In June, I became the very proud winner of The Carolina Supernatural women’s open figure competition (winner of my group from all age ranges)! I also snagged the first runner-up award in the master’s competition (women in their forties and fifties). I was so honored and proud to compete with women of all ages—such gorgeous, powerful ladies (both mentally and physically) and so many memories to match!
I am constantly asked how I adapt my protein intake, diet, sleep, cardio, and fat/caloric allowances for workouts and training for competitions. While I want to just snap my fingers and give away the magic potion, I can’t. The truth is, as a raw vegan, I was able to achieve my muscle mass and body sculpting goals because I had that jump start. It was also my consistency in diet, exercise, and sleep that keeps me lean and strong. I already get everything I need from healthy plant fats, greens, and fruits. You know what I say: Everything you need. Nothing you don’t.
With that said, I wanted to go a bit deeper into how a raw vegan on a balanced diet can gain lean, strong muscle mass from fruits, greens, and healthy plant fats. This is a big question that I get over and over again—Are you getting enough protein on a raw vegan diet?
First of all, it depends. I know plenty of vegans who are stuck on processed foods, suffer from many deficiencies and don’t quite feel on top of their game when it comes to choosing raw food as a healthier option. In my case, I am always taking in the appropriate amount of calories, proteins, and fats, but getting them straight from the source—through healthy plant fats, greens, and delicious fruits. Everyone is different; so, it is important to set goals based on your biometrics, which will tell you how much protein you actually need.
What is protein and why do we need it?
Without protein, life is not possible. Proteins are the main building blocks of your body used to develop muscles, tendons, and organs, while creating essential enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and molecules that serve many important functions. They are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids. Some of these amino acids are produced by your body. The remaining proteins, essential amino acids, you must get from your diet.
How do I know how much protein I need?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to:
- 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man.
- 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
This is absolutely not enough based on most standards, and you can surpass these recommended amounts of protein with fruits, greens, and healthy plant fats. The important thing is to remember to consume enough calories each day in order to meet your protein needs.
Where do I get my protein if I’m not eating animal by-products?
Protein is not just about quantity but also quality. A sustainable raw foods diet draws the great bulk of its daily calories from fruits, liberal amounts of vegetables for their high mineral content, and plant fats like flaxseeds or chia seeds.
- Protein in fruit. Many fruits contain between 4-8% protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids. High protein fruits include avocados, apricots, bananas, blackberries, cantaloupe, guavas, kiwifruit, oranges, and raspberries.
- Protein in Greens and veggies. Leafy green veggies, sprouts, and lentils are an excellent source of protein. Proper servings of leafy greens throughout the day will give you 15 to 20% of your calories from proteins. For example, two cups of kale have 4 grams of protein. Dandelion has 3 grams, and a head of leaf lettuce has about 5 grams. Other green veggies are a great source of protein. One cup of chopped asparagus has 3 grams of protein, and a head of broccoli has a whopping 17 grams!
- Plant Fats. To top off a delicious smoothie or salad, I always add chia seeds, hemp seeds, or ground flaxseeds. Each provides a rich source of energy to fuel your metabolism. Chia and flax seeds also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help maintain healthy skin and hair, benefit your cardiovascular health and contribute to healthy brain function. Chia seeds also have every amino acid in them your body needs to build protein.
A combination of protein-rich leafy greens, fruit, and veggies helps fulfill my overall protein, essential amino acid, caloric, and fat requirements for each meal, and ultimately, the day. In return, I’m able to train without making any major adjustments to my diet!
If you’re thinking about trimming down and toning up, don’t let the protein myth stop you from packing your diet with ripe juicy fruits, lush greens, plant fats, and crisp veggies. Focus on giving yourself everything you need to fuel your energy levels and maintain a healthy weight. And, of course, no matter what you do, have a plan!