As you may recall from my last blog, my biggest goal this year is to participate in a triathlon. It’s part of my overall goal to get in the BEST shape of my life. In general, I’m a healthy person. Now, I want to work on defining my muscles and reshaping my body. So, I’m kicking up my workouts to include more strength training.
Of course, in order to build muscle I have to increase my protein. As a vegan, I’m always asked about my ability to meet my protein needs. Since I primarily follow a plant based diet, I get enough protein. But to increase my muscles I need to double my current intake. This is a challenge because the easiest way for a vegan to increase their protein is to consume a lot of soy products. I’m not a big soy fan. I do consume certain soy products on occasion: non-GMO brands of organic tofu, tempeh, and miso. Other than that, I try to avoid it.
The other challenge for me is trying to increase my protein while reducing my calories. I can get my protein up with beans, nut butters, protein powders, but the calories can add up really fast. So, every day is an experiment for me as I try to strike a balance. I need to find the right proteins and combine them with the right foods so I can build muscle while losing weight. This is key because as I’ve said in previous blogs, you can’t out train a bad diet. I can work out all day, but if I’m not fueling my body with the right foods, it’s to no avail.
I’m learning as I go. Now that I’ve committed to completing a sprint triathlon I’m going to start my official training schedule the end of this month. I need my diet to be consistent and on track by then. I’m making adjustments and progress everyday.
I want to share with you some of the things I’m doing to increase my protein intake and reduce my body fat.
1. Consume at least 30g of protein at breakfast. This helps me stave off hunger for at least 4 hours. Protein rich foods are good for satiety…meaning you feel satisfied after eating and you don’t get hungry as quickly. A sample breakfast for me includes a sprouted wheat bagel (10 grams of protein, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (4 grams), and a protein shake (17g). I use either Vega protein powder in vanilla, or raw protein powder in vanilla. I mix it with frozen strawberries, ½ banana, water and a little almond milk. I prefer to consume my largest meal at breakfast. To save on calories, I can just mix the protein powder with water or a little almond milk. A cup of plain, unsweetened almond milk is only 30 calories.
2. Eat lentils as much as possible. Lentils are such a great source of protein. I buy the bag and cook it myself. It has 20 grams of protein for a ½ cup. That is huge! You really don’t need to eat much more than that because they are so filling. Combine it with green veggies or pair it with your vegan sausage at breakfast. I’m learning to eat veggies at breakfast, especially now, because it’s better to consume carbs early in the day. I try to avoid carbs in the evening.
3. Replace pasta and rice with quinoa. Quinoa is a staple in most vegan diets. Quinoa is a great source of protein because it’s actually a complete protein. It doesn’t have as high protein content per serving as lentils, but it’s a great replacement for rice and pasta. In ¼ cup of Quinoa you get 6 grams of protein. I also buy quinoa burgers. They contain no soy, dairy, or gluten. They have 4 grams of protein and only 190 calories. They’re called burgers, but I don’t dress them as burgers. I pair them with veggies like broccoli or kale.
4. Incorporate a modest amount of nuts. Nuts are another great source for protein. I just realized that sunflower seeds have a lot of protein, about 7 grams per serving, which compares to almonds and walnuts. As with most nuts, they are high in calories, so I have to be careful with consumption. I usually eat way too many.
So, these are just some things I’m trying as I try to increase my protein to about 100 grams per day. My desire is to do it without using a lot of soy. I don’t feel comfortable consuming soy on a regular basis.
Now, if you’re a vegan who is not trying to build muscle or participate in a triathlon, then you will not have any problem getting sufficient protein. Just make sure you eat plenty of leafy greens, black beans, green split peas, quinoa, and nuts.
Question: Do you have any suggestions as to how I can double my protein without soy products and without increasing my calories so much to compromise my desired weight loss?