The Rio Olympics are well underway and its been awesome watching these incredible athletes strive for gold. I personally always seem to gravitate to watching the same sports. Since under-water cameras were introduced, I find watching the swimmers do tumble-turns and move through the water effortlessly mesmerising. I’ve attempted to recreate an Olympic-style tumble-turn a few times, and end up doing a sort of in-the-water-belly-flop! Vegans and sports…maybe they don’t go together… 😉

No matter what the sport, protein is a major feature in any top athletes training and diet. I’m certainly not in that category, but if I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked if I get enough protein, I’d be pretty rich today.

The more I’ve been watching the Rio Olympics the more my mind has drifted to thinking about vegans and sports. There are many people who battle to associate a vegan diet with top performing athletes. The Huffington Post recently published an article asking “Can Athletes Perform Well on a Vegan Diet?” which has a great recipe for protein balls, although I would personally swap out the stevia for maple syrup.

Vegans and Sports Protein Requirements

Protein is an important building block for a healthy body and requirements increase when an athlete is in serious training. The average person requires just 0.8g for each kg of their body weight according to the Harvard Medical School, and top athletes require more. There is some debate over how much more but the range seems to suggest 1.2g – 2g per kg of body weight for top athletes.

For example the average man might need 65-70g of protein a day, and if this man was a high-performing athlete he might need as much as 100 – 160g of protein a day.

Simple protein source 1 pagerProtein Sources

Protein from a plant-based diet is a cinch in my view. Here’s a handy guide on a few favourites, but there are plenty of other options if you don’t eat some of these or are gluten intolerant. Variety is the key.

Non-athlete:

With a daily intake for example of 100g of seitan, 100g of black beans and some cashews the 65-70g is easily achieved.

Athlete:

100g of seitan and 230g of black beans (1 can drained), some cashews and a peanut butter sandwich and you’re there – this would be 134g of protein!

 

Simple Protein Overview

Occasionally I come across articles talking about essential versus non-essential protein, and at times it can all get a little complicated with experts and bloggers alike all shouting over each other with larger and larger infographics. I find this a bit tiring…sometimes you just want the facts in simple language.

  • The basic building blocks of protein are amino acids which are either essential or non-essential
  • Essential amino acids = obtained from protein-rich foods. The body cannot produce them by itself and they have to be supplied externally. These are: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.
  • Non-essential amino acids = synthesised in your body. There are 8 types of non-essential amino acids: Hormonal, Enzymatic, Structural, Defensive, Storage, Transport, Receptor, Contractile

As I read more on the human body I instantly feel like a passenger aboard the ship from the Fantastic Voyage. Each day I grow more in awe of how sophisticated and yet subtle the mechanics inside us are. You can see why diet plays such an important part in giving the body the help it needs to keep ticking along nicely.

A lot of articles I’ve found suggest that plant-based protein sources are deficient compared with animal-based sources. In my mind, if that was true how could Barny du Plessis have won Mr Universe in 2014 or Meagan Duhamel become a silver medalist in 2014 Winter Olympics for figure skating. Madi Serpico is a medal winning Triathlete, and impressively in the “off road” category (I can’t even imagine doing a triathlon on the road, let alone off it). My personal favourite is Fiona Oakes, an extreme marathon runner who also runs a farm sanctuary, Tower Hill Stables.

In my mind the science and examples of athletes combine into one slam-dunk answer. The terms Vegans and Sports go together perfectly!

Quick High-Protein Recipe (including protein count)

  • Chia seed wrap from Mountainbread (5.6g)
  • Red pepper hummus, 2 tbsp (approx. 2.4g)
  • Sgaia vegan bacon, 2 rashers (approx. 15.7g)
  • Avocado, 1 cup sliced (2.9g)
  • Pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup (6g)
  • Home-grown Sprouts and Smoked salt (none, so don’t go loading up)
  • Protein total of 33g (smashing it out the ballpark!)
Vegans and Sports protein recipe

A couple of our “go to” protein sources if you’re in a rush are a tin of British Carlin Peas (21.6g protein) or a Wheaty Hemp Spacebar (14g protein). Both of these fantastic protein quick-fixes are available in our Luxury Vegan Hamper, which also contains a recipe that packs a protein punch!

 

Simplifying Happy (Good Protein) Choices

 

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About Michelle

Michelle grew up in a culture where it was normal to eat meat at every meal. Watching close family suffer multiple health problems drove her to learn more about eating for health. After watching Food Inc Michelle took the plunge into veganism and hasn’t looked back since. She is now on a mission to bring vegan inspiration to everyone!

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