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How to Tell If You’re Getting Enough Protein


It’s funny that no one really gives protein too much thought until they, or someone they know, decides to go-plant-based. Then the world stops and everyone’s concerned for the new, healthier plant-based eater. “Are you getting enough protein?” is the number one question vegans and even vegetarians can’t escape.

While every plant-based eater knows getting enough protein is completely possible, others aren’t always on board with this idea. To debunk the myth that you can’t get enough protein on a plant-based diet, we’ve shown you just how to get enough protein with plants, and now we’re going to show you what to look for to tell if you’re getting enough.

What We All Need to Consider About Protein

This advice isn’t just for plant-based eaters, but for everyone else too. The funny thing is, too much protein (especially from animal protein) actually isn’t beneficial. Animal protein raises insulin in the body which contributes to diabetes and high blood sugar. While it’s necessary to get enough protein, you obtain plenty that your body needs just from eating plant-based foods. Even those that aren’t technically vegan or vegetarian could be eating foods that don’t support their protein needs. Ironically, if someone eats a 100 percent whole foods plant-based diet or even an 80 percent whole foods plant-based diet, they’ll get more quality protein than someone eating the Standard American Diet of cheap processed cereal, junk food cookies, frozen dinners, and fast food.

However, a diet of fruits and veggies alone won’t give you all the protein you need. You do need some type of grains, nuts, seeds, or beans, even if they’re in small amounts. These foods provide more protein, and though leafy greens have plenty, most people (not all) need another source.

Protein is made of amino acids so when you’re lacking in protein, you’re really just lacking in amino acids (not because you don’t down a hamburger or eat eggs and drink milk.) Plants are packed with amino acids that can give you what you need. You should also consider if you’re having trouble absorbing the nutrients from your foods, which could indicate a case of malabsorptio (a problem with absorption of protein and enzyme production within the digestive tract.)

Here’s what to look for to tell if you’re lacking in protein:

Heather Crosby of Yum Universe, vegan nutritional expert and a T. Colin Campbell Foundation Certified Plant-Based Wellness Coach, says to look for the following signs if you’re worried about protein deficiency:

  • Anxiety/depression (amino acids fuel the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine that prevent depression and anxiety)
  • Poor injury recovery (protein fuels muscle recovery and regrowth)
  • Hair Loss/Breakage (protein supports collagen production in the hair, skin, and nails)
  • Inability to focus (amino acids support brain performance)
  • Constant muscle pain (protein helps muscle recovery and aids in repair)
  • Brittle/Breaking Nails (protein supports collagen production in the hair, skin, and nails)
  • Poor muscle tone, even with exercise (protein builds and maintains lean muscle mass)
  • Constantly fatigued (protein is needed for a healthy metabolism)
  • Digestive issues (protein aids in digestion)

It’s important to note that a diet too low in calories or too high in sugar will also cause these symptoms too, so eliminate those causes before you add more protein.

How Much Do You Need?

Most people only need 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight to maintain lean muscle mass, but could eat up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight to gain lean muscle.

Check out this complete list of protein-rich plant-based foods, get an entire day’s worth of meals, The Ultimate Guide to a Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet, and see how to get enough without eating one bit of animal protein. 

Now you can relax: a diet rich in whole foods will give your muscles all the protein you could dream of. Be sure to tell your family and friends that love you that the world can keep turning and then consider sharing some of your delicious food with them!

Image Source: Joel Nilsson Nelson/Flickr

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50 comments on “How to Tell If You’re Getting Enough Protein”

Click to add comment
Carl Butler
1 Years Ago

Protein deficiency is the original sin of nutrition. An imaginary disease meant to sell you an imaginary cure

Kaue Kranholdt
1 Years Ago

Rafael Spera

Alison Penman
1 Years Ago

It's .8-1 gram per kilo, not pound :). More if you are sick or healing tissue.

Kat's Underthestars
1 Years Ago

Shawn Eggnog Hagan

Melody Elizabeth
1 Years Ago

Annie Tamburello

Rhonda Hudson Schueller
1 Years Ago

Good info

Rob Schipp
1 Years Ago

Nikki Butler Rob Schipp

Mel Morns
1 Years Ago

That calculation is wrong. It's 0.9gm per kg of body weight. That's about 60 - 80 gms per day for the average person. An egg has about 10gms. Oh and you left out how important protein is for immunity :/

Jeanette Flåterud
1 Years Ago

How the crap do you digest those amounts of cabbage and beans? *heads over to fridge to hunt meat and eggs*

Andrea Evans
1 Years Ago

Well... I definitely cannot strike that pose so obviously I must need more protein!!!!


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