This is absolutely the #1 question I get as a personal trainer when I tell people about my plan to transition to plant-based. It’s funny though, I’m not really sure where the idea of being protein deficient came from. Somehow we’ve got it in our heads that if we can just get enough protein, everything will be ok. But what really is protein? How does it work and how much do you really need?
When I was learning about nutrition in my personal training course I found it to be completely fascinating. I’m honestly thinking about going in for a certification in nutrition; it’s that fascinating to me. Protein is essential for us to function properly, but probably not the way you think. Protein is a peptide chain that transports essential and non-essential amino acids to where they need to go.
Think of it this way, you go on Amazon and order 4 things. Amazon waits until all 4 items have been received at the shipping facility and then they are sent out for delivery to you. Well that’s how it would go in a perfect world. And we are...perfectly made! So, that’s exactly how protein works and why it’s so essential. It is the delivery truck that gets your vital nutrients to where they need to go. Without protein all the nutrients you eat would be floating around not knowing where they are needed. Animal products are like having a personal assistant that places your order for you. So then, how many delivery trucks do you need? The answer is found in another question, how big is your order that’s out for delivery? If you’re not very active, the body has less need to replenish (a small order) but if you workout or are very active (a large order) the body has a lot more deliveries to make. The average person needs about 0.8-1g of protein per Kg of body weight and up to 1.7g per Kg for athletes. For those of us on the imperial system, 1 kilogram is about 2.2 pounds.
So to make it simple, for the average person consuming 1g of protein per kg of body weight that’s 45g for every 100 pounds. Did you know that you can get 15g of protein from 1 cup of cooked kidney beans? Given that guideline, for your body weight, how many grams of protein do YOU need? (Do a quick search for a protein calculator on the internet.)
How much protein have you had today? Honestly, the answer is probably, plenty! There are plant-based options that offer a great substitution for meat. With a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you can replace animal-based protein with plant-based protein rather easily.
And remember, “she died from a protein deficiency”, said no one...ever!
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A companion podcast, "Protein Snobbery: Challenging The Misconception About Plant-Based Protein" is available for more information via the team's lively discussion and as always, frank dialogue.