What's up! I want to start by thanking everyone who took the time reading 'Animals, Earth, Self-Love, and Other Reasons Why I am Vegan'. I loved and appreciated all of the feedback as well as the time everyone took out of their days to read my words.
As a result of this blog post, I received an awesome amount of questions regarding a vegan diet, the main one being "Where do you get your protein?"
I get asked this question all of the time, so I thought it would be a good idea to explain what protein is and why humans need it, how much protein we need according to our body types, incomplete vs complete protein, and lastly provide vegan sources of protein.
What's the big deal about protein anyways?
I'm not going to dive too deep into what protein is exactly because I did not like chemistry and you would be bored reading it.
So basically, "Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass. Macronutrients provide calories, or energy. The body requires large amounts of macronutrients to sustain life."
Chemically, protein is composed of amino acids.
Amino acids are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass.
Breaking it all down for simple people like myself, here's what protein is from smallest component to its function:
Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, or sulfur compose amino acids.
Amino acids compose protein.
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle as well as a source of energy.
Protein is found in many parts of the body - not only muscle, but also bone, hair, & skin. The hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood is comprised of protein, as are the enzymes that power a multitude of chemical reactions.
As you can see, the importance of protein cannot be understated; it gives us energy, builds muscle, and plays a role in carrying oxygen thru the bloodstream as well as a flurry of chemical reactions.
How much protein do I need, really?
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in the United States,
- "The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight"
- "The recommended daily allowance of protein is 46 grams per day for women over 19 years of age"
- "The recommended daily allowance of protein is 56 grams per day for men over 19 years of age."
Here's an equation for you to determine how much protein you need per day, and I'll use myself as an example.
Your weight / 20, then multiply that number by 8
So for me, the equation would break down like this:
180 lbs / 20 = 9
9 x 8 = 72 grams of protein per day, minimum
Now when it comes to bodybuilders, it is a different story.
- "The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that bodybuilders require about 0.63 to 0.77 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day."
Let's say I want to be the next Arnold. Here is an equation as well as an example using myself:
Your weight x any number between 0.63 - 0.77
So for me, it would break down something like:
180 x 0.7 = 126 grams of protein per day
As you can see, the number increased by 42%. This is for a simple reason.
As we were talking about before, protein is a macronutrient that provides calories. If you think about it, bodybuilders burn more calories than you or me, so they require more protein to replace the burned calories to build their muscles.
Incomplete vs Complete Proteins
Fair warning, this is where I lose a lot of people and they throw up their hands in frustration and go to eat a 5 Guys burger. Bear with me! I'll make it quick and painless.
As we were saying before, protein is composed of amino acids; 21 to be exact. Of these 21, 9 are essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are not made in sufficient amounts by the body and need to be obtained thru our food.
When we eat foods with protein that do not contain all of the 9 essential amino acids, the body cannot fully utilize the protein. As a result, the food must be paired with another food that contains the amino acids it lacks.
This is one of the few challenges of being a vegan. Animal products, for the most part, contain complete proteins, whereas plant-based foods, for the most part, contain incomplete proteins.
Don't freak out and leave me! I don't expect you to track which vegan foods are complete or incomplete and pull your hair out as a result.
So here's a quick list of 2 incomplete plan-based foods that when paired together provide all 9 essential amino acids:
- Corn and beans
- Brown rice and green peas
- Grains with legumes
- Nuts with legumes
- Legumes with seeds
- + a bunch more that you can read here from bodybuilding.com
Follow me? Take a breather, I know it's confusing.
Okay, now where can I get vegan sources of protein?
Let's skip the boring list and work with fun gifs.
To top it off, here are some links with some of my favorite vegan recipes & foods with protein:
And here is my favorite list of vegan foods, some with protein, some without, but some delicious recipes nonetheless.
Let's break this down to a super brief summary: Protein is responsible for a ton of important bodily functions and is composed of different amino acids, some complete and some incomplete.
If you are or become vegan, it is important to keep track of how many complete proteins you take in, as well as being aware of how much protein you need per day.
If you have any questions, feel free to message me on my Facebook page and I'd love to answer :)
Dan the Vegan Man