Goodbye to the days of people assuming protein only comes from meat and eggs. As more of us are choosing to eat a plant-based or completely vegan diet, knowing how to get enough protein on a vegan diet has never been more important. PhD Nutrition shows us exactly how to achieve this, we don’t want our training to be affected after all.
Whether you choose to forgo animal protein for health, performance, or environmental reasons, there’s never been a better time to follow a vegan diet. Vegan athletes across a range of sports are thriving without animal protein, and we continue to understand the many benefits of eating more plant foods.
How much protein does a vegan need?
As a vegan, your protein needs are the same as a non-vegan with the same training goals. However, you need to consider the quality and variety of your food sources, including the bioavailability of amino acids.
If your goal is muscle gain, you should aim for 2g-2.2g protein per kilogram of bodyweight, to compensate for the lower essential amino acid levels in vegan food.
The main challenge facing vegans lies with separating protein from other macronutrients. Animal sources of protein are much higher in protein than vegan foods. It is therefore easier for a meat-eater to drill down into their macronutrient numbers and get specific.
Vegan foods tend to be combinations of proteins and fats (nuts, seeds), or proteins and carbohydrates (pulses, legumes). This isn’t a problem, it just means you’ll need to get more creative and pay closer attention to your macronutrient numbers if you track your nutrition.
Can you get enough protein as a vegan?
Don’t listen to anyone who says vegans will struggle to eat sufficient protein. There is plenty of protein in plant foods, especially beans, legumes, pulses, grains, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables. Make sure you have a quality plant protein powder or blend to help you get enough protein in your diet. Space your meals out every 3-4 hours to ensure you get regular protein feedings.
Amino acids in non- animal protein
The main consideration is not with total protein, but with amino acids. Whilst animal-based sources of protein tend to deliver a complete balance of amino acids, vegan protein sources usually lack some amino acids. This means you should combine food sources to make sure your body gets enough of all the amino acids to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS). A great example of this is approach is oats with a vegan protein powder, rice and peas, or a chilli made with various beans.
Plant-based food usually contain all the essential amino acids, but rarely have a complete spectrum or essential and non-essential amino acids, and some may be present in low concentrations.
Look out for the amounts of leucine in your vegan diet as this key essential amino acid is often deficient without animal protein, and is a crucial part of the body’s muscle building pathways. This is why adding a quality vegan protein powder into your diet is a great idea.
As a vegan, you should definitely add a quality protein powder to your nutrition plan. Protein powder is convenient and useful for everyone, but for vegans it also adds the peace of mind that your amino acids intake will be covered.
We recommend you choose a vegan blend rather than a single source protein powder – pea and soy is a great choice, as the two separate sources bring different amino acids to the mix. PhD Nutrition’s Smart Protein Plant gives you 20g+ protein per serving.
You could also try including some vegan protein bars into your diet, at 21-23g protein per serving (depending on flavour) and under 7g of carbohydrates, the PhD Smart Bar Plant range is a great way to boost your protein intake as well as a macro-friendly way to curb your sweet tooth.
The 21 Best Protein Sources for Vegans and Plant-based
Approximate amount of protein per 100g:
PhD Smart Protein Plant: 79g
Nutritional yeast: 52g
Pumpkin seeds: 30g
PhD Smart Bar Plant: 21-23g
Kidney beans: 21g
Soy beans: 17g
Chia seeds: 17g
Now that you’re powered up on protein, why not commit to a summer to remember and book onto a Tough Mudder event.