Aussie Nutritionist debunks common vegan protein myths

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The woman are eating vegan food, taco rice. In the foreground is a Buddha bowl.
The straw is a stainless steel reusable straw.
Vegan diets are getting more popular with a host of supplements now also available. Photo: Getty

“But where do you get your protein?” Whether or not you’re a vegan, chances are you've heard this question asked whenever someone announces they follow a vegan diet.

Yet, the reality is that vegan diets are in hot demand, with a new report forecasting vegan supplements will generate $17076.50 million in revenue by 2030.

Vegan and plant-based diets are increasingly popular

With the popularity of vegan and plant-based diets on the rise, online sports nutrition brand Myprotein are jumping on board during January (or Veganuary) to bust some of the most common misconceptions about vegan diets.

RELATED:

Accredited Aussie Nutritionist and Myprotein ambassador @naturally_nina, shares her expert insights with Yahoo Lifestyle. And some of her answers might surprise you.

Myth 1: Vegans don’t get enough protein

“That vegans don’t get enough protein is one of the most common myths about vegan diets!

It is absolutely possible to get more than enough protein by eating a vegan diet, and there are many wonderful protein rich plant foods available to help you do so.

Naturally Nina Nutrition
Nina shares her expert insights and busts some common myths. Photo: Supplied/Naturally Nina Nutrition

The key to ensuring you get enough protein is to include plenty of those protein rich plant foods at each of your meals on a daily basis, for example, aiming to include a serve of tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, lentils, chickpeas, edamame or a plant based meat alternative with each meal.

Including a daily serving of a vegan protein powder can also be really helpful if you have higher protein requirements, such as if you are quite active.

Vegan friendly protein supplements such as the Myvegan Pea Protein Isolate and the Myvegan Vegan Protein Blend can also help those with high protein requirements.

Myth 2: Vegan athletes can’t compete with meat eaters

“Another myth! Whether you eat animal products or not will not impact your abilities as an athlete.

It all comes down to ensuring you are getting enough of each of your macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats) and overall calories to support your training and recovery.

Whilst it may be more difficult for a vegan to obtain key vitamins and minerals which are typically found in meat based products (such as iron, zinc, vitamin D and B12), it’s possible to supplement these to reduce any impact on performance.

Aussie Nutritionist Naturally Nina working out
Aussie Nutritionist Naturally Nina wants to challenge the myth that Vegan athletes can’t compete with meat eaters. Photo: Supplied/Naturally Nina Nutrition

Vegans will also benefit from the diverse micronutrient intake that plant based protein sources will provide.

As plant based foods are generally naturally lower in calories and more filling than animal based foods, this is just something to be aware of to ensure you eat enough to support your training goals!

But all the micronutrients and antioxidants in plant foods may even provide an advantage in supporting optimal recovery.

Myth 3: Plant-sourced protein isn’t as good as animal-sourced protein

“Studies show that when protein is matched gram for gram, there is absolutely no difference to strength and hypertrophy gains whether someone eats an omnivore or vegan diet.

It’s a common misconception that plant proteins are ‘incomplete’, but plants actually do contain all the essential amino acids, and this would only be an issue if you were getting all of your protein from one food source (e.g brown rice) - which hopefully is not the case and you are including a variety of different plant protein rich foods throughout the day.

As some plant based protein sources are lower in one or more of the essential amino acids, getting a variety of different plant protein sources is key, and when choosing a vegan protein powder, opting for one which is a blend of different plant proteins (eg. Pea and Fava bean, such as the Myvegan Vegan Protein Blend), a soy based protein (eg. Soy Protein Isolate) or has added essential amino acids or branched chain amino acids, in order to stimulate muscle protein synthesis to the same effectiveness as whey protein.

Myprotein vegan protein blend
There are a wide range of vegan protein choices available. Photo: Myprotein
Sports nutrition brand, Myprotein Soy Protein Isolate
Sports nutrition brand, Myprotein offers a variety of vegan protein options including their Soy Protein Isolate. Photo: Myprotein

Myth 4: Whey protein powder is better than vegan protein powder

“Due to its fast digestion rate and high essential amino acid content, whey protein powder has long been considered as the gold standard for protein powder, however, as mentioned above, studies show that there is no difference in strength and muscle hypertrophy when protein is matched between an omnivore and vegan diet - the same applies to protein powders.

Whey protein generally contains a higher leucine content than most plant proteins (leucine is a branched chain amino acid that is key for triggering muscle protein synthesis), however soy protein is also rich in leucine, and many other plant proteins have leucine added to them.

For optimal muscle gain and recovery, I recommend going for a plant protein blend (eg. Pea and rice) or soy protein.

Male picking up dumbbells from selection of free weights in gym, ready for workout
"Studies show that there is no difference in strength and muscle hypertrophy when protein is matched between an omnivore and vegan diet," says Naturally Nina Nutrition. Source: Getty Images

Myth 5: Vegan protein doesn’t taste as good as whey protein

“While some brands are yet to master a great tasting vegan protein as they can be more earthy and gritty, the good news is that there are many really great tasting, smooth plant protein powders (and companies are always improving their formulas!).

One of my personal favourites is the Myvegan Soy Protein Isolate which is super smooth, mixes really well and tastes just amazing.

Additionally, the Vegan Protein Blend comes in 13 different flavours including chocolate, white chocolate raspberry, coffee and walnut and even carrot cake, ensuring a flavour suitable for even the pickiest of eaters.”

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