When discussing plant based / vegetarian oriented diets, it is important to address a fundamental topic: vegetarian protein sources.
First a quick overview of proteins themselves – there are 22 amino acids, 9 of which are considered essential amino acids because our body needs to take them in as it cannot synthesize them during the digestive process. Without a balanced approach to a vegetarian diet, you can find yourself lacking certain amino acids which can lead to food cravings and is one of the difficulties in converting to eating primarily plant based foods.
Before discussing supplements, I feel its important to note the need to get as much of your protein from whole food sources as possible. In my diet, a good amount of protein comes from foods such as quinoa, sprouts, leafy greens, chia, shelled hemp seed and spirulina. I will on occasion also eat eggs and certain dairy products such as yogurt. Your body can also synthesize protein from proper food combinations such as rice and beans. However, when you train hard, its also common people following a primarily vegetarian diet will feel the need to supplement their diet with additional protein. When I feel like this, I most often will make a protein shake.
The protein powder I use will vary, but often create a blend of various proteins to balance out the flavor. One easy mix I do is 50% Organic Rice Protein with 50% Pea Protein which combine to make the base for a nice vegan protein blend. I also will make use of whey protein when I can find quality hormone free options. My favorite blend is to mix equal parts of the following: Organic Rice Protein, Pea Protein and Whey Protein.
Once I have my vegetarian protein blend ready, I will also break this up further from here and make different flavors such as adding a few scoops of powdered acai, cacao powder or spirulina.
Sprouted Almonds – This tree nut comes with a hard outer brown layer. This layer contains inhibitors that are designed by nature to prevent the seed from being digested when an animal eats the plant. You can sprout almonds by putting a handful of raw/unroasted almonds in a glass of water that you place in an area that will see ambient light at some point in the day. They will plump up when they start to sprout. I usually give the process about 12 hours to begin and will change the water once after rough 6 hours to keep it fresh. When they begin to sprout, you can also squeeze them and often you can peel the skin off. I will add 5-10 sprouted almonds to my shakes to grind this up into the shake essentially making fresh almond milk in with the protein shake. This adds a layer of activated enzymes and as well, the bio-availability of the protein in the almond goes up by a significant amount.
Hemp protein & shelled hemp seeds – For what its worth, I tried several hemp based protein powders and found it a bit too gritty for my taste. Instead I tend to add roughly 1 tbsp. of Shelled Hemp Seed after blending up a lot of my protein smoothies. These seeds are unique in the plant kingdom and are similar to quinoa in that they can provide us with all the essential amino acids that are crucial building blocks for the body to synthesize proteins from. Hemp is also a highly sustainable resource, as the process naturally requires very few pesticides. Its good to ‘chew’ the protein smoothies as doing so releases enzymes to more efficiently begin the digestive / restorative process of absorbing the protein. The hemp seed is a great source of healthy fatty acids that help the body absorb the protein content in the shake and also can boost your immune system.
That is my wrap up of vegetarian protein sources … for now. I also cover quite a few options for vegetarian protein smoothies in the book.
Here are some of my favorite protein powders online: