The interest and knowledge gained in the area of protein in sport has grown dramatically over recent years.
It has been known for a long time that in order to optimise the process of building bigger and stronger muscles, you have to increase the amount of protein in your diet. Newer research has revealed that it’s also important for recovery, adaptation to your training as well as achieving a healthy body fat percentage!
For many years there has been debate about the total protein requirements of athletes, with many experts believing that daily needs depend on the type, frequency and intensity of the exercise.
Nonetheless, for all athletes the daily requirement for protein goes above that of a sedentary, non-active person. However, if you do not consider yourself an athlete but are quite active, your muscles will still rely on the delivery of enough protein to change for the better!
For most active people, protein requirements are about 1.2 to 1.8 grams for every kg that they weigh per day. However, just like water, for optimum absorption and use, this needs to be spread out evenly across the day.
So why do you need more protein? Well, your muscles are built from protein. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism goes. Therefore, a good protein intake is necessary to support your metabolism.
This is important in sport as most athletes are trying to optimize their body fat percentage.
Muscles are located both internally (your heart, around your organs and gut) as well as externally (muscles and legs). They are constantly breaking down and rebuilding.
To avoid losing muscle which can lead to detrimental effects on health, protein needs to be ingested at all meals.
This also allows for muscle repair and if the correct strength exercises are done, muscle gain. Muscle gain is far greater in men than women due to the higher amount of testosterone in male bodies.
Finally, protein plays an important role in your muscles response to exercise. The amino acids that make up the proteins are used for the manufacturing of new muscle fibres, designed for your particular exercise!
Eating a source of protein soon after exercise stimulates the muscles to adapt and also helps them repair and recover.
There is no one right way to eat for everyone. We are all different and what works for one person may not work for the next. However with more and more people choosing to follow a vegan lifestyle I hope this plant-based eating article will be of interest.
The extent to which plant-based sources can provide excellent sources of nutrition is endless. With a balanced vegan diet, you can help yourself become the healthiest version of yourself. For those starting Veganuary this month, these minimally processed substitute animal products can be seen as ideal replacements.
Tofu and tempeh: versatile protein-rich alternatives to meat, fish, poultry and eggs.
Legumes: Beans, lentils and peas are excellent sources of many nutrients.
Nuts and nut butters: Most nuts are good sources of iron, fibre, magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin E with almonds, walnuts and pistachios the most nutritious varieties.
Calcium-fortified plant milks and yoghurts: In order to achieve your recommend daily allowance of calcium, opt for fortified varieties with vitamins B12 and D.
Algae: Spirulina chlorella are sources of complete protein that aren’t animal based, they have added bonus of containing Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), the most active Omega-3 fatty acid.
Whole grains: Spelt, amaranth, brown rice protein and quinoa (technically a seed) are all great sources of complex carbs, fibre, iron, B-vitamins and are especially high in protein.
Sprouted and fermented plant foods: Tempeh, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi all contain probiotics and vitamin K2.
Fruits and vegetables: Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and bok choy are both particularly high in iron, calcium and other key nutrients.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF A PLANT-BASED DIET?
Plant-based diets have an array of health benefits including a 15% lower risk of developing or dying from a cancer, reducing symptoms of arthritis and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Those that follow a plant-based diet also tend to be slimmer than those who don’t, with studies demonstrating vegans have a lower body mass index (BMI) than non-vegans. This lower BMI trend may be caused by a higher dietary fibre with a vegan diet intake which can make you feel fuller. For such health benefits to come to fruition, a well-planned diet that limits processed foods and embraces organic and nutrient-rich ones is crucial. Those who follow poorly planned plant-based diets – just as with badly planned omnivore diets – are at risk of certain nutrient deficiencies. These include a significantly higher risk of having inadequate levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3s, iodine, iron, calcium and zinc.
These nutritional requirements are particularly important for children and pregnant women as development can be hindered through nutritional deficiencies. There are however particular elements that every plant-based diet should be aware of.
Protein A common concern amongst plant-based diets is a lack of sufficient protein. Higher protein diets promote muscle strength and satiety. Protein is of course vital for muscle and bone health but also for our cellular structure, even affecting our skin and hair. With about 20% of the human body made up of protein and as our bodies don’t store protein, it’s important to get an adequate amount from your diet every single day. Thankfully, there are plenty of delicious, protein rich plant-based foods to consider including tofu, lentils, quinoa, hemp, chia and beans.
That Protein is a plant based range of organic super proteins that are all organic and cold pressed and an excellent and easy way to add protein and nutrition to your vegan diet.
You can add to all you fav recipes or make protein shakes. It is also important to vary your sources of protein throughout the day, as each provides different amino acids, vitamins and minerals that are all uniquely important for your health.
Vitamin B12 Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is involved in the function of every cell in the body.
It is particularly important in the formation of blood and the function of the brain. As B12 is critical for life is by far the most important nutrient that plant-based eaters must be concerned with. Palmyra Nectar is an excellent way to get B12 and a range of B vitamins into a vegan diet as this sweet superfood is extremely high in all the B Vits. Nutritional Yeast like Marmite will also add B12.
Vitamin D The type of Vitamin D we get from the sun isn’t always enough, especially in colder countries such as the UK. This issue is so apparent that it is now widely recommended that everyone supplements with vitamin D in winter months.
With studies suggesting vegans are up to 74% more likely to be deficient that meat eaters, fortified milk alternatives should be consumed.
Omega-3 Omega-3 containing foods, especially those high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can help the body produce longer-chain omega-3s such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Foods rich in Omega-3 include, hemp, flaxseeds, walnuts and soybeans.
A daily intake of 200–300mg of EPA and DHA from an algae oil supplement is an alternative preventive measure against Omega-3 deficiency.
Iron Despite a plentiful dark leafy green diet, without vitamin C very little iron is absorbed and any benefits won’t be obtained. Additionally, the type of iron in plant-based sources contain non-haem iron which is very difficult to be absorbed effectively. With too much iron causing serious health complications, iron supplementation should only be considered where there is documented deficiency.
If these potential deficiencies are enough to consider a complete plant-based diet one step too far, meat-free Mondays are a great way to dip your toe in the water.