If you’ve started reading this blog post, then it’s fair to assume that you have an interest in vegan protein. There are many different advantages to going vegan and eating a plant-based diet. However, one the primary drawbacks (especially for athletes and individuals who want to ensure optimal performance and/or maintain muscle mass) a vegan diet can make it challenging to get one’s needed protein.
The advantage to consuming vegan proteins over animal-based proteins is that plant-based protein absorbs cleaner and more effectively. That is, vegan protein can significantly help optimize recovery and muscle repair compared to many animal proteins. Further, some animal-based proteins, particular some dairy, can be inflammatory. This further reinforces the benefits in going vegan and opting for plant-based proteins.
But before you go out reviewing vegan protein powder supplements or stocking up on tempeh and tofu, below I’ve outlined some tips to help you optimize your plant-based nutrition, particularly surround vegan proteins.
Determine Why You Think You Need Vegan Protein Supplementation
First off, be aware that the whole protein craze is largely a myth. We are bombarded with marketing messages telling us we need to be getting more protein.
The truth is, we don’t need necessarily more protein, but the right types. With the exception of body builders looking to put on lots of muscle mass, most individuals (include endurance athletes) thrive on low to moderate diet. Such is case based on scientific evidence with emerging ketogenic diet that’s exploding in popularity.
That’s not to say, “go vegan-keto!” Because that would be very difficult. Rather, consider getting the right types of high-quality proteins, especially those with the right amino acid profile.
Understand The Amino Acid Profile of Vegan Proteins
Certain amino acids (especially BCAAs or branched chain amino acids) are very important for optimal nutrition as well as athletic performance. Unfortunately, vegan proteins do not quite have the same amino acid profile as animal-based proteins. While many plant-based protein have some or certain types of amino acids, it’s not always easy to find a “complete” protein in plants without properly combining certain foods or opting for a vegan protein powder supplement.
If you’re an athlete and you’re interested in a vegan protein powder supplement, seek products with BCAAs and high quality plant based protein profiles (i.e. Hemp protein, Pea protein, Chia Seed protein, etc.) That’s not to say brown rice protein and other less expensive options aren’t any good. But if you’re optimizing athletic performance with a vegan diet, this is vital. My two cents: check out this review of Vega Sport Performance Protein, which is one of my favorite vegan protein powders.
Know Which Plants Are Good Sources of Protein
Lastly, it’s good to know which plant-based foods are rich in protein. We’ve already mentioned several big ones (tofu, tempeh, hemp, chia seed, and pea), but to give a list of other great whole foods with high levels of protein, consider adding to your grocery cart:
- Beans, Lentils, & Legumes
- Rice (especially combined with legumes to make a complete protein)
- Seeds (i.e. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds)
- Nuts (i.e. almonds, pecans, and walnuts)
- Broccoli & Leafy Greens (i.e. Kale, Spinach, Chard, and Collards)
There’s many more than that, but ultimately remember that’s all about quality and clean eating.