Vegan protein sources for boxers

Oct 15, 2019

Like any athlete (or human for that matter!) a boxer needs plenty of protein in their diet, along with the two other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats.

Protein differs from carbs and fats, though, because it is not stored in the body and therefore needs to be consistently supplied by food intake. When you consider that protein is the basis of all living cells – and essential for muscle building, cell growth, tissue repair, hormone balance and a strong immune system – it becomes clear how important a consistent supply really is.

So how much protein do you need? The Reference Nutrient Intake is 0.75g of protein per kilogram of body weight for adults with a non-exclusively vegan diet, but those consuming only plant-based protein should up their intake to 1g per kilogram of body weight due to differences in how the body digests and converts various protein sources. Anyone with a particularly active lifestyle – like a keen boxer for example – will likely need more again.

There is no need to go over the top, though. Too much protein can cause harm to a healthy body, while it has been proven that extra protein has minimal impact in terms of increasing muscle mass or strength. The best way to take protein on board is through the little and often approach because only the first 30g you eat per sitting gets used to produce muscle. And while exercise does break down protein in the muscle, contrary to beliefs in some quarters, specific post-workout protein is not needed.

It is worth noting however that many vegan protein sources are not complete - in other words, they do not contain all nine of the essential amino acids that the body requires to function. For that reason, it is important to combine vegan proteins to make sure you are giving your body everything it needs.

But as for the tired old notion of a dietary protein supply only being met by consuming numerous chicken breasts and washing them down with the latest whey shake? It feeds a scepticism around the ability to get enough protein in a vegan diet that really does not need to exist.

This blog is here to clear up that myth by highlighting 12 of the best plant-based whole food protein sources. And the good news is that you do not need to be fully vegan to reap the advantages of upping your intake of plant-based protein. Even a few swaps and additions during the week will ensure you nail your five-a-day more easily, plus benefit from more fibre, vitamins and minerals.

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Beans

Edamame beans contain 11g of protein per 100g and can be bought frozen and added to stir-fries, or eaten fresh with sea salt as a snack. Filling black beans have around 9g, and kidney beans have around 7g.

Chickpeas

A great addition to salads and curries, or delicious as the base for hummus, chickpeas have 8.5g of protein per 100g. They have also been shown to help in the fight against heart disease by reducing bad cholesterol.

Lentils

Beneficial to your wallet and to your protein intake, cheap option lentils contain around 7.5g of protein per 100g. They provide slow-release carbs and contain amino acids that will tell your brain you are full.

Nuts and nut butter

Nuts can be used to top your morning oats, lunchtime salad or evening stir fry, or eaten by the handful as a snack. Some are better than others, but you cannot go wrong with peanut butter at 24g of protein per 100g.

Oats

Not only do oats contain 16.9g of protein per 100g, but they are also proven to lower cholesterol. Oats can be heated as porridge during colder months or left overnight in the fridge at warmer times of the year.

Quinoa

A superhero in the plant-based protein world, quinoa is one of the few vegan foods to contain all nine essential amino acids. Swap out the rice and gain from quinoa’s 14g of protein per 100g, plus increased nutrient content.

Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain 19g of protein per 100g and can be easily added as a topper to meals. Meanwhile, chia seeds come in at 17g of protein per 100g and can be added to smoothies or made into puddings.

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Seitan

This mock meat, which you might hear referred to as wheat gluten, is highly processed so should not be eaten too regularly. However, when you need a boost, seitan is a great option, with 75g of protein per 100g.

Spelt

Spelt can be eaten warm, for example in a risotto, or left to cool and added to a salad. As well as being full of fibre, this ancient grain contains 15g of protein per 100g.

Spirulina

Although something of an acquired taste, it is worth adding a few grams of this algae to juices and smoothies. At 57g of protein per 100g, spirulina is a richer source of protein than most veggies, Tempeh A little harder to come by, but tempeh is another complete protein source. Weighing in at 12g of protein per 100g, tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and texture-wise is likened to mushrooms or chicken.

Tofu

A vegan classic, tofu weighs in at 8g of protein per 100g. It is available in firm or silken varieties and can be used in many different dishes, even replacing scrambled eggs. It is also a good source of calcium and iron.

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