Protein for Vegetarians — A Simple Guide to Getting What You Need

iStock 000014988811XSmallEvery once in a while when thinking up topics for No Meat Athlete posts, I hit on one that’s so obvious, it’s a joke that I haven’t already written it.

We’ve had protein posts before, like the primer from vegan R.D. Matt Ruscigno.

And I’ve written a few articles about protein myself, but the main one wasn’t a blog post; it’s a lesson in my e-course for newsletter subscribers (join here if you haven’t yet).

But have I really not written a post about where to get your protein? The question that vegetarians get asked more than any other?

Apparently, not yet. So here it is.

First, my standard answer to the question, Where do you get your protein?:

You don’t need as much protein as most people think, and it’s easy to get what you do need from beans, nuts, seeds, grains, soy, and even greens.

So how much protein do you really need?

Not as much as people would have you believe. Somehow, everyone got the idea that we need exorbitant amounts of protein, way more than is even recommended. I know, it’s fun to blame government agencies and cry conspiracy, but if you actually look at the recommendations, they’re not that high at all.

For example, the U.S. recommended daily allowance of protein is .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (.36 grams per pound) for the general population.

Athletes need more than that, mostly due to greater tissue-repair needs. But how much more protein do we need as athletes?

Several sources I looked at cited a study which concluded that endurance athletes benefit most from 1.2 to 1.4 daily grams per kilogram of bodyweight, while strength athletes do best with 1.4 to 1.8 grams per kilogram. In pounds, that’s .54 to .63 grams per pound for endurance athletes, .63 to .81 grams per pound for strength athletes.

A simple example

Let’s take a typical No Meat Athlete reader and see what this means for her, let’s a say a 140-pound runner. We’ll split the daily protein range for endurance athletes in the middle and aim for .59 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight:

140 pounds * .59 grams/pound = 83 grams of protein per day

Keep in mind that’s for a 140-pound endurance athlete, so you’ll need to plug in your own weight and, if you do a strength sport, use a different protein figure.

But really, only 83 grams?

All of this protein fuss — the incessant inquisition about where we get protein — is over 83 grams per day, even after adjusting for being an athlete? (And if our 140-pound woman weren’t an athlete, she’d need only 50 grams to hit the RDA number!)

What the pros say

Before we move onto good vegan and vegetarian protein sources for getting this amount, let’s take a look at what some well-known and credentialed vegans say about protein.

  • In the documentary Forks Over Knives, China Study author Dr. T. Colin Campbell says that you need 8 to 10 percent of your calories to come from protein. (Keep in mind he’s not necessarily talking about athletes.)
  • Vegan Ironman Brendan Brazier, in his appearance on No Meat Athlete radio (which is coming back soon, by the way!), says he eats about 15 percent protein when training for short events, and close to 20 percent protein during periods of heavy training (several hours per day) for long endurance events.
  • Tim Ferriss writes in The 4-Hour Body that ultrarunner Scott Jurek gets 15 to 20 percent of his calories from protein.
  • Matt Ruscigno, in the post he wrote for No Meat Athlete about vegetarian protein, says he recommends that his athlete clients get 10 to 15 percent of their calories from protein.

Notice that everybody expresses things in percentages rather than grams. How does our 83 grams of protein, for a 140-pound female endurance athlete stack up in terms of percentage of total calories?

Well, the first thing to note is that a gram of protein contains four calories. (Yay for paying attention in health class!) So:

83 grams * 4 calories/gram = 332 calories of protein

We’ll need to divide this figure by total daily calories to get the percentage we’re after. I plugged my imaginary friend’s stats (5’3″, 140 lbs, female, very active) into this basal metabolic rate calculator to approximate her total daily calories at 2375. Drumroll, please …

322 calories of protein / 2375 total calories = 13.6% of calories from protein

Not far off from the 15 percent that most of our experts mentioned! Based on all of this, aiming to get 15 percent of your calories from protein seems like a pretty good rule of thumb.

(And by the way, I find using percentages to be a much easier way to evaluate a food’s protein content than grams. See a post I wrote about using protein percentages.)

Where do vegetarians get their protein?

There’s no shortage of lists of high-protein vegan foods floating around. As you might expect, they’re topped by soy products (tempeh is much higher in protein than tofu), seitan, and legumes.

My personal favorite vegan foods for protein, in rough, descending order of how often I eat them, are:

  • Lentils (red are my favorites), 18 grams of protein per cup
  • Chickpeas, 12 grams/cup
  • Tempeh (locally made in Asheville!), 41 grams per cup
  • Black beans, 15 grams per cup
  • Nuts and nut butters (I eat a good mix, usually without peanuts), varied
  • Tofu, 11 grams per 4 ounces
  • Quinoa, 9 grams per cup
  • Other legumes, varied
  • Grains, varied

These protein content numbers come from the Vegetarian Resource Group’s excellent article on vegetarian protein.

I also add a protein supplement to my smoothie each morning, which gets me about 20 grams to start the day, before you consider the protein from flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and almond butter that I also throw in there. I like the Vega Sport protein blend of hemp, rice, and pea, but often to save money I use this one, which also includes protein from chia seeds. (These links are both affiliate links, meaning No Meat Athlete earns a small commission if you use them to buy anything).

Don’t ignore amino acids!

All protein is not created equally. Protein is made up of amino acids, and there are certain ones, called “essential,” which your body cannot produce on its own and must get through food.

As long as you’re eating a wide variety of whole foods — a good practice to follow for many reasons — you’re probably getting a nice mix of amino acids. One, though, that’s particularly tough for vegetarians to get, is lysine, as explained in this article on protein from Vegan Health.

Only a few vegan foods contain lysine in large amounts, but fortunately, they’re staples in many of our diets: tempeh, tofu, and legumes. If you don’t eat beans or soy, because of allergies or some other reason, you’ll need to pay special attention to lysine, and it might be worth considering an amino acid supplement.

See an old No Meat Athlete article for a breakdown of which foods contain which amino acids.

My easy way to get enough protein every day

As it turns out, I weigh around 140 pounds, so the 83 grams of protein mentioned above is right about what I aim for. (I’m fairly certain I’m not female, but sex only entered the conversation when we were estimating total calories.)

So how do I get my 83 grams of protein per day?

My approach to getting enough protein is very simple:

Make sure you include a decent protein source, even if just a little bit, in every meal or snack.

Mainly, this just keeps you mindful and prevents you from slipping into junk-food-vegan, carbohydrate-only mode. It’s as easy as adding nuts or beans to your salad, protein powder to your smoothie, almond butter on your bagel, or beans to your pasta dish (actually not an inauthentic thing to do in Italy). For snacks, eat a handful of nuts, spread some sunflower butter on your apple, make roasted chickpeas, dip a pita in some hummus … all of these add just a little bit of protein, but if you eat two or three snacks a day, it adds up.

So the next time someone asks …

You won’t have to tell them it’s complicated, or argue to no avail that broccoli would be a good protein source if only you could eat five pounds of it in a sitting. Instead, you can just explain that we don’t need all that much protein, and it’s easy to get what we do need from a half dozen, common foods, eaten just a little bit at a time throughout the day.

No big deal.

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Comments

  1. Awesome read Matt. An incredibly simple breakdown!

    I can’t wait for the next person to ask how I get enough protein, “It’s easy. No big deal!”

  2. As someone who grew up in the midwest, and whose grandparents were dairy farmers, I get the horrified “but where do you get your protein?!” question all the time. The fact that I run on a daily basis also makes them seem pretty sure that I am going to keel over dead any minute now. It is so nice and refreshing to read things like this, and to seem a very logical and educated breakdown of something that I have know and been practicing since I was 12. Thanks for all you do, Matt!

  3. Excellent information and very timely for me.

    As you know Matt, I have lost a lot of weight through juicing so was always mindful to add good protein to my smoothie. My protein ally is spirulina.

    From Wikipedia ‘Dried Spirulina contains about 60% (51–71%) protein. It is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, though with reduced amounts of methionine, cysteine and lysine when compared to the proteins of meat, eggs and milk. It is, however, superior to typical plant protein, such as that from legumes.’

    This article is very timely for me as I am on day 8 of a 21 day vegan eating program. I am working hard to shift the final 10 pounds. I am training for my third half marathon and also started lifting weights to aid my running. I will use this post as a reference and share it with my readers.

    • I’d be careful of spirulina. I know many athletes who take it, but some studies link it to dementia, Parkinson’s disease and kidney failure. Check out Dr. Michael Greger’s nutritionfacts.org for more info.

      • Most scientific studies I’ve read have shown positive effects from spirulina on dementia and related maladies. Here’s and example: http://www.ergo-log.com/spirulinadementia.html

        What studies have linked it in a negative way to cognitive issues?

        • Check out these independent researched articles.

          Torres-Duran PV, Ferreira-Hermosillo A, Juarez-Oropeza MA. Antihyperlipemic and antihypertensive effects of Spirulina maxima in an open sample of Mexican population: a preliminary report. Lipids Health Dis. 2007 Nov 26;6:33.

          Cingi C, Conk-Dalay M, Cakli H, Bal C. The effects of spirulina on allergic rhinitis. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2008 Oct;265(10):1219-23. Epub 2008 Mar 15.

          Mazokopakis EE, Karefilakis CM, Tsartsalis AN, Milkas AN, Ganotakis ES. Acute rhabdomyolysis caused by Spirulina (Arthrospira platensis). Phytomedicine. 2008 Jun;15(6-7):525-7. Epub 2008 Apr 22.

          Food Chem Toxicol. 2009 Sep;47(9):2189-95. Epub 2009 Jun 9.First detection of anatoxin-a in human and animal dietary supplements containing cyanobacteria.Rellán S, Osswald J, Saker M, Gago-Martinez A, Vasconcelos V.

          Or as I mentioned before, check out Dr. Greger’s advice on nutritionfacts.org.

          Check these out and then make up your own mind. Personally, I find Kale to be cheaper and less harm inducing.

  4. I just recently found your blog and signed up for the e-course. It has been really helpful, but this blog has, so far, been the most helpful! I am new to the low/no meat way of eating. I am loving it, but as a newbie, I am constantly checking ingredients and protein/dietary fiber content of foods to be sure I am getting enough protein. I recently started drinking a protein smoothie I found on Kimberly Snyder’s blog (author of Beauty Detox Solution) and am still reading through The China Study. I have found that I don’t miss meat at all. We had already cut it down in our lives over the past few years to only at dinner, and in the past few months to only 3 or so times a week. I guess you could say I’ve been building up this lifestyle over a few years without quite realizing it. This is a great breakdown for beginners, too. I have read in the China Study that most people only need 55 to 60 grams of protein a day, and I saw the formula for calculating what an individual needs. My only question that I haven’t found an answer to yet is concerning weight loss and protein. My husband and I have been consistently losing weight as we have changed our diet. He has lost over 40lbs! He was originally at 328 and is now at 279. I have lost 21lbs from 200 to 179. Calculating by body weight, I should be eating 64grams of protein a day and he should be eating 100 grams of protein a day, but if we are aiming to get to our ideal weights for our body sizes (mine being 120 to 130, his being 185 to 200) should we be consuming the amount of protein for our current weights or the weights we are aiming for? Thanks so much in advance for any thoughts you have on this. Feel free to e-mail me personally or comment back here. :)

  5. Great breakdown. I had never really given protein much thought (I am in the camp that we are being sold a line of BS about protein), but I have to say, my calculation gets me to 66 grams of protein a day and that still seems like an awful lot.

  6. Robbie-Lynn says:

    I switched to a plant based diet due to many food restrictions after major weight loss and gallbladder removal. I was having a hard time running and feeling like my muscles were tired right from the start of each run. After paying attention to my protein intake I realize that I wasn’t getting enough. I now aim for around 85g a day. I love Vega it had really helped get in the protein.

    Thanks for the other great ideas.

  7. Rebecca says:

    Simple, basic, to the point – I love it! Every now and then I stray from the basics and fall into the carb-addicted vegetarian trap, but after this simple reminder, I’ll get back on track. Thanks for this!

  8. A useful post, thank you.

    This topic has been front and center in my life because I find it challenging to get enough protein for my 211 lbs body that I’m always making lift weights and run up stairs.

    I’m not a vegetarian but I eat no red meat and little other meats, so look to get the bulk of my protein from eggs, powders and the veggie sources you name.

    A 140-pounder might not find this difficult, but given your formula, I need to consume about 169 grams of protein per day (.8 x 211).

    I almost never reach that mark.

    Which begs the question, should we really be talking about some fraction of total weight or lean body mass (total weight – fat)?

    I mean, does the fat need to be its share of protein?

    I have read that the real mark is lean body mass, not actual weight. Any thoughts?

    As an aside, I went a little crazy recently trying to determine my % body fat without the benefit of calipers or water immersion (Archenemies principle).

    This left various equations, like BMI, which is worthless for the old, young, very short, very tall or athletes.

    Eventually, I found some method the military uses. I write about the whole thing in an article called, “Just “Exactly” How Fat Are You Anyway?” http://wp.me/pA04z-10f

    • Milemom says:

      I wish he would have emphasized this…but it is .8g protein per KILOGRAM…not pounds. So, since 1 kg = 2.2 lbs, you need to divide your weight by 2.2 (95.9 Kg) 95.9 x .8= 77gm (give or take)

      Hope this helps.

  9. Toooooo complicated!

    Give me some quick sample menus for the day for the 140 pound person.

    One sedentary, one regular and one athlete.

    Eighty doesn’t seem like a lot but do I have to eat 5 or 6 cups of lentils in a day??

    • When I told my bootcamp instructor I was vegetarian and training for my first triathlon, he let me borrow a book written by one of Lance Armstrong’s coaches (Chris Carmichael) called “Food For Fitness”. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you buying it, since it doesn’t focus on vegetarian diets, but maybe you could look it up in your local library. He gives tables of how much protein is in different foods per serving, and while he talks a lot about meat, I got a lot of good info and non-meat protein sources and how much of it to eat (and when to eat). He gives formulas for how to calculate your nutritional needs based on what part of your training season you are in, but also provides several specific examples (luckily including my weight/sex combo so I didn’t have to calculate) along with sample meal plans for a week. It would be less useful for a vegan, but it’s easy for a vegetarian to modify since not all meal plans depend on meat for protein source, and the author explains, like Matt here, that most meat eating americans eat too much protein as it is.

  10. Kerry Skarin says:

    My calculation shows that I need 75 grams of protein per day.
    All the other calculations make sense but I don’t know how people have time to figure it all out every time you eat.
    So if I didn’t want to figure it out by percentages, just by the grams of protein, does that work too?

    I am not full vegan/vegetarian yet…but working toward it. I am a runner and am now increasing my distances. Last year my longest run was 7 miles, and now this year I am running around 12 miles for my long run. Figuring out the eating gets my head spinning! So glad this blog is out there to help!

    Thanks!

    Kerry

  11. Gregory says:

    I really enjoy the articles about vegetable protein sources but why isn’t there any information on the amount of protein in the plants themselves? Like spinach, for instance, has 5g in one cup. yeah, you don’t get it all in one clump, but what if you juices a bunch of veggies?

  12. Catherine says:

    I had my first raw vegan protein shake today (actually first protein shake of my life). What a thrill! It was not so yummy, but the rush I got, running the my veins made me feel more alive. I have been a vegan most of my life (minus five years of me “attempting” to eat meat), but my gosh, I never expected to experience this! Quite amazing!

  13. Scott jurek is an ultra-runner so that means he probably eats aroud 13000 calories or so per race or long run which with it being 20% would be 650 grams, that is a lot of protein.

  14. Patty Wisniewski says:

    Two years ago, when our then 27 year old son began entering triathlons & went vegan, my husband & I freaked out! Both of us were morbidly obese & completely sedentary, and absolutely panicked over how he could possibly get enough protein in his diet.

    Just before Halloween late last October, my 40 year old husband was diagnosed with high blood pressure & borderline diabetic. I’ve been disabled with a chronic pain disorder, arthritis, reflux, ibs, asthma, etc. plus a wide range of allergies & intolerances for 16 years and he is my primary caretaker.

    I was shocked into reality & knew I had to make serious lifestyle changes to get the strength to take care of him, if necessary. He fought me the first few weeks, concerned he’d have to eat what I ate, workout when I did, etc. But being the supportive husband he is, he began cutting his portions down, eating a little better & going to the gym with me (out of concern for my ability to workout at all.)

    I began walking, but with balance issues & such a heavy weight, I couldn’t get very far. Our son recommended I try riding a bike instead so I asked for one for Christmas.

    Again, out of concern about my riding alone, my husband decided to get one, also, and ride with me.

    In January, a dance studio opened in our neighborhood & I joined a weekly class for beginners.

    By early February, I was hooked on strength training & yoga, and my husband, after falling in love with cycling, bought his racing bike and began riding with several groups each week.

    After much research & experimentation, I had become an ovo-lacto (spelling?) vegetarian, meaning I eat eggs, greek yogurt, parmesan cheese and on rare occasions, a little little bit of chicken.

    My husband dropped beef & pork and added fish to his diet. And we both eat tons of healthy colorful veggies, nuts & seeds, legumes, & brown rice.

    We’ve lost over 180 POUNDS, dropping 90 pounds a piece, completely changing our lifestyles to one of eating healthy whole foods and making exercise a daily priority.

    Though my primary, disabling illness remains unchanged, my ability to deal with & manage the pain, has increased exponentially! I’m off several medications, no longer have reflux, and almost no ibs,

    My husband’s blood sugar is completely normal & his blood pressure is under control, though it was high enough, and with a genetic component, to require daily medication.

    He has done numerous metric century bike rides & begins training for his first triathlon next week, while I am starting the “Run Your Butt Off,” 12 week training program!

    The bottom line is this, VEGETARIANS & VEGANS CAN FIND PLENTY OF HEALTHY SOURCES OF PROTEIN, AND YOU REALLY DO NEED LESS THEN YOU THINK!

    Thank you “No Meat Athlete” for another great article!

    • Congrats to both you and your husband! I love hearing stories about people taking control of their health. Yay for you! Happy running!

    • Jon Weisblatt says:

      Patty,
      you and your husband are rock stars! Well done to you both! You should ask Matt to write a full post on the site. You are a true testament to what a healthy lifestyle can do for people.

    • That is so wonderful!! Your story is very inspiring, and I love hearing stories about husband and wife teams getting healthy together. My husband and I have lost 72lbs together, and we are still going. Thank you for sharing!

    • Congrats to both of you! Your story is so inspiring and uplifting! I wish you and your husband a long happy healthy life together! Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing!!! ;-}

  15. One of my go-to’s (besides SunWarrior protein powder) is Ezekiel Bread…has a really solid protein-to-carb ratio, and is easier on the digestive system since it’s made from sprouted grains as opposed to flour. I suggest everyone give it a shot! (especially the Cinnamon Raisin…don’t even need to add anything to it, I just eat it straight out of the toaster!)

  16. Thanks for the info. I recommend the documentary Vegucated. Watching it now.

  17. Thanks Matt!!
    This is excellent… after hearing the “where do you get your protein” question for the umpteenth time recently, plus training for the NYC marathon, I have been thinking I need to research how much protein I actually need, so I can have a good answer for myself and for others.

    So thank you, thank you for doing the work for me!

  18. Awesome article! Thorough and yet plain and simple. Thanks!

  19. Hey Matt,
    Great post! Because my circles mostly consist of other vegans who don’t ask such questions, I often forget that the protein myth is still, unfortunately, alive and well.

    To add more about amino acids, several foods have all the essential amino acids including quinoa, hemp seeds and even goji berries! Eat the rainbow and you should be a healthy, happy and compassionate athlete!

  20. Deb Kloosterman says:

    …appreciate the article!!..when I track my nutrition on Livestrong, I’m often amazed to see that I’m close to or have met protein requirements after lunch!..and that is by eating whole foods, plant based :) Deb

  21. Great article, Matt! Really I believe that with a balanced, varied diet, “adequate” protein intake takes care of itself.

    Can we have something similar for iron pleeease?? I’ve found in the past that when I struggle with fatigue with training, if I consciously up my iron intake for a few days it helps. Would be great to learn some more about incorporating iron/vitamin C combos in the daily vegan diet. :)

    Thanks for all you do!

  22. When I said something to this effect to a doctor, she told me that protien is not enough, we need animal protien! I told her no, we don’t, to please do some reaserch on it.

  23. Thanks! love your blog … this post is very useful for my friendly arguments with my carnivore friends : )

  24. Michael TenBrink says:

    Matt, I just want to thank you for your posts. On July 1st, I started a pescetarian diet. I’m not ready to go veggie yet, but I appreciate the thoughtful, well-written articles on this site. If you’ll pardon the pun, it gives me a lot of food for thought.

  25. Dude…this is great stuff. I’m new to the running world and am vegetarian. Thanks for the great resource.

  26. Thanks for this article, I really enjoyed reading it! I knew most of this, but it never hurts to remind yourself about how to feed yourself right :)

  27. Perhaps I missed this, but is there also an issue with regard to the amount of protein we absorb vs. the amount of protein we eat? (‘net protein utilization’ or ‘biological value’). Proteins, due to the balance of amino acids, will not be absorbed 100% by our bodies. Eggs are high, at close to 100%, beans (alone, w/o rice) are about 50%. Vegetable and grain based sources of protein, even balanced with other foods, have a relatively low ‘biological value.’ As such, assuming 80% absorption (optimisitic), then if one NEEDED 83 grams, shouldn’t they EAT 103.75 grams of protein (80% of 103.75 = 83 grams protein actually absorbed)?

    • Chad, that’s a great question, and one I don’t know much about. I hear absorption discussed all the time with minerals and vitamins, but never really with macronutrients like protein. Interesting thing to think about.

  28. Milemom says:

    Matt, samples of your daily menu and the protein totals would have been more useful. It is a PIA, but, for the sake of your blog :) you should total up three of your days including all the extras like that 1 tbsp of flaxseed in your smoothie, etc. An online food calculator would probably help the most. (Fitday, etc.)

  29. Great review Matt. I agree about looking at Amino Acids not just protein. I do laugh when people ask me were I get my protein (I am vegan now). I tell them every living cell (plant or animal) is made of protein. So anything you eat is made of protein. The meat industry used a scientific paper on meat having all 8 essential amino acids and plants not as a marketing tool to sell meat. It started as the more perfect protein but ended up as protein. Great BLOG keep it up.

  30. Hi, I am not a vegan, but am interested in going that way to be as healthy as possible. Am in good shape, jog and work out every day, am 115 lbs. My problem is when I try to eliminate meat, I gain weight and do not feel well. Also, I do not like beans. So, my options are limited. There are only so many nuts and ways to make legumes. Any suggestion on a cookbook / recipes that I could try? I eat all organic lean meat. I think there are some meats (lean beef) that have less calories per intake of protein gram than many vegan choices, like beans or rice. So, I think I have to eat more to get the same amount of protein. It just doesn’t work for me.

    Any ideas / comments?

  31. I always enjoy your articles. You are very in-depth with your information. When I first started out on my vegan diet, friends and family became extremely concerned about where I was going to get my protein. At first, I wasn’t even sure what to tell them. I am a distance runner, so that caused even more concern. To be honest it concerned me. Knowledge is power and I now understand the importance of plant-based proteins and where to find them. I recently wrote an article of my story and dealing with the “protein problem.”
    http://www.forkstofeet.com/2013/04/vegans-and-protein.html

  32. NorsNinja says:

    I weigh 180 and I am 5’11. I workout 6/7 days. I have a high metabolism and therefore use more calories and have less body fat. Most importantly, ive had undiagnosed stomach problems (pictures of inflamnation and hesled ulcers) that i have found to be aided by animal proteins in the morning.

    I have experimented with avocado to see if i can receive the same substantial meal to fight off ulcer creating acid. I cant tell if it works as well, but it works better than water.

    So as someone looking to be the strongest my potential allows for, can i sustain an all vegan diet? Considering my medical situation avocados are the meatiest, fattiest and have the best effect for me. I also have a very high metabolism. If i dont eat 2000 cal a day i drop down to 150lbs. An unhealthy weight.

    I want to go vegan but i want that meaty protein and fat that solves my stomach acid problem.

  33. As someone who has just become Vegetarian I found your article very informative. I hope you don’t mind but I put a link to your article from my blog http://www.changingmaddy.blogspot.com.au/ so all my readers can benefit from this information because you did a much better job of explaining it then I could.

  34. Chae Camille says:

    Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while people think about worries that they just do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people could take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  35. Not as much as people would have you believe. Somehow, everyone got the idea that we need exorbitant amounts of protein, way more than is even recommended. I know, it’s fun to blame government agencies and cry conspiracy, but if you actually look at the recommendations, they’re not that high at all.

  36. I have recently returned to a vegan lifestyle/diet after a long hiatus and have been concerned with getting sufficient protein. Although the percentages are good starting points, we need to remember that they are exactly that, starting points. A better question to ask would be “How much protein should an athlete consume to improve body composition and athletic performance?” The following article by John Berardi, gives good information http://musclenstrength.com/128/john-berardi-on-protein-requirements/ it is geared toward meat eaters but it still contains good information for those of us on the plant based diet.

    In terms of percentages, it is recommended that active/athletic individuals get 25 to 30% of their daily caloric requirements from protein. I weigh 200 lbs and I eat approximately 3000 kcal each day. At 30% it comes to approximately 225 grams per day of protein consumed. Reversing the calculations to see how much of a percentage I get from protein, it comes to a whopping 2.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight (200lb /2.2 = 90.1kg, 225g/90.1 = 2.497). I get anywhere from 184 to 200 grams of protein per day in my diet.

    Whoa that’s a lot o protein! How do you get all of it?

    Soy milk (homemade! get yourself a soy milk maker) 16g for the two cups
    Pea Protein powder 24g
    Seitan (37.5g per serving of protein, ( I make big batches and larger serving portions)
    Legumes 2 cups per day (30 to 36g depending on the bean)
    Lentils 2 cup (36g)
    Steel Cut Oats (1/2 cup) 10g
    Nuts (1 oz) 6 to 8g
    Plant sources 10 to 15 grams

    I usually have either 2 servings of seitan made products or 4 cups of beans per day. I have 5 meals per day, and spread it all out. I usually have energy to burn most day, however, because of proteins appetite sparing effect and the slow absorption of the complex carbs, I sometimes forget to eat as I am not hungry, I usually eat by the clock (or try to, damned its hard).

    No gluten problems here.

  37. notrelevant says:

    Great article and a great rebuttal to this all-to-common question. Thanks!

  38. I know this sounds like an unnecessary question that has some type of foreseeable answer, but what would/will happen to all the animals that are being raised for food, if everyone just stopped today, eating them? Would the farmers just set them free, and then what? Not being sarcastic, just beginning to learn about the Vegan type food chain, eating that way, and the reasons why someone would.

  39. Great info! I’m converting to vegetarian so it’s very helpful. ALSO beware of those protein shakes. Vega Sport, Raw meal and other shakes recently came under fire for testing high for levels of heavy metals. There is nothing better than to obtain your protein naturally if possible:)

  40. wayne settle says:

    I’m prone to gout attack cause much of the foods on protein are high in purines. Any of these on the lower purine side?

  41. Hi Matt! Thanks for a great site! I’m just getting started…
    One question: Is there a way to search the site to find how to use a particular ingredient.
    For example: I love beets and would like to search for recipes that use them…
    I’d love a recipe for beets and dill too… be it smoothie, salad or something else!
    Cheers,
    Maki

  42. I have been doing the Paleo eating plan for 3 years and have gained weight from it. I mostly did it for my hubby because he wasn’t very healthy. He got tired of not eating carbs so is back to the SAD diet.

    I am now going meat and dairy free. This weekend was the first time I didn’t feel bloated. It’s amazing what our bodies are telling us but most of us don’t listen to it!

    I have to unsubscribe from so many paleo web sites. I will keep nom nom paleo because I love her veggies. I loved this post on how to get your protein. I had people tell me this weekend that I will be back to paleo within a week because I need protein! I refuse to do paleo anymore so it’ll be fun finding web sites. I need to see if you have any favorite web sites on your site that I can subscribe to.

    Thank you for your awesome site!

  43. I have been vegetarian for 15 years and have added some animal products back in because I had some real health issues with a vegan diet.(I actually have neurological issues from malnutrition in the first several years of vegetarianism) Adding eggs helped me focus and feel strong and now seafood makes me feel less anxious and gives me calming energy. With my calculations I would need over 100g/protein a day but I just don’t see how I can get that much. I eggs 2-3 times a week, seafood 2-3 times a week and rarely any dairy. I cannot eat soy or gluten. I feel like I am losing my mind and would love some helpful ideas on getting protein without expensive powders. Without enough protein my weight has skyrocketed and my appetite is endless. I need some ideas! Thanks everyone for posting!

  44. Mark MacLeod says:

    Really helpful article, giving me the info and hope to go veggy again. Thank you!

  45. Gary Lindstrom says:

    I am a Celiac. I was diagnosed several years ago and many of the protein replacement foods are based on grains that I am highly allergic too. I can’t get a good answer to what I should eat to replace protein.

  46. I think you should look at pea protein. I put in my shakes and or use it in some of my baked goods such a my homemade pizza’s. Probably one of the best sources of protein for vegans/vegetarians are legumes. Its now being suggested that perhaps we should be getting 4+ cups per day of legumes in our diets.

    I eat at least 2 cups per day, it really helps on so many levels

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Boston Marathon only AFTER switching to a vegan diet.  He writes a pretty interesting blog.  Here he discusses the never-ending question:  Where do vegetarians and vegans get their protein? This [...]

  2. [...] If you’re interested in a vegetarian or vegan diet but are worried about your protein intake – Don’t! Read my Plant-Based Protein post or The No Meat Athlete’s Protein for Vegetarians — A Simple Guide to Getting What You Need. [...]

  3. [...] Protein for Vegetarians — A Simple Guide to Getting What You Need Share this:SharePrintDiggLinkedInRedditStumbleUponGoogle +1TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeOne blogger likes this. [...]

  4. [...] from are good questions. The simple answer: not much, and from a variety of yummy foods. Give it to Matt Frasier to teach us something about how to get protein as a vegan [...]

  5. [...] My protein and calcium all come from whole vegetable foods.  Research has shown that we need much, much less protein than most people believe.  Other studies prove that calcium from dairy products is less beneficial, since animal proteins [...]

  6. [...] your daily amount of protein. Grains, beans, nuts and leafy greens provide plenty of protein. The No Meat Athlete wrote a great article on this topic and articulated everything I’d ever want to say about [...]

  7. [...] this great article on vegetarians and protein if you need some more information on the protein [...]

  8. […] than “where do you get your protein?“, the question I get the most is “why?”. Why do so many crazy endurance […]

  9. […] a great article from Health.com and this fantastic article (one of the first I read actually!) from No Meat Athlete (check out the links at the bottom of his post for even more […]

  10. […] An athlete weighing 140 lbs only needs .83 grams of protein which translates to approximately 332 ca…. Now, I am not against eating meat but I don’t eat it often (it literally makes me sick) and I haven’t been eating it at all this month.  I am eating quinoa, leafy greens, Greek yogurt and beans to get my protein. I love eggs but they make me sick too. I find if I eat plenty and fruits and vegetables with beans, nuts and seeds I get plenty of protein and nutrients. […]

  11. […] get their protein and he even includes a simple equation to calculate the needs for athletes (Where Vegetarians Get Protein).  I love how he says all you have to do is include a little bit of a protein source in every meal […]

  12. […] Frazier, No Meat Athlete blogger, puts this protein puzzle into perspective. He looks at protein needs based on exercise – long distance running, et cetera – to make […]

  13. […] If you don’t eat animal foods, then it is a bit more challenging to get all the protein and essential amino acids that your body needs (good article on this here). […]

  14. […] How much protein do you need? This is a different discussion and depends a lot on how active you are. The healthy range is from 8 percent for average people to 20 percent for extreme athletes. Here is a great article about protein requirements for different people. […]

  15. […] If you don’t eat animal foods, then it is a bit more challenging to get all the protein and essential amino acids that your body needs (good article on this here). […]

  16. […] I do not consider myself an expert, I will let Matt Frazier to explain in his post, Protein for Vegetarians — A Simple Guide to Getting What You […]

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