proteinproblems

Protein. Everyone’s favorite topic of conversation when it comes to plant-based lifestyles.

“How do you get enough protein? But are you getting the right kind of protein? Do you just eat tofu all day? Soy will make you grow a third boob though, right?”

These are questions I get to answer all of the time when people find out I don’t consume animal products. Honestly, you would be scrolling for hours in this one blog if I unleashed everything I want to say about plant protein. So instead, I’ll just stick to the most common question for now, which is “How do you get enough protein?”

Trust me, I get enough. And I promise you, it’s not hard to do.

The word protein comes from the Greek word prota meaning primary importance. It is the second most important nutrient in our bodies (water being the first). Protein builds and repairs muscles and other tissues, regulates cell function, helps transport substances within the body, and can be used for energy in times of a carb deficit (not recommended but it can do it!). Because protein plays such a key role in our ability to survive, it’s no wonder it has become such a heated topic of conversation.

Protein can be found in abundance in a plant-based diet; the keys are just knowing where to find it and then how much to eat. I hear about all these fitness buffs and their protein intake and I literally have a heart attack just listening to them. Guys, unless you are Arnold Fucking Schwarzenegger and working out for hours upon hours a day, you don’t need hundreds upon hundreds of grams of protein. Do you know what your body uses to assist in breaking down protein? Water. Do you know what happens when you have too much protein? Dehydration. What’s the most important nutrient in our bodies beyond protein? Water. Are you catching my drift?

Not only can an overabundance of protein dehydrate us, but whatever our bodies don’t use, we just excrete later when we go to the bathroom. So we put all this protein in our bodies, our bodies work hard to break it down (using water), then we just pee it out. And for what???! Nothing.

Ok so how much do you need? Everyone is different and it really depends on several factors:  your age, how much you work out, how hard you work out (for example, if you walk your dog down the street you DO NOT need 100 extra grams of protein), your weight, your desire to gain or lose weight/muscle, and on and on.

Math was my favorite subject in school. Let’s do some.

The RDA (recommended daily amount) for the average adult is 0.8 gram per kilogram of bodyweight. So if I just sat on the couch all day, how much do I need, personally?

130lbs (my weight) = 58.967kgs (Thanks Google!)
0.8g (protein) x 58.967kgs (my weight) = 47.17g of protein

So if I sat on the couch all day, it’s recommended that I would need roughly 47 grams of protein. I could have 1 cup of black beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and I would easily hit that number. Lord knows I eat more beans than that everyday. I LOVE BEANS.

Ok so, I don’t just sit on the couch all day; I work out and I cook as a profession. Needless to say I’m on my feet a lot. In that case, I would need a different amount of protein. The RDA for the endurance adult is 1.2g-2.0g per kilogram of bodyweight. In this case, on a day of crazy catering or super hard training I would probably pick the higher end of the RDA, but for a regular workout/work day I would throw the arrow right in the middle of the target: 1.6g. Guess what’s next? MATH!

So we already know I weigh 58.967kgs.
1.6g (protein) x 58.967kgs (my weight) = 94.35 grams of protein

What would a day of getting this amount of protein look like for me on a plant-based diet?

POST-WORKOUT SMOOTHIE
½ banana (0.5g)
½ c almond milk (5g)
1 Tbsp almond butter (3. 4g)
¼ c blueberries (0.25g)
¼ c raspberries (0.25g)
1 tsp chia seeds (1g)
1 tsp ground flax (1g)
1 scoop protein powder (30g)
1 c spinach (1g)

Total Protein: 42.5g

(This is almost already half of what is recommended for me and yet I still have SO MUCH MORE FOOD TO EAT!!)

RANDOM SALAD
1 c mixed greens (0.5g)
½ c quinoa (4g)
½ c black beans (7g)
1/4 c pumpkin seeds (8.5g)
½ avocado (1.5g)
½ c cherry tomatoes (0.5g)
¼ c red onion (0.5g)
1 yellow bell pepper (1g)
1 Tbsp hemp seeds (3.5g)

Total Protein: 27g

APPLE W/ PEANUT BUTTER
1 apple (0.5g)
2 Tbsp peanut butter (8g)

Total Protein: 8.5g

WHITE BEAN & KALE SOUP
⅛ yellow onion (0.25)
1 garlic clove (.1)
¼ carrot (0.1)
¾ can cannellini beans(14.25g)
¾ cup vegetable broth
1 cup kale (2.9g)
1 rib celery (0.3g)

Total Protein: 17.9g

Daily Protein Recommendation: 94.35g
Daily Protein Total: 95.9g

With a smoothie, a salad, a snack, and a soup I have passed my recommended protein amount for the day. (Note: Passing your RDA by a few grams isn’t going to hurt you. Most likely your body will find some sort of use for it. Earlier, when talking about excess protein, I was talking about a lot more protein than just a few grams.)

I didn’t eat a steak. I didn’t eat eggs. I didn’t even eat tofu/soy (which is a very protein rich plant-based food source). Look at how easy that was!

Smoothie. Salad. Snack. Soup. Protein. BOOM!