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Anytime I so much as yawn at the office, my coworkers quickly jump to the conclusion that I’m tired because I lack animal protein. I know it’s all in jest, but I think some of them really are trapped in that belief that you need it to be healthy.
So what’s the deal with protein anyway? Well there are 9 essential amino acids, meaning they can’t be produced by our bodies. We must acquire them through our food. They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Position 2016, “Vegetarian, including vegan, diets typically meet or exceed recommended protein intakes, when caloric intakes are adequate.” This means that as long as you’re eating enough calories, you will consume enough protein. So don’t starve yourself.
A common misconception is that plant proteins are not complete, or that we have to combine proteins in meals to adequately absorb the complementary proteins. The AND states,
“The terms complete and incomplete are misleading in relation to plant protein. Protein from a variety of plant foods, eaten during the course of a day, supplies enough of all indispensable (essential) amino acids when caloric requirements are met.”
So you don’t have to try to get all of the essential amino acids in one meal. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the AND that humans do not need to eat certain proteins together to receive adequate nutrition. As you may have seen in this post where I showed everything I ate in a day, I easily met my protein requirements.
So which plants do I eat to get my proteins? Well, all plants have protein, but here are some sources with a higher concentration:
And it should be mentioned that even with plant protein more does not necessarily mean better. Excess protein calories do not magically turn in to muscles. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein for an average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To find your average individual need, use this calculation: body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake (in grams)
That should be more than enough to build and maintain muscle mass for the average person. Be weary of consuming too much protein as excess puts a strain on your kidneys and puts you at risk for kidney stones.
As for animal protein, there are many risks associated with consuming it. Animal protein triggers the release of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 while plant proteins bring levels down. Consuming meat in general is also linked with heart disease and strokes, increased insulin levels, inflammatory arthritis, fertility issues in women and the risk of inflammatory bowel disease. The list goes on. And it is frightening.
So do yourself a favor and ditch the meat.
Also, (pointed-comment-at-my-coworkers-who-are-not-even-reading-this) protein is not a source of energy unless you are starving. The majority of the body’s functions run on glucose which I easily obtain from my high carb diet. So no, I’m not tired because of my lack of animal protein, I’m tired because of your lack of understanding of it. 😛