01 Feb BECOME A ‘PRO’ AT PROTEIN
BECOME A ‘PRO’
There’s Only 3 Things You
Actually Need To Know
Considering our team is evenly split between people who eat either a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can probably imagine that we still get plenty of surprised faces when we tell new people that the food we choose to consume doesn’t consist of meat or dairy.
Now, if you’re a die-hard carnivore, we get it. It’s hard to imagine a life without steak, burgers or cheese and we’ve been there. In fact, we’re not going to lie, there are even times when we miss it.
But considering there are numerous reasons to go meat-free (health, ethics, environment) and plenty of alternative options around today, it’s always a huge surprise to us when people always seem to genuinely worry about one thing in particular.
Now, this isn’t going to be a post about why you should or shouldn’t go vegan or vegetarian for yourself. There are plenty of other places that you can get that info and see whether it’s right for you. So we’re going to start off on the basis that you might be interested in making the switch but maybe some dude from down the the pub (we’ll call him Gary*) told you some weird stuff and now you’ve got some legit questions.
There are loads of protein myths flying around, plenty of which you can safely ignore. We’re about to simplify things for you and put the record straight once and for all.
Buckle up kids, you’re about to go pro.
// Need To Know #1 - Er, What Even Is Protein, Really? //
Protein is basically one of the most crucial components for our bodies and its found in literally every cell, from our muscle tissue to our blood and even helps to make enzymes and hormones.
When we eat protein, it gets broken down into 20 amino acids that are then absorbed by our cells to create new proteins or repair old ones. Of the 20, we call 9 of them ‘essential’ because we can only get them from our diet. The other 11 amino acids can be made by the body.
Now these amino acids are important, because they create what are known as ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’ forms of protein. Meat is an example of a ‘complete’ form of protein, which is why many people (cough*Gary*cough) swear that meats are the only way to get all of the amino acids you need. However, in a plant-based diet, you can just eat combinations of certain foods to get the complete set your body needs. Which is actually way easier than it first sounds. More on that later.
// Need To Know #2 - You Can Calculate Exactly How Much Protein YOU Need //
There’s a lot of talk over how much protein we should be consuming every day, especially from health and fitness gurus. But when you’re new to the scene, how the heck are you supposed to know?
Well, we know now that our bodies require enough protein to enable our cells to grow, divide and die. So let’s define what counts as ‘enough’.
The general rule of thumb (for the average person to maintain their current body composition) is that you should consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of your weight. So for example:
1. Your weight in lbs ÷ by 2.2 = your weight in kilograms
2. Your weight in kilograms x 0.8 = The amount in grams of protein needed to retain muscle mass.
But if you’re active or specifically trying to lose weight or build muscle, there’s a couple of things to take into consideration.
Most sources say that for weight loss, it’s a good idea to consume more protein than the recommended daily allowance because it takes longer to break down and therefore helps you to feel fuller for longer. It also helps you build the lean muscle required to accelerate fat burning.
Additionally, if you do endurance forms of fitness (like running, cycling, swimming), you should times your weight in kilograms by around 1.2 – 1.4 to get the amount of protein you need. If strength training is your thing however, (i.e, lifting weights) then times your weight in kilograms by 1.4 – 2.0 instead to give you body the fuel it needs.
These might seem like a lot, but actually, dieticians and nutritionists have been trying to tell us for years that we should be eating more protein than the RDA, which is the absolute minimum amount required to keep up health. Just make sure you watch the overall quantity or calories of food you eat in general if weight loss is your goal. MyFitnessPal is a good go to app that will help you track your calories and macros (protein, carbs, and fat) to make sure you don’t go overboard.
// Need To Know #3 - You Can Get PLENTY Of Protein From Plant-Based Sources //
Okay cool. So we’ve worked out how much protein we need on an individual level. But how are we actually supposed to apply this to the food we eat?
Well at this point, we’ll be up front in telling you that the most efficient way to get protein into your diet is pretty much by consuming meat, eggs and dairy. That much is true. But what a lot of people are still confused about is whether you can easily get the protein you need from plant-based sources. And the the simple answer to that is: you definitely can.
You will not, we repeat, WILL NOT lose muscle mass from eating a well balanced plant-based diet based on the above calculations, no matter what Gary might say. And you won’t need protein shakes or bars or whatever else Kim Kardashian is promoting on instagram this week to achieve it either.
Foods like soy, seitan, buckwheat, quinoa and quorn are all example of complete vegetarian friendly proteins. Pairings such as rice and beans, or hummus and pita, are too when eaten in combination.
Meanwhile, foods like lentils, leafy greens, peas, peanuts, almonds, flax seeds and some grains are great sources of protein but will need to be combined with other foods to make them complete. The good news is that if you eat a well balanced diet, you’ll achieve this with little to no thought anyway. Boom.
So there we have it.
Not so scary after all, right? And if there’s more you need to know, there are plenty of good sources all over the internet that will guide you in the right direction. At least now you’re armed with the basics and can hold your own when Gary starts waffling on to you again.
Pipe down Gary.
*Gary is a fictional dude in this case, but almost every Vegan we know has encountered someone like him who just does not, cannot, will not believe that protein is available anywhere other than meat or protein shakes. Time to level up, Gary.