“But where do you get your protein?” The question every vegan or vegetarian gets asked daily. The simple answer? Plants.
Plant Based Protein – Where do you get yours? Getting enough protein to function is one thing, but is it possible to be strong on a purely plant based diet? While it does take some planning to get all your nutrition from plants, it is easy once you know how. As well as making you strong, a plant based diet is alkalising, nutrient dense and high in antioxidants needed for the body to repair after exercise.
If you are sceptical about plants being enough to create superhuman strength then Scott Jurek’s story gives a great insight into vegan endurance. This inspirational guy is an ultra marathon runner and he chooses to run up to 165 miles on plant power alone. The truth is plant based diets are creating lots of really strong bodies across the globe – body-builders, weightlifters and endurance athletes are all showing us that it is possible.
How much protein do we need?
In general we need about 15g-35g of quality protein from real foods. Although some plants offer all the 9 essential amino acids, some don’t and these are considered incomplete protein sources. The good news is that combining plant foods can help get your requirements in one plant based meal or drink.
Going vegan or vegetarian is not for everybody and it certainly doesn’t have to be all or nothing. One approach is to do a few days each week meat free or incorporate a plant based meal each day. Sophie Bubb is an amateur Ironman champion and mother of two little boys (Sophie Bubb @sophie.bubb). She recently approached me with the goal of becoming more plant based. Sophie does some really serious training and wanted more varied protein sources; ‘I decided to reduce the volume of meat in mine and my family’s diet. I turned to plant based foods to ensure a balance and I’ve not looked back’.
Here are our top 5 plant based proteins to step up your strength:
1. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds contain an impressive 11g of protein per 30g serving (2tbsp). They are also a source of omega 3, 6 and 9 in a perfect ratio, magnesium and iron. Hemp seeds contain a full spectrum of amino acids so are a complete source of protein. You can sprinkle them on porridge, add them to energy bar recipes or combine them with water to create hemp milk.
This ancient ‘grain’ is actually a seed and is gaining popularity due to its nutritional content. If you have a 1 cup serving you benefit from 9g of protein and it is also a source of magnesium, phosphorous and manganese. Amaranth contains 18 amino acids including the 9 essential ones. It can be used in the place of rice and makes a great herb salad.
These legumes offer a whopping 18g of protein per 1 cup serving so rate highly on the plant protein scale. Lentils lack 2 of the essential amino acids needed to make them complete but eating nuts on the same day or in the same meal can give you the full spectrum for your protein needs. Lentil nut roast is a delicious recipe which will give you a complete protein meal.
These are so delicious and wonderfully versatile. Chick Peas offer 14g of protein per 1 cup serving and are a source of magnesium, phosphorous, manganese and folate. Hummus is a really great way of serving chickpeas and they also make great curry dishes. To make them a complete protein simply combine them with whole grains or nuts.
5. Brazil Nuts
These nuts are one of my favourites, they have a great crunch and wonderful flavour. One handful offers 9g of protein and they contain all the essential amino acids so are a great plant based source. Brazils are high in vitamin E and selenium so pack a powerful nutritional punch with an impressive antioxidant status.
Coconut Cashew Smoothie
Plant-based meals can take a lot of chewing to get your requirements. Smoothies are a great way of getting it all in one speedy serving if you live a busy lifestyle. This smoothie offers 25g of complete protein, offering all 9 essential amino acids.
½ Ripe banana
1tbsp Cashew butter
1tbsp Desiccated coconut
3 Medjool dates
1 Cup of homemade hemp milk
2 Cups of ice cubes
Simply add all these ingredients into the blender, blitz and serve.
There are plenty of ways to get your body to a place of strength and stamina. Each training plan will differ in calories and protein, depending on your personal goal. Either way, there is no doubt that making plant based sources a large part of it can be very beneficial for your body, animals and the planet.