If you’ve been vegan or vegetarian for a while or are new to the game, you’ll probably know that protein becomes a hot topic when you become plant-based. ‘Are you getting enough protein?’ is a very common question or concern when we remove animal sources from our diets. For some people, protein is synonymous with meat and fish. And whilst they’re not wrong, with both being excellent sources of protein, they are missing out a huge variety of plant-based foods that offer protein and also an abundance of other beneficial nutrients too.
In this blog we’ll discuss the importance of protein & how to tell if you’re getting enough. Plus showing you some of our favourite plant-based protein treats!
The Importance of Protein
Every cell in the human body contains proteins. These proteins are made up of different combinations of amino acids. They are essential for cellular repair, growth, development, clotting, production of hormones & enzymes – the list goes on. In short, we wouldn’t exist without them!
There are 20 amino acids in total – 9 of which are essential, which means we cannot make them in the body and must be obtained through our diet. This is where the main difference between animal and plant protein sources stems from.
Animal products are nearly always a ‘complete’ protein – which means they contain all 9 essential amino acids. Often plant-based protein sources are ‘incomplete‘ – which means they lack one or several of these amino acids. This is where protein complementation comes in.
It might sound complicated but it’s really simple. By eating different combinations of plant-based protein sources a day, you can ensure you’re getting all the amino acids that you need. People often think it’s hard to get enough protein when you’re a vegan/vegetarian but it’s actually really easy!
How to tell if you’re not getting enough protein?
When you’re lacking in protein (or specifically amino acids), there are some tell tale symptoms that you might notice:
- Anxiety/depression (amino acids fuel the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine that prevent depression and anxiety)
- Poor injury recovery (protein fuels muscle recovery and regrowth)
- Hair Loss/Breakage (protein supports collagen production in the hair, skin, and nails)
- Inability to focus (amino acids support brain performance)
- Constant muscle pain or poor post-workout (protein helps muscle recovery and aids in repair)
- Brittle/Breaking Nails (protein supports collagen production in the hair, skin, and nails)
- Poor muscle tone, even with exercise (protein builds and maintains lean muscle mass)
- Constantly feeling tired (protein is needed for a healthy metabolism)
- Digestive issues (protein aids in digestion)
These symptoms could be caused by a host of other reasons though, so if you’re noticing any of the above symptoms – it’s always worth chatting to your GP.
How much Protein Do we need?
Our protein requirements vary per individual – but the general rule is between 0.7g-1g per pound of bodyweight. This requirement can increase if you’re looking to put on muscle mass, in combination with strength exercise.
So as a vegan/vegetarian, it’s important to include a source of plant-based protein with every meal to ensure that you’re getting an adequate intake. Incorporating protein into your diet is also great for satiety – keeping you feeling fuller for longer, as it takes longer for the body to digest than carbohydrates.
Some of our favourite plant-based protein sources include:
- Tofu, tempeh and edamame beans (all complete proteins!)
- Peas and pea protein
- Nuts and Seeds
Some of our favourite plant protein treats
If you’re having a busy day & just don’t have time to think about what you’re eating – we have some great ideas of how to pack in protein & nutrients with ease!
BodyHero Shakes: Contain a huge 20g plant-based protein, nothing artificial and contain less than 150kcal. Perfect as a mid-arvo or post-workout drink to fuel you through the rest of your day!
Reflex Nutrition Vegan Protein: Comes in a big tub or single-serve sachets when you’re on the go. This amazing protein powder not only tastes delicious, but is 100% natural and has added digestive enzymes to make it easy on the stomach.
Lexie’s Blueberry Bliss Protein Bar: Contain less than 100kcal, vegan, gluten free and a huge 10g of plant protein – that’s you on your way to your daily quota. Plus they taste unreal.
The good news is you’ll find each of these goodies in our August Lifebox!