For many years, Dave and I batted around the idea of moving to plant-based diet. Our primary concern was finding adequate protein sources to fuel our training and long-term health. Here is another myth about protein sources to build, repair and maintain muscle you may have thought and some answers that will help.
MYTH: It takes protein from animal products to build muscle. A common believe is that you can’t get enough protein without animal products and that is the best sources of protein. Research shows, if you are consuming enough calories it is extremely difficult to be protein deficient. Yes, protein is an essential nutrient that is absolutely critical in building and repairing muscle tissue, and maintaining a wide array of important bodily functions. But does it matter from what source we get our protein? Can it be plants rather than animals? Effective marketing and lobbying groups have driven us to believe that meat and dairy products are the only source of dietary protein and without high amounts of animal protein we can’t be healthy let alone perform as an athlete.
It’s true, animal products are generally denser in protein but they are also dense in less desirable things such as saturated fat and cholesterol. Plant-based protein such as beans, vegetables, and whole grains contain high quality protein without the harmful effects (e.g., 1 cup of lentils has 16g of protein and 0 cholesterol; one broccoli stalk has 4g of protein). Eating lower on the food chain and sourcing protein needs from healthy plant-based sources like black, kidney, pinto, and other beans, almonds, lentils, hemp seeds, spirulina, and quinoa will provide you with what you require.
In reality, Protein (or any amino acid) deficiency is highly unlikely, even if you ate nothing but a variety of fresh fruit. Short of starving yourself, it’s almost impossible.
For more about protein, please see the complete three-part ‘Getting protein on a plant-based diet’ blog series.