At Metabolic Living, we often educate clients and Facebook forum members on the importance of getting in enough protein each day. Those of us who are immersed in the world of weight loss and wellness probably agree that protein deserves special attention when it comes to your nutrition, particularly when you are training hard.
No matter your dietary preference, when your goal is to get lean and build strength, understanding how protein factors into your daily nutrition is important to understand. While we don’t all have the same exact protein requirements, we do need a bare minimum of dietary protein to build, maintain, and repair our tissues, including muscle. Protein can also help to balance our hormones and strengthen our immune system.
If you’ve been following our blog series on how to choose a good quality protein powder or design shakes and smoothies that help you to meet your goals, we understand that you may still have some questions on how to meet your protein needs if your preference is to follow a plant-based diet.
Why Should I Prioritize Protein?
Whether you are following a plant-based diet, or are simply a fan of Meatless Monday, you may be wondering about how to prioritize protein without incorporating animal protein. Like most nutrition protocols or plans, there is some controversy and confusion around how to get enough protein while following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
There are some general numbers to shoot for in terms of your protein intake, but rather than bog you down with numbers and calculations, let’s review more high-level information on how to make a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle work for you while prioritizing protein.
For those of you who have followed Metabolic Living for quite some time, or are familiar with any of our programs such as Metabolic Renewal or Metabolic Factor, it won’t come as a surprise that we strongly encourage you to prioritize protein to help with keeping your hunger and cravings in check as you ramp up your level of physical activity – while also cutting back on calories a bit.
Protein does an amazing job at keeping you satiated (aka feeling full), which is so important when you are trying to lose weight or change your shape. Several studies indicate that protein supports these goals in a few ways:
1. Feeling less hungry while eating fewer calories (that’s the satiation effect of protein)
2. Increased number of calories burned simply through digestion (also known as the thermic effect of food), and
3. Greater rates of muscle retention during the fat loss phase
“One of the common misconceptions about building muscle is that one needs to consume copious amounts of protein, particularly animal protein, in order to achieve muscle-building results.
If we consume 1.2g-2.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight, we position ourselves to build muscle, so long as we are consistent with both nutrition and training programs, while also getting necessary amounts of sleep, hydration, and micronutrient intake.”
~Robert Cheeke & Matt Frazier, The Plant-Based Athlete
The Benefits of Adding in Protein Powder
Whether you are more experienced at following a plant-based diet or are just dabbling in the world of vegan or vegetarian nutrition, it may feel difficult to get enough protein to feel fully satisfied. For that reason, we often recommend adding in a plant-based protein powder to help you get the job done with minimal effort.
That being said, the number of options for protein powder can be overwhelming. Your taste buds, budget, and preferences for natural and added ingredients all factor into choosing the best protein powder for you. And if you are following one of our programs like Metabolic Renewal or Metabolic Factor, you may have to be mindful of the number of carbohydrates that occur naturally as part of many plant-based proteins.
Our lead nutritionist, Bella, often recommends choosing a pea protein if you aren’t able to tolerate, or wish to avoid, dairy. Why?
- Pea protein, made from the yellow split pea, is a legume that is high in all but one of the essential amino acids.
- Pea protein is also particularly high in what is known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). BCAAs promote muscle protein synthesis, which basically means that they help to repair muscle damage, or tissue breakdown, caused by intense exercise.
- And perhaps most importantly, research suggests that pea protein delivers similar muscle benefits to whey protein, which is known to be the ideal choice for those who want to lose weight while maintaining muscle mass.
If you’d prefer to stay away from pea protein, that is fine too! There is plenty of vegan or vegetarian-friendly protein powders on the market. You can find everything from rice to hemp to pumpkin, or various blends of protein sources. Without getting overwhelmed by your choices, simply find the protein that has the consistency you like, blends easily, tastes great, and keeps your HEC (hunger, energy, & cravings) in check!
What if you aren’t a fan of protein powder or would prefer to eat real whole foods while following any of our programs at Metabolic Living? No worries, we’ve got you covered. In this video, Bella walks you through exactly how to follow the principles of a vegan or vegetarian diet while implementing the Metabolic Detective process so you can still look, feel, and perform at your very best!
If you’d like more help with fine-tuning your diet as you follow any of our programs, such as Metabolic Factor or Metabolic Renewal, head over to our Facebook groups and join the forum where you’ll have access to coaches, moderators, and other program members to help support you!
Or, for more personalized support with a smaller-group feel, check out our Metabolic Mastery Club! I’d love to “meet” you and help answer questions you may have, along with our other amazingly talented coaches! We’d love to have you join in on the fun, and support you in prioritizing protein as part of your training plan!