Motivation, Creating More Free Time, and Overcoming Stress with Jeff Sanders

EP210

Jeff Sanders’s ability to rise early, stay motivated, and get stuff done has long been an inspiration for the NMA Radio team.

But even for one of the best, most productive guys out there, he still needs a process of managing and evaluating what’s on his plate.

In today’s episode, Jeff shares how his philosophy has changed over the years, and how he underwent a major life shift after stress landed him in the hospital.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • Why Jeff ended up in the ER.
  • How weekly reviews can keep you focused.
  • The advice Jeff no longer gives.
  • Focusing on the “one thing.”
  • Going big vs. small steps.

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If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

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How to Build Muscle on a Plant-Based Diet: Staple Foods, Meal Plans, and Philosophy

gym interior with equipment

Let’s face it, building muscle is hard, no matter what “diet” you follow. And supporting your athletic endeavors with a plant-based diet can be challenging too, especially if you’re new to the vegan lifestyle.

I’ve been there—desperately hoping to gain muscle and weight eating only plants. After decades of learning from personal failures and successes, I have officially cracked the code on how to truly build and sustain muscle. I’m sharing those keys to success with you today so that you too can achieve your bodybuilding and fitness goals.

When I first started my plant-based, muscle-building journey many years ago, there wasn’t much publicly available on the subject. So little, in fact, that I had to rely almost entirely on trial and error. Thankfully, over time I started to figure it out, and I grew from weighing 120 pounds in 1995 when I went vegan, to a 210-pound champion bodybuilder at my peak, built entirely by plants (and hard work in the gym).

Even if you’ve struggled with building muscle in the past (while plant-based or not), I’m confident you can bulk up when you apply the strategies, habits, foods, and exercises necessary to achieve your goals.

And it all starts with nutrition.

Understanding Your Caloric Needs

Your quest to build muscle on a plant-based diet relies on understanding your true calorie needs. Not guessing, or estimating, or assuming characteristics about your current habits, but real, raw data based on who you are and what you do.

Believe it or not, it’s much easier to figure out than you might think.

Start with finding your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) using the Harris-Benedict equation. BMR is the amount of calories you expend simply by existing, based on your gender, age, height, and weight.

Combine that number with your actual activity level—any additional movements beyond just existing, like walking the dog, running errands, hitting the gym, or walking up a flight of stairs. This gives you the approximate number of total calories you expend daily… your calorie needs.

If you expend 2,500 calories per day, you need to consume 2,500 calories per day just to maintain weight.

In order to gain muscle, you would need to consume more than 2,500 calories, ideally from mostly real plant foods. Combine that with resistance weight training, and you’re on your way to muscle-town.

Not that long ago I shared this technique, along with a breakdown of my own caloric needs, in an interview for the No Meat Athlete Academy. Check out this clip:

Red treadmill, track running at the stadium

As simple as this sounds, implementing this approach into daily life is the real struggle. But it doesn’t have to be…

You just need to consume the healthy foods you enjoy most, with sufficient calorie quantities, and you’ve got it made.

To determine which foods will help most, it’s important to consider not only calories but also nutrient density.

Calories vs. Nutrient Density

The nutrient density of a food is the amount of nutrients you can obtain from it, given the number of calories it contains. Nutrients give your body nourishment, allowing for growth, muscle recovery, energy, and quite frankly, the maintenance of life—think vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, fiber, water, nitric oxide, and other phytonutrients. If you’re looking for the biggest bang for your nutrient buck, the best place to look is whole foods.

Simply speaking, there is nothing in fresh, whole food that doesn’t belong there. There’s a profound difference between eating 2,500 calories of whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds, and eating 2,500 calories of processed food-like substances such as chips, fries, pizza, candy, and ice cream.

You may be eating 2,500 calories either way, but the nutritional result is wildly different.

Therefore, low-calorie, nutrient dense foods provide a higher return on investment than foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition. Eating a high-calorie, nutrient-poor diet will make any fitness goals a struggle, whether burning fat and losing weight, building muscle, or improving endurance.

Here is a look at the rough calorie count vs. nutrient score for some common food types:

FoodCalories Per PoundANDI Score
Kale2231000
Arugula136604
Potatoes (baked or boiled)389181
Bananas40030
Apples23053
Carrots136458
Kidney Beans151164
Peanut Butter266551
Chicken Breast100024
French Fries140012
Almonds260028
Ice Cream9459
Olive Oil400010
Cola1701

Using Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s ANDI score method is an easy way to measure nutrient density. ANDI stands for Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, and basically reports “nutrients divided by calories,” Fuhrman’s formula for healthy eating. The higher the ANDI score, the higher nutrient density.

While calorie density is very important regarding weight gain and weight loss, nutrient density speaks to our health and the overall nutrition we are getting. Whole plant foods provide the perfect combination of relatively low calorie density with high nutrient quantity, and some foods such as the staples I list a little further down, are kings and queens of the plant-based jungle.

As we know, eating a plant-based diet doesn’t mean limiting yourself to fewer food options than on an omnivorous diet. There are lots of options! While this is good news, it can also be overwhelming. But—like many things, it doesn’t have to be too complicated at all.

Five Staple Foods for Bulking Up

This is the section where calorie needs and nutrient density come together in beautiful union.

By weighing a food’s calories against its nutrient density profile, you’ll set yourself up for success in building muscle. Of course you want to consume as many nutrients as possible, but hitting your calorie goals on kale alone just won’t cut it.

So where do you start? Here are five staple foods to include in your bulking up program, based on their nutrient-to-calorie ratios and caloric density:

  1. Oats
  2. Potatoes
  3. Beans/lentils
  4. Brown rice
  5. Bananas/other fruits

With variations of just these five staple foods alone, you can create lots of variety and overall nutrition to help you in your bulking efforts.

Now, let’s put that in action…

Create Muscle-Building Meal Plans

In my new book, Plant-Based Muscle, my co-author Vanessa Espinoza and I provide a great collection of meal plans. I’d like to share two with you now to showcase the variety of foods that can help you hit your caloric goals.

Sample Meal Plan 1 with 2,500 Calories

Breakfast

Oatmeal

  • 1 cup cooked spelt
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower butter
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon                               
  • 1 sliced banana
  • Mix together in a bowl

634 calories, 95 g carbohydrates, 17.6 g protein, 20.4 g fat, 14 g fiber

Snack

Edamame

  • 1 cup

189 calories, 15 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein, 8 g fat, 8 g fiber

Snack  

Fruit

  • 2 cups blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries, or any combination of the three

92 calories, 20 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 0 g fat, 3 g fiber

Lunch  

Spinach and Kale Salad

  • 1 cup raw spinach
  • 1 cup raw kale
  • ½ cup cooked brown lentils
  • Any type of veggies you like
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • ½ cooked sweet potato
  • 2 tablespoons Follow Your Heart brand vegan honey mustard dressing

495 calories, 71 g carbohydrates, 16 g protein, 16.3 g fat, 12.3 g fiber

Snack

Nuts and Seeds

  • Handful of raw nuts and seeds (no oil or salt): peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

441 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 15.2 g protein, 36 g fat, 9 g fiber

Dinner

Rice and Bean Bowl

  • ½ cup cooked black rice                                                        
  • ½ cup chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli or asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Mix together on a plate

343 calories, 64 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein , 3 g fat, 10 g fiber

Snack

2 Banana Protein Muffins

  • 4 bananas
  • 1 cup dry oats
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Mix in the remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined. Form into 12 balls and place on a cookie sheet or in a muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes.

For 2 banana muffins: 259 calories, 34.8 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 14.8 g fat, 5.6 g fiber

Totals

2,453 calories, 313.8 g carbohydrates, 93.8 g protein, 98.5 g fat, 61.9 g fiber

Sample Meal Plan 2 with 2,900 Calories

Breakfast

Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons chia
  • 1 banana
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds

699 calories, 96 g carbohydrates, 23.8 g protein, 24.4 g fat, 20 g fiber

Snack

Fruit and Nut Butter

  • Apple and 1 tablespoon peanut butter

275 calories, 31 g carbohydrates, 7.5 g protein, 15.3 g fat, 6.4 g fiber

Or, Protein Shake

  • Vegan protein shake with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, water, and ice

211 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 7g fat, 5 g fiber

Lunch

Sweet Potato Plate

  • 6 ounces baked tofu using different types of seasoning
  • ½ cup sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups roasted or steamed veggies

698 calories, 62 g carbohydrates, 45 g protein, 30 g fat, 5 g fiber

Snack

Veggies and Hummus

  • Raw veggies of any kind (I like to keep chopped up celery, carrots, cucumbers, and radishes in the fridge)
  • 2 tablespoons hummus

78 calories, 9 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 3.8 g fat, 2 g fiber

Snack

Nuts and Seeds

  • Handful raw nuts and seeds (no oil or salt): peanuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

441 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 15.2 g protein, 36 g fat, 9 g fiber

Dinner

Black Bean Bowl

  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup cooked brown basmati or black rice, farro, or quinoa
  • ½ avocado, diced
  • ½ cup salsa of your choice
  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast
  • Mix together in a bowl

658 calories, 96.6 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 18.3 g fat, 26.2 g fiber

Snack

Fruit

  • 1 cup strawberries and 1 cup blueberries

122 calories, 28 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 0 g fat, 6 g fiber

Or, Protein Shake

  • Vegan protein shake with 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, water, and ice

211 calories, 13 g carbohydrates, 24 g protein, 7 g fat, 5 g fiber

Totals

2,971 calories, 336.6 g carbohydrates, 122.5 g protein, 127.8 g fat, 74.6 g fiber

With optional protein shakes:

2,996 calories, 303.6 g carbohydrates, 161 g protein, 126.5 g fat, 72.2 g fiber

Combine an Effective Exercise Program for Desired Results

I’ve talked a lot about nutrition in this article, but before you think gaining muscle is all about eating, an effective exercise program is unsurprisingly a key component. I won’t go into too much detail here (there are plenty of lifting routines out there), but I do want to share the fundamental principles everyone should follow:

  1. The foundation of your workout program should consist of barbell and dumbbell free weight exercises.
  2. Perform exercises you enjoy. Ultimately, if it isn’t fun, you will find a way to avoid it.
  3. Create a workout program that targets all major muscle groups, including, legs, chest, back, shoulders, arms, and abs, to ensure you stimulate muscle growth throughout your whole body, not just your chest and biceps. You can train one muscle group per day, for five or six major workouts per week, or you can combine multiple muscle groups into a single workout.
  4. Consistency is key to success. You will need to put in the requisite time in order to attain desired results.
  5. Set attainable goals.
  6. Document your workouts as a way to hold yourself accountable.

The key is to train hard with consistency and with a level of intensity geared toward igniting and eliciting change and forward progress.

Set Goals and Objectives and Track Your Progress

A great exercise and nutrition plan creates an excellent foundation for your bodybuilding goals. The next step is to create actionable goals with attainable objectives.

Here’s an example of what that looks like:

Goal: Add 10 pounds of total mass over the next 6 months. (Pro-tip: Share your goal with some friends and on social media, and hold yourself accountable by providing regular updates, good or bad.)

Timeline: Add 2 pounds of mass per month (muscle, fat, and water weight), and evaluate progress monthly.

Action Plan: 5 days per week of resistance weight training, and develop a nutrition plan that supports your goal by meeting your calorie and other nutritional needs.

It’s also important to track your progress daily. Not only your gains, but also track the food you eat.

This may seem tedious at first, but I’ve found that over time, it becomes second nature, and with little effort you’ll be able to construct a nutrition program that will set you on the path to success.

Meal tracking can be the secret sauce to your muscle-building plan. But of course, sometimes, life gets in the way.

Recently, I spent many months editing, revising, and re-writing a book I spent nearly two years writing. I was working 12- and 15-hour days leading up to the day I submitted the manuscript for printing. Subsequently, I took some days off from the gym, and my nutrition plan took a hit too, and things like frozen vegan burritos made their way into my diet…

I’m not afraid to admit it. I wasn’t tracking or focused on my goals, and inevitably, things went awry.

But, after submitting my manuscript, I got back to documenting meals and workouts, and in just one month, the results were obvious:

Transformation

Had I put more effort into tracking what I ate throughout those busy weeks and months, I wouldn’t have slipped as far as I did.

Tracking holds you accountable, and gives you a clear picture of what you’re eating, what you’re not eating, and where you’re falling short.

I use Cronometer, MyFitnessPal, or the Shred It! 13-Week Training Journal to document my daily meals and workouts to have an accurate account of my efforts. This way I can look back at my progress to see where I’ve hit my goals or where I need to make some adjustments.

You Have the Tools, Now Make it Happen

My experience in building muscle on a plant-based diet took decades of trial and error—but your experience can be so much better! The systems and approaches I outlined above have proven effective time and time again, not only for me but also for the thousands of plant-based athletes who have followed these principles.

Your exact approach will be filled with variation and interpretation, but the core concepts remain true and lead to success: set meaningful goals, eat healthy with whole plant foods, perform exercises you truly enjoy, and be consistent.

Now make it happen. I believe in you.

About the Author: Robert Cheeke is the best-selling author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness, Shred It! and Plant-Based Muscle, a two-time champion bodybuilder, and the founder/president of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness.

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Mindful Cooking, Flavors, and Keeping Food Simple with the Buddhist Chef

Organic Raw Soy Tofu

How does a classically trained French chef turn into one of the most popular vegan recipe developers on Facebook?

Ask Jean-Philippe Cyr, The Buddhist Chef. He’s made a name for himself not by whipping up thousands of mediocre recipes, but by creating carefully crafted, reliable meals, and doing so in a mindful way.

We frequently share Jean-Philippe’s recipes in the Academy and the Tribe newsletter, so when we had the chance to bring him on the podcast to discuss his food philosophy, it was a no-brainer.

In today’s episode, Jean-Philippe Cyr shares his take on maximizing flavors, mindfulness, and why it’s important to keep recipes simple in order to grow this community.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • French flavors in vegan recipes.
  • How Buddhism and food connect.
  • Soy sauce in your tomato sauce?
  • Why simple is important.
  • Making it big on Facebook.

Click the button below to listen now:

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Join the Tribe and support No Meat Athlete Radio.

If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

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200 Episodes: Looking Back and at What’s to Come

black painted wood

Over 200 episodes! Can you believe it?

What started as an experiment back in October 2011 has grown into something I don’t think any of us could have predicted. The podcast is a way for us to share our ideas and connect listeners with experts in the plant-based world. We’re a Tribea communityand we have a pretty freak’n good time each week.

Today we look back at the most popular episodes of all time, and share a little insight about what’s to come in the next 100.

We laugh. We cry. We party like there’s no tomorrow (eh, I wouldn’t go that far…).

Enjoy.

Click the button below to listen now:

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Join the Tribe and support No Meat Athlete Radio.

If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

 

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Fueling Your Run with Whole Foods: Does it Work?

Many plant-based athletes face a rather tough dilemma during endurance efforts:

Do we fuel our runs and races with the clean, whole plant-based foods, which we can rely on to go down easy and sound appealing?

Or should we utilize the processed, artificially flavored, lab crafted goos and gummies engineered specifically for performance?

And more importantly, are we placing ourselves at a disadvantage if we don’t rely on energy products?

As the world of endurance sports has exploded over the past few decades, so too has the market for sports fueling products. But the draw to fuel with natural, simple foods will always remain.

So how you do decide which path to take, and whether or not to treat racing any differently than training?

Read more »

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Small Steps, Cold Showers, and Conscious Parenting with Sid Garza-Hillman

Young family running

Thumb through just about any parenting book, and you’ll find nearly every chapter focuses on the child.

But that’s the wrong approach, according to friend of NMA Radio Sid Garza-Hillman. Sid believes that building a thriving, healthy family starts with a thriving, healthy parent.

In today’s episode, we sit down with Sid to discuss his brand new book Raising Healthy Parents, and why a vegan nutritionist felt called to write a parenting book.

Oh, and because it’s Sid, we also talk about cold showers, small steps, and counting your breaths. Love that guy.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • What most parenting books are missing.
  • The health component of parenting.
  • Struggling in front of your children.
  • How to recenter before arriving home from work.
  • Why Sid sits in a cold river.

Click the button below to listen now:

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Join the Tribe and support No Meat Athlete Radio.

If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

 

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How Will Clean Meat Impact the Vegan Movement?

Healthy vegan burgers with beets, carrots, spinach, arugula, cuc

Between the current advances in plant-based meat alternatives and the innovations taking place in the “clean meat” industry, the food landscape as we know it could change dramatically over the next several years.

How will these changes impact our understanding of what meat is, and will that affect the vegan movement?

We sit down with Jackson Long and Aaron Stuber of Thought For Food Lifestyle and the TFF podcast to discuss.

Here’s what we talk about in this episode:

  • What is “clean meat”?
  • Plant-based food technology and how it’s blowing up.
  • The problem with “fake meat.”
  • Why veganism may one day become irrelevant.
  • Science! It’s important.

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If you like what we do at NMA Radio, we’d greatly appreciate it if you’d leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Thank you!

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Protein and the Vegan Athlete: All You Really Need to Know

Homemade Quinoa Tofu Bowl

Can you be a plant-based athlete and still meet your protein needs?

Unless you’ve been living in some magical No Meat Athlete bubble we don’t know about, you’re probably no stranger to this question.

And luckily, neither is science.

For a long time, athletes, coaches, and trainers alike have worried that vegan and vegetarian diets may not be sufficient to support the nutritional requirements and performance goals of athletes. They wonder if animal products are necessary to perform at one’s highest level.

I’m happy to report, the research says otherwise. And that there’s an easier way to think about how (and where) you get your protein on a plant-based diet.

But before we get into the details, let’s take a step back:

What the Heck is Protein Anyway?

Your body contains thousands of different proteins that serve different functions, all made from amino acids. It’s the arrangement of these amino acids that determines the type and function of a protein.

There are 20 different amino acids that combine to form proteins, and although your body requires all of them, you only have the ability to make 11 of them. These are termed non-essential amino acids.

The other nine—those you can’t make—are termed essential amino acids, and must be obtained from the diet.

While it is true that all animal-source foods (meat, dairy, and eggs) contain all essential amino acids, they can also be obtained by eating a variety of plant foods.

Proteins containing all nine essential amino acids can be used immediately by the body. If a protein is low in one or more of the essential amino acids, the availability of the protein is limited until the body can complete it. Which brings us to… wait for it…

Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins (The Old Way of Thinking)

More often than not, when you hear someone talking about getting enough protein, they refer to something called “complete” protein.

The notion of complete vs. incomplete protein was popularized in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappé. Lappé said that plant foods are an incomplete protein because they’re deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids. Thus, being a healthy vegetarian would mean that you need to combine plant proteins at each meal to get a “complete” protein.

This led to the impression that plant proteins are completely devoid of at least one essential amino acid.

Nope. False.

All plant proteins have some of every essential amino acid. Did you get that? All of them.

While certain (quite delicious, I might add) foods—like quinoa, chia, buckwheat, and soy—contain all nine essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts, other plant proteins have a lower amount of at least one essential amino acid.

But that’s not a problem because your body does the work of making complete proteins for you.

All you have to do is rub your belly three times, wiggle your nose, and count to ten…

Only kidding. It’s actually way cooler than that.

Your body creates a “pool” of amino acids from the food you eat throughout the day. So, if you eat oats in the morning, a salad at lunch, and legumes for dinner, your body will pool together all the essential amino acids from these foods and use them as needed to make proteins.

This means you don’t have to worry about getting all the essential amino acids at any given meal. As long as you are eating an assortment of plant foods over the course of a day, your body will take care of the rest.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Lysine: The Limiting Amino Acid in Vegan Diets

Alright, so there is one thing in particular we vegans need to consider more than others.

Lysine (very different than Lysol… do not consume that).

Lysine is an essential amino acid that plays an important role in producing carnitine—a nutrient that helps convert fatty acids into energy and helps lower cholesterol, and it also helps produce collagen—a fibrous protein found in bone, cartilage, and skin. Lysine is considered a limiting amino acid because plant foods generally only contain a small amount of it.

The Recommended Daily Allowance of lysine is 38 mg per kg (1 kg = 2.2 lbs) of body weight. So, if you weigh 132 lbs (60 kg), you would need 2,280 mg of lysine. (Update: Calculation corrected)

Some vegan nutritionists argue that meeting your daily lysine need is more important than meeting your overall daily protein need.

By focusing only on the amount of protein in food, you might hit a huge number of one thing, but totally miss the mark on something else. If you aim instead for your daily lysine requirements, you’ll almost certainly meet your overall protein requirements as a result.

Foods richest in lysine are tempeh, seitan, lentils, and tofu. Amaranth, quinoa, pistachios, and pumpkin seeds are also good sources. Here’s a chart that breaks down the amounts of these high lysine foods:

FoodServingLysine (mg)
Tempeh1/2 cup754
Seitan3 oz656
Lentils1/2 cup624
Tofu1/2 cup582
Amaranth1 cup515
Quinoa 1 cup442
Pistachios1/4 cup367
Pumpkin seeds1/4 cup360

mixed dried beans

Okay, So How Much Protein Do I Actually Need?

Protein and amino acid needs are the same for women as for men, and the amount is based on body weight in kg. For the general adult population (ages 19-59 years), the Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is 0.8 g/kg/day. That means if you weigh 60 kg (132 lbs), you would need 48 g of protein per day.

Put into practice? One cup of cooked oatmeal contains about 6 g of protein, add a tablespoon of peanut butter (4 g of protein) and ½ cup of soy milk (4 g protein) and you are up to 14 grams of protein at breakfast, which would be almost 30% of your daily requirement.

For athletes, however, it is a little different:

In a 2009 joint position paper on nutrition and athletic performance, the American College of Sport Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Dietitians of Canada recommended a higher protein intake for athletes. They said that:

  • Endurance athletes require a protein intake of 1.2-1.4 g/kg/day.
  • Strength athletes require a protein intake of 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day.
  • Vegetarian athletes should increase their protein intake by 10% because plant proteins are less well-digested than animal proteins. Intake should be 1.3-1.8 g/kg/day.

Update: This study has since been updated and now suggests a slightly higher amount of protein for athletes. Find more information here.

In other words, if you’re a vegan endurance athlete who weighs 60 kg (132 lbs), you need roughly 78-108 g of protein per day. Or about 40% more than non-vegan, non-athletes.

That might sound hard to do on a vegan diet, but let’s look at a few examples to see just how easy it is.

At first glance, that may seem difficult to do on a vegan diet, but don’t despair! It’s not as hard as you might think.

A Day in the Life

So far, this has been a lot of science and numbers. And while we all love science, sometimes it’s easier to just see examples. So, let’s put this all into perspective and look at sample menus for two vegan athletes:

Troy

Troy is 5’10” and weighs 155 lbs (70.3 kg). He’s training to run the Boston Marathon.

His protein requirement is: 70.3 kg x 1.3 g PRO = 91 g/day

His lysine requirement is: 70.3 kg x 38 mg = 2,671 mg/day

Here is a sample menu showing how easy it is for Troy to meet his protein (including lysine) needs.

MealFoodProteinLysine
Breakfast2 slices whole grain bread7.3 g93 mg
2 Tbsp peanut butter8.0 g290 mg
8 oz soy milk9.2 g439 mg
Banana1.3 g59 mg
Snack1/2 cup hummus4.0 g291 mg
2 lavash crackers4.0 g 144 mg
1 cup veggie sticks1.3 g102 mg
Lunch1 cup vegetarian baked beans12.0 g488 mg
Medium baked potato4.3 g263 mg
1 cup broccoli3.6 g234 mg
SnackOrange1.2 g62 mg
1/3 cup pistachios8.2 g489 mg
Dinner5 oz firm tofu12.0 g651 mg
1 cup quinoa8.1 g442 mg
1/2 cup peas3.9 g463 mg
1/2 cup corn2.3 g272 mg
Snack1/4 cup dry roasted chickpeas3.6 g243 mg
1 cup strawberries1.0 g37 mg
TOTAL95.3 g5,062 mg

Boom. Troy nailed it.

Sarah

Sarah is 5’2” and weighs 125 lbs (56.8 kg). She’s a power lifter.

Her protein requirement is: 56.8 kg x 1.6 g PRO = 91 g/day

Her lysine requirement is: 56.8 kg x 38 mg = 2,158 mg/day

Here is a sample menu showing how easy it is for Sarah to meet her protein (including lysine) needs.

MealFoodProteinLysine
Breakfast3/4 cup steel cut oats7.5 g501 mg
1 Tbsp chia seeds2.0 g150 mg
1 Tbsp cocoa nibs1.0 g70 mg
Kiwi fruit1.1 g200 mg
Snack6 oz soy yogurt6.0 g439 mg
3 Tbsp pumpkin seeds6.6 g270 mg
LunchMedium whole grain bagel10.0 g186 mg
2 Tbsp peanut butter8.0 g290 mg
8 oz soy milk9.2 g439 mg
Snack1/3 cup roasted soybeans22.6 g427 mg
Orange1.2 g62 mg
Dinner1 cup cooked amaranth9.3 g515 mg
1/2 cup black beans7.6 g523 mg
1/2 cup lentils8.9 g624 mg
1/2 cup cooked spinach3.0 g 115 mg
TOTAL104 g4,811 mg

As you can see, Sarah had no trouble hitting her lysine goals for the day.

Looking deeper at these two examples, you’ll notice they both include a well-rounded mix of:

  • Fruits,
  • Veggies,
  • Legumes, and
  • Nuts.

And they don’t include any:

  • Protein powders,
  • Fake meats, or
  • Crazy mega protein meals.

See, it’s really not hard to hit your dietary requirements as a plant-based athlete, even without resorting to processed foods and protein powders as so many athletes assume you need to.

Let’s Put the Protein Myth to Rest

The idea that plant sources are insufficient to meet protein requirements is an outdated myth. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports the notion that an appropriately planned vegan or vegetarian diet can meet the energy and macronutrient needs (including protein) of athletes.

But the key words here are appropriately planned. Meeting your protein needs as a vegan athlete isn’t rocket science, but it may take a little effort or at least forethought.

  • Eat a variety of foods throughout the day.
  • Include high-lysine foods when possible.
  • Know roughly how many grams you need and plan accordingly.

While the protein question may never go away completely, at least you know you can be healthy and reach your goals.

And now you know the science to prove it.

About the Author: Stephanie MacNeill, is an aspiring registered dietitian, currently completing her MHSc in Nutrition Communication at Ryerson University in Toronto, and is interning with Pamela Fergusson, RD, PhD. Stephanie is a competitive runner, having competed in many local, provincial, and national championships races ranging in distance from the 3000m all the way up to the half marathon.

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