By Aaron Gilbert
Question: Why do some folks feel plant-based eating doesn’t provide enough protein?
Answer: Most people aren’t familiar with plant-based diets and the research supporting them. Look no farther than athletes who eat plant-based. Eat properly, and you’ll get all the protein you need. We’re also misled to believe that meat, milk, etc. are the best “protein” foods. Indeed, many people do not even know that plants contain any protein at all. Don’t worry, plants have protein.
Q: Joe/Jane Meat-Eater decides to start eating more plant-based. Where will Joe/Jane likely go wrong?
A: Eating too many refined and processed “vegetarian” foods. The real benefit from “plant-based” comes when the diet is centered on whole unrefined/unprocessed fruits, vegetables, intact whole grains and legumes with the addition of a few nuts/seeds.
Q. Some folks are concerned with controlling carb intake and often get scared away from plant-based eating. What do you tell them?
A: Over 90 percent of carbs consumed in America are highly refined, highly processed, and mostly in the form of refined flour and sugar. This is the problem. Avoid these. However, carbs in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, intact whole grains and legumes are the healthiest foods for us and should be the center of any healthy diet.
Q. Some folks want to gain muscle/strength and fuel high levels of performance. What do you suggest they do to get enough nutrient-dense food each day?
A: Try to eat only when hungry, eat only until satisfied and drink lots of water. To lose fat, eat two meals and three snacks per day. To maintain body composition, eat three meals and two snacks per day. To gain muscle, eat five meals per day.
Make yours meals using nutrient-dense foods like veggies, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, legumes and then grains (in that order). Eating like this consistently will lead to amazing results.
Dos and don’ts:
If you’re considering moving toward a plant-based diet, or just want some more plant-based choices, here are the experts’ tips:
DO choose your protein sources carefully.
DO aim for about 1 gram of protein per kg of bodyweight; add 30-40 grams each day if you are in a phase of intense training.
DO get enough fat.
DO eat a variety of whole foods, especially lots of vegetables and fruits.
DO stay active.
DO use your body’s hunger cues to guide you. If you want to lose fat, eat a little less than you would normally. If you want to gain mass, eat a little more.
DON’T get your nutrition information from bodybuilding magazines.
DON’T just cut things out without adding healthy alternatives.
DON’T consume too many processed foods, including “healthy” protein powders and processed soy products.
Aaron Gilbert, CSCS, is the owner of Longevity Athletics.
This column appears in the October issue of InMaricopa.