25 Jan How to Get Protein and Omega 3 as a Vegan
Can you be healthy and fit without animal products? That’s the big question here. I’m not a vegan and I don’t pretend to be one, but I work with a lot of them, I work with a lot of vegan athletes, and I’ve worked with a lot of vegan executives in the past. One of the biggest hurdles that I’ve faced with them is making sure that they get enough protein and making sure that they get enough in the way of Omega-3 fatty acids. I wanted to do this video because I’ve been getting a lot of feedback lately on what vegans can do to get in the best shape of their life, and make sure that they’re getting the broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that they need to get in the best possible shape.
Let’s talk about the first major issue. When we think of vegans the first issue that comes to mind is: are they not getting enough protein? The simple fact of the matter is that the body is first of all adaptive, know if we’re not getting enough protein from a source over here the body’s going to do the best that it can to pull amino acids from a different source over here. In order for that to make sense, let me explain how the body processes proteins and how that really works. There are 20 amino acids that make up a protein. 11 of those are what are called non-essential, meaning the body can synthesize them and make them itself. The other 9 are what are called essential amino acids. Those are amino acids that need to come from the diet, they need to be consumed through different foods because the body cannot create them on its own. Those are the 9 amino acids that are very critical that vegans get in order to support healthy muscle function and in order to create the proteins they need for mere survival.
The problem is is that animal proteins contain almost equal amounts of all 9 of those amino acids, plant proteins generally do not. Some plant proteins do have all 9, but they’re mixed and matched in the levels of each amino acid. When you look at something like chicken, or you look at a meat of some kind, it’s going to have almost equal levels of all 9 of those essential amino acids, but then when you look at a complete vegetable protein, something like kin wah, it’s going to be deficient in a couple of those. It may have all 9 of the essential, but it’s going to be slightly deficient in some.
One of the biggest misconception that vegans face is that they have to be combining these proteins with every single meal, they have to be combining their vegetables with every single meal in order to create a complete protein. That’s not the case. We’re actually finding now that you can eat those different proteins throughout the day, you can eat those different carb sources, those plant sources that have amino acids within them but maybe not the full spectrum and they will accumulate throughout the day, and at the end of the day it will all be a wash because the body will be able to assimilate them all together. The body is pretty amazingly adaptive when it comes this. Again, you have to remember you really don’t need as much protein as some people will lead you to believe. If you’re an athlete I usually say 1-gram per pound of body weight. If you start taking in too much protein the body’s just going to store it as fat eventually anyway, it’s called a gluconeogenesis. What you have to look at is making sure you get just enough protein to recover from your activity, but also to sustain a healthy life.
Let’s talk a little bit about Omega-3s, because Omega-3s are something that are super, super important right now. We’re deficient in Omega-3s to begin with, whether you’re a mediator, a vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, or whatever the case may be. We are still generally pretty deficient in Omega-3s, and a lot of times that leads to an abundance of what’s called Omega-6 fatty acids. This imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 causes a lot in the way of inflammation, which contrary to popular beliefs, vegan’s are actually very susceptible to a lot of chronic inflammation because their Omega-6 to Omega-3 values are so skewed.
Omega-6 1:1 Omega-3
Eating a lot of starches, eating a lot of grains, and eating a lot of things like that are going to lead to a high level of Omega-6 fatty acids, and without the Omega-3s there to balance them out it leaves that gap way to wide, which can lead to inflammation. What can vegans do to make sure that they get those Omega-3 fatty acids, because you likely don’t want to take a fish-oil pill because it would go against traditional vegan methodology.
Before I explain what you can do, let me explain how Omega-3s work. Omega-3s, you’ve got 3 different kinds: you’ve got ALA, which is Alpha-Linolenic Acid, then you’ve got EPA, and then you’ve got what’s called DHA, which is Docasahexaenoic Acid. DHA is the culprit. ALA you can get from flax-seed, you can get from vegetable sources and seed sources of fats. That ALA is great, but that ALA can only be converted into EPA, the body cannot convert that ALA into DHA. That means that vegans are chronically deficient in Docasahexaenoic Acid. Fortunately, we are now finding that you can get DHA from seaweed, there are now seaweed supplements that contain copious amounts of DHA.
A recent study found that vegans that were given 170-milligrams of DHA per day, that’s not that much, showed a 1% increase in blood levels of Omega-3s in just 2-weeks time. We’re not talking about 1% of Omega-3s, we’re talking about a 1% increase in general, that’s a lot of Omega-3s that you’re increasing simply by taking a low-dose of a DHA supplement.
At the end of the day it’s all about balance. The body’s adaptive, the body is going to make things work, but we also have to use our adaptive brains and figure out what we need to do to add in the way of supplementation and the right foods to ensure we’re getting the right kinds of proteins, make sure we’re getting the right kinds of fats, so that if you’re a vegan you can continue to do what you love the most and also get in the best possible shape of your life. Thanks for watching, I’ll see you in the next video.