Why do vegans need more protein? “Although dietary recommendations are stated as protein requirements, the actual requirement is for amino acids.”(1) Plant protein sources tend to be low in one or more of the essential amino acids (amino acids the body cannot produce). For this reason it is important to consume a variety of plant foods that provide different amino acids.
RDA of 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/pounds) of body weight was determined using two-thirds or more of protein sources high in essential amino acids. Also, RDA is the MINIMUM daily average dietary intake level that meets the nutrient requirements. It is not the nutrient intake for optimal performance. RDA is the nutrient intake at which the risk of inadequacy is very small (2-3%).(2)
Requirements of individuals who diet to lose weight (negative calorie balance) or who consume plant proteins are higher (especially for vegans who try to lose weight).
Active individuals have increased protein requirements
These numbers apply for individuals consuming protein sources high in essential amino acids:
- Aerobic endurance athletes require 1.4 g/kg (0.64g/lbs) of body weight
- Individuals performing heavy resistance training require up to 1.7 g/kg (0.77 g/lbs) of body weight
- General recommendation for athletes not falling neatly into one category is 1.5 to 2.0 g/kg (0.68 to 0.91 g/lbs) of body weight
Athletes consuming a VEGAN diet or RESTRICTING CALORIES may require more than 2.0 g/kg (0.91 g/lbs) of body weight.
How much protein is too much?
Athletes with impaired renal function or low calcium intake or those who are restricting fluid intake, should not consume more than 4.0 g/kg (1.82g/lbs) of body weight per day.
1. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning 3rd Edition