Plant-Based Protein for Vegan Athletes
Athletic performance is the result of well-built muscle, which in turn is the outcome of regular exercise, intense training and good food. Speaking of good food, protein is the most important nutrient for muscle structure.
Muscles are made up of thousands of elastic fibers comprising water, protein, fat and glycogen. Protein, also known as building blocks, contains amino acids that build, repair, maintain and recover muscle. Hence, the more intensive the training, the more protein required. The following chart shows four types of athletes and how much protein per day each type requires.
|Type of Athlete||Daily protein requirement per kg body weight|
|Endurance athlete – moderate or heavy training||1.2 – 1.4 grams|
|Strength and power athlete||1.4 – 1.8 grams|
|Athlete on fat-loss programme||1.6 – 2.0 grams|
|Athlete on weight-gain programme||1.8 – 2.0 grams|
It is a well-known fact that non-vegetarian food is high in protein. Eggs and dairy products are also good source of protein. The question however is about vegan athletes. From where should they get their supply of protein, to be on par with their non-vegetarian counterparts?
Studies show that a well-structured vegan diet can adequately meet an athlete’s protein requirement. We say “well-structured” because, unlike meat, vegetables are not complete in protein source. Deficient of one or more essential amino acids critical for muscle-building, they have to be structured together into a proper protein-supplying diet using various vegetable sources.
These high-protein vegan foods are a great choice for vegan athletes.
- Tofu – 20 g protein from 1 cup
- Chickpeas – 7 g protein from half cup
- Peanuts – 16.8 g protein from half cup
- Legumes- 7 g protein from half cup
- Tempeh – 15 g protein from half cup
- Quinoa – 4 g protein from half cup
- Nut Butter – 8 g protein from 2 tablespoons
- Nuts – 7 g protein from a quarter cup
- Hemp seeds – 7 g protein from 2 tablespoons
- Plant-based protein powder – as detailed on the nutrition fact label.
|Breakfast||1 whole wheat bread + 1 ½ tbsp almond butter||11.8 g|
|Mid-morning snack||20 unsalted dry-roasted almonds||5 g|
|Lunch||Soya bean rice, fruit salad with 1 cup mixed seeds||22 g|
|Evening Snack||Boiled chickpeas 1 cup||14 g|
|Dinner||Tofu with vegetable curry||16 g|
|Before/After Workout||Plant-based protein drink (20-25 g per serving)||22 g|
Plant-based protein powders are a great way for vegan athletes to achieve their daily protein goal. Begin with determining the amount of protein required for the day and compare that with the protein supply from food intake. Compensate the rest with plant-based protein powder. Remember to check the nutrition label to understand the quantity of protein one serving provides, and accordingly consume once or twice a day.
Consumption of vegan foods that are high in protein and plant-based protein powders should be spaced out throughout the day and not consumed over one meal. That way, the body assimilates and digests protein effortlessly – just what is needed for a productive workout.
Nutritional orientation need not be a challenge for an aspiring vegan athlete. Appropriate and supervised nutrition should accompany rigorous training, and these should work in tandem to produce desired athletic results.