It’s a well-known fact that a high protein diet is essential for building muscle, lowering body fat and maintaining a lean physique. Proteins are building blocks in our body and it is crucial for us to keep a high daily intake to ensure recovery from workouts and growth. Proteins are made out of 20 different amino acids, depending on the combination of amino acids the role of protein can be to build hormones, muscle, enzymes, organs, immune cells or any other tissue.
Amino acids are divided into:
- Essential – 9 amino acids that we must consume through food.
- Non-Essential – Can be made in our body from the essential ones.
Individuals undergoing regular intense physical activity have an increased need for protein intake. Without proper intake our body will get the protein directly from muscles to maintain normal functions. Avoiding protein for longer periods can result in crippled immune system, slow recovery, lack of energy and major muscle loss. Daily protein intake recommendations for athletes don’t go below 0,7g per lbs. of lean body weight and vary depending on goal.
What are Complete Proteins Sources?
There are 2 sources of protein: animal and plant. Animal proteins sources include: fish, eggs, meat and milk. These are considered complete protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids. For a long time high animal protein intake was considered the only way to maintain muscle mass and be successful in bodybuilding and fitness community. However if you are a vegan or a vegetarian fitness enthusiast there are ways to maintain a high protein intake with careful plant food combinations.
List of Food Combinations for Vegans and Vegetarians
Currently among the bodybuilding and fitness population there’s myth that to take full advantage of these protein combinations listed below we need to combine them in the same meal, this is not true as recent studies have shown that the human body stores and combines all the amino acids incorporated within 24 hours so there is no concern that some amino acids won’t be utilized.
- Grains and Legumes
Combination of grains like oats, rye, brown rice with legumes such as lentils and beans ensures that a full spectrum of amino acids is available for body to synthesize new complete protein. Limiting amino acids in legumes are methionine and tryptophan, while the grains are missing lysine, isoleucine and threonine.
- Seeds / nuts and Legumes
Seeds and nuts are very rich in healthy nutrients, often these are packed with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that people who consume nuts regularly are less prone to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. Popular choices in this combination group is mixing beans with pumpkin seeds, almonds or sunflower seeds. Limiting amino acids in seeds and nuts are lysine and isoleucine while legumes have and increased amount of those which makes it a perfect combination.
- Dairy products and grains
This combination applies only to vegetarians who eat dairy products. Even though dairy products and eggs are considered sources of complete proteins you can utilize amino acids from these sources to complete the amino profile of grains. Example of this combination would be the popular breakfast choice with oatmeal and yogurt / milk.
- Dairy and Legumes
Legumes are very rich in protein and fiber, it’s always a good idea even for non-vegetarians to combine these foods to increase protein intake.
Eating Raw Food Increases Protein Availability
It is important to note that eating raw food reduces the need for additional proteins in a way, the body uses 6 to 8 grams of protein a day for the synthesis of digestive juices and enzymes, adequate intake of raw foods such as vegetables enrich the digestive system and make it easier for the body to process foods.