Where do Vegan Bodybuilders get their protein?
Written by Robert Cheeke
Created Thursday, 12 January 2012
When people learn that I am a vegan bodybuilder, the most frequently asked question is, “Where do you get your protein?” I have been answering this question for nearly 15 years. It never gets any less annoying and will never go away as long as I am vegan and vocal about it—which will be forever, by the way. I accept that and understand that. Truth be told, I am excited to have a book that has an entire chapter dedicated to this topic, so I won’t have to answer the question verbally anymore. I can just say, “It’s all in my book and explained in detail. I suggest you give it a read. It will answer your question sufficiently.” Having this book is a good tool for all of you as well, and I am sure you get asked the same question more often than any other question when it comes to your vegan lifestyle. Therefore, this resource should be helpful when addressing this extremely common question.
Before answering this question, we should consider why this question is being asked in the first place and determine our method of reply. What is the person trying to learn by proposing this question? Is it a sincere question or one asked for another reason?
To vegans, the question is silly. Vegans know there are plenty of plant-based foods packed with adequate and complete proteins. But care should be taken when answering the question. It would be harmful to the vegan cause to answer rudely or condescendingly. Some people are asking sincerely to truly learn because they innocently don't know better. Others may be asking because they want to know which are the preferred sources, so they can get ideas to incorporate into their diets. When the question is answered rudely and not with a lot of thought or tact, people receiving the answer will have a negative reaction and a negative impression of veganism, especially if their question was from sincere curiosity and desire to learn. We have to handle ourselves appropriately because it could lead to very positive discourse or very negative discourse, each of which has implications, and we want to do what is best for ourselves and our movement as often as possible.
Vegan bodybuilders who are frequently asked this question can lead by positive example to answer the protein question to the vegan and non-vegan communities. Even though we don’t always think so at first, this common question can be legitimate without any ill intentions or attitude attached to it. Some people are sincerely looking for answers to learn more and to add more variety into their diet. And many others are asking because they know someone who is vegan and they are seeking out additional information to share with a friend or loved one.
Though I am annoyed by the question because it is a question that comes from ignorance, I do answer the question as respectfully as I can, and I tailor my response to the person asking the question. If I can tell that someone is being deliberately provocative and trying to lure me into an argument or debate or waiting for me to make a fool of myself, I will politely direct them to my websites, my documentaries, or to this book to get their question answered. I let them know there are meal programs and lists and charts and information that they will find interesting.
When you look like an athlete or a bodybuilder, you display to an audience that you clearly get enough protein in your diet. As a result, you may not have to address the question as often. Or people could be so surprised by a muscular physique built on a plant-based diet that they want to know more and more about it and how they can do it too. When you have a physique that speaks for itself, answering the question is easy. You can get away with listing off some common sources of plant protein, a few favorite meals, and add that training and dedication go along with it. It gives a quick, well-rounded answer that is often sufficient for the questioner.
Whatever method you choose to use when answering the protein question, proceed with confidence. You are always welcome to reference me, my websites, my documentaries, or my books; and you can encourage people to learn about a variety of vegan athletes who are out there everyday working hard to live a healthy active vegan lifestyle. I enjoy leading by example to take the burden off of other people. I use my physique to challenge common ways of thinking and to present new ways of thinking and understanding. Use your resources, including this resource, and feel comfortable in your discourse with others regarding this topic. If you struggle with your communication, look to those who have been doing it for a long time like the people who work for Vegan Outreach (http://www.veganoutreach.org) or other animal rights organizations that focus on positive conversations with others about various topics including protein intake on a vegan diet. My friend Nettie Schwager articulates this topic well in conversations and in countless letters to newspapers. Search for her work online for additional helpful resources.
Here is a list of some of the ways I have handled and addressed the protein question. After more than a decade of experience addressing this issue, the following list is ten examples of how I have responded to this question.
The Question: “Where do you get your protein?”
My response #1 “Protein is found in nearly every food and in higher amounts in certain foods like nuts, grains, beans, legumes, green vegetables, and in foods like tofu, tempeh, and in the form of protein powders and bars commonly made of up hemp, pea, rice, buckwheat, or soy protein. Eating a wide variety of foods makes it easy to get adequate protein from plant sources, and I eat a lot of heavy foods like burritos, sandwiches, wraps, almond butter, and grains like quinoa and brown rice. I also use protein powders and protein bars since I’m a bodybuilder and want extra protein, especially post-workout. Overall, I get most of my protein from eating a variety of food, just like everyone else.”
My response #2 “I ingest more protein than almost anyone I know because I make it a point to do so. I eat six to eight meals a day, consuming a wide variety of foods, and I rack up about 300 grams of protein per day.”
My response #3 “I don’t rely on one main source of protein. Instead, I focus on various quality sources and get a broad spectrum of amino acids. I don’t just rely on soy, but I eat some soy-based foods and focus primarily on plant-based whole foods. Some of my favorite foods are quinoa, kale, spinach, all types of beans, hemp, almonds, walnuts, peanut butter, tofu, tempeh, and protein drinks like Vega, which is made of hemp, pea, and rice protein. I also eat a bunch of different protein bars as snacks. In general, I make sure I eat as much color and variety as I can throughout the day. That way, I get plenty of protein.”
My response #4 “Where do you get your protein? How do you monitor your cholesterol intake?”
My response #5 “I eat a wide variety of foods, and protein is one of the easiest components of nutrition to get in any well-balanced diet.”
My response #6 “Do you know anyone with a protein deficiency?”
My response #7 “I have gained 70 pounds (enter your own results here) on a plant-based diet, so getting enough protein has never been an issue for me.”
My response #8 “There is a great list of high protein foods on veganbodybuilding.com. The website lists the foods and their protein content so you can check out that resource to find out what types of foods vegans eat, including the highest protein foods. There are meal programs on the website as well as athlete bios so it should be really helpful and provide a lot of information regarding protein intake on a vegan diet. We have female and male athletes including 270-pound strong men, fitness models, professional athletes, and personal trainers who are all long-time vegans profiled on our website too. Check it out to see a variety of vegan athletes and learn about what we eat.”
My response #9 “I just wrote a 300-page book (Champion Vegan Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke just wrote a 300-page book) all about vegan bodybuilding and there is an entire chapter dedicated to the protein issue on a vegan diet. The book includes more than 50 meal programs covering high protein meals and mass-building meal programs and should be an excellent resource to answer your question in detail. It’s called Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness – The Complete Guide to Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet. Check it out on http://www.veganbodybuildingbook.com.”
My response #10 I just flex for them and say something in a playful manner like “Getting enough protein has never been a problem for me, and I eat more protein than almost anyone I know.”
As much as I defend protein consumption for myself and for vegans in general, I have to say, in all honesty that most vegans I know probably don’t get enough protein in their diets on a daily basis to maintain a healthy-looking build. I believe most vegan “athletes” do get enough protein because they are more conscious of it and make more of an effort to get adequate protein to assist their athletic performance. But when it comes to the general vegan population, I have to admit that most look as if they are on a low-protein consumption diet. I believe this happens for the same reason our general population is obese. Most people just don’t pay attention to proper nutrition or just don’t care enough to eat the best types of foods. Often times the vegan’s focus is on activism, outreach, or political topics, and their own health isn’t a priority. However, health should be a very high priority because the everyday vegan would be a much better activist if he or she spent more time focused on being healthy and being a very well-rounded effective activist. Eating well—getting enough protein and calories—and and being active and fit allows one to have more energy, be more convincing in health discussions with others and enables one to be more effective and more efficient in everything one does, simply by being healthier.
The above is a excerpt from the best-selling book Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness - The Complete Guide To Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet by Robert Cheeke
Robert Cheeke is a best-selling Author of Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness - The Complete Guide To Building Your Body on a Plant-Based Diet and a champion Vegan Bodybuilder who runs the company and website Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. Robert is a motivational speaker who tours around North America with his speaking tour and he is also the Director of the award-winning documentary Vegan Fitness Built Naturally.
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