Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Protein Question

(High protein saute of soyrizo, black beans, carrots and kale - to fill veggie tacos)

Lately, there seems to be a theme in the questions I'm receiving from clients and through my website. Common questions are: 1) "I'm trying to switch to a vegetarian/vegan diet... why don't I have any energy?" and 2) "Why am I feeling like everything is taking so much more effort?"

It's not always the case, but the answer for several people lately has been protein related. Of course there are a lot of factors that can lead to a "depleted" feeling, including over-training, calorie deficit, adrenal fatigue, stress, lack of sleep, etc.

Macro-nutrients (like carbs and protein) are needed for very specific reasons. Carbs help fuel your body to function, train and race. Protein helps repair and rebuild your muscles to keep them in working order. If you think of it like owning a car, carbs are the gas you put in your tank and protein is the maintenance work, like an oil change. You need both to be in tip top shape. If you aren't getting enough protein you're not going to feel awesome. If you're not getting enough carbs you'll be dragging ass as well.

"Normal" or "average" americans get more than enough of both. As triathletes, we're neither of those things. We're nutso, type-A, health-obsessed freaks. I talk to people all the time who are calorie restricting or eating some type of an "extreme diet". If you think you might not be getting enough of one of these macro-nutrients you should talk to someone who can help. This can be a tough puzzle to solve because there are a lot of pieces to consider. I help my clients figure out their metabolic type and then look at lifestyle, activity level and of course, current diet.

As a general guideline, and as a jumping off point in assessing your needs, you can focus on getting a significant form of protein at each meal (including snacks). I'm talking to the athletes here... especially the vegetarians and vegans.

Vegetarian/vegan protein sources include:

- grains (especially quinoa)
- beans
- soy (including "transition" foods like soy milk, tofu, tempeh)
- nuts
- protein bars
- protein powders
- spirulina

Please feel free to email me for more info at christine@liveandeatbetter.com


Jamie said...

You know my favorite source of protein?

The competition. NomNomNomNom.

rog said...

One underrated, and very high quality protein source for vegetarians, that I didn't see listed on your blog, is hemp. Also a good source of fiber, hemp is one of the few vegetarian sources that supply all ten essential amino acids.

HolisticGuru said...

Rog - I agree! Hemp protein is wonderful. I especially like that many of the powders are only slightly high in protein and that you can add hemp seeds to increase the amount of protein. It's great because a lot of the powders are too high in protein for certain people. Which brand of hemp shake do you use?