Are You Getting Enough Protein? Probably.
“But where do you get your protein?” Anyone following a plant-based or primarily plant-based diet will get this question inevitably and as a parent raising mostly plant-based kids, I've been questioned on this for my children as well. People who eat animals are really worried about how vegetarians and vegans get their protein, and yet, protein deficiency in the US is almost nonexistent, regardless of diet. (1)
While people tend to think of animal products as the easiest source of protein, evidence shows that plant protein is actually the most healthy. A study in 2020 showed that replacing red meat with plant-based proteins like beans, nuts, and soy may be associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, and a reduction in the risk of death from heart disease.
The fitness industry really likes to hype up protein, and it certainly has healthy benefits, including the following:
Increase recovery from exercise or injury
Assist in making hormones & enzymes
Add satiety to meals
Build lean muscle/reduce muscle loss
Can help increase metabolism
But are you protein deficient? Probably not.
So how much protein do you need?
Sedentary adult: .8 grams X kg of bodyweight
ex: 165 lb adult = 60 grams
Active adult: 1.1-1.5 grams X KG of bodyweight
ex: 165 lb adult = 81 - 111 grams
Weight training/Endurance athlete: 1.2-1.7 grams X kg of bodyweight
x: 165 lb adult = 88- 125 grams
Most adults fall somewhere between sedentary and active, and tend to overestimate their needs or underestimate how much they’re already eating. If you want to see what a full day of of plant-based eating looks like check out my other post here.
One additional note on protein powders - I’m not against these products in theory, and they definitely have their place. I use protein powders myself to give myself a boost when I’m in a hurry or want to make my own protein bars, but most diets full of whole foods don’t need to be supplemented significantly with these products and often these are loaded with extra sugar, artificial sweeteners or can cause digestive issues. Additionally, the FDA does not regulate protein powders, and one study found that many protein powders on the market included toxins like lead, arsenic, BPA, and pesticides.
Are you surprised by these numbers? Do you think you get enough protein? Are you surprised to see how easy it is to hit your protein needs on a plant-based diet?