Protein is an essential part of every diet. It’s involved in almost every bodily function, from maintaining hair skin & nails and immunity to transporting oxygen and rebuilding tissues after a workout. Although we know protein is key, we also now know that too much meat is also a bad thing. So where do we go from here?
Diets that are rich in plant based foods have been shown to have numerous health benefits. From increased energy to blood sugar control and decreased risk of chronic disease, research on the benefits of predominantly plant based diets are showing that they seem to be the way to go if you're interested in longevity. But - balance is still key, and it’s just as easy to be an unhealthy veggie based eater as it is to be an unhealthy meat eater. The good news is that getting enough protein on a plant based diet is easy - IF you have the knowledge of what foods pack the most punch.
Most individuals can get enough protein from a balanced diet, but if you’re training hard and have made some big changes to your diet without knowing how to replace the proteins you've swapped., you may be lacking some essential amino acids. Here’s how to tell if you're out of whack….
If you feel like your results aren’t matching your effort, the first thing to look at is your diet. If you have inadequate protein your body won’t be able to repair and build muscle tissue, which can cause fatigue, muscle strain, inability to build strength and even increase fat retention.
Protein is essential for the manufacture of important neurotransmitters that help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. If your body doesn’t have the building blocks to make serotonin, it can lead to insomnia and sleep disruption. If you're getting brain fog & find it hard to concentration alongside your sleep symptoms, protein deficiency could be the culprit.
Amino acids are required to synthesise mood controlling neurotransmitters like dopamine in addition to serotonin, so if you’re lacking the building blocks you'll eventually start to feel it in your mood. Getting enough amino acids will help boost neurotransmitter production and stabilise mood. Tyrosine, cysteine and taurine are some of the key ones for mood.
Protein (along with essential fatty acids) for the foundation of hair, skin and nails and is one of the most noticeable places to see deficiency. If your nails are becoming brittle, skin is flakey and hair is thinning it may be a sign you’re not getting enough.
The immune system needs amino acids to in order to build the required compounds that are responsible for fighting off foreign invaders. If you’re getting sick more than usual, do a quick check to see if you are getting enough protein and not overloading on sugar or refined carbs.
This is always multifactorial, but a common combination that makes it tough to lose weight is high refined/sugary carbs and low protein. If you’re mainly plant based, make sure you do your homework and work out the best combinations to ensure you hit a balanced intake. Yellow split peas and other types of lentil have as much protein as steak – so it’s not difficult to get everything you need, as long as you’re aware of where you can get your protein. Protein rich foods can decrease appetite & cravings whilst reducing hormones that stimulate hunger.
Need some help getting enough? Check out our article on 12 ways to get at least 20 grams of protein.