Monday, April 9, 2012

Where Do I Get My Protein?

My whole foods plant-based eating style started in 2007. About once a year, during that period, for about 2 months I keep track of my nutrient intake using an excellent computer program Cron-O-meter.  You can either download the program to your computer, or simply use the web-based program.

Cron-O-meter provides comprehensive feedback on macronutrients (protein/carbs/fat/water) and micronutrients (vitamins/minerals/etc.). With regards to protein, my average protein intake (all from plants) is about 8% of calories per day. It ranges from 5% to 12%, depending upon how many beans/legumes/nuts/seeds I consume. When I am riding lots, I seem to naturally consume more high protein plant foods because I am more hungry and I need the calories.

During this period I have maintained fairly high cycling mileage (7-8,500 miles per year), and have had periods where I do fairly intense resistance training. Never has lack of protein been a problem. I am convinced that on a relatively low protein plant-based diet, my recovery periods are shorter, and there is no lack of ability to build muscle. The recovery period issue is discussed in depth in Thrive by Brendan Brazier.

The promotion of protein from dairy and meat by the meat and dairy industries has perpetuated one of the most enduring myths in human nutrition.

I believe that it is true that endurance and resistance training athletes need more protein, but the numbers are relatively small, and plant protein works as well, IMO better, than animal protein. In terms of grams per day, I have averaged about 60-70 grams. The popular guidelines for athletes is 2-3 times that amount. This is a very debatable topic, but even professional body builders can do fine on only plant proteins, and much less than the popular literature prescribes. Check out Robert Cheeke. He eats lots of protein, but 100% from plants.

The point for most of us, who are not professional athletes training 4-6 hours per day, eating a wide variety of plant foods supplies all the protein we need. If we were professional athletes, we would do fine by eating more plants with lots of beans, nuts and seeds.

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