“But what about protein?”, says every non-vegan the moment he hears you are a vegan!
The biggest misconception people have is that you cannot get enough protein on a plant-based diet. This notion that animal food is the only source of protein has been so ingrained in our collective belief system that we often refrain from a plant-based diet just because we believe it will not offer us the required nutrients. No one would do a better job at slaying the protein myth than the ultra-endurance calisthenics athlete Stephen Hughes-Landers.
We first met this vegan athlete in one of his gigs in Dubai, what he called his home for a year before moving to Perth. A passionate vegan, Stephen is charming, funny and is a living proof that you can build a kick-ass body without meat and dairy. When Stephen is not training, you can find him sharing what is he eating, cooking, his nutrition and workout tips and his travels on his Instagram stories, which will have you hooked in no time.
Below, Stephen busts the vegan diet and protein myth and shares the best vegan sources of protein, good enough for a professional athlete. Once you read this, don’t ever doubt about getting enough protein on a vegan diet!
How To Build Muscle With Vegan Foods by Stephen
Muscle growth requires a constant supply of essential nutrients that support the process of building muscle, the protein synthesis. Without the right food, training can’t and won’t produce the desired results.
Contrary to common belief, eating the same ‘muscle foods’ (chicken, eggs, etc) is not only boring, it is also unhealthy. The truth is, even animals get their proteins from plants and the best quality protein comes from plants. My strength is similar to other plant-eating beasts (gorillas, rhinos, elephants) so give these awesome foods a try and boost your muscle building. And, the ‘complete protein’ argument can be settled with some well-known research results that can be easily found online. For example, a research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology states that “Plant-based proteins are significantly more heart-healthy compared to animal proteins”. Plant power is more than enough and it’s sustainable. So switch up your diet for all round better results. Below are share some of the best vegan protein sources (that are healthier than animal protein).
Protein: 20 – 30g per one cup
Tofu is probably the most associated foods with veganism (usually to joke about!). You can find it anywhere in the world and it is packed with protein. Firm tofu is usually more protein dense. If I eat tofu, I aim for a quality organic brand as a lot of soy products are full of GMO’s (avoid foods from the USA if possible)
Protein: up to 65g per 100g
A perfect meat substitute as it can be made to look, taste and even have the texture of steak or other meats. Great for people changing their diets and looking for something to replace meats. However, it is not recommended for gluten intolerant people as it’s made primarily of wheat protein.
Protein: 24g per 100g (uncooked)
High in fibre, cost-effective and versatile – red lentils are one of the best known vegan protein sources.
The best way to prepare? I soak 1.5 kg of different beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas) overnight, rinse them thoroughly then add a lot of chopped leeks, grated carrots, and some veg stock. It makes 15 good size portions (massive indeed) and each has 40g protein, 130g carbs (starchy) and 4g fat. Lentils amino acid profiles surpass even red meat in almost all areas!
Protein: 22g per 100g
The only food known to have a perfect harmony of the essential fatty acids the Omega 3, 6 & 9, hemp seeds are a nutrition powerhouse. I carry hemp protein when I’m travelling to ensure I’m never missing out on my protein intake. It’s perfect for making shakes – add 1-2 tablespoons of hemp powder with a nut milk or any other milk alternative and you can top it with vanilla and dates for taste.
Protein: 8g per 100g
Some say quinoa is a grain, others argue it is a seed. Either way its well known for being a wholesome protein source, which means it’s got all 9 essential amino acids your body needs and some extra too. This is the most important quality for any protein source, even though the amount of protein per 100g may not be huge. It can be placed in just about any meal. Fix a quinoa salad with nuts and veggies, mix in your oats or even try making porridge with just quinoa and some dried fruits. Works as a nutritious alternative to rice and pasta, too.
Spirulina – Algae Superfoods
The name Spirulina, also known as chlorella, may sound like a disease but actually, it’s the pure essence of health. This plant source of protein is also packed with minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Add a teaspoon to any meal of your choice and get a ton of vitamins and a perfect supply of healthy fatty acids. Known for it’s rapid tissue repair properties, I add mine to shakes or juices to help speed up recovery times.
Protein: 21g per 100g
High in vitamin E, almost as much calcium as a glass of milk and more magnesium than most nuts. It’s really simple to make your own almond milk at home (a good alternative because most of the pre-packed almond milk has added sugar in it).
Protein: 12g per 100g
The low glycemic index makes it a carb source that won’t spike your blood sugar levels and will provide long-lasting energy. It is a great source of fiber, too. Tastes great and provides, even more, protein when combined with any milk alternative (rice, soy, almond milk). I add a teaspoon of ‘super energy’ (lacuma, baobab, maca and guarana) and a chopped banana. Sets me up for the whole day.
There are many other great vegan protein sources available that you never imagined. So the whole lack of protein argument on a plant-based diet is a sham. Moreover, you don’t need a million grams of protein per minute, too much is not healthy or beneficial.
If you need an easy protein fix then a good quality protein powder, like Pranaon, will give your daily protein fix. Pranaon is by far the greatest tasting and quality (I am not sponsored and do not benefit from you switching to them) protein I have come across.
About Stephen Hughes-Landers
World-class athlete and Instagram star Stephen Hughes-Landers is well-known as one of the most exciting athletes for his entertaining and often high-risk training combos. He has been ranked #1 calisthenics athlete in the UK and travels around the world for training, judging and competing.
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