People are always so curious about where I get my protein. There is a misconception that plant based diets are deificient in protein. I stumbled upon the post below and thought you might like to read Brendan Brazier’s take on protein. This post is from Crazy Sexy Life By Brendan Brazier on March 5, 2009. To read the post directly on the Craze Sexy Life website click here.
Brendan Brazier: Professional Ironman triathlete, two-time Canadian 50km ultra marathon champion , bestselling author on plant-based performance nutrition, and formulator of Vega whole food nutritional products. www.brendanbrazier.com
Properly balanced plant-based protein can offer several advantages over more traditional animal-based options. I discovered this along the way when I was searching for a performance advantage. At the age of 15 I made the concerted decision that I wanted to race Ironman triathlons professionally. Aware that staking the odds of making this happen in my favor would rely heavily upon a sound nutritional strategy, I began to search for one. Going somewhat against the grain, I decided to experiment with a plant-based diet. As you might imagine, criticism flowed: where would I get my protein? Until it worked. I raced Ironman triathlons professionally for seven years, all on a plant-based diet. I honestly believe that the detail I applied to my nutrition program was a large reason for me even having a Pro Ironman career at all. The following is what I learned about protein and how you can apply it to boost your overall performance, improve muscle tone and increase your energy level.
It was once thought that only animal protein was complete and therefore a superior source to plant-based options. Complete protein is comprised of all ten essential amino acids. By definition, essential amino acids cannot be made by the body; they must be obtained through dietary sources. And, in fact, there are actually several complete plant protein sources. However, to obtain all amino acids in high quantities, it’s advantageous to consume several complementary sources of protein on a regular basis. For example, hemp, yellow pea and brown rice protein make up a superior amino acid profile that rivals any created in the animal kingdom.
Additionally, one of the big advantages of properly balance whole food, plant-based protein over animal protein is its only slightly acidic or neutral pH. In contrast, highly processed foods are acid forming, and even more so are animal based foods. Whey protein isolate, for example, is highly acid forming. Whey, strait from the cow, would be numeral and even slightly alkaline, but once the protein gets isolated (therefore rendering it no longer a whole food) and it is then pasteurized, these two steps of processing lower its pH, making it considerably more acid-forming. Meat, pork in particular, is also highly acid forming. Acid forming foods include all those that are cooked at a high temperature or highly processed. Among the most acid forming are meat, coffee, pasteurized milk and cheese, prescription drugs, margarine, artificial sweeteners, soft drinks and roast nuts as well as all refined flour-based foods. Refined flour-based foods include: most commercial breakfast cereal, white pasta, white bread, conventional baked goods.
As a basic rule, the more that has been done to the food, the more acid forming it will be. The less that has been done to alter its original state, the more alkaline forming it will be.
It’s advantageous to maintain a neutral pH. Eating too many acid forming foods will promote inflammation, reduce immune function and cause highly-alkaline calcium to be pulled from the bones to keep the blood in its neutral state of 7.35. This of course leads to lower bone density and in many cases, osteoporosis. In fact, the over consumption of highly refined foods is the reason that we as North Americans are contracting osteoporosis at a younger age than ever before in history.
The most alkaline forming foods are those with chlorophyll, the green pigment in many plants. Leafy greens for example. Hemp is an excellent example in that is contains complete protein, yet the fact that it is not isolated and that it contains chlorophyll helps maintain a more alkaline pH.
A large salad is also a good high-quality protein option. I realize that when many people think salad, protein is not usually what comes to mind. Although, dark types of lettuce are up to 40% protein and spinach registers at about 45% protein. Since leafy greens are light, of course, this doesn’t add up to astonishingly high numbers in term of grams of protein. However, since protein in leafy greens is already in amino acid form, the kind usable by the body, it doesn’t have to be converted; therefore it saves the consumer energy. The body can’t use protein as is, it must convert it to amino acids first. Therefore in my book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life, I classify foods with this quality as “one-step nutrition” foods. They offer a significant advantage. Since the step of converting protein to amino acids is eliminated, the body will conserve energy through the assimilation process. And, because of this energy savings, you will have a greater amount. If you don’t spend it, you still have it; that’s the premise of another one of the core principals in Thrive called “energy through conservation as opposed to consumption.”
If a large enough salad is eaten, taking into consideration its “one-step nutrition” quality and therefore its ability to provide more energy than foods that don’t assimilate as efficiently, a substantial amount of usable protein will be ingested.
“Pseudo grain” is the term given to what is technically a seed, yet commonly referred to as a grain. Examples include: amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and wild rice. Since they are all in fact seeds, their nutritional profile closely reflects that. They are gluten free, and higher in protein than grains. They can also be easily sprouted. The sprouting process converts the protein in pseudo grains into amino acids, putting them in the one-step nutrition category, thereby significantly improving their digestibility. Additionally, sprouting raises their pH making them an alkaline-forming food. And with greater than 20 percent protein in amino acid form and superior digestibility, pseudo grains are a sound protein source. Adding half a cup of sprouted buckwheat to a large salad will certainly yield a high-quality protein meal.