The Importance of Protein on a Vegan Diet
Updated: Jan 27, 2021
Ahh, the great vegan protein debate... let's go over the basics. Protein is such an important nutrient, and is key if we want to improve our performance, lose fat, gain muscle and stay healthy and active - especially as we get older!
Most people who are active simply aren't getting enough protein, whether they eat animal products or not and especially women.
So, what is protein?
As humans, we are literally made of protein and are comprised of 20 amino acids, 11 of which our body can produce on its own, and the other 9 need to be obtained via food sources. These other 9 amino acids are called 'essential' because our bodies need to find a way to source them. Because amino acids are the building blocks of our body and new amino acids are sourced via food, it's safe to say that protein is the most important macronutrient for body composition and overall health for active individuals.
So, how much protein do we actually need?
According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition and their position on protein and exercise, the following is stated;
"Daily intakes of 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day operate as a minimum recommended amount while greater amounts may be needed for people attempting to restrict energy intake while maintaining fat-free mass."
So, this would mean that a 150lb female (68kg) would need to look at getting between 96 - 136 grams of protein per day.
However, when determining which end of the spectrum to follow, it's also important to consider the quality of protein available to us, and how easy it is to digest it.
We need to look at protein quality
As vegans we often see other vegans shouting that 'plants have protein' so chill, and whilst this is true, you can obtain plenty of protein on a vegan diet, the digestibility isn't all that we thought it once was....
Here we have a chart showing the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), which has been the preferred method for measuring protein quality. 1 is the highest score and 0 is the lowest.
As we can see, soy protein and mycoprotein (typically Quorn products) rank really high on the PDCAAS, followed not so far behind by chickpeas and black beans. What this means though, is that unless we are eating soy, mycoprotein or seitan as our main source of protein, then we are not getting the full benefit of protein we're consuming.
For example, I hear many vegans promote peanuts as a great source of protein, and whilst yes, they do contain protein, if we look at this chart our body is only able to digest around 50% of that protein. For this reason, I recommend sticking to the upper limit of the recommended protein amount from the Society of Sports Nutrition, and even going higher as you decrease calories, as is stated in their article, linked below. Many fitness and health professionals agree that 0.8 - 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight is a good amount for anyone partaking in resistance training, particularly if you want to maintain lean muscle mass on a fat loss diet.
If you want to see a sample high-protein meal plan, just click here to see what I typically eat in a day.
So basically, if you're looking for vegan weight loss, and your goal is improved body composition, then my top tip is to keep protein high!
To find out more about this, you can sign up for my ultimate vegan fat loss program which delves into this in much more detail and also comes with 12 weeks of vegan weight loss meal plans!
It's given me incredible results and allowed me to get the strong athletic body of my dreams - all on a plant-based diet!