Let's Talk About Protein
Every time I talk to my dad he asks me "How are your knees and are you getting enough protein?". I love my dad but these are the two questions I'm asked constantly due to being a plant based ultrarunner. (BTW, my knees are fine)
Let's be honest, when was the last time you heard of someone dying from protein deficiency? Probably never. (The only time that could happen in a first world country is if he or she was severely calorie restricted and was suffering from all around malnutrition.)
What is protein?
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass. It is made up of amino acid building blocks, some of them are essential which mean that our bodies can't make them. It helps build and repair our cells and muscles. When it is broken down in the body it helps to fuel muscle mass, which helps metabolism.
How much protein do i need?
The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.8grams per every kilogram you weigh, or multiply your weight in pounds by .36. I used the online calculator from the USDA (found here) and it told be I needed 50 grams of protein. One scoop of the Vega Protein Powder I use just about everyday has 30 grams in it. That means during the rest of the day I only need to get 20 grams of protein. Easy peasy.
where else can you find protein?
Protein is in basically everything, even fruit (A cup of blackberries has 2grams of protein for example).
Here are some whole food plant based ways to get your protein:
- Quinoa - 8 grams per cooked cup
- Tofu - 10 grams per 1/2 cup
- Tempeh - 15 grams per 1/2 cup
- Chia seeds - 4 grams per 2 tablespoon serving
- Edamame - 18 grams per 1-cup serving (cooked)
- Broccoli - 2.6 grams per cup
- Peas - 8.6 grams per cup
You can also get it from some faux meat products. I'm a BIG fan of Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger. This plant based patty contains a whopping 20 grams of plant protein. Plus it's delicious. I cook mine up sans bun usually on top of lettuce and some roasted veggies. Gardein makes some good meat replacements that all contain a good amount of protein. You can find Beyond Meat and Gardein at Whole Foods or any grocery store. I love how widely available these products are.
Is there downside to having too much protein?
Yes! I feel like this is something that no one talks about!
One of the side effects of consuming too much protein is that your body starts too lose calcium. You start to excrete calcium in your urine. Over doing it on protein can also hurt your kidneys. It can also make you gain weight. When you eat more protein then your body needs, the excess protein is used to provide your body with energy or turned into fat. Your body can only process at the most 30grams of protein at a time, so when you eat more then that, it turns into fat. Dr Garth Davis pointed out in Proteinoholic that it's kinda crazy that people go ham on protein both to lose weight AND to gain weight. (Obviously I'm paraphrasing him.)
You can become dehydrated. It takes extra water for your body to break down protein for use and get rid of the waste that is left behind, so it is possible to get dehydrated from consuming too much protein if you don’t drink sufficient water throughout the course of the day.
This article in the from the National Institute of health is pretty informative.
I hope this has cleared up some of the confusion of protein and, as always, if you have any questions or confusion let me know in the comments!