Oh yeah protein! I have to gorge on meat because I have this huge muscles to maintain and without it my muscles will disintegrate!
What is Protein?
Protein are biological macromolecules with one or more chains of amino acids – or, in good English, a shit load of amino acids. Proteins are everywhere. They constitute all living beings and participate in all cellular processes, managing a vast array of functions in the organism – such as the muscular repairing and oxygen transportation, that for sure you learned in kindergarden.
Contrary to plants, animals can’t synthesize all amino acids they need to live. The amino acids that your organism can’t synthesize by itself are named essential amino acids. Those are the ones that should be taken from food digestion.
Twenty are the amino acids utilized in the construction of proteins. Of those twenty, nine are essentials – fenaline, histidine, isoleucine, lysine, leucine, methionine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, (a shit ton of “ine” things). Cysteine, tyrosine, and arginine, are normally reffered are semi-essential amino acids because they develop a fundamental roll in our development phase. There’s some disagreement in the scientific community in regards to histidine. However recent research shows that it’s not synthetized by adult humans. So where gonna take this ine as important too.
As these amino acids are fundamental to your existence, their respective dietary reference intakes (DRI) are as important as for proteins itself. If you live in the western world and you’re not starving – and you probably do since you’re able to live having into account your reading this – it’s very unlikely that you have any protein deficiency, whatever your diet may be. The essential amino acids percentages in animals products and soy for example is very close to the ones found in human protein, however the same can’t be verified in other vegetables. The popular saying “proteins of high biological value” originates from study made by Mendel and Osborne in 1913 (1), in regards to the nutricional necessities of animals. In this study they observed that rats fed with animal proteins would grow up way faster and healthier than those that would be fed with vegetable protein. The direct consequence of this study was the classification of eggs, milk and meat as Class A protein sources and vegetable protein as class B. It seems however that no one thought that rats are a bit different from humans… I mean they’re not always a like. The nutricional necessities of a newborn rat for example, are very different a human being, so the mother’s milk of white mice is eleven times more concentrated in protein than ours. That’s why a white rat achieves maturity in five months while humans take eighteen years.
People tend to think that vegetable food that isn’t soy based completely lacks any essential amino acid. Truth is all vegetable proteins have all the essential amino acids. In general terms legumes have less methionine, while vegetables in general lack lysine.
Before we talk about vegan protein needs, let’s simplify everything – The DRI for lysine is more important than for protein itself. In short words, if you reach your DRI for lysine in a plant based diet, almost for sure you have filled all your proteic needs.
Tofu, tempeh, soy beans, lentils, seitan are the ones with higher concentrations, followed by other legumes and seeds like quinoa, amaranth, pistache and pumpkin seeds.
It is extremely hard for non-athletes to hit the DRI for lysine in a vegan diet without legumes, cereals or seeds. So, Yo Muscle Boy, dO yOu EvEn BeAn BrO? Just follow the brazilian way, go berzerk on that rice and beans and make some gains!
Dudes with caloric restrictions and raw diets, you may have a lysine deficiency or can have it in the future.
Human Protein Needs
Until recently, it was believed that a plant based diet would require huge amounts of protein due to it’s difficult digestion.
The daily dosage referred by the WHO (World Health Organization) is of 0,8g of protein per kg of body weight. This recommendation already includes a safety margin – such as all daily dosage recommended by the WHO – considering the minimum value would be 0.5g per kg. This means if you weight 70kg you will need 56g of protein a day.
These values are normally obtained through research relating to the balance of nitrogen. Nitrogen is an element present in proteins, but not in fat or carbs or even alcohol. These studies measure the amount of nitrogen in a diet ingested during the study and removing what is released through urine, stool and sweat. If the release is equivalent to the intake, then the level is considered balanced and therefore determined as the perfect amount of recommended protein! Shazam!
The problem with this DRI refered by WHO is that is obtained from studies in human beings that are omnivores and not herbivores. The truth is that there isn’t one single study made in humans that followed a plant based diet. Still though, there’s enough data to assume that the daily dosage of protein for a vegan could vary between 0.8/1.0g per kg, not very different from the normal recommendation. (2;3;4;5;6;7)
By this time your probably wondering “ So I’ll just eat tons of protein and everything will be good!”. Well, it happens that the IOM (Institute of Medicine) – the guys that establish the daily dosages for WHO, do not recommend high dosages of protein not even for athletes.
Different from fat, protein can’t be stored in your organism. When consumed in excess, protein is mainly processed in your liver, kidneys and muscles. The excessive consumption of protein leads to an excessive usage of your liver and kidneys and can create toxic acumulations of protein subproducts. Proteins are made of amino acids, and as the name says, they are natural acids. Meat proteins for example are extremely rich in amino acids containing sulphur that are transformed into sulpuric acid that needs to be neutralized by the buffers existing in our bones. Some evidence refers that our bones deteriorate (slowly of course) by freeing these regulating materials and the sediments lodge themselves in the kidneys. So you know if you want kidney stones, eat tons of animal protein. (8)
Vegetable proteins on the other hand are mainly alkalin, so they preserve the bones and prevent kidney stones. Still, vegetable proteins are not free from contaminating agents and the excess can lead to other complications
Still, ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), ADA (American Diatetic Association) and DC (Dietitians of Canada) recommend a higher protein consumption for athletes between 1.2/14g for endurance atlhetes and 1.2/1.17g to strength athletes; For vegetarian athletes is recommended 1.3/1.8g of protein.
Still, there’s a number of vegan athletes (Jon Venus, Timothy Shieff, Rich Roll) who follow diets not so rich in proteins and they don’t seem to have any problem with that.
So where are we? If we just consider that our organism can store those essential amino acids and, for that reason, it’s not necessary to take them in the correct amounts in every single meal, as long as you don’t starve and restrain yourself from certain foods, you won’t have any problems. So, run to your grandmother and ask her to make that fuckin pot of beans and pasta soup!
And just so you start crying already saying you don’t want beans with pasta after exercise, here’s two post-exercide smoothies rich in protein and highly caloric. If you want to gain weight and you don’t want to waste money in gainers (and you do very good as less processed food is better) these smoothies are for you. If you still want to buy any protein and gainers and all that shit, I still don’t recommend it nor I believe it will be any beneficial in the long term, but just take something plant based that won’t be isolated from proteins from soy or peas. If you want to waste your money with gainers, at least try to harm less animals with your decisions.
At the end of this page I refer the number of studies mentioned in this post.
Beans and chocolate smoothie
This monster is a real gainer! Yes I know, beans on a smoothie? WTF?! But believe me, in terms of flavour you won’t even notice them but they give a lot of protein to the mix.
First of all, if you don’t have a blender, buy one or do you think that is cheaper to spend 2 euros every day on a crappy smoothie at the gym? I recommend investing in a decent machine. If your going this way it will be your best friend.
About the beans, I normally buy them dry. The only thing you need to do is wash them well and put them in water for 12 hours and cook them in water without salt and finally freeze them. You won’t need a lot of time for this, just some organization, but believe me that it will save you a ton of time and money from now on.
1 Cup of Pinto Beans
1 Cup Frozen Spinach
1 Cup Soy Milk (or any other vegetable milk)
1 Cup of Water
1 Ripe Banana
1 Tablespoon of Cocoa or Carob powder
¼ Cup of Oats
I normally come from the gym grab all of this and throw it into the blender and blend it. Oh yeah! I drink it afterwards too! Complicated isn’t it? IF your blender is good, you won’t even need to unfreeze the beans or spinach. Oats is more like an option but it adds 150kcal to it. If you want to save calories remove the oats. If you want a thicker smoothie add less water, if you want it more smooth add more water. If you don’t like chocolate, try with cinnamon. If you don’t like this smoothie, do one you’d like.
Blue: 70% Hidrates
Red: 12% Fat
Green: 18% Protein
Peans and orange smoothie
Peas I normally buy them frozen. I also buy dry peas but for another purpose. I never tried them in smoothies. The ones I’m talking about are the traditional fresh peas that you can buy in any supermarket. The process is the same as before but with a greener result. Everything in there, blend and munch it. Once again, if you want to save calories you can remove oats. If you want a thicker smoothies add less water, and more smooth, more water. If you don’t like orange juice add something else. If you didn’t remove the shell from the pumpkin seeds you’re stupid. If you don’t know what griséus are don’t tell anyone you’re from the Algarve.
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup of orange juice (not from concentrate if possible)
½ cup of water
1 Ripe Banana
2 teaspoons of pumpkin seeds
¼ cup of oats
Blue: 72% Carbs
Red: 15% Fat
Green: 13% Protein
Many thanks to Vasco Cartó for helping with the translations!