Does Vegetarian / Vegan Diet Put People At Protein Deficiency?
Posted on January 08 2019
We often hear from a barrage of people saying, vegetarians and vegans do not get enough protein in their diet. Is this statement right? Or perhaps the right way to say this should be, ‘Vegetarians aren’t getting the right kind of protein!’
‘Protein’ plays a critical role in countless physiological processes in the body. It’s an essential macronutrient that our body needs to produce hormones, enzymes and other chemicals.
It’s a known fact that foods which provide protein are many but those that provide complete proteins are limited! ‘Complete proteins’ are protein foods that contain all of the essential amino acids, those our body can’t produce itself.
Normally, all animal sources including meat, eggs, fish and milk are naturally high in protein and are considered as ‘complete proteins’ as they provide all the essential amino acids. So those who consume animal products meet their daily protein need easily.
Plants sources like beans, spinach, nuts, grains, lentils and tofu although are good sources of protein, there are only a few sources like quinoa, buckwheat and soy which are complete proteins.
When such is the case with plant-based protein, a doubt arises in mind whether vegetarians, especially vegans, who follow a strict plant diet, get their protein need without the aid of supplemental protein? Quite an interesting topic of debate!
Vegetarian/Vegan Diet Are Consistently Protein Deficit & Lack Bioavailability
Fruits, nuts and grains although are teeming with vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants, plant-nutrients including protein suffer from low bioavailability, meaning they are hard for us to extract, absorb and utilize. Plant proteins are not as well digested and processed by the body as animal proteins. Moreover, getting a complete plant-based protein can be a little tricky.
Did You Know? Your Muscle Building Potential Is Stifled Without Enough Amino
‘Protein’ is chiefly termed as the ‘muscle-food’. Upon ingestion, the body breaks down protein into amino acids, which it uses to build muscle.
There are about 21 crucial amino acids, most of which our body produces. The amino acid level needs to reach a certain threshold to stimulate protein synthesis. Our muscle building potential gets stifled when we don’t have both enough varieties of amino acids and a high level of enough varieties. The deficit in amino acids often leads vegans to experience a phenomenon called ‘anabolic resistance’, meaning the body’s ability to synthesize protein is hindered! Also, you may feel unusually fatigued, feel weak when doing strength exercise or may recover from injury slowly if you are protein deficit.
Normally, Plants Sources Don’t Have All the Amino Acid We Need
The richest sources of 9 essential amino acids that our body can’t produce are animal-based proteins. BCAAs are particularly important for workout recovery but are not found in plant sources. Plant-based protein sources typically contain more dietary fibre and less saturated fat compared to animal-based protein sources. “Plant-based protein sources are very low in essential amino acids and without animal or dairy-based protein, it’s harder for vegetarians and vegans to get a quality supply of nutrients”, says Jacob Wilson, Ph.D., director of the Human Performance and Sports Nutrition Lab at the University of Tampa.
In order to get a complete fill of all the essential amino acids, you have to combine plant proteins strategically.
For ex: 1) Peanut butter becomes a complete protein when combined with Wheat bread.
2) Beans are low in amino acid lysine and become complete protein only when paired with lysine-rich rice.
Protein Powders Can Be a Solid Supplemental Option
Protein powders are an easy and convenient source of complete, high-quality protein. The recommended daily intake of protein for an average adult is 0.8g/Kg/day. Since vegans and vegetarians find it challenging to meet this amount, protein powders offer an easy solution to the protein need. A scoop of the protein powder can provide up to 25g of protein.
There are several varieties of protein powders:
1. WHEY PROTEIN
Whey Protein is the most popular dairy protein. It is a water-soluble milk protein that is highly bioavailable. Whey Protein is a perfect match for vegetarians. There are 2 main varieties of Whey Protein-Whey Protein Concentrate and Whey Protein Isolate. While Whey Concentrate provides protein in the range of 20-24g per scoop, Whey Isolate is a more pure protein which offers 27g of protein with low-fat content and less lactose, making it a better option for those with lactose intolerance. The convenience of Whey Protein is that it can be added to all kinds of meals like oatmeal, shakes and yoghurt.
2. CASEIN PROTEIN
Casein Protein is yet another dairy protein that is most suitable for night time because of its slow digesting nature. Casein makes up to 80% of the protein in milk. It is rich in glutamine, the amino acid that may speed up muscle recovery after exercise. Both Whey Protein and Casein Protein are vegetarian protein and not an option for vegans
3. SOY PROTEIN
Soy Protein is an excellent alternative to people who do not consume dairy protein. It is extracted from soya bean and is rich in isoflavones. Soy protein contains no cholesterol and has little or no saturated fat. It provides a full spectrum of essential amino acids needed for muscle growth. Soy Protein is lactose and gluten-free and is suitable for use as a meal supplement to make your meal protein rich. A scoop of Soy Protein Isolate provides 27g of protein which is excellent for a plant-based protein.
4. PEA PROTEIN
Unlike most of the plant proteins, pea protein is easily digestible and is particularly rich in BCAAs, so gives excellent results when used for muscle building. Pea protein is derived by mechanical grinding of yellow split peas. Pea Protein Isolate offers high-quality protein with about 27g -28g of protein per scoop. Pea protein is best for those with a dairy allergy and lactose intolerance.
Both Soy and Pea protein is ideal for vegan and those following a vegetarian diet.
Vegans are withering away from complete-protein shortages! Especially, athletes, weightlifters and sportspeople who follow a vegan diet may need to exceed a general protein intake recommendation which is not possible to reach unless supplemented.
You don’t have to change your diet pattern..... Just add protein powders to your conventional diet to get what you miss from real food.