Seriously though, how do I get my protein? It’s a legitimate question and I would like to answer it. As a vegan who spends a lot of time exercising and most of my time eating fruits and vegetables, you’d think that my diet would be protein deficient. I was going to do this scientifically, with references and links to the relating articles from which I get my information, but that just sounded boring as hell. I’m not going to patronise you, but instead allow you to do some simple researching as I have done. I will however link to some important information if I feel it necessary.
So. Protein. The question as to how I get it is without a doubt the most frequent question I’ve been asked since going vegetarian, let alone vegan. I certainly wouldn’t be the only herbivore to have ever been asked this either, which leads to the more appropriate question: why are people so obsessed with protein? Nobody ever asked me how I got it before, because meat, right?
Protein is big business; it’s estimated that the world will be chewing and gulping down £8bn a year of bars, drinks, and other supplements by 2017. It’s a simple connection that the marketers have made, but it is obviously effective:
Note the ‘advance weight gainer’ bullet point there. Without going in to too much detail, excessive amount of animal protein inflames your muscles and puffs you up. It literally makes you puffy, hence all the Puff Daddy wannabes wearing their low-cut singlets and flat-caps whilst doing some ‘lifting’ in the local gym. People in the adverts like the ones above only look the way they do because they have dehydrated themselves for about two days prior to the shoot.
And then there’s the meat and dairy industry. People have been brainwashed into thinking that the human body needs large quantities of dead animal to live, and the sports industry into thinking that, in order to make gains on muscularity, you need to be sucking down bovine lactate like a baby cow during happy hour. This is all thanks to marketing campaigns such as Got Milk?
Here are two truths: a) plants have all the protein you need, b) there is no such thing as protein deficiency. There is literally no medical term to describe it, because it doesn’t exist. Sure there is marasmus and kwashiorkor, but they both stem from literal starvation. The body in fact cycles about 100g of protein a day by itself from used digestive enzymes. There are 20 amino acids (what strands of protein are made of), 8-11 of which (it’s debated) are essential, meaning we can’t produce it and so need to get them from the food we eat. So how much protein do we need? Well only about 5% of our daily caloric intake needs to be from protein, even for people who exercise regularly.
Moreover, the highly acidic nature of animal protein (because of the amino acids) – in particular from the sulfur-containing amino acid methionine found in meat and dairy products – means that when you do eat meat and dairy you’ll be passing calcium in your urine for the next few hours whilst your body draws upon the alkaline calcium to neutralise that acid. Got milk? Got osteoporosis.
So back to plants. Plants don’t have any protein right? Wrong. All plants contain all the amino acids (i.e. protein) that you need. Nature proves this to be true: elephants, buffalo, horses, even gorillas are vegan!
If that’s not enough, here’s some more proof. I use the calorie-tracking website Cronometer to log all of my calorie intake and expenditure. If you’re interested in such nerdy (some may say sad) information I highly recommend it as the level of detail it goes into is pretty amazing, and best of all the browser version is free. You can also buy the app for Android or iPhone for about £2, which is well worth it for on-the-go logging.
Here’s what I ate today:
OMG so much sugar (I’ll get to that another time). But for now, highlighted in the screenshot below is my food intake for half of today, 100% fruit.
And below is the protein from all of that carbohydrate-rich fuel.
Well whaddayaknow. Pretty good right? All amino acids in check, but not too high, and no meat or dairy in site. This doesn’t even take into account my solid evening meal of potato gnocchi and various vegetables.
So there you have it. Now if anyone else asks me where I get my protein I’ll ask them why they get so much of theirs…