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Vegan Athletes - How Much Vegan Protein Do You Need?

 

    Vegan athletes are often concerned with getting enough protein. They're also often likely to be skeptical of a vegan diet, as they think they won't get enough protein from vegan foods.

    

    In fact, there are many vegan athletes who are totally ripped, so you have nothing to worry about. Let's see why the protein myth is unfounded...

    

    Energy Needs of Vegan Athletes

    The limiting factor for muscle building is actually calorie intake, not protein intake. I know you may have heard differently, but your body needs energy and that comes from carbohydrates, so carbs are super important for athletes.

    Exercising/working out uses stores of glycogen, which is produced when you consume carbohydrates. If you take too much protein to replace carbohydrates in your vegan diet, your muscles will not have the energy to perform as they should.

    

    Your body is in a constant state of rebuilding, so it's really important to think about what you eat all day rather than just before and after exercise, but I'm going to look at those 2 times of day here because that's what the sports nutrition books and magazines talk about most often.

    

    Nutrition Before your Workout

    Performance and the maintenance of muscle mass while exercising is actually dependent on making sure you have enough carbohydrates in your diet. Vegan athletes should eat a light snack 1-2 hours before exercise to give your body time to build energy for your workout.

    Your muscles use the glycogen (carbohydrate) content stored up in the muscles and liver for energy first, because it is more efficient that using fats and proteins.

    

    Nutrition After Your Workout

    There is a lot of emphasis put on the 2 hours window of time after your workout, but it's really only important for competitive athletes who train for 2 hours or more each day.

    For us vegan athletes who aren't triathletes and aren't hoping to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa late 1970s, some fruit or a smoothie with a tablespoon of vegan protein powder will be all you need.

    You should generally wait an hour before a bigger protein and carbohydrate meal.

    

    Regular Vegan Athletes - Specific Requirements

    Protein needs for all athletes, including vegan athletes, are the same when calculated as a percentage of calories. The range for adults is 15%-20%. Athletes do have a need for more protein, but they also need more calories overall.

    The protein, carbohydrates and fats should still be balanced at the same percentages.

    

    Competitive Vegan Athletes - Specific Requirements

    Protein above the recommended daily allowance for adults is beneficial to vegan athletes who are actively training. Still, there is no benefit in going above the following ranges.

    The main study commonly references found optimal intake to be between 1.4 and 1.5 grams/kg of body weight/day for athletes doing very intense weight training six days a week. This is for elite bodybuilding.

    

    Other ranges of optimal protein intake for competitive vegan athletes are:

    

    Endurance: 1.2-1.4g/kg

    Strength & Power: 1.4-1.8g/kg

    Athletes focused on fat loss: 1.6-2.0g/kg

    Athletes focused on weight gain: 1.8-2.0g/kg

    For a more detailed analysis of protein requirements specifically for your vegan athlete body, check out this simple, free calculator: http://www.healthyveganrecipes.net/featured/protein-calculator

    

    Heather Nauta is a registered holistic nutritionist who teaches you how to live a healthy vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, including how to get proper nutrition, enough protein, vitamin b12 and other minerals, and how to make an amazing variety of simple, fast healthy recipes that taste incredible for you and your family.