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How Vegan's Get Their Daily Protein Intake

How Vegan's Get Their Daily Protein Intake

Vegan diets are more popular than ever these days as more individuals seek to increase the plant food intake while at the same time reducing their intake of animal-based foods for a variety of reasons.

Yet, a common misconception about vegans and vegan diets is that it can be challenging to consume enough protein each day.

As you'll see shortly, though, getting enough plant-based protein can be pretty easy. Follow our guide on how to get your daily source of protein as a vegan.

How to Calculate Vegan Protein Needs

Protein needs for vegans don’t drastically differ from individuals who consume animal products.

To maximize protein synthesis, muscle recovery, performance increases, and growth, research indicates resistance-trained individuals should consume between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. [1]

This equates to roughly 0.72-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

If you weigh 130 pounds, you would need to consume between 93.6 to 130 grams of protein per day.

Now, some of you reading this may wonder if consuming moreprotein can lead to faster recovery and/or greater gains in size and strength.

Based on the current body of evidence, it doesn’t appear that consuming amounts of protein greatly above and beyond the 1 gram per pound recommendation will substantially enhance muscle growth. It will likely be converted to glucose and used for energy production. 

With that in mind, something to take into consideration is that some research indicates that plant proteins may be less bioavailable than animal proteins for a variety of factors. [2]

Additionally, plant-based proteins generally contain less leucine compared to animal-based proteins. [2]

This is important because leucine is the “anabolic” trigger of muscle growth, as it has been identified as a powerful stimulator of mTOR -- the biological pathway that drives protein synthesis. 

What this means is that if you’re not consuming adequate amounts of leucine (or essential amino acids throughout the day, you are not maximizing muscle protein synthesis, thereby potentially limiting your body’s recovery and growth capacity.

There's also the concern that plant proteins contain various "antinutrients," such as phytates, oxalates, and tannins, which have been shown to reduce the digestibility and bioavailability of amino acids contained in protein. [3]

The combination of incomplete/deficient amino acid profiles and antinutrients results in plant proteins generally having lower biological values and PDCAAS rating. [4]

That being said, it may behoove plant-strong athletes to consume slightly more protein to account for any inefficiencies in the digestion and utilization of plant protein.

With that in mind, let's now take a look at some of the best vegan sources of protein.

Where Do Vegans Get Their Protein?

There is no shortage of tasty foods to help hit your protein requirements for the day if you're a vegan or an omnivore looking to increase your intake of plant foods.

Here are a few of the best vegan protein sources:

#1 Beans

Beans of all kinds (kidney, black, pinto, garbanzo, etc.) are among the best sources of plant protein. 

Each cup of cooked beans contains approximately 15 grams as well as complex carbohydrates and fiber. They’re also packed with numerous vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, potassium, phosphorus, potassium, and manganese.

#2 Lentils

Another high-protein plant is the highly underrated lentil.

Packing an impressive 18 grams of protein per cup, lentils easily rank as one of the best plant protein sources available. Even better, they’re incredibly affordable (just like beans!).

Furthermore, lentils are also rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and a particular type of fiber, which feeds the good bacteria in the gut, promoting a healthy, happy gut microbiome.

Lentils are a staple in dahl, but they can also be added to stews, soups, chilis, and even salads!

#3 Nutritional Yeast

Possibly an ingredient with which you’re not that familiar, nutritional yeast is a deactivated strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast with a cheesy flavor, making it a popular ingredient to use in dishes like mashed potatoes, cauliflower au gratin, lasagna, or popcorn!

Unlike other plant protein sources, which are usually lacking in one or more essential amino acids (thereby making them an "incomplete protein"), nutritional yeast is a complete protein -- meaning it has all nine EAAs needed to support protein synthesis in the body.

Nutritional yeast contains 14 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber per ounce (28 grams)!

Fortified nutritional yeast also supplies quality amounts of essential micronutrients, including magnesium, zinc, copper, and all the B vitamins, including B12 -- a micronutrient found only in animal foods.

#4 Soy (In a Variety of Forms)

Until recently, soy was considered the only "real" source of protein in vegan diets because it is a complete protein.

Some research has shown that gains in size and strength are comparable when supplementing soy protein vs. whey protein.

Soy comes in many forms, including edamame, tofu, tempeh, and soy protein powder.

Tofu is very mild in taste and can be added to just about anything, including soups and salads, much the same edamame (immature soybeans) can.

Tempeh has a distinct nutty flavor, so its incorporation into culinary fare may need a bit more deft touch (but will still yield a decidedly delicious dish).

#5 Hemp Seeds

Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein and healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. 

At the top of the list are hemp seeds, which not only tout a high protein content but also rich in essential micronutrients, particularly magnesium.

Even better, unlike some other plant protein sources, hemp seeds require next to no prep. Toss them into smoothies, salads, or yogurt, and you're all set!

Easy Way for Vegans to Get Enough Protein Each Day

There's no shortage of ways for vegans to hit their protein needs each day. With a well-constructed, diverse diet and proper supplementation regimen, plant-strong athletes can get in all the essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals needed to not only survive but thrive.

Sometimes, there isn't always time to prep, cook, and eat a meal, let alone clean up all the dishes that go with it. Besides, sometimes, you want something quick and easy to fix with no muss or fuss.

That’s why we created Steel Vegan™!

Steel Vegan™ is a delicious-tasting protein powder containing four different plant-based protein sources, including pea isolate, watermelon seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seed, to deliver 20 grams of complete protein serving. 

Steel Vegan™ has been specifically formulated to supply a complete essential amino acid profile, including 4 grams of naturally occurring branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) per serving to support muscle recovery.*

Unlike other plant proteins, which mix poorly and taste like pulverized dirt and grass, Steel Vegan™ mixes easily and delivers a smooth, rich, and creamy taste that will keep you returning for more!

References

  1. Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 10 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
  2. Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein - Which is Best?. J Sports Sci Med. 2004;3(3):118–130. Published 2004 Sep 1.
  3. Van Vliet, S.; Burd, N.A.; van Loon, L.J. The skeletal muscle anabolic response to plant-versus animal-based protein consumption. J. Nutr. 2015, 145, 1981–1991.
  4. Gilani, G.S.; Xiao, C.W.; Cockell, K.A. Impact of antinutritional factors in food proteins on the digestibility of protein and the bioavailability of amino acids and on protein quality. Br. J. Nutr. 2012, 108, 315–332

Rob Kaufman
Rob Kaufman

As a former collegiate athlete, I’ve has always had a passion for all things health and wellness. SteelFit® is a culmination of all my years of education, training, and passion combined. I create, formulate, and educate daily. I am always thinking of how to give our customers the latest and greatest products to help them achieve their goals. Some of my best ideas come when I’m at the gym. When I’m not doing all those, I love spending time with my wife Jessica, my son Logan, our three puppies, and playing daily fantasy sports. I love to travel and am always up for a good cheat meal.



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