Do Vegans Need To Use Protein Powder?

One of the most common questions asked to people following a vegan diet is “where do you get your protein from?”. Understandably, this can be incredibly frustrating and may even leave you double-guessing whether or not you are consuming enough. In this article, we explore some sources of plant-based protein and ask the question – do vegans need to use protein powder?

What is protein? 

Protein is a key nutrient in the human body, it is responsible for muscle maintenance, key regulatory systems like hormone production, wound healing and fighting infection [1] It is also a bit of a nutrition ‘buzz-word’, due to all of the fitness influencers on social media.

What are sources of plant based proteins?

The main sources of vegan protein include (but are not limited to); legumes (including beans, peas, lentils and pulses), nuts and seeds (including pastes, butters etc), tofu, tempeh, quinoa and of course protein powders. These vary in protein content from about 5g per serve to 14g per serve [2].

Serve size is dependent on the type of protein source, for example, one serve legumes is equal to 1 cup vs 1 serve of nuts, which is equal to only 30g (a small handful) [3].

It is important to note here that on social media you are likely to find a lot of information about protein content comparisons of foods “per 100 calories”. Though this information may not be incorrect, it has been taken out of context and therefore can be quite misleading.

For example, it is misleading to say that 100 calories of broccoli (this is a classic example circulating online) is comparable, in any sense, to 100 calories of meat. Why? Because 100 calories is 2 or more cups of broccoli compared to only a few mouthfuls of meat [2].

What this means is that if you’re trying to be conscious of your protein on a plant-based diet, broccoli is probably not going to be your preferred source unless your would like to have many cups of broccoli every day. I could go on further about why this is misleading, but I think you get the picture.

What if I don’t like vegan proteins like beans?

You could try eating a variety of different protein sources. This will not only ensure you are consuming enough protein, it will also mean that you are obtaining all of the essential amino acids across the day and week,

Amino acids are the smaller components that proteins are made of.  Different sources of protein contain different amino acids[1].

This will also mean that you are less likely to get bored with your protein source. 

Another strategy to up your daily protein intake is to consume a source of protein at every meal.

Having a source of protein at each meal will make sure you are consuming enough protein across the day. Adding protein to a well-balanced meal with some healthy fats, carbohydrates and lots of veggies will also help you stay satiated and full.

To help grow muscle (known as muscle protein synthesis) it is also important to space protein across the day [1]. You can read more on this in our blog article on How to Build Muscle On A Vegan Diet

You might use a protein supplement when: 

1. You are unable to consume enough protein from whole foods.

This might be for a number of reasons, including that you have an allergy or intolerance as discussed above. You might also have increased protein requirements because you are trying to gain weight or because you are an athlete. You might just plain not enjoy plant-based protein sources – which brings me to the next reason we might choose to supplement protein.

2.  You prefer the taste

I don’t know about you, but I personally am not a fan of savoury breakfasts (no offence if you are – you do you!). So if you’re like me and prefer to have a sweeter tasting breakfast, this is where protein powders can really come in handy to get a decent protein hit in the AM. Protein powders can be added to anything – smoothies, oats, as an extra to yoghurt or even just on its own with water or a milk alternative. Adding protein powder is not detrimental to flavours and can actually make your meal even tastier (hello flavoured protein powder in a smoothie!). Try adding some nuts too for some (extra) protein, as well as some healthy fats!

There are no hard rules on how to eat protein. Whether you supplement or not, the main thing is that you are consuming enough of it and spreading it across your day as best you can! If you aren’t sure if you’re eating enough – speak to your dietitian!

 

Looking for more tips on how eat more plant based protein?  Check our our blog on 6 Top Tips for Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

This blog was co-written by PNW Clinic founder Kiah Paetz and student dietitian by Donna Harris. You can connect with Donna on instagram @pepperandcorndietetics.

 

If you’re wanting to take your diet to the next level, and book in to see one of our expert  dietitians. 

Vegan Peanut Butter Protein Balls

I kid you not, these are the ultimate and best tasting vegan peanut butter protein balls. I originally created this recipe after spending fat too much money on store bought protein balls. At $3 per ball, having protein balls daily was costing me $21 per week! I’ve also prefer to make food from scratch where I can, so making these protein balls was an easy way to save money, get a nutritious dairy-free, vegan snack into my day and increase how much protein I was eating!

The only downside to making protein balls is the outlay of costs can be a bit expensive. Unfortunately almond meal and cacao powder don’t come cheap! I highly reccomend buying these ingredients in bulk and making a large batch of protein balls. Honestly, if you can – double the recipe and make 30 of them! Store them in the freezer for later, and if you’re like me and have protein balls daily – you’re set for a month!

Once you’re ready to use the balls, simply pop them in the fridge the morning of, or just place them straight into your lunchbox and they’ll be ready to go by snack time!

Vegan Peanut Butter Protein Balls

Serves: 15

Cook time: 20 minutes

 

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup almond meal

  • 1/2 cup vanilla vegan protein powder

  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut

  • 1 cup peanut butter

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

  • 6 dates

  • 1/4 cup cacao powder

  • Shredded coconut

  • 1/2 cup hot water

 

Method

  1. Add all ingredients together in a food processor. Process until mixture comes together

  2. Divide mixture into 15, and roll into balls. Coat mixture in coconut and refrigerate. Enjoy

 

 

Looking for more tips on how eat more plant based protein?  Check our our blog on 6 Top Tips for Transitioning to a Vegan Diet

If you’re wanting to take your diet to the next level, and book in to see one of our expert  dietitians. 

How Do You Get Enough Protein On A Vegan Diet?

How do you get enough protein on a vegan diet? As a vegan, this is honestly one of the most common questions that I get asked. One of the biggest misconceptions in today’s society is that you have to consume meat in order to get enough protein. When in reality, you do not at all!

What Is Protein?

Protein is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. It plays various roles in our body, from synthesis and repair of muscle, as an energy source and also has structural and functional roles in enzyme, hormones and antibodies. Amino acids are the building block of proteins. Of the 20 amino acids that we find in proteins, nine are essential. This means, we need to get them from our diet as our body cannot create them.

How Much Protein Do Vegans Need?

The amount of protein you need depends on your gender, age and activity. According to Australian Nutritional Reference Values, approximately 15-25% of calories in the diet should be from protein. This is equivalent to about 0.84g protein per kilogram of body weight for males 19-70 years old, and 0.75g protein per kg of body weight for females 19-70 years old.

Proteins can be found in both animal and plant food. Although the amino acid profile of animals is closer to that of humans, all the necessary amino acids can be provided in the amounts needed from plant sources. Plant proteins also carry other benefits including being a fantastic source of dietary fibre which assists in improving digestion, maintaining healthy bowel habits and lowering cholesterol.

 

What are the best sources of protein on a vegan diet?

Almost all foods have some degree of protein in them. However when looking for protein rich foods, these foods should be high in protein per 100g.

 

Interested in learning more? Check out our article on How To Build Muscle On A Plant Based Diet.

 

If you’re following a plant-based or vegan diet and want to make sure you’re meeting all your nutritional needs, take control and book in to see one of our expert vegan dietitians.