. This became the rule, even though the author herself tried to correct this misperception in subsequent publications of the book. While it is true that you should include “complimentary” sources of protein in your diet to ensure that you are getting all of the amino acids you need, you do not have to have them in the same meal.
SO….WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Your body doesn’t care whether it gets a complete protein or not, as long as it gets all the pieces that it needs within the same day. Your protein does not have to be complete and you do not have to eat complimentary proteins at every meal. As long as you are eating a good variety of nutrient-dense foods throughout the day, you will ingest the spectrum of amino acids that your body requires to complete your protein needs – and build ‘dem damn muscles.
I hope you realize now that the protein obsession is totally overrated! Don’t worry too much about it. It is downright easy to get all the protein you need to stay healthy and get strong. Follow these basic guidelines, make sure you’re eating a variety of good stuff and get PLANT POWERED.
If you are looking for some high-protein breakfast ideas, check out my article 5 Plant Powered Breakfasts To Kick-Start Your Day!
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