show me the protein

One of the challenges that I see with the Vegan diet is getting enough, and the right types of, protein…or more properly getting it efficiently.

One thing that I like about the “Paleo Diet for Athlete’s” by Loren Cordain and Joe Friel is that a large part of their philosophy is about efficiency of eating…simply put:

‘is it worth the calories’

Woven throughout their book is that some foods just aren’t worth it…their nutrient value is too low compared to the caloric value, or simply that there are better choices…and use that as the basis for limiting most dairy and grains…and for promoting lean meats and fish as your primary protein source.

Here’s their take on it as it relates to protein (page 72-73):

To get 108 grams of protein from animal sources:

  • 4 ounces of cod
  • 6 ounces of turkey breast
  • 4 ounces of chicken

Those foods (also) contain 44.5 grams of the all-important amino acids…the total energy eaten to get these nutrients would be 454 calories.  To get the same amount of protein by combining grains and beans, (he) would have to eat all of the following in one day:

  • 1 cup of tofu
  • 1 cup of kidney beans
  • 6 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 1 cup of navy beans
  • 1 1/2 cups of corn
  • 1 cup of red beans
  • 1 cup of brown rice
  • 2 bagels
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

Our athlete had better like beans and have a huge appetite!  The above requires eating an additional 2,300 calories that day…eating grains and legumes to get daily protein is not only very inefficient, but, far worse, the (vegan) athlete will come up short on essential amino acids…even if he can stomach all those beans and grains.

So even recognizing that their example is skewed a bit to make their point…whenever I see these types of analysis I always remember the title of an old book that I read…”How to Lie With Statistics“…so to ‘keep them honest’, I entered their examples into my food diary…the vegan example is actually a full day’s worth of meals…and as a side note, actually at 2,500 calories well over my 2,000 calorie baseline without exercise:

  • 2,538 calories
  • 15% fat (45.1 grams)/ 66% carbs (434.2 grams) / 18% protein (119.3 grams)
    • the example is a bit high on carbs, low on fats still…and I’m sure that the Vegan experts can come up with a better protein example

Whereas, the lean meat/fish example is just the primary protein part of the daily non-vegan diet:

  • 567 calories
  • 27% fat (17.6 grams) / 1% carbs (2 grams) / 71% protein (102.8 grams)
    • the other 2,000 calories would need to be just about all carbs and some fat to be balanced

…it does however, go to one of my key ‘concerns’ about eliminating lean meats and fish entirely from my diet…you would need to be _extremely_ balanced and careful to get in enough fat and protein in every meal…every day…to get in the proper balance of fat/carb/protein on a Vegan diet, without going way over the top on calories to try to ‘catch up’ at the end of the day if you’re short somewhere.

In tracking my food intake for a long, long time on I generally find that on a daily basis:

  • My target protein intake is over 108 grams per day…and even more during heavier workout weeks:
  • my saturated fat almost always well below the 7% ‘cut-off’ recommendation by many sources
  • my trans fats almost always 0
  • my Iron, Vitamin A and C, all typically 200%+ of daily recommended levels

So I’ll be taking a hard look at the protein, amino acid, iron, B12 and other associated elements of my Vegan diet this week, and see what it actually takes to get there

…I’m not expecting that I’ll end up on a Vegan diet a week from now…I do expect to get some good ideas on how to incorporate more veggies into my diet mix, and maybe find some other food elements that I may have otherwise overlooked

…and since I now find that I’m on the short end of my protein target on many days, and therefore add it at dinner at the end of the day, maybe some protein elements in a Vegan diet that I can work into the mix…stay tuned 🙂

This entry was posted in Dad's Blog Posts, Nutrition, Vegan, Veganism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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