Vegan Health ArticlesProtein and Athletic Performance
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From Dr. Holly Wilson, In Defense of Animals (IDA)
April 2012

Dear Dr. Wilson,

I would like to become a vegan, but my problem is a good source of protein. I go to the gym every day and I eat whey protein before and after my workout.

What can I eat to replace the whey protein?

Best Regard,

Don't Wanna be Wimpy

Dear Don't Wanna be Wimpy,

If you would like to become a vegan, then it is all there for the taking! No matter how often I discuss plant-based sources of protein in my column, the protein questions just keeps on coming. Sadly, we live in a culture that is bordering protein obsessed. Protein is an important constituent in our diet, yet does not need to come from a miserable, disease-stricken animal. As a vegan, if I were playing word association with 'cow', my initial response would not be 'protein' or 'beef', but instead 'herbivore'!

We have become indoctrinated into a system of misinformation regarding good sources of protein. We are raised on certain foods, derive comfort from them, and as we get older we continue the pattern without questioning it. And we usually go on to feed our children similar foods, with the belief that it will provide health and proper nutrition. When I became vegan, it was purely an ethical pathway I chose. I simply could not support the horrors behind my food production, and honestly was not even considering my own health. My body went through an adjustment. I was craving food that was not healthy, and I also had no support system. I didn't know any vegans, I knew of no online sources, and just had to figure everything out on my own. However the good news, is that today it truly has never been easier. Just over the past few years, we have made leaps and bounds in terms of choices in restaurants, supermarkets, books in the library, and online help. It is still a journey, and I am constantly learning. Yet the science is clear. Consuming a plant-based diet is the best thing you can do for yourself, the animals, and the planet.

Plant based sources of protein abound! There is protein at every turn! Even the American Dietetic Association has a webpage all about athletic performance and building muscle on a plant-based diet: Build Muscle, No Steak Required:

Here are some examples of vegan foods with high sources of plant protein: Tofu and Tempeh, Beans/Legumes, Whole Grains like Quinoa, Nuts & Seeds

There are even competitive athletes and bodybuilders who are vegan, like Robert Cheeke (Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness), Kennedth Williams (Vegan Muscle Power), Brendan Brazier (No Meat Athlete) and Mat Danzig (UFC Fighter Mac Danzig's Vegan Diet).

When it comes to your whey protein, please consider exactly what you are consuming and what you are supporting. Whey protein is cow milk derived. Cow milk is acidic, and the countries which consume the most dairy have the highest rates of osteoporosis. At the expense of the calcium in our bones, the acidity is neutralized. People who consume animal protein (all forms are acidic) have measurable levels of calcium excreted in their urine, in linear fashion. In other words, the more they consume, the more calcium they loose.

And the answer is not to take calcium supplements, but to simply abstain from animal protein in the first place. Cows are mammals, and just like humans- produce milk for their babies. When you consume whey protein or any other type of cow milk product, a baby is denied the nutrients that were intended for him (or her). Cows are impregnated annually to keep the milk flowing, and the babies and mothers are sadly separated. When a cow's peak milk production years are over, she is all of 3 or 4 years of age- a teenager! They can live to be 20, but are sent to slaughter instead to become hamburger. These animals lead wretched lived- impregnated artificially, left standing in a dark concrete stall and are in a constant state of grief over their babies. They have strong bonds with their children, and mourn their losses- just like you and I. Mechanical milking can lead to open sores and trauma, thus accounting for the blood and pus consistently found in milk, permitted by the FDA. The dairy industry is truly one of man's cruelest inventions.

Although it is not necessary to take a protein supplement to build muscle, there are numerous healthy, delicious alternatives to whey protein powder. Try Sun Warrior, Vega, Nutribiotic Rice Protein, or Nutiva Hemp Protein Powder.

You certainly will not miss it, and in fact will lead a much healthier and emotionally fulfilling life when you leave the cruelty behind! 

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.