How much protein should I eat? (and how do vegans get enough protein?)



How much protein should I eat per day?

Will Green Thickies provide me with enough protein?

How much protein should I eat

I get asked this all the time, ‘How much protein should I eat?’  This is also one of the most commonly asked questions for vegans ‘Where do you get your protein?  We are a nation obsessed with protein, and really there’s no need, but since it”s on everyone’s minds I’m going to break down exactly how much protein you really need a day and show you that Green Thickies contain exactly the right amount of protein.

To give you a bit of background, I did my own Green Thickies challenge which meant I drank nothing but Green Thickies for 7 days.  (You can sign up here) Green Thickies are vegan smoothies containing fruit, leafy greens, water or dairy free milk, some nuts or seeds and some filling healthy carbs such as oats or quinoa.

So where do vegans get their protein?

So where do vegans get their proteinLet me just say that if you eat a plant based diet of whole foods you will not struggle to get enough protein.  For a long time I’ve believed that we focus way too much on protein and not enough on other nutrients.  Everyone seems to be trying to get more and more protein in their diet but I’m not a fan of this at all as it’s dangerous for your health to get too much protein, and actually more difficult than you think to get too little.

If you base your entire diet on whole plant based foods such as fruit, vegetables, potatoes, oats, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and legumes you will not have a problem with getting enough protein UNLESS you eat too little calories to sustain yourself.  But if you eat far too little calories you’ll have a problem with malnutrition in general.  If you aren’t underweight, you won’t have a problem with too little protein.

It is a myth that we have to consume excess protein in our diets and can be very harmful to your liver and kidneys as they have to work extra hard to process the excess of protein.

So how much protein should I eat per day?

So I was very thankful yesterday when I heard that the The British Dietetic Association (BDA) are warning that high levels of protein can cause health problems. You can read the article here.   They also advise that women should be eating approximately 45g of protein per day and men around 55g. (which is around 10% of the average total calories)

I also wanted to find a government and equally official source advising what percentage of your diet should be made up of protein.

I found this UK NHS (National Health Service) article that suggests our protein levels should be around 15% of our daily calories.

Douglas Graham, author of the 80/10/10 Diet says you should aim for no more than 10% protein in your diet.I am a great believer in the advice Dr. Douglas Graham provides in the The 80/10/10 Diet diet book that I followed to completely recover my health.  He recommends that you aim for 10% of your calories from protein.  So it’s great to know that all the advice is pointing in the same direction.

Colin Campbell author of the The China StudyDid you know that Colin T Campbell, the author of popular and life changing book, The China Study, advises we eat a maximum of 5% protein diet from animal sources.  He did his own very comprehensive studies and really knows his stuff.  You can read more about his recommendations here.

How much protein did I eat on the Green Thickie challenge?

So with that information I went to MyFitnessPal where I’d logged my food for the week to have a look at my own protein levels.  (If you want to view my public diary, the dates I was on the diet was from Saturday 25th August 2012 to Friday 31st August 2012).  After calculating the average amounts of protein across the whole week, I was pleased to see I had consumed 46 grams of protein on average across the week.  I then had to find out what percentage of my calories this was.  To do this I found that there were 4 calories in each gram of protein meaning that I had consumed 187 calories from protein which is just under 10% of my total calories per week being protein.  So I’m very happy about that too.

It can get quite complicated and I’m sure I consume more than this with my normal diet, but I’m very pleased that this Green Thickie challenge worked out to contain the optimum levels of recommended protein.

MyFitnessPro actually recommended that I eat an average of 76 grams of protein a day which is about 15% of calories per day from protein which I still think is fine.

Do you need to eat more protein to build muscle?

A lot of official sources will advise that athletes should eat more protein.  I think that athletes will naturally eat more protein without going overboard.  Athletes will have to eat more calories and so will automatically eat more protein just by eating more food.  I think that you should keep your protein intake on the lower end (around the 10% mark) regardless of the amount of exercise you do.  Some say that you actually need to reduce your protein intake when you exercise more. Read more about that here.

P90X: Tony Horton's 90-Day Extreme Home Fitness Workout DVD ProgramI managed to build a lot of muscle and massively increase my strength on a raw food diet where I ate no more than 10% protein for 6 months.  I never felt fitter or healthier in my life and saw massive gains in my strength monitoring myself on the P90X fitness plan.  (I didn’t do the P90X diet, just the DVDs)

Roger Haeske the 40 year old teenagerI have seen so many raw foodists get strong, toned and muscular just by increasing the amount of strength training they are doing. Take Roger Haeske for example.  He calls himself the  40 year old teenager and you can see why.

I think you only need to do 2 things to build muscle:

1) Increase the number of calories you eat

2) Push your body hard with strength training exercises.

Further reading

This article summarises everything I believe in a very easy to read format.

Nutrition and Athletic Performance by Douglas GrahamThis book by Douglas Graham will tell you everything you need to know about optimum health and fitness.  It’s a very good read and popular with a number of famous athletes.

So we have discovered that official bodies recommend a diet consisting of between 5-15% protein which for an average woman is about 45g of protein per day.  The amount of protein in Green Thickies falls nicely within this range.  The main thing I’d say is just eat whole unprocessed foods (no protein powders) and you won’t have to worry about your protein levels.

What are your thoughts on protein?



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Katherine invented Green Thickies, A complete meal green smoothie that dramatically improves your health and fills you up. Katherine would love to chat about health or weight loss with you and help you improve your health. Connect with her via twitter @greenthickies, Facebook or on Google+

Comments

  1. Great article! I love my vitamix!! Thanks for sharing with us at Healthy 2Day Wednesdays!

  2. interesting point. I do p90x but i don’t know if I could give up my protein bar afternoon snack!

  3. Great info! Thanks so much for linking up to Creative Thursday. Can’t wait to see what you share next week. Have a great weekend.
    Michelle

  4. Very helpful and informative post, thank you so much!

  5. I don’t know were American’s got their ideas about protein. It must be from the American Beef Association or something but I agree we need very little protein per day, esp, for a grown adult. Too much protein esp. from animal products strains our liver and kidney with all the fat connected with these products.

  6. Great article! This is a question I always here! So where do you get your protein since you don’t eat meat :) LOL Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :) See you next Friday! Next Friday one lucky blogger will be randomly selected to win a case of Planet Rice! Its yummy! Its gluten free, sprouted and grown in the US. You can link up to 3 entries! The more you link up the better you chances to win! (entries from US only) Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

    • Hi Cindy. Yes it’s the question everyone seems to ask isn’t it. Your competition sounds great. I’m based in the UK so won’t be able to win it (I’m used to it though) but I’ll still be back as normal. Look forward to seeing you then. Thanks so much for tweeting and pinning my posts. I really appreciate it.

  7. I remember reading 20 years ago that the average American woman eats 2 1/2 times as much protein as she needs! That stopped me worrying about that aspect of my diet, except when pregnant.

    At the time I conceived my son, I had been eating a mostly vegetarian diet (fish about twice a month, other meats less often) and cutting back on dairy and eggs because I was worried about toxins but couldn’t afford the organic ones. I was very sick in the 2nd and 3rd months, and I now think low protein and low iron may have been part of the problem. I had developed anemia by the 3rd month. I did try to eat more protein and iron and to find healthier sources of them, but it was difficult once I already felt sick!

    My son is 7 now, and in his lifetime we’ve been continually improving our diet as organic foods become more affordable and we learn new ways to eat. This past spring I had an unexpected pregnancy that miscarried after I had been through 4 weeks of nausea. This time I was more conscientious about protein and iron–making almonds my main snack food, eating nutritional yeast flakes and an egg every day, having plenty of beans and dark green leafy vegetables–and it really made a big difference.

    I have tracked my diet sometimes, and 45 grams of protein sounds like a good standard. In a meatless diet that is NOT based on whole foods, it is easy to eat less than that without noticing, and a decade ago I was typically eating just 20-30 grams a day, which seemed fine when not pregnant but probably wasn’t really enough. These days I eat more beans, nuts, whole grains, and organic whole milk yogurt, and I aim for some form of protein in every meal.

    • Hi Becca, thanks for sharing this. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss.

      Yes it can be very hard to get what you need during pregnancy as the baby takes so much and you’re never sure exactly what you’re left with. I had a strange pregnancy, no morning sickness but I became intolerant to central heating and became extremely ill whenever it was on. I didn’t realise this for 3 months so suffered for 3 months then froze after that having the heating off while it was snowing outside. Pregnancy does very strange things to your body, strange cravings and symptoms. I found it hard to eat healthily for the first 3 months. My body just rejected healthy foods but I was OK after that.
      Yes if you eat refined processed foods as a vegan that would be very unhealthy and you’d be lacking in all sorts of things. It’s more important for vegans to eat whole foods than anyone else. Unfortunately a lot of vegans eat very unhealthily.

  8. Love this article. I think some of the fad diets that emerged over the last 20 years got us even more obsessed with protein than we were before. We forget that meat is a condiment in much of the world and that heavy foods make heavy feeling and heavy bodies. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sunnie@moderngirlnutrition says:

    Great post! Thanks so much for sharing. I recently bought raw protein, and am in love!

  10. I’m trying to build some muscle right now (by lifting weights), and I know that green thickies are a great way to do so. :)

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