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Is getting enough protein as a vegan difficult
Is getting enough protein as a vegan difficult?

Is getting enough protein as a vegan difficult?

  • Reading time: 9 min.

As a bodybuilder, there was once a common belief that you needed to eat lots of chicken, fish, beef, eggs and cottage cheese to make yourself big and strong. Animal sources of protein certainly offer the most and best protein. Nowadays, however, many athletes want to consume less or even no animal products at all. This means you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet. But does this also mean you're getting enough protein? In this XXL Nutrition blog we'll take a look at whether getting enough protein as a vegan is difficult. We'll give you some super helpful tips on how to eat more plant-based proteins!

The difference between vegetarian and vegan

Before we look at how to get enough protein as a vegan, let's take a closer look at what the difference between vegetarian and vegan is. A vegetarian does not eat meat but may still eat fish, dairy and eggs. A vegan eats a completely plant-based diet and therefore no longer consumes any animal products, meaning you can no longer eat dairy and eggs.

Our protein tips in this blog will focus on a vegan diet. Even though the definition of what a vegetarian is can differ from person to person, vegetarians will have a much less difficult time getting enough protein in the form of dairy products, eggs and, in some cases, even fish. We will therefore focus exclusively on plant-based foods that can provide our daily protein requirement.

Is it harder to get enough protein as a vegan?

If you start cutting out animal products and start eating a plant-based diet, you will get a lot of comments about your daily protein needs. Many athletes think it is harder for vegans to get enough protein. This is true, because animal products are often richer in protein than plant-based alternatives, but why is it difficult to get enough protein from plant-based foods?

  • First of all, the proportion of protein in plant-based products is often a lot lower than in animal products, which means you will have to eat more of it to get an equally high protein intake.
  • Secondly, plant-based protein sources never consist of pure protein. Whereas chicken breast contains about 22 grams of protein and only a low amount of fat otherwise, this is quite different with plant-based foods, which often contain significant amounts of carbohydrates, something that usually is undesirable if your goal is to lose fat.
  • Finally there is the matter of the amino acid profile. This tells us something about the content and quality of the protein we eat. A complete amino acid profile that has all essential amino acids (which our body cannot make itself) will help you build muscle mass more than an incomplete profile. Plant products on their own often do not have a complete amino acid profile and need to be combined with different protein sources.

Animal proteins vs. plant proteins

Although plant proteins contain the same amino acids as animal proteins, however, there is a difference between the biological value of these proteins. The biological value of protein is an indication of how well its amino acid profile matches what our bodies need. Proteins with a biological value of 100% are therefore absorbed by our bodies best. Animal products have a higher biological value than plant protein sources; for example, eggs have a biological value of 100%, beef about 83% and chicken breast 70%. If we compare this to vegetable protein sources, we see that peas have a biological value of 43%, soybeans 53% and oat flakes about 60%.

Amino acid profile of vegan protein sources

Because plant-based proteins have a less complete amino acid profile, it is more difficult to get enough high-value protein as a vegan. We can also see this if we take a look at the BCAAs (amino acids that play an important role in muscle building). Animal proteins have a higher leucine content than plant proteins and also contain all 9 essential amino acids. Most plant protein sources lack one or more of these, which makes it harder for vegans to get enough protein. It's not impossible however! But what is the best way to do this? Below we will look at the best plant-based proteins and give you the best tips for getting enough protein as a vegan!

The best plant-based proteins

With the above information in mind, we went looking for the best plant-based proteins so you can get the most out of your strength training without eating an ounce of animal products! Want to know about the best plant-based protein sources for you as a vegan? Check out our blog with the Top 11 best plant-based proteins here!

Tips for getting enough protein as a vegan

As a vegan athlete, you will of course want to build up muscle, and you will need enough high-quality protein to do so. Use the tips below to help get enough protein as a vegan.

  • Make sure you eat more protein than you used to. Because plant proteins have a lower biological value, you will need to eat more of them. This will make your daily protein requirement slightly higher, around 20 - 30% higher than if you eat eat animal products.
  • Combine different plant-based proteins. Because vegan protein sources often lack certain essential amino acids, it is important to eat a lot of variety. This way you still get enough of all the amino acids needed for muscle building.
  • When buying groceries, choose meat substitutes with as much protein and as little fat and carbohydrates as possible. Meat substitutes do not always have the best balance in terms of nutritional values, so make sure you read the label carefully!
  • Thankfully, there are also plant-based protein shakes and protein bars that will help you get enough protein as a vegan. These fit perfectly into a healthy eating schedule and contain protein from rice, hemp and peas.

If you use our tips, getting enough possible as a vegan will be super easy. You really don't need animal products to meet your daily protein needs!

Marvin Grouw
This blog is written by:
Marvin Grouw
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