Written by: Drew Canole
Eating a high-protein diet seems to be trending these days. You see people going to the gym and chugging protein shakes. The mom next door has been trying to sell you meal-replacement powders. Your friend lost 20 pounds by eating more protein.
Maybe you’ve even had a doctor or mentor tell you that you need to up your protein intake to help keep your blood sugar levels stable or your metabolism running well.
But why? Is a high-protein diet really for you?
Whether you’re a hardcore bodybuilder, a college student or a full-time parent, eating more protein might be a good choice for a lot of reasons.
Proteins make up 20% of your muscles, tissues and cells. Proteins are long chains of AMINO ACIDS. Amino acids are building blocks that we get from our diet. There are 20 amino acids, nine of which are considered “essential” because the body cannot create them; they must be absorbed from the food you eat or supplementation.
Amino Acids (proteins) play an active role in:
Protein is essential for keeping your muscles strong so you can stay active throughout your whole life. Protein is also essential for building brain tissue, skin, warding off aging etc.
The amino acids that make up protein can be found in a lot of different foods, including animals products like meat, dairy, eggs and fish and also in vegetables, seeds and beans.
If you aren’t eating enough diverse protein food sources, you can become deficient in certain amino acids. Your body is constantly using protein to build and repair tissues, maintain digestive enzymes and immune system antibodies. Because of this you must eat protein on a daily basis in order to keep the body functioning at optimum levels.
When you don’t eat enough protein, the following symptoms can occur:
Basically, a lot of the health issues you may be struggling with could be due to insufficient protein in your diet!
You don’t have to be pursuing bodybuilding in order to need more protein. Even simple, daily tasks like doing laundry or running errands require protein. If you are going on walks every day with your dog, you will need protein to help with energy levels and keeping your body in good shape.
AND - If you are someone that works out and eats clean, yet you are not noticing any more muscle - it could absolutely be a sign of lack of adequate protein in your diet!
Short term protein insufficiency is easy to reverse; simply start eating more protein. However, if someone is not getting enough protein over a long period of time, their body can start to suffer more dangerous consequences.
Because proteins are vital to the body’s repair and building system, over time, as we age, the body will start breaking itself down when there isn’t enough protein coming in from the diet.
If you don’t get enough protein or amino acids from food, your body could begin to pull them from your stomach lining, your brain, or other parts of your body. This can result in ulcers, memory loss or even early Alzheimer's disease.
Sarcopenia is an age-related condition where one begins to lose muscle mass. Because muscle mass declines with sarcopenia, so does loss of strength and mobility. Studies have found that increasing protein intake slows the progression of sarcopenia and may even reverse it by enhancing muscle protein anabolism
Everyone needs different levels of protein based on many different factors. Your age, gender, weight, height, level of exercise and activity should all be taken into account when determining how much protein you need to eat every day.
When looking at all the clients I have worked with over the years, most people aren’t getting enough protein.
Talking with a healthcare professional or coach is always a good idea when trying to nail the exact amount of protein you need. The USDA recommends that the average American adult eat a minimum of:
Again, this could be different based on your lifestyle factors and physical needs. If you think you are low in protein, trying to slowly increase your protein intake and see if you start feeling better.
When I say the word “protein”, what foods come to mind? Chicken maybe? Beef? Whey protein? If you’re like most people, you are probably thinking about different kinds of animals you eat on a regular basis. But is this where protein really comes from?
You can get protein from a lot of different sources, including both plants and meat.
However, most people mistakenly believe that they can only get COMPLETE protein from MEAT.
Despite the wide variety of plant-proteins now lining the shelves, a lot of fitness-gurus and gym goers still don’t quite “believe” that they can get their daily dose of protein from plants.
I’ve got some news for you! When you think about it, all protein actually comes from plants. The animals that you eat are herbivores that chew on grass all day. How do you think they get their protein? (eh hem, plants)
Newsflash: cows eat grass, not milk! :) Protein-rich!
I repeat: all the protein comes from plants!
Not only that, but there is substantial evidence suggesting that it is BETTER for our bodies to get our protein from PLANTS instead of meat.
Stephen Arlin, bodybuilder and fitness trainer says in his book RAW POWER, “The Gorilla is the strongest land mammal pound-for-pound. A Gorilla has the strength equivalent to bench pressing 4,000 pounds… Gorilla’s eat primarily green-leafy materials which are the real body builders. Of course, the Gorilla is a 100% raw plant eater! Do you think if a gorilla are bread, meat, cheese, candy, etc. every day that it would be able to perform feats of strength like this?”
When you eat protein from plants you are also usually eating it RAW. Cooked protein is harder for the body to digest and may linger and putrefy in the intestinal tract. Not exactly appealing.
If you look at it through an evolutionary perspective, our digestive tract is built much more like an herbivore than a carnivore.
Carnivore’s have very short intestinal tracts; usually only 2-3 times the length of their own bodies. Herbivores have long intestinal tracts so that they can absorb as many nutrients as possible from their plant foods.
FACT: A human digestive tract is 4-5 times our own height. That’s nuts!
Not many people know this, but whey protein is actually a byproduct of cheese. It is made from leftover froth at dairy plants. When dairy companies want to make cheese, they take milk and add something called rennet. This causes it to curdle into little lumps called curbs. The leftover liquid is the whey.
Remember the nursery rhyme about Little Miss Muffet “eating her curds and whey”?
For years, it was thrown out, but lately it’s been re-purposed and sold as a “healthy” protein source. When whey is dried, it becomes a mix of protein, minerals and about 75% lactose.
The proteins in whey are good for you, but may come at a cost.
Dairy (especially lactose) is a common gut and digestion disrupter and whey protein tends to be stressful on the digestive tract for a large majority of people.
Symptoms that your body is not doing well on whey include:
Poor digestion means some of it doesn’t get absorbed or broken down, dropping into the bloodstream.
As a nation, we are using an AWFUL lot of resources on cows and other animals. There is an ongoing debate as to whether or not it is in our best interest health-wise or environmentally.
In 2005, data reports stated that livestock used up about 2,140 million gallons of freshwater PER DAY.
Agriculture is also responsible for 18% of the total greenhouse gases worldwide. That is more than vehicle emissions!
The entrance of soy and its “many health benefits” into our culture was mainly clever - but misleading - marketing. It is now widely understood that the health RISKS of unfermented soy outweigh its potential benefits.
Soy is one of the most GMO-contaminated plants in the country. About 90% of the soy crops in the United States are genetically modified, which comes with a host of health risks.
For those of you wanting to get your protein from soy, there is actually evidence suggesting that the trypsin inhibitors found in soy interfere with protein digestion and can cause pancreatic disorders or growth issues.
One of the biggest problems with soy is that it is estrogenic, meaning it mimics estrogen in the body and disrupts endocrine function. Those with autoimmune disease are typically recommended to avoid soy entirely.
Soy protein is on the FDA’s list of toxic plant based substances.
For a more comprehensive list of the disadvantages of soy, look at Dr. Mercola’s article on it here.
Once upon a time, all food was organic. And in my opinion, this is something that should NOT have changed! Making sure our own Organifi Complete Protein powder was 100% organic was at the top of my priority list.
Always choose ORGANIC protein as this means you will not be drinking carcinogenic pesticides or herbicides along with your shakes.
So, if plant based protein is the way to go, what plants should we eat to get our daily dose?
Protein is emphasized so much because proteins are literally the building blocks of YOU. When someone needs to heal from an injury, they NEED every single amino acid to do so. This is why when you work out and tear down muscles, you need protein to build them back up.
There are many vegetables and seeds and even some fruits that contain all 9 essential amino acids.
More and more people are beginning to realize the benefits of all these plant-based proteins, including the fact that you can actually gain all the protein you need from eating a diet of only plants.
You might think that all vegans and vegetarians are very thin and although some of them are small (but healthy), there are a lot of people who eat a plant-based diet that are actually bodybuilders and competitors.
MYTH: A plant-based diet lacks enough protein to build big muscles.
If you don’t believe you can build a good body off of plants, just check out these 10 bodybuilders who are doing just that!
So if it’s true that you don’t need whey, casein and/or egg protein in order to fill the body’s protein need, then where do you start? There are a lot of plants that provide protein, but which ones are the best?
We’ve packed all our favorite plant-protein sources into our new Complete Protein powder. Be sure to check out more details at the bottom of this post! In the meantime, here is some info about some of our favorite plant-based proteins.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the most powerful sources of plant proteins out there. They don't only make a delicious snack, but they have also proven to be a phenomenal health food that's rapidly growing in popularity.
Pumpkin seeds contain a wide range of nutrients, including magnesium (which most people are deficient in) and are fiber-packed, helping meet your fiber intake needs.
Because they contain all 9 essential amino acids, they absolutely qualify as a complete protein.
Pumpkin seeds are not only easily portable and readily available, they can also make a great highlight ingredient of protein powders, shakes and smoothies.
And the best part… we’ve created our very own protein powder with pumpkin seeds as one of the main ingredients! Check out more details at the bottom of this post.
High In Iron
Pumpkin seed protein is abundant in iron. If you have, had or at the risk of developing anemia, you can especially benefit from some pumpkin seed protein. Taking pumpkin seed protein powder, you can meet up to 40% of your daily iron needs.
Alkalizing And Can Reduce Inflammation
Pumpkin seed protein is high in natural chlorophyll that can alkalize and cleanse your body. It can also calm and reduce inflammation in your body.
Many plant-based proteins include soy, which can become a problem for those who are allergic or sensitive to soy. Pumpkin seed protein is a perfect choice for those with soy allergies, still providing plenty of plant-based protein.
High In Zinc
Pumpkin seed protein is a powerful source of zinc that is absolutely essential for your hormone production, immune system, carbohydrate metabolism, hair, skin and nails.
High In Healthy Fats
Pumpkin seed protein is obviously a rich source of protein with a variety of amino acids, but it is also an excellent source of healthy fats from omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are excellent for your heart health, digestion and mood and can reduce inflammation.
Rich In Magnesium
Pumpkin seed protein is a rich source of magnesium, an essential mineral for your body. Magnesium deficiency is on a rise today. It can cause constipation, insomnia, headaches, bad mood, low energy and low blood sugar. Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest sources of magnesium you can get your hands on and meet your magnesium needs.
Pea protein is quickly becoming one of the most popular plant proteins among gym-goers and health-conscious folks. It has an excellent amount of amino acids. It has also been found to be beneficial for several bodily organs and is one of the best hypoallergenic proteins as it is both gluten and dairy free.
Another benefit: pea protein typically doesn’t cause bloating like many other protein powders.
MYTH: Soy is the only plant protein with a complete amino acid profile.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding protein and the assortment of amino acids they contain. This is one of the biggest reasons why people don’t think plant proteins are “complete” enough to give the body what it needs.
There are two types of amino acids: essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids are acids that the body does NOT make on its own and thus must be obtained through DIET. Nonessential amino acids are acids that a healthy body DOES make on its own, so we don’t need to worry so much about getting them through diet.
Pea protein contains ALL the essential amino acids. It is missing a few of the nonessential acids, but if you are eating a good diet filled with whole fruits and veggies and superfoods, you will be getting the rest of the amino acids anyway.
If you want to make a more complete protein combination, simply combine pea protein with rice protein or buy a pre-made protein powder that contains both.
Promotes Muscle Thickness
In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers found that pea protein was able to help athletes increase muscle thickness just as effectively as dairy-based proteins.
Ladies, this does NOT mean “bulky” so don’t get confused there! It does mean, better muscle definition so you can actually see your hard work paying off.
A common symptom of protein deficiency is constant CRAVINGS. Cravings are your worst nightmare when you are trying to lose weight! A lot of people simply don’t know how to get their sugary or salty cravings under control when they are trying to lose weight and these are their downfall.
A lot of dieters eat less protein than they need, which ends up being a roadblock in weight loss.
Pea protein produces a large number of peptides when eaten and these actually delay the emptying of your stomach. This slows down the creation of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Studies have found pea protein to be JUST as effective as dairy-based proteins in helping you feel full for a good amount of time.
One serving of pea protein contains 100% your daily need for vitamin D! This vitamin is not found in many foods and is usually obtained from the sun. Vitamin D is an immune booster and is also important for mood regulation. Studies have found that good levels of vitamin D are associated with a lessened risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and depression.
Pea protein contains high amounts of lysine - an amino acid that helps to convert fatty acids into energy. Lysine is also important for collagen production and the forming of healthy tissues and bones.
Pea protein seems to be particularly good for your heart. A 2009 Canadian study found that consuming pea protein may help to lower high blood pressure, while other studies have linked it to a decreased risk of heart disease and inflammation.
Other organ that benefits from pea protein are your kidneys. Researchers have found that pea protein seems to help delay or prevent Chronic Kidney Disease.
Regulates Blood Sugar
Blood sugar levels are a huge concern among Americans today as more and more are suffering from diseases related to high blood sugar or insulin intolerance. Another Canadian study found that pea protein consumption was linked to lower blood sugar levels due to its ability to improve glycemic control.
Pea protein is an excellent source of plant-based protein and I recommend adding it into your protein rotation. There are many sources of plant protein and all of them have some unique benefits, so it is a good idea to use several types throughout your week/month/year in order to gain all the benefits.
Using a protein powder can be beneficial not only for those trying to build muscle, but also for anyone who wants to superboost their health and ensure they are receiving all the nutrients they need to be healthy. If you are not thriving, or if you suffer from cravings and/or lack energy, you could be lacking in protein and may benefit from supplementing with a protein powder.
Quinoa was called the ‘Supergrain of the Future’ by Forbes Magazine, but its consumption dates back to more than 3 thousand years ago when the Incas first started to utilize its beneficial qualities.
The Incas believed that quinoa gave their warriors strength and stamina. Some even call quinoa a superfood and due to its growing popularity, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2013 the ‘International Year Of Quinoa.’
Quinoa is a protein and nutrient-dense seed (not a grain at all!) that makes a great substitute for traditional grains. It is an excellent source of plant protein and is becoming more and more common in protein powders.
DID YOU KNOW: Because quinoa is easy to grow and has a high nutrient content, NASA has been looking into it as being a “suitable crop” for growing in outer space!
Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. A lot of plant-based proteins are lacking lysine, which is why people often turn to animal-based proteins. Quinoa, however, contains lysine as well as the other 8 amino acids that aren’t made by the human body.
Because of quinoa’s incredible nutritional profile, we chose it as a star in our brand new Complete Protein powder! Be sure to check out the details at the bottom of this post.
Quinoa has hundreds of trace minerals, many of which have impressive health benefits. One of these, quercetin, has been studied for its anti-inflammatory effect. The bulk of illness we see today is due to chronic inflammation and a diet high in inflammatory foods.
Research has found that flavonoids, such as those found in quinoa, work as natural antivirals.
The trace mineral quercetin, found in quinoa, has been studied for its anti-cancer abilities and has been called a “promising agent” for cancer prevention. Quinoa has one of the highest amounts of quercetin found in plants.
Because of its protein and fiber content, quinoa helps you feel full faster and for longer amounts of time. Quinoa will provide those seeking to lose weight with an incredible nutritional punch, a feeling of satiety as well as desired energy and stamina. Some studies also suggest it may boost metabolism.
According to recent surveys, around ⅓ of Americans are avoiding and/or trying to avoid gluten. Quinoa is gluten free and easy on the digestive system. Using quinoa in place of other gluten-free agents has been found to dramatically increase antioxidants and nutrients in one’s diet.
Quinoa contains 10-16 grams of fiber per 100 grams, which is twice the amount of other grains! Studies have found that fiber is beneficial in the prevention of diabetes, helping to lower cholesterol, weight management and energy regulation.
Quinoa has a low glycemic index (53), which means it doesn’t cause blood sugar to spike quickly. This makes it a good choice for those with diabetes or those struggling with high blood sugar.
When you think of antioxidants you probably think of berries and superfoods, not grains and seeds. Quinoa is surprisingly high in antioxidants, ranking the highest when compared to other pseudocereals, legumes and cereals. Antioxidants are vital to keeping the body free of oxidative damage and disease.
Other Minerals In Quinoa
Do you feel like one of those people who loses 20-30 pounds (and you worked your butt off to do it - literally), only to have the weight come back (with a vengeance) within a year? Maybe even less!
If you answered yes, then you’re not alone. Turns out, 65% of dieters who lose weight rapidly gain it back within a few years.
A rather grim statistic!
My purpose here is not to make you depressed or tell you to throw in the towel. There is a REASON the majority of people are unable to maintain their weight loss goals. Luckily, there is also a reasonable SOLUTION to keep this from happening to you!
Let me explain to you WHY 65% (or more) of you are losing weight and gaining it back over and over again.
Let’s get the facts straight: you have an absolutely amazing body. Your body is doing millions of things every day to keep you functioning, balanced and alive!
Your body creates the hormones LEPTIN and GHRELIN to create appetite, or the lack thereof. They decide when you’re feeling hungry or satisfied based on what will maintain homeostasis for your body over the long-term.
Leptin in particular is concerned most with how much fat you have and if it is enough for you to survive on. Ghrelin is more concerned with whether or not you are hungry right now.
These hormones don’t react well to “crash dieting” or sudden changes in lifestyle every few months because these throw off homeostasis and cause your hormones to go wonky, doing crazy things with your body (weight gain, insane cravings, mood swings, insomnia, fatigue just to name a few). Often the exact opposite of what your goals are!
This is why when you go on diets or start a sudden lifestyle change - it feels like you are fighting yourself every step of the way. The kitchen becomes a freaking battle ground.
It’s fairly simple; leptin is responsible for decreasing hunger and ghrelin is responsible for increasing hunger. Both hormones respond to how “well-fed” you are.
Both hormones also affect both the body and the brain.
What happens when something throws off these hormones and they aren’t functioning properly?
The amount of fat you have seems to correlate with how much leptin you produce. When you have a certain number of fat cells, leptin is created and sent to the hypothalamus to tell it that there is enough fat in the body so we don’t need to eat as much. So in theory, more fat = less hunger. (the right kind of) Fat does NOT make you fat. Sugar does.
With this logic you would assume that people who are fat would have lots of leptin and a small appetite and lose weight naturally and easily. However, obesity (too much fat) seems to cause a problem where some people become resistant to leptin. (1)
Basically, you will have a lot of fat cells making a lot of leptin and sending it to your brain, but your brain ignores it (or can’t hear it). Despite the leptin being sent to the brain to alert it of your sufficient fat stores, your appetite remains the same and your metabolism doesn’t increase.
In some cases, your brain might even assume you’re starving because it is can’t process the leptin and assumes there isn’t enough. So instead of a decrease in appetite, you experience an increase.
It is actually quite similar to insulin resistance, where your body becomes unable to listen to the signals of insulin because there’s too much sugar/simple carbs triggering insulin to the point where the body just starts ignoring it.
Not surprisingly, insulin and leptin resistance often occur in the same people. (1)
Basically, when you experience a significant amount of weight gain, you are likely to develop leptin resistance and start a vicious cycle of increased appetite, crazy cravings and an extremely difficult time losing weight.
I know. Not fair. Not even a little.
Ghrelin is produced by the stomach when it’s empty. It is the highest when you haven’t eaten for several hours and the lowest just after a meal.
Ghrelin is sensitive to changes in your usual routine. Remember, your body is constantly striving to MAINTAIN HOMEOSTASIS (balance). When you try to change things up it freaks out a little. When you are trying to lose fat, for example, your body will start shifting hormone levels to make you HUNGRIER so that you will eat like you were before.
Thus, hellloooo CRAVINGS. Those moments during a diet when you are suddenly STARVING and even the thought of a doughnut or a giant pizza gets your mouth watering and sends you into a frenzy.
So imagine this…
You weigh 250 pounds and have weighed that much for long enough that is has become your body’s homeostasis (natural balance). You then successfully lose 100 pounds over the course of a year or so. You look great… maybe feel great for a while… but your hormones are still acting like you should weigh 250 pounds! (2)
In other words, although you now only weigh 150 pounds, you WANT to eat like you are still 250 pounds!
So the weight slowly creeps back on… and you end up back where you started… or maybe even worse.
What can you do to help your body LOSE weight and also RESET the hormones to stop making you feel so hungry? How can you teach your body to keep the weight off for good?
We’ve found an evidence-based solution. You ready for this?
There seems to be better hormonal balance in those who lose weight and focus on a high-protein, high-fat and low-carb diet. (3)
Protein appears to help decrease the body’s natural appetite; helping you feel full for longer periods of time and delaying the production of ghrelin.
Protein also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. (4)
So if you are losing a lot of weight, focusing on eating more protein can help to “reset” your ghrelin levels and keep you cravings under control.
What does your breakfast look like? Unfortunately, a typical American breakfast contains a large percentage or carbs, but not a lot of healthy fats and protein.
Studies have found that eating a high-protein breakfast prevents body fat gain by decreasing hunger throughout the rest of the day. (5)
ORGANIFI COMPLETE PROTEIN is our very own VEGAN, GLUTEN FREE protein powder that doubles as a meal replacement when used as directed. It’s decadent, creamy, delicious, smooth and chock-full of nutrients.
Every ingredient is 100% USDA Certified Organic. Each scoop is stuffed with 20 grams of antioxidant-rich plant protein. There’s no whey, casein, or even dairy. There are no animal products at all, no nuts and definitely NO allergens.
This protein shake is also a multi-vitamin! It’s absolutely crammed with whole food vitamins and minerals! That’s right: real, whole fruits and vegetables. The kind you see at your farmers market. So, say goodbye to the processed Flintstones and gummy bear chewables. We extracted gently dried fruit and veggies to make an organic, whole food nutritional powerhouse. Now it’s the PERFECT meal replacement and an amazing health boosting snack. You can look forward to increasing your immune system AND ramping up your metabolism. You’ll feel full and satisfied for hours with this Complete Protein.
Grab your bottle of this amazing new protein shake everyone is talking about!
Instructions: Blend all ingredients together and drink asap after coming home from a workout.
Inspired by: Nutrition Is In The Kitchen
Cookie Dough (makes 20 balls)
Ice Cream (makes 2 servings)
Instructions: Place everything into your blender and enjoy.
Instructions: Blend together and ENJOY.
Source: Raw Food Recipes
Instructions: Blend to perfection and drink immediately.
Instructions: Add all ingredients together and blend to perfection. Enjoy immediately.
Instructions: Blend all ingredients together in a high power blender. Drink immediately.
Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend to desired consistency. Thick, milkshake-like consistency is best. Add ice cubes near end for best results.
About The Author
Drew Canole is a rockstar in the world of fitness, nutrition and mindset, with a huge heart for others and doing his part to transform the world, one person at a time.
As the founder and CEO of Fitlife.TV, he is committed to sharing educational, inspirational and entertaining videos and articles about health, fitness, healing and longevity. He is also a best selling author and the founder of Organifi, an organic, incredibly delicious greens powder, chock-full of superfoods to make juicing easy no matter your busy schedule.
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This post-workout vanilla smoothie packs 45 grams of protein, tastes like an old-school milkshake and it’s low-sugar. You’re going to love it.