How Much Protein Do We Really Need?
I grew up as an omnivore, and to me, protein always meant meat. When I first went plant-based, I assumed that I wasn’t getting enough protein, so I started using tons of protein supplements. After studying plant-based nutrition though, I discovered that people on a plant-based diet do not need to be worried about protein at all. Many people in our society are actually getting way too much protein! This can be hard on the kidneys and can lead to excess body fat. Have you ever checked how much protein you’re consuming per day? Do you know what the daily recommendation is for your body?
The RDA for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is only 8-10% of daily calories. A whole food, plant-based diet with a variety of fruit, vegetables, legumes, tubers, seeds, and nuts, naturally contains the 8-10% protein we need. It’s therefore not possible to be protein deficient, unless you’re calorie deficient. If you eat adequate calories of whole plant food, you’ll naturally get your required grams of protein.
Most meats and protein powders contain 50% protein. This means that it's not possible to have a diet of 10% protein that contains meat or protein powder, unless the rest of your diet was made up of refined carbohydrates and oils that have 0% protein. But of course, we know that nutrient dense whole foods are the best source of fuel! Plant-based whole foods, naturally contain 10% protein, so there is no need to bring your protein intake up with foods that contain 50% protein.
Here’s an example which demonstrates how whole plant-based foods supply all the protein we need:
• A 25 year old woman who is 5’8”, weighs 130lbs, and does light exercises 3 times per week requires 1,904 calories per day to maintain her weight.
• The RDA for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, so this female should be consuming 46.8 grams of protein per day.
• If she ate 1,904 calories of whole plant food, which naturally contains 10% protein, she would get 47.6 grams of protein.
I know you might be thinking, "but I’m an athlete!" Many world-class athletes on a plant-based diet have not needed extra protein for their performance. They actually experienced improved recovery time, endurance, and coordination during and after competitive sport events! And if you’re an athlete, you’ll be burning more calories, so you’ll need to eat more, and this means you will naturally get more protein anyway. If you went on a long run and burned 1,000 calories, you would need to eat 1,000 extra calories. If these 1,000 calories came from whole plant-based foods, you would be eating an additional 25 grams of protein. Remember: you will not be protein deficient on a whole food, plant-based diet, unless you are calorie deficient.
Be sure to share this post with anyone you know who’s interested in going plant-based, but confused about where to get protein! And have fun fueling!
Lots of love,