by VIM Trainer: Sarah Oliver

One of my carnivorous friends has decided he is giving up meat for lent. After I got over my shock, I was pumped! Everything I’ve done and said in the past about plant-based diets he has ignored. I’m trying not to talk about how excited I am for him because I’m worried he’ll back out, but I have offered some tips when asked.

If you’re a vegan reading this blog, you’ve probably had one person or another ask how you get protein. My friend was no exception, especially as an athlete who needs plenty of carbs and protein to fuel his distance running. I sent him a list of vegetarian protein sources, along with a little information on complete vs. incomplete proteins.

If you took freshman bio, you know there are 20 different amino acids which are the building blocks of protein. Nine of these amino acids are called “essential” amino acids because our bodies are not able to manufacture them on their own. Animal proteins are complete proteins, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids in about equal amounts. On the other hand, many plant proteins are not complete proteins. This means that we must eat a variety of protein sources to get all the amino acids we need. In the list below, I’ve bolded the complete protein sources. I’ve also suggested which proteins to combine to make them complete!

The Distance Runner’s Protein List for Lent:

  • Fish (if you decide to eat this) = ~20g per 3 oz (varies with fish)
  • Milk, Cheese (if you go vegetarian) = 8g per cup milk, 7g per oz cheese
  • Eggs (if you go vegetarian) = 6g per egg
  • Yogurt (especially Greek) = 17g per cup
  • Quinoa and other ancient grains = 8g per cup, cooked
  • Chickpeas = 15g per cup (with rice for complete protein source)
  • Hummus = 9g per ½ cup (with pita for complete protein source)
  • Tofu = 10g per 4 oz
  • Beans (all kinds) = 15g per cup (with rice for complete protein source)
  • Edamame (soy beans) = 29g per cup
  • Seitan (wheat protein) = 21g per 3 oz
  • Tempeh = 16g per 3 oz
  • Soy milk, yogurt (and other soy products) = 7g per cup
  • Nuts & seeds = 8g per ¼ cup
  • Nut butters = 8g per 2 tablespoons (with bread for complete protein source)
  • Whole grains = 7g per 2 slices bread
  • Veggie Burger = 13g per patty
  • Lentils = 18g per cup (with seeds for complete protein)

The next time anyone asks you about protein, feel free to share this list! What is your favorite plant-based protein source? By now I’m sure you know mine is peanut butter…

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