I’ve had several people ask me how do I manage living off plants, espically while being an athlete. So I’m hoping the below will help anyone else who is interested in trying something new in 2016!
One of the most common questions I get is……but how do you get enough protein?!
I’m sure pretty much every plant powered athlete has been asked this question. As a lot of people, including myself originally believed that repairing and building muscle requires whey protein shakes and lean meat. But we don’t question the quality of the source of protein. For example, we tend to know there are good carbs in fruit and unhealthy carbs in refined sugars and flours. The same for fats, we know there are good fats in nuts and avocadoes and bad fats in processed sugary cakes and biscuits. However, we don’t tend to know of the saturated fat we are consuming alongside the animal meat or the casein we are consuming with any diary product – aka the whey protein shake. For those that haven’t heard of casein, researchers have found it to be so predictive of cancer that they could turn cancer on or off simply by altering the casein intake!
To get enough protein you need:
- Essential amino acids – as these are what form protein. Our bodies produce half of the 20 types we need and we have to get the rest from food.
- The dietary reference intake (DRI) recommends for the “average” person they need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight or 0.36 grams per pound of their body weight.
- Or around 8-10% of our daily calorie intake from protein (not as much as we often think!) As too much excess protein results in our bodies storing it as waste and it being metabolised into uric acid and ammonia along with several other toxins. There is a reason why people on the Atkins diets didn’t look that healthy!
- Meat does provide large amounts of complex proteins which contain all the amino acids we need. However, it also contains a lot of saturated fat which is bad for your cholesterol and depending on the source (in particular factory farms) high amounts of toxins including insecticides (from the food fed to the animals) and antibiotics (given to the animals).
- A few plant based forms of complex protein include quinoa, seeds, nuts, tofu, kale, spinach and broccoli. As well as having all the amino acids we need they also contain fibre and complex carbs, along with more vitamins and minerals than meat protein.
- You also need to consider how easily you can digest and absorb the protein from the various sources. Raw plant protein provides you the amino acids in their raw, unassembled form so your body can get stuck into digesting them. However, animal meat gives you amino acids in their assembled form, so you have to break them down into the individual amino acids before you can start digesting and absorbing them to make protein. There is a reason why after a big Sunday roast you tend to want to go and have a snooze, as your body is putting all its energy toward digestion. Then unless you like raw meat, the cooking process will destroy up to 50% of the protein content as the heat damages the amino acids.
- So overall, a diet with a good variety of seeds, nuts, grains, veg and fruit will give you all the essential amino acids you need to easily digest and turn into protein.
- As all whole foods have amino acids and thus protein. Lentils are over 30% protein and even high carb foods contain a fair amount of protein such as whole wheat pasta (15%) and brown rice (8%).
- For those that are athletes or just have a really active lifestyle and need a bit more than the average amount of protein, there are several superfoods that are rich sources. Including goji berries, hemp seeds, spirulina and chlorella.
More proof plant protein works:
- Have you heard of Patrik Baboumian, a German junior bodybuilding title winner and world record log lifter for under 105kg, with a 165kg lift? He also set a new world record in yoke walk by carrying a 550kg yoke. You guessed it he’s vegan!
- You must have heard of Serena and Venus Williams. These multiple Grand Slam champions are vegan too! Since Venus was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, a debilitating and so far incurable autoimmune disease that causes excessive fatigue, doctors recommended she adopt a raw vegan diet. In solidarity, her sister Serena adopted the same diet. Since going vegan in 2012 Serena has won the US Open three times!
- Other vegan athletes include David Haye, Brendan Brazier, Mac Danzig and Tim Shieff. You can find many more here.
- Just think, have you ever seen a gorilla, elephant or rhino and thought they look a bit protein deficient?! They live off plants and so can we!
Some first steps to take:
- Any change can be difficult, especially making big ones to a diet that you have no doubt had the same for ages. So simply start by making vegetables the focus of your plate and complimenting them with whole grains, lentils or beans, while gradually removing the meat and dairy from your plate.
- A great option for those with not much time and needing food on the go is smoothies. They are also a really easy way to get a load of plant powered goodness in! Have a go at making my smoothie recipe here. It’s powered me to fight my way to International Taekwon-Do medals this year and tastes delicious!
- Or thanks to Indigo Herbs and Veganuary you can now buy my Kick Ass Vegan Smoothie Mix with all the plant powered superfood goodness combined together for you!
Check out the Veganuary website where you can get loads of information and recipes. Why not even sign up to going vegan for the month of January!