Would that thought change if I told you Americans consume roughly 2x the amount of protein needed in a day? This is a pretty well known stat in the nutrition world, but an article from the NY Times found here also explains this idea. The recommended dietary allowance for protein is only 0.8g/kg bw for the sedentary to low active individual. Now, this will change based on activity level and sport (endurance vs. strength), and vegetarians/vegans need to consume roughly 10% more protein due to food bioavailability. However, vegetarians and vegans alike can quite easily reach their goal when they’re intentional about it, and have a good baseline knowledge of protein rich foods.
This is one I hear all the time, and if you actually start looking at the price tags you’ll start to think differently. Meat is one of the most expensive items you can have on your grocery list. The link found here shows commonly bought foods and their price averages around the country, so let me know if you still believe this after a quick scan. I know what else you might be thinking, there’s more nutrients packed into that one serving of ground beef than there is in one can of beans. I don’t know where you live, but for me one can of black beans costs ~$0.99. This would offer 24.5g protein and 30% DV iron with no saturated fat or cholesterol. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one pound of lean ground beef is $5.49 which would equate to ~$1.37 per 4 oz serving. This offers 21g protein, 15% DV iron, 33% DV saturated fat, and 26% DV cholesterol. Other factors do need to be recognized, like the importance of protein complementation, but grocery shopping when meat is removed is a simple way to cut costs off of your bill!
Couldn’t that be said about any type of food?? I agree, you do have to be intentional with ingredients to make sure you’re getting all of your macro and micronutrients. However, animal products must be cooked in order to be consumed and without always having that step cooking time is actually significantly reduced. Ways to combat this is to pick a day in your week that allows for an extra hour in your schedule, and chop/prep foods to aid for quick meal combos! I like to prep beans/lentils, quinoa/brown rice, hard boiled eggs, sweet potato, and a sauce/dressing because I can always make a satisfying meal with those options!
This is all about how you build your plate. Yes, some individuals can have a high carb load once transitioning to vegetarian/vegan because they only choose beans, rice, fruits, and vegetables. These all have higher proportion of carbs in them, but we cannot forget our nuts, seeds, oils, eggs, fish, etc. which have higher protein and fat ratio. It’s all about diversifying your plate!! Also, don’t be scared of carbs, they are the body’s #1 preferred fuel source and we are EXCELLENT at utilizing them for energy!! So we should be fueling our bodies with 40-60% of these. Beware of the refined vegan diet: all processed goods that are vegan, but aren’t nutrient DENSE. (Did you know oreos are technically vegan?). The goal is to have whole foods in their most natural form.
Fat & fiber are two nutrients that cause satiety (the feeling of being full). By eating more plant-based foods, you will actually become more full because nuts, seeds, legumes, and complex carbs in your diet. These foods should be your base and are packed FULL of those satiety producing nutrients, so feeling hungry 1-2 hours after a meal should not be happening.
Vegetarian athletes are 100% capable of gaining and maintaining muscles while following a plant based diet. Nutrient and meal timing becomes especially important here and taking advantage of your golden windows for nutrient utilization is huge. By fueling your body with nutrient dense foods, you will actually be putting premium gas in your fuel tank and performance will become much more efficient!
Nutrient dense foods are just that- dense! Fruits, vegetables, complex carbs, plant-based proteins, and healthy fats provide LOADS of vitamins and minerals which may be lacking in your current diet. Such as fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, selenium, and so many more. Supplementation may be necessary depending on your intake and activity levels, so be sure to seek out a professional for help!