When announcing that you’re forgoing animal products, there is one question that you will most definitely get asked by friends and family: “Where do you get your protein?”. You may even be unsure of this yourself. The good news is there are so many fantastic protein sources for those on a plant-based diet. Protein is essential to your health and well-being because it’s the building block for muscles and organs; it’s part of what makes up your hair, skin, nails, DNA, and practically every part of your body! A key function of protein is muscle building and repair, which is why many people load up on protein after finishing a demanding workout.
What most people don’t know, however, is that the standard recommendation for protein consumption is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. For a 160-pound person, that’s about 57.6 grams of protein per day. If you weigh less, you’ll need less and vice versa. more if you are active. People who are active may need a little more. This ranges from 0.5 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So circling back to our 160-pound person, if they were active or an athlete, they would need anywhere from 80 to 160 grams of protein per day.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion surrounding protein, and where to get it on a plant-based diet. Many people think supplements are needed to reach your daily protein goal when not consuming animal products, however, this is simply not true. To cut right to the chase--you don’t “need” a protein powder to get enough protein on a plant-based diet. You can absolutely get enough protein from plant-based foods, such as lentils, beans, tofu, nuts, and seeds. For example, one cup of cooked black beans contains roughly 15.2 grams of protein. A ⅓ block of tempeh contains around 17 grams. So, as long as you prioritize eating a source of whole-food plant-based protein at every meal., as well as making sure you’re eating enough calories, you should be able to meet your daily protein needs with no problems.
This is not to say that you shouldn't use protein powder. There are many instances where it can be helpful. To put things into perspective, a scoop of vegan protein powder ranges anywhere from twenty to twenty-five grams of protein. This will most likely be coming from pea, lentil, or rice protein. These powders can come in handy when you are in a pinch to ensure adequate protein consumption. And for some people who are extremely active, it can be difficult to eat enough food to satisfy protein needs
In summary, protein powders are a supplement, and they are meant to “supplement” the diet. You should be relying on real whole foods to meet the majority of your protein needs. These foods not only supply protein, but a variety of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive. It’s also important to keep in mind that supplements are not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), meaning that a lot of what is a product is up to the company. To avoid buying a protein powder with not-so-great ingredients, look for the Certified for Sport seal from NSF International. This label means that the powder has been 3rd party tested to ensure that you’re getting what’s on the label.