When it comes to exercise and fitness on a plant-based diet, the question I get asked all the time is: Do you NEED a protein powder? The answer is short and sweet, no. No you do not need a protein powder to build a strong sexy body, male or female, on a vegan diet. When I say, “need”, I mean “must have”.
However, another question arises. SHOULD you use a protein powder on a plant-based diet to assist with building muscle and strength? The answer is: it all depends.
I am a firm believer in whole food nutrition. Your macronutrients and micronutrients, when ever possible, should come from whole food sources and not supplements. A protein powder is a nutritional supplement. Meaning that it is meant to “supplement” your daily needs if you aren’t getting enough through your whole foods diet.
Your fitness goals and level/type of physical activity will determine how much protein you need per day. It will also determine your overall macronutrient ratio and portions each day (protein grams: carbs grams: fat grams).
There are a couple of reasons why a protein powder can help assist you in achieving a lean, strong, and sexy body as a vegan. The first reason is convenience. Whether you’re on the go and need something fast or you just don’t feel like preparing a full meal to get your protein, a protein shake is a great option. Another reason is you can make protein absolutely delicious! I personally love making fruit and veggie protein smoothies in my blender. Just throw some of your favorite fruits and veggies in there with a scoop of protein powder and some water and BOOM, you have a lean source of protein with the micronutrients of the fruits in veggies and it tastes great!
However, the most important reason why a protein powder can assist you in your fitness and physique goals is the ability to tailor your macros. Again, when I say, “tailor your macros”, I am talking about the ability to adjust your ratio and portions of protein, carbs, and fats.
On a vegan whole food diet, my favorite protein sources are lentils, split peas, black beans, and a very small few of the imitation meat products out there. I am not a fan of any soy protein products. Aside from some of the really good imitation meat products out there, the aforementioned protein sources aren’t pure protein. Lentils, split peas, and beans typically have a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio of protein to carbs. That of course means that for every 1 gram of protein, you get 2-3 grams of carbs. And that’s just your protein source, not to mention the source of pure carbs on your plate such as brown rice or a sweet potato.
Certain nuts and seeds have protein but come with a lot of poly and mono unsaturated fats, which may or may not be what you want at certain times.
Depending on whether you’re trying to really lean down or just maintain your current body fat percentage, you need to keep these ratios and portions in mind. If you’re trying to lean down and achieve muscle tone, you want to keep the protein a bit high and keep the carbs a bit moderate (to varying degrees depending on your goals). If you’re lifting and doing cardio and really trying to shred down and lean out, I would recommend a macro ratio of 1:1 protein to carbs or a 1:2 to be moderate.
That means that some meals you might want just pure protein and minimal carbs and fats. A protein powder is a great solution for that. Another example of convenience is if you have a veggie wrap or some meal that is primarily just carbs (in macronutrients) and you want to balance it out with protein, a protein shake works.
Being that I am an avid weight lifter, I like to get in 1gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. I also like to keep my protein to carbs ratio at around 1:2 and 1:3. So I get plenty of protein through lentils, black beans, split peas, and imitation meats, but when I want to really tailor my macros for a pure protein meal or for my post workout “meal” immediately after lifting weights, a vegan protein powder is my “go to” option. I also love making protein smoothies in my blender. It is a great way to cram a bunch of green vegetables in along with some fruit and get all of the micronutrient benefits as well as protein in a quick, easy, and delicious solution.
Pay attention to the nutrition facts labels on all food that you consume so you know your macronutrient intake in grams. I see posts all the time on Instagram under #VeganProtein and it is basically a bowl of carbs. It’ll be a salad with some quinoa sprinkled on top or something. Quinoa, for example, has approximately a 1:5 protein to carbs ratio. It should be used as a your carb source, not your protein source. And don’t get me started on broccoli (reference my previous blog post on that).
The point is…No, you do not NEED a protein powder to achieve a strong sexy body on a plant based diet. However, using a protein powder definitely has its benefits in assisting you with your health and fitness goals. I hope this blog post was helpful. If you have any questions in regards to this topic, feel free to email us through our website on the Contact page. Thank you for reading this blog post.