Simply put; protein is the building block of every cell in the body, and the majority of the composition of our hair, nails, skin, muscles and organs is made of protein. The body uses protein to build and repair tissue, and strengthen the muscles.
For athletes, protein is inevitably the most important macronutrient.
Athletes need larger amounts of protein to stay fit and healthy than non-athletes, as they put far more stress on their body daily than others.
Plant-based sources of protein are far more viable than you might have originally thought, with possibly the most intriguing source being hemp protein.
For a vegan athlete, it can often seem difficult to find a multitude of protein sources. Just like all athletes, vegan athletes (especially in the early stages of training) require higher amounts of protein than vegans who exercise moderately or who are not active. Protein needs for vegan athletes can range from 0.36 to 0.86 grams of protein per pound of their weight, which is similar to those of non-vegan athletes as well.
Athletes on a typical vegan diet can easily find sufficient amounts of protein, and with a little guidance should not be worried about looking for other ways to meet their protein requirements.
Traditional vegan protein sources would include bananas, vegetables, beans, nuts, spinach and seeds which have some amounts of protein.
Since athletes undergo strenuous training and practice sessions daily, they need to be even further diligent with finding the highest quality protein, and protein in the right amounts to maintain their fitness levels as well as stay active to perform well.
In terms of finding quality protein sources, vegans surprisingly have an advantage. Although I generally always recommend finding whole food sources, vegan protein powder is normally my most-preferred protein powder overall. These protein powders tend to have far less “filler” ingredients, and are far more easily digestible!
Quality vs Quantity
Protein, as we all know, is made up of amino acids. When we say that eggs, cow’s milk, meat, and fish are high-quality protein, we mean that they have large amounts of amino acids which the human body is unable to produce. These, however, are all animal sources of protein.
For a vegan; soybeans, quinoa, and spinach are all high-quality protein. Other protein sources which are not the animal origin, usually have all the essential amino acids, but the amounts of one or two of these amino acids may be low.
To make this point clear let’s consider the example of grains. Grains are lower in amino acids like lysine and peas are lower in methionine.
Vegan athletes on these diets should either consume them in higher amounts or they shall find other ways to get these essential amino acids.
However, protein from plant sources is generally absorbed more quickly and more fully, than from animal sources. What plant-based or vegan sources of protein lack in amino acids, it certainly makes up with its ability to be utilized more quickly and efficiently.
Hemp Protein, the Ultimate Plant Source of Protein
The human body needs 20 essential amino acids to make protein. Our body is unable to make nine of the twenty common amino acids, so these amino acids are considered to be essential and of high importance.
In other words, we must get these amino acids from our diets. No matter what, we need all nine of these amino acids for our body to make protein along with the other 11 amino acids.
To completely meet the protein requirement, a vegan athlete can consume hemp protein. Hemp protein is the best source of protein completely obtained from plant sources, and is perfect for vegans.
There has been a wide range of research done on hemp protein to determine its benefits, including an article in the journal Food Chemistry from 2008 with results which, “suggest that the protein isolates from hempseed are much more nutritional in amino acid nutrition and easily digestible than SPI, and can be utilized as a good source of protein nutrition for human consumption.”
Furthermore, an article in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed another study with shows evidence that “results provide reference data in support of protein claims for hemp seed products and provide evidence that hemp proteins have a PDCAAS equal to or greater than certain grains, nuts, and some pulses.”
Through many thorough examinations, hemp protein has proved its ability to complete the necessary amino acid profile of vegan athletes and athletes alike!
Finding hemp protein seeds if probably going to be a bit difficult, but there are many excellent options for hemp protein powder online. Regardless of whether you are a vegan athlete or not, the wide range of essential amino acids in hemp can benefit almost anyone!
Hemp protein is the ultimate option for athletes to improve their overall protein intake, build their bodies, increase their metabolism, and become a better athlete.
One issue is that hemp protein could potentially conflict with drug testing for certain athletes.
Hemp could possibly cause a false-positive and you should make sure you should be careful when ingesting hemp if you are subjected to drug tests.
Regardless, don’t be afraid if you are a vegan or thinking of adapting a lifestyle more similar to that of a vegan.
I will certainly write more on this topic myself in the future as I am transitioning to a more plant-based approach to eating myself. Protein sources are abundant for vegans, and the benefits are absolutely worth trying!