Ask Happy Herbivore: Protein

Posted by:Lindsay S. Nixon Category: FAQ

Question: I strength train pretty intensely and am supposed to have 20-25g protein every three hours. I’ve tried the low sugar soy protein and it makes me gag. I can’t eat beans that often...suggestions?

**This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet.**

I used to be a personal trainer (true! fun fact!) I don’t know the specifics of your body, or your work out program, but 20-25g of protein every three hours isa lotof protein!

I bring this up because too much protein can be harmful. Hereis a great article on MedicineNet about how too much protein can harm the body and that excessive protein really doesn’t help build muscle or increase strength. 

From the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies --only 10-35% of the calories we eat should come from protein.You can see how with protein supplements, it would be easy to go over that amount. Jeff Novick talks about our protein needs here -- and since he’s an RD, I’ll let him explain it.  

I should admit that personally, I don’t care for supplements, including protein powders, but I respect that some people need them.

For example, a professional athlete I know says he burns about 4,000 calories a day exercising. Without supplements, I imagine he’d have to chew constantly... so I understand why he takes protein supplements and high-calorie supplements; that’s easier and more realistic for his situation and it’s what his doctors and trainers advise. I also know someone battling a medical condition that requires a low fiber, almost all-liquid diet. So in that instance, protein smoothies make sense too and it’s what the doctor ordered.

But for most of us, even those of us who work out regularly and are athletic--triathletes, marathon runners, yogis, etc... we can probably eat all our daily requirements... I always told my clients --If you can, why not get what you need straight from the source?

When we eat beans or greens or quinoa for protein we’re getting more than just the protein. We’re getting other nutrients and other vitamins that are important. It’s also more wholesome and less processed (some protein powders are down right junky with processed and artificial sugars, chemicals and flavorings added to make them palatable).

Of course, talk to your doctor about your diet, your needs, any medical conditions you might have and your exercise regimens before making any changes to your diet. This is not medical advice, just my humble opinion. I also encourage everyone to do their own research and become informed -- the articles I linked to above are great starting points for understanding protein and its vital role in our body.

That said, if you want or need a protein powder, for whatever reason, I recommend hemp protein which is raw and quite tasty in a smoothie. I like Living Harvest’s Chai-Vanilla. I’ve also heard great reviews of Sun Warrior but I’ve never tried it myself. Vega also has a number of products. I haven’t tried them all, but their chocolate instant smoothies are pretty good if you mix it with almond milk. 

 **This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor before changing your diet.**

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