Christy Morgan, also known as “The Blissful Chef”, and has worked in the natural foods industry since 2002. She’s most known for as a chef for celebrities in Los Angeles and for her cookbook, Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind, Body, and Planet. She’s helped transform thousands of lives through cooking classes, food coaching, and wellness programs for corporations and individuals.
What Are Your Protein Needs…Really?
When given the “Where do you get your protein?” question as a vegan, we roll our eyes and proclaim that there is protein in everything and our needs are easily met on a plant-based diet. Which is true, but isn’t the whole truth. Those of us who are fitness junkies or athletes have different dietary requirements, especially when it comes to protein. I’m training for a triathlon and exercising hours a day so my diet will be different than someone who does light exercise or for someone trying to lose weight.
It is true that you can get enough protein on a plant based or vegan diet. But what is enough for an athlete? The RDA recommends that we get 0.8-1 grams of protein for every kilogram of weight. So an average woman of 115 pounds should get about 42-52 grams of protein per day. If you work out regularly, are an endurance athlete, or are trying to build muscle mass you should get more, up to twice as much even. Be sure you are eating enough calories. That is one mistake that new athletes make. If you increase activity increase calorie intake, but make healthy, whole food choices. If you are wanting to get muscular you have to work really hard in the gym as well as eat right!
Is there an optimal time of day to get your added protein? After weight training your muscle fibers split and fracture. In order to repair this damage you would want to eat a high protein meal (coupled with carbs & sugar) within an hour of working out. This can be in the form of plant foods like legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds. But you also need a balance of branch amino acids for repair. An easy way to ensure you get the protein you need to rebuild and a full spectrum of amino acids is to have a protein shake with fruits and greens with a vegan protein supplement (and veggies if you want!). While this isn’t absolutely necessary to use protein powder (there are probably a few vegan bodybuilders in existence that don’t supplement though I only know of one), it can be helpful when you are busy or don’t have a large appetite after a workout. It isn’t as taxing on your digestive system as a full meal. After being vegan for 10 years by body just didn’t build muscle the same way it once did. When I started supplementing with a protein shake I noticed considerably how much stronger I got as well as bigger in mass. Now I’m proud of my vegan muscles!
I prefer a protein powder that is whole food based not including soy or soy protein isolates. This would include rice, hemp, pea or a blend of protein sources. One of my favorite plant-powered protein powders is PlantFusion. It combines sprouted quinoa, sprouted amaranth, artichoke, and pea protein. It tastes really good, even mixed just with water. Other great brands I’ve tried include Vega, SunWarrior, Lifetime Life’s Basics, Garden of Life, and a host of pure hemp brands.
You will want to combine these protein supplements with other whole foods like in a smoothie. You need carbohydrates as well as sugar (natural, whole food based like fruit) and protein after a hard workout to repair and rebuild the glycogen stores in your muscles and liver. Many of these vegan supplements have taken all this into account when creating their supplements, but it’s good to add some extra fruit and veggies to the mix.
I’ve partnered with an awesome vegan personal trainer to create an online wellness program called Wellness Reboot. It includes a 28-day meal plan, over 15 videos with content on how to stock your pantry to cooking techniques, a 30 page Getting Started guide to show you how to transition to healthier eating, and a 4 week fitness plan to get you fit and healthy. Check it out!
Join me on Saturday at 12pm on the Pear Stage to learn more about eating for fitness as well as a few delicious recipes (that are not smoothies) that ensure you get all the nutrition you need as an active person.