How much protein do you really need?

One of the questions we are often asked, especially when people have moved to a vegetarian or vegan diet, is: “am I getting enough protein?” Many vegetarians eat eggs and diary, which are sources of protein, however, a vegan diet does not include these, so you may well think that protein is harder to come by.

Protein is needed to build and repair muscle, but it also has the advantage that if you eat a high-protein diet, it can help with weight loss, as it makes you feel fuller. Protein also requires more energy to digest than carbohydrates & fat, so up to 25% of those protein calories can used up in the digestion process alone, compared to around 5% for fats and carbs.

The UK guidelines for daily intake is split down as follows: Carbohydrates should make up at least 50% of your daily energy intake. Fats up to 35% (but only 11% of which should be saturated) and with protein at a modest 10-15%. Calorie tracking apps will often show you the breakdown of these groups in your diet, although it’s often a premium feature.

Another guide is to aim for around 0.8g of protein per KG of body weight, per day. Someone weighing 14 stone (89 kg) would therefore need 71g or protein per day. Someone weighing 10 stone (63.6kg) would need 50g of protein a day. At eight stone (51kg), they would only need 41g a day.

A single large (150g) chicken breast has about 45g of protein, so most people who eat meat may actually eat more protein than they really need. Vegans do have to be a bit smarter about getting their daily intake, but foods high in protein include Tofu (soya), nuts, seeds, lentils, peanut butter, wholemeal bread, beans and peas. While the percentage of protein per item may be much lower than meat, the proportions of vegetables, lentils, beans, etc. consumed per day, is higher.

100g of tofu has around 13g of protein. A slice of wholemeal toast with peanut butter, 7g of protein. 100g of soya yogurt, 6g. Pumpkin seeds are higher in protein than peanut butter (24g/100g) so are great to sprinkle on salads, add to porridge, put in your bread mix, add to stir-fries, etc. They are also a great source of Omega 3 & 6, magnesium, potassium, iron and anti-oxidants. Just six seeds (around 28g) can provide 7g of protein.

While I don’t follow a 100% strict vegan diet all the time, I can’t eat eggs and I avoid dairy 90% of the time (chocolate is my weakness!). In a typical day I am able to take in around 60-80g of protein, without having to resort to supplementation. However, If I’m doing more strength work, or my protein intake for the day is low, then I’ll supplement with a vegan protein powder, which gives me another 23g protein per serving.

If you’re looking to build muscle then you may need to go over the recommendation of 0.8g or protein per kg of body weight. Up to 1.4 to 1.8g (or 30-40% of your calories come from protein) if you are doing a lot of strength work . However, unless you are actually using that protein to build and repair muscle, too much protein isn’t good for you. The daily maximum recommendation, if you’re not strength training, is 110g a day (that’s 4-5 chicken breasts!). Excess protein has to be broken down and long-term, can lead to kidney and liver damage. As ever, everything needs to be in balance

1 thought on “How much protein do you really need?”

  1. Pingback: Macros – what they are an how many you need – Revive Fitness Classes

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top