Going vegan means giving up some protein sources such as chicken, fish, dairy and eggs. For many people, that’s giving up their main protein sources. “How do you get enough protein?” is a common question that vegans are asked.
Compared to a mainstream American diet that typically includes meat and dairy, a vegan diet seems to be lacking in protein on the surface. However, with careful planning and some dedication to learning about nutrition, vegans can obtain a sufficient amount of protein from plant foods.
Some vegans turn to vegan protein powders, because they make it easy to get in your daily protein requirements. You can throw the powder into smoothies or into mixtures for baked goods and sweets. Though protein powders can be great dietary supplements, are they really necessary? Depending on your goals and the lifestyle you lead, you may not need protein powder.
The CDC recommends, in general, that 10 to 35 percent of your daily calories come from protein. The recommended daily allowance for both men and women is 0.80 grams of protein for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. Or, that’s 0.36 grams of protein per pound that we weigh. Adults should obtain 10 percent to 35 percent of their day’s calories from protein foods. That’s about 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams for men.
If you eat a vegan diet with protein-rich foods, it might be unnecessary to add protein powder to the mix. There are many ways to get your recommended daily allowance of protein via plant foods. For example, one cup of tempeh provides a whopping 31 grams of protein, while lentils provide 18 grams per cup. Three tablespoons of hemp seeds provide 11 grams of protein, and two tablespoons of peanut butter provides 8 grams.
Jeff Sanders, a lifestyle management coach, host of The 5 AM Miracle Podcast, avid marathon runner, and passionate raw vegan says vegans do not need to waste time, money, or energy on protein powders.
“You don’t need as much protein as you think,” he wrote in his blog. “One year ago I stopped taking protein powders and stopped worrying about a potential protein deficiency. The result? I gained 15 pounds of pure vegan muscle. How? Exercise. I lifted weights a few times a week and ate real food. Sounds crazy and too simple to be true. But really, I am healthier now than when I tried to balance out my diet with over-priced supplements.”
Who should be using vegan protein powder? If you have the time to make a smoothie but not a meal that would give you substantial protein, using protein powders can then be convenient. Also, people who are working out frequently or doing athletic activities are burning more calories throughout the day, so their protein intake should be higher.
Aside from those who want to take in extra protein to train or bulk up, vegans can get plenty of protein without using powders. Consider what Sanders writes on his website: “Vegetarian animals (herbivores) get all the protein and other nutrients they need from plants. You’re no different.”
So, the quick answer: it depends on your needs, but we may be getting all of the protein we need from plant-based sources. Just do a little further investigation, and you’ll know for sure if there is a need to supplement in this area.
Image Source: Raw Vegan Protein Balls