A lot of people think that animal-based sources are the only way to get the full spectrum of protein you need to perform at your athletic peak.
Yet while meat, eggs, and dairy are generally good sources of complete protein, there are also plenty of ways that vegans can get enough protein.
And with the right sources, vegans can even get the complete range of protein, the same as someone with no dietary restrictions.
Read on and we’ll share what vegan athletes need to know about proper protein intake, how to get complete protein on a plant-based diet, and a tasty protein shake that ticks all the vegan boxes.
Getting enough protein is one thing athletes need to focus on. But you should also consider the type of protein you’re getting.
Not all protein sources are created equal. There are “complete” proteins, and “incomplete proteins”.
Complete protein sources are those that contain the full collection of nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of protein and are used by the body to build and repair muscle and other tissue, as well as to support other vital body functions.
What makes an amino acid “essential” is that it can only be gotten through food.
Out of 20 different amino acids, nine are essential. And for a protein source to be considered a “complete” protein, it needs to contain all of these essential amino acids.
Many people are concerned that it’s too difficult to consistently get complete proteins from a vegan diet. Popular animal-based proteins, such as beef, fish, eggs, and dairy, are complete proteins. In comparison, a lot of plant-based protein sources are lacking in one or more amino acids, making them incomplete proteins.
However, vegans and vegetarians will be glad to know that there are some plant-based sources that offer the full spectrum of amino acids.
Here are some to consider:
Rice and beans
Peanut butter sandwiches/toast
Hummus and pita bread
It’s important for anyone to get the full range of essential amino acids, but even more so for athletes.
Athletes need to build and repair muscle fibers on a daily basis. This recovery process requires adequate protein intake to work efficiently, which in turn requires athletes to get all nine essential amino acids.
The body will still repair itself and recover eventually, even when lacking in some or all of these amino acids. But this process is simply too slow to sit back and wait for. Athletes need to get back out there, and to do so, protein intake is a must.
While the narrative that vegans can’t get their complete protein needs from their diet is not quite accurate, it is true that most plant-based protein sources are short in one or more amino acids.
So, vegan athletes can miss out on the complete spectrum of amino acids if they don’t pay attention to their diet. However, as long as you eat a balanced diet with a range of protein sources, it’s easy enough to ensure that your diet, as a whole, contains all essential amino acids.
For example, rice and beans by themselves are not complete proteins. Rice is low in lysine, while beans are low in methionine. Yet together, each one makes up for the deficiencies of the other, and you’ll get the complete set.
As long as vegan athletes eat a balanced and varied diet, they’re not going to miss out on anything in terms of protein and amino acids.
Combinations of rice and beans, as we mentioned above, do a great job of making up for the essential amino acid each food lacks on its own. With some planning, vegans can make sure that any other incomplete protein sources are compensated for by other, complementary, incomplete proteins.
Try and eat a variety of different protein sources, such as chickpeas, beans, lentils, nuts and grains. Additionally, make sure you get complete proteins where you can, such as quinoa and tofu.
Another great way to ensure you get enough complete protein on a vegan diet is to take a protein shake at least once a day. Shakes are great at getting a high concentration of protein in one go, and by combining several ingredients, you can easily make up for any missing amino acids.
Best of all, shakes are super convenient, and easy to take as pre or post-workout boosters.
Start your vegan protein shake with vanilla pea protein powder. Pea protein has a varied amino acid profile, making it one of the best plant-based protein powders you can get.
Add in some oats, which are a good source of the essential amino acid methionine - which happens to be the one amino acid lacking in pea protein.
A scoop of peanut butter and some chia seeds will give you an even bigger protein hit, and more importantly, help you reach your complete protein goals.
Finish up with soy milk - or substitute for your vegan milk of choice, such as almond milk or oat milk.
Summing up, the ingredient list looks like this:
1 scoop vanilla pea protein powder
1 cup oats
1 spoon peanut butter
1 spoon chia seeds
Soy or almond milk (enough to reach your desired consistency)
This vegan protein shake is quick and easy to prepare, great tasting, and delivers a big protein hit with the full range of essential amino acids you need for optimal performance.
Couple this with a diet high in quinoa, beans, legumes, and other varied vegan protein sources, and you’ll have no problem maintaining protein intake as a vegan or vegetarian.
Join Panache Desai each weekday morning for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.
Designed To Move You From Survival and Fear to Safety and Peace. Available Monday - Friday. Meditation begins at 9 AM. Access early to hear Panache's monologue - around 8:30 AM.
...on all things life, wellness, love, transformation and spirituality...
PLUS! Get your FREE Guide: 12 Mindfulness Practices to a Peaceful Mind