In part 1 of this 3 part blog series I wrote about why I had made the change to a plant based lifestyle, in this, part 2, I will discuss the topic always hot on every one’s lips…Protein.
I’m a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach at Lomax PT in Chelsea, I’ve been personal training for over 5 years and training myself in the gym for nearly 17 years (Bodybuilding, fitness modelling, fitness shows etc) and I was a meat eater for 36.5 years until last November when I turned Vegan and started living a purely plant based lifestyle.
The relevance of the time spans and years of experience mentioned in my introduction has relevance to this article as it should show to you that having relied heavily on animal products my whole life, I have had to make serious adjustments to the sources of protein that I now choose.
It’s funny when you mention to people you’re Vegan, the first thing 99.9999% of people say with a totally shocked look is ‘….bbbbut what do you do about protein!!!’ almost as if at any moment I might just fall over and die, due to my weak and feeble green diet.
Now my lifting numbers aren’t the strongest by far but they are better than average and climbing again after a year of injury. Let us note that I am currently deadlifting 170kg plus, my squat clean is around 75kg and I can perform a full Turkish getup with a 24kg Kettlebell for reps, I am feeling strong, fit and healthy due to a simply planned and consistent approach to nutrition.
I did lose some excess weight after my diet changed which is not surprising as my body had to learn to break down purely plant based sources of protein and I was also going through a very stressful and busy period with work.
The over reaction by meat eaters is obviously one born out of ignorance to nutritional sources of protein and what actually constitutes protein.
Protein is Amino Acids
Let’s look at what makes up ‘Protein’ as the general public know it. Well what actually makes up protein is amino acids, essential and non-essential that the body has to break protein down into in the first place in order to use it for growth, repair, energy production and a million other functions within the cells.
So from here on in let’s not refer to it as Protein but Amino Acids as it will help with the understanding.
Essential Amino Acids – Are the amino acids not synthesised by the body therefore must be obtained through diet.
Non-Essential Amino Acids – Can be synthesised by the body.
Animal derived protein is considered a high quality source of protein as it contains large numbers of all 8 of the essential amino acids, it is a one stop shop.
Note: Soya, Quinoa and Spinach are also considered high quality protein sources.
The majority of plant based proteins contain all essential amino acids but they have varying quantities, some have more than others.
Note: For example, grains are lower in lysine (an essential amino acid) and legumes are lower in methionine (another essential amino acid) than those protein sources designated as high quality protein.
But this doesn’t mean that by eating a plant based diet that you will definitely be deficient in essential amino acids, you just need to eat a diverse range of plant based sources to ensure you hit all the bases and it doesn’t mean that you categorically need to consume them all in one day, as long as your diet rotates over the course of a few days you’ll get everything that you need in the right quantities, the problem lies with a ‘lazy’ plant based diet.
Ensuring a Diverse Range of Plant Based Proteins
Below I show you how I put together my plant based meals, ensuring each meal contains certain elements.
Step 1 – Choose a Pulse or Bean.
Step 2 – Choose a High Protein Grain.
Step 3 – Choose different vegetables daily including at least 1 leafy green.
Step 4 – Cook and add good quality fats into each meal.
Step 1 – Lentils
Step 2 – Quinoa
Step 3 – Kale, Aubergine, Cherry tomatoes, red onion, garlic and ginger.
Step 1 – Black Beans
Step 2 – Buckwheat
Step 3 – Spinach, Cucumber, Mushrooms, spring onion, garlic and ginger.
Step 1 – Falafel ( Chickpeas )
Step 2 – Pearled Barley
Step 3 – Kale, broccoli, courgette, carrots, red onion, garlic and ginger.
As you can see by adopting this simple way of looking at each meal, we create a diverse pool of essential amino acids over a few days and that doesn’t include other meals and smoothies consumed.
So the next time someone gasps and says to you ‘bbbut what about the protein!!!’, correct them and say ‘oh you mean essential amino acids right?’ and if they stare back blankly at you, just kindly refer them to this blog post and walk on by.
In part 3 we’ll look at the other potential deficiencies of a plant based diet and how to get around them.
Stay Consistent and Be Committed