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Vegan Athletes and Protein Intake

How much protein do plant-based athletes need?

Protein intake and exercise are deeply connected and interact with each other. Indeed, they both trigger the protein synthesis and enhance tissues' structural changes, for example in tendons and bones.

Thus, athletes require greater amounts of protein than sedentary people or those not having an active lifestyle. Additionally, it is essential to personalize protein need to reflect sport-specific and training-goal requirements.

Overall Population – Protein Recommendation

The ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) provides a broad protein recommendation of 1.6–1.7 g/ kg/day for strength and power athletes and 1.2–1.4 g/kg/day for endurance-sport athletes.

Pay attention! Higher protein intake might be suitable only for a short time: during intensified workouts or when reducing energy intake.

Boy running with an orange T-shirt and blue pants among the Swiss Alps. In the distance you can see Lake Lugano.

Plant-based Athletes’ Protein Needs

Contrary to what many people believe, vegan athletes do not require a greater amount of protein to perform at their best, compared to non-vegans.  However, the correct athletes’ daily protein intake goes from 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day, which are the highest values of the ISSN’s protein recommendation.

Indeed, with a vegan diet, the protein intake might be critical since vegan proteins are less digestible (due to higher fiber content and other substances forming plants) and might be deficient concerning specific amino acids.

For these reasons, always pay attention to food variety and protein quality! In this way, if you eat different types of proteins (for example, protein of rice, peas, sunflower and pumpkins), you can boost your diet, avoiding essential amino-acids deficiencies. Researches affirm that a balanced vegan diet, powered by a large variety of protein sources (beans, nuts, whole grains) is nutritionally adequate in terms of providing sufficient essential amino acids. This scientific evidence is the reason why the plant-based diet is supported and promoted by major food and nutrition organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Young boy with orange shirt, blue pants and light green backpack takes a protein bar from Crownhealth.

Protein Timetable

Time plays an important role in protein intake, as well as protein consumption distribution! They are two factors impacting muscular protein synthesis.

Remember: when thinking about protein intake, don't focus only on quantity. Rather, consider also the time and daily delivery of portions. Eat a little portion of protein throughout the day instead of a big protein single shot. The result? A better muscle protein synthesis, useful for building and preserving lean body mass.

The Role of Vegan Protein Powders

Emerging data is supporting the efficacy of plant-based-protein powders at improving recovery and fostering muscle hypertrophy as part of an endurance training program.

So how to get the best out of protein?

Eat proteins every day and in every meal, from breakfast to dinner.

And don’t miss that all-natural protein bars and powders are the best support to enhance your protein level and provide you with the optimal and balanced proportion of essential amino acids.

Follow those tips and your vegan nutrition will experience a boost! Keep your stamina up!

 

Author: Francesca Deriu, nutritionist

 

Bibliography

Rogerson et al., Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2017) 14:36

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance JOURNAL OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS March 2016 Volume 116 Number 3

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