Where Do You Get Your Protein?
Where do you get your protein? As a 45 year old plant-based athlete this is by far the most common question I get regarding my diet. The question I ask you is, How many people do you know with a protein deficiency? How much protein do you think you actually consume? Where does your protein get its protein? Where do you get your fiber?
Exactly, you don't know anyone with a protein deficiency because it doesn't exist unless you’re literally starving yourself. Most people are unaware of how much protein they actually consume and how much they need. They just think more is better, and why is that?
The largest growth period of your entire life is as a baby when you are consuming your mother's breast milk. A mother's breast milk is actually only 5-6% protein. So why is it that most people think we require more than that? My educated guess is that it is drilled in our heads growing up through the supplement, dairy, and meat industry. These 3 entities have one thing in mind when suggesting nutrition to the public . . . .their own wallets. Official groups such as the World Health Organization, National Research Council, and the Academies' Institute of Medicine suggest we consume 10% protein. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and biochemist from Cornell University, suggests that we require only 5-6% calories from protein. "About 9-10% protein has been recommended for the past fifty years to be assured that most people at least get their 5-6% requirement." Fewer than 5% of americans actually consume more than 21% protein. The average bell curve ranges from 11-21%.
Most people I talk with consume most all of their protein through animal consumption. What most don't understand is that they are actually consuming a very high fat diet loaded with cholesterol, saturated fat, and zero fiber. Here are some examples of fat percentages in typical American diets with foods considered high in protein levels:
Fried Egg- 68% fat
Ground Beef, 70% Lean- 60% fat
Bacon, fried- 68% fat
Cheese, Cheddar- 72% fat
Almonds- 73% fat
Avocado- 77% fat
I put cheese, almonds, and avocado's on the list as well because even a lot of vegetarians/vegans consume far too much fat in their diets. I was actually unaware, for sometime, that my daily diet consisted of over 40% of my calories from fat when I thought I was consuming protein meals. Fat is important, I consume 10-20% of my calories from fat, but too much fat in the bloodstream from animal
products can lead to blood sugar issues, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
Another popular source of protein for weight lifters and athletes is protein supplements and drinks. I do not recommend these supplements at all, most tax the liver and are loaded with processed chemicals. Next time you pick up a Muscle Milk read the back label first, you'll be shocked at the amount of chemical ingredients you've never heard of. A lot of the tag names are notorious for containing Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO's).
Too much protein in our diet is associated with a manner of health impairments, including such symptoms as constipation and other digestive disorders that often lead to toxemia(toxic blood and tissues) and all other autoimmune conditions, premature aging, impaired liver function, kidney failure, osteoporosis, and many other degenerative and pathogenic conditions result form eating more protein than we need. I actually have had many people tell me I look much younger since switching to a plant-based diet.
Dr. Caldwell Esselystyn from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio has one of the longest running documented studies, over 25 years, in proving that a plant-based diet can actually reverse heart disease. He has a 99.4% success rate in doing so with the most severe patients with multiple heart attacks it his latest clinical data released July 2014. You can pick up his book, Reverse and Prevent Heart Disease. Imagine what a plant-based diet can do for someone who doesn't have severe heart disease yet? Like T. Colin Campbell, Esselystyn recommends protein consumption around 10% of calories.
In the book, The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell he devotes an entire chapter to results he concluded from testing rats with Casein protein from Cow' milk. These rats were fed Aflatoxin(a potent carcinogen) and varying levels of Casein protein. One test groups of rats were fed 5% Casein protein while the other test group was fed 20%. The rats administered the 20% levels devolped pre-cancer foci, precursors to cancerous growth. None of the rats fed only 5% Casein protein developed pre-cancer foci. Campbell also concluded in the book that plant protein did not have the same result that Casein protein did, it did not cause pre-cancer foci whether it was 5% or 20% protein levels from plants.
Most people are surprised when I tell them that fruits and vegetables contain any where from 4-30% protein, leafy greens like Spinach contain the largest amounts. 100 calories of steak contains 5.4 grams of protein, where as, 100 calories of broccoli contains 11.2 grams of protein. The dilemma is that it would be hard to consume enough calories from vegetables alone.
I follow a whole foods Plant Based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and some nuts/seeds. This diet supplies most of your calories from carbohydrates naturally loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. There is really no need to even count the amount of protein you're actually consuming. If you eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals you are going to get at least the recommended 5-6% of calories from protein that T. Colin Campbell suggests. Thrown in legumes and you will reach a 10% protein level. Also, more importantly, you'll consume the vitamins and minerals that help fight off disease and sickness. These foods contain all the vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids you need. Except, Vitamin B12, which I can discuss in a future blog.
Most people are also unaware that raw foods of fruits and vegetables contain enzymes. Enzymes are simply a bio-catalyst for protein, they ARE amino acids. This essentially skips the step of consuming and converting your protein from animal products. Fruits are in and out of the blood very fast, in as little as an hour. Animal protein takes 24-48 hours before it's digested. I have far more energy and recovery consuming my protein from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes than I ever did consuming large amounts of animal proteins in the past.
Most people who know me would never think I don't consume meat because I carry muscle. I'm lean, but the muscle is still there. Muscular activity and enough calories provide muscular growth, protein provides recover. As mentioned, 10% protein is plenty for recovery, and you can easily receive that 10% from a whole foods Plant Based diet. Through my own experience and the suggestions of several high respected individuals(Dr. Esselystyn, Dr. McDougall, T. Colin Campbell, Dean Ornish, and Dr. Garth Davis) I recommended a diet consisting of 70-80% carbohydrates, and 10-20% fat and about 10% protein for optimal health. If your diet is centered around whole plant foods(fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts/seeds) you will naturally fall into these ratios and don't even need to think about.
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All the best-
Youtube Plantbased Athlete