When you tell people you’re a vegan, the first question many will ask you is where you get your protein from. This is based on the assumption that the vast majority of protein in an omnivore’s diet comes from the meat and fish that they eat.
Contrary to the stereotypical image; vegans aren’t skinny or weedy. There are plenty of muscle-bound vegan athletes out there, like former Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier and former Arizona Cardinals NFL player, David Carter (aka “the 300-pound vegan”), who clearly demonstrated they were getting enough protein supplies from other sources than meat.
While many omnivore athletes will supplement their diet with whey-based protein shakes, there are a number of plant-based protein shakes available for vegans. Three of the staff from money-saving website Voucherbox are currently taking the MyProtein challenge to ‘get ripped in 12 weeks’ and mixing in protein shakes along with other foods and an exercise programmes. Some of the recipes shared on the Voucherbox blog include vegan options to boost energy levels such as curried sweet potatoes. The MyProtein range includes a number of vegan-friendly products too.
Of course, while protein shakes can be a useful addition to those vegans seeking to increase muscle mass while they’re working out, there are plenty of other plant-based foodstuffs that are packed with a protein punch.
• Most vegans will eat plenty of fresh veg, and greens have protein in them. In a cup of cooked spinach, there’s about 7g of protein, and double that in a similar size portion of green beans. You can get 9g of protein from a cup of boiled peas too.
• Non-dairy milk also contains protein. In one cup of soy or almond milk, there are between 7g and 9g of protein. Add it to a smoothie or pour it onto cereal to get your day off to a protein-rich start.
• Nuts are also a great source of protein. Just 28g of pumpkin or squash seeds contains 8.5g of protein, and the same amount of pistachios has about 6g of protein. If you’re not a fan of nuts in their pure form, then go for a nut butter – almond, cashew or peanut – on your toast. A tablespoon of any nut butter will give you about 4g of protein.
• Quinoa can be a perfect staple to sit on a vegan plate and will provide around 9g of protein per 185g. Tofu, meanwhile, is another great vegan protein source, at around 9g of protein in every 112g serving.
• Lentils and beans will also boost your protein intake. In 75g of cooked lentils – the perfect base for a casserole or veggie burgers – you’ll get 18g of protein. And the same amount of kidney or black beans offers around 15g of protein.
As you can see, there are plenty of easily accessible sources of protein for vegans. All you need to do is make sure that you’re including some protein sources in each meal that you eat.