When people find out that I choose a plant-based training diet, the first question they ask is about how I could possibly get enough protein.
I’m not an expert in being a vegetarian. I am in fact a terrible vegetarian. I very rarely use the label. After being released from a six-year elimination diet that allowed me to eat basically nothing, I was given a very short window to eat whatever I wanted before the pain would come back. (On a side note, when my cysts were removed in July, that window was reset, thanks to a doctor doing double duty while I was cut open!) I decided not to just eat whatever I wanted but to never turn down anything (at least the first time). I tried sweet breads, fried tripe, and bone marrow for the first time. Tossed a grasshopper into my mouth and plan on eating reindeer when its served on my dog sledding trek in January of next year. I grew into a new understanding and respect of using the entire animal, whether for food or clothing. Respect the thing you kill enough to not let a drop go to waste. Not that I was suddenly eating McDonald’s, but humanely sourced meat does make its way into my stomach on occasion. I’m very picky. At home, I remained a vegetarian. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve cooked meat in my home in Seattle–and it was always for a large party. When I craved Italian Sausage, I made my own rather than buy pre-packaged. I also drink vinegar for fun, so really, should you listen to me? And yes, I know plenty of people who tell me they too are a vegetarian before ordering a hamburger or cutting into their grilled steak. I don’t know why people feel the need to relate to that. I never call myself a vegetarian, I simply eat what I enjoy and what makes me thrive.
So when I tell people that I have chosen a plant-based training diet, they stare at me with wide eyes. I don’t eat processed food very often, and that includes “organic” boxed food from Amy’s and the like. Processed is processed, even if it’s organic. I also don’t take a bunch of supplements or make smoothies. How could I possibly get enough nutrients?
First off, I work at home and needed a shake for breakfast. I hate breakfast food. I have never really liked eggs, unless poached, and have found out my body does not tolerate poached eggs very well. I used to skip breakfast. Since I started running, I no longer skip the first meal. And since I avoid soy and whey protein because they flare my endometriosis, I experimented with various shakes. I finally settled on Shakeology. It has more than just soy or whey protein. It seems well-balanced. It tastes good and it lets me have a quick breakfast with little fuss. (2014 edit–I stopped Shakeology as I discovered it was upsetting my intestines. Happy intestines mean happy Kristie!)
After that, everything can quickly go to hell. I’m busy most days and don’t want to cook snacks and lunch.
Artboy works late. Every day. As by the time he comes home I am basically done with work and wanting to relax, he cooks dinner. That’s the deal, even though I am a better cook, if he wants me to cook he has to come home closer to 6 and not 8. I wait to eat with him, but have no desire to cook at 8 p.m. He makes three things: Rice and Beans. Quinoa, Kale, and Poached Egg. Roasted Broccoli (no protein). He has a terrible time realizing that you need protein in every meal and that you can’t just make a giant vegetable side dish and call it a meal. No balance. We’ve been working on that. Especially since I have banned poached eggs from meals.
My first foray into setting up a strict no meat training plan was through No Meat Athlete. I purchased a training plan that came with some recipes and a quick meal guide. This provided quick well-rounded meals that I could make enough of to eat for lunch the next day. They were also easy enough for Artboy to cook. Well mostly. He isn’t very good at following recipes. most nights I prepared the meal and he would just cook it when he got home so we could eat together.
I’ve gotten so far off topic. Protein.
These are sources of protein that I have found work for me.
1) Pepitos – I could eat pumpkin seeds all day, every day. Raw Foods makes great flavored versions as well. Sprouted is apparently better, but I like both sprouted and unsprouted. I buy them shelled. I eat other seeds too.
2) Black Beans and Rice – The perfect protein combination. This can be straight rice and beans or on a burrito. I add cheese, because I love cheese. Black Beans average about 15 grams of protein per serving.
3) Beans – I love black beans, but I also eat white beans. These are great for my training diet.
4) Lentils – God I love lentils. I could add lentils to everything, except beans, because that’s basically the same texture. Although, I’m positive I’ve eaten black beans and green lentils before. Supposedly they have 18 grams of protein a serving.
5) Seitan and Tempeh – Great for making vegetarian tacos or adding to pasta, stir fry, or fried rice (egg less). I buy straight seitan and tempeh and season myself. Those pre-seasoned versions are chock full of chemicals. There is a seitan chorizo by Upton’s that is pretty natural and I enjoy (that is the only faux meat I ever eat).
6) Hummus – This is my perfect food. When I’m on vacation, I crave it. It’s too bad people don’t lie it and restaurants insist on adding crap to spruce it up. Red pepper hummus is the worst. I make my own at home using canned chickpeas, tahini, lemon, and garlic (you may want to add olive oil too). I don’t peel the chickpeas–I throw it all in the food processor and get to the correct consistency. It’s easy,quick, and tasty protein.
7) Quinoa – Quinoa’s popularity is destroying rain forests and causing major property disputes, or so I’ve heard. I have limited quinoa for this reason, but am looking forward to more US farms growing it soon. White Mountain Farm in the US grows quinoa.
8) Broccoli and Kale – Not a huge amount of protein, but two veggies that I love that have a decent amount of protein.
9) Cheese – I love cheese. My body tolerates cheese. It tolerates both non-lactose cheese (most cheese) and lactose laden cheese. I also don’t purposely buy vegetarian cheese, but a good portion of the cheese I buy falls into this category. For those of you who don’t know, rennet is used to produce cheese. Some cheeses cannot be made with plant rennet, but some can. I don’t discriminate (see above re: bad vegetarian). I also drink wine and liquor that is not vegetarian too! Shocker!
10) Algae – This is a relatively new addition for me. Since I don’t do smoothies or juicing, I hadn’t jumped into this vegan protein wonder until I started using Energybits for training. Now I also use them for snacks! (Full Disclosure: I recently became a brand ambassador and would love to share these with you, use PUGLIFE for 20% off)
Things I don’t eat that Artboy eats for protein: Nut Butter (Almond or Peanut), nuts, and greek yogurt. I don’t like any of those things, but they are amazing sources of protein. Keep your eye on the greek yogurt as some brands have very little protein, but do have high fat and cholesterol. Read labels!
Seasonings that add protein: Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. I like the flavor of these, and they are not soy based.
I could on about all the other foods I eat or about how I make these proteins into meals, but this was to answer the protein question.