How do you eat enough protein?

As a runner, and especially as a vegan, I’m asked this question frequently.

It’s an important topic, particularly when you consider all that protein does for your body. Athletes know protein as the vital nutrient to build and repair your muscle tissue, but did you know it also balances your blood sugar, regulates your hormones, provides energy, and promotes healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones?

Protein certainly isn’t impossible to come by as a vegan, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge to get the amount that my body needs. In the first few months of marathon training, I was barely functioning on about 40 grams of protein per day. For many people that intake seems adequate, but I later found out from a nutritionist that I should be aiming for at least 90 grams of protein per day. Yes, 90.

So the question remains, how do you get enough?

A well-crafted acai bowl is one of my favorite non-traditional ways to get protein. As someone who isn’t very fond of meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh, and setian, I find clean, plant-based protein powders to be an effortless go-to for smoothies, energy bites, acai bowls, and more.

This chocolate raspberry acai bowl in particular has about 30 grams of protein, making it the perfect way to start your day or replenish post-workout. Notably most of the protein comes from one of my favorite vegan protein powders, but I want to emphasize that it is not the only or main source of protein for me in general. Protein powders can do wonders as a supplement when you opt for a whole foods, plant-based option, but you should seek protein from other sources as well to ensure you maintain a well-balanced diet overall.

That being said, I like to supplement my diet with Vega’s clean protein powder, which combines pea, hemp, alfalfa, and pumpkin seed proteins to deliver 25 grams of complete protein for around 130 calories. Importantly, this particular protein powder also includes 4 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), which can help promote muscle protein synthesis and prevent fatigue in athletes.

But there’s more to this recipe than a scoop of protein powder, and that’s where super foods like flaxseed, maca, and spirulina come in.

Flaxseeds have a solid reputation as a positive source of healthy omega-3 fats, but did you also know that they’re loaded with antioxidants called lignans, which can help reduce free radical damage? This means flaxseeds have anti-aging and cellular-regenerating effects, and, bonus, they can also help balance your hormones – all while delivering about two grams of protein per tablespoon.

Maca, which has one gram of protein per teaspoon, can also work wonders for your hormones while boosting your energy levels and maintaining your adrenal health. Similarly, Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica can increase energy and performance levels as well. Known for being one of the most nutritious, concentrated whole foods, this type of spirulina is a phenomenal source of complete protein (2 grams per teaspoon), iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, and more. Even cooler, it can help your body detox heavy metals, speed up weight loss, and alleviate sinus issues. Who knew algae could do so much, right?

Now get out that blender. It’s time to make your food work for you. 

Prep Time: 10 minutes | Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients

Base Layer

Spirulina Drizzle

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1 tsp. Hawaiian Spirulina Pacifica
  • A couple of splashes of unsweetened almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)

Toppings

  • 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed
  • Raspberries

Suggested Toppings (optional)

  • Shredded coconut
  • Banana
  • Blueberries
  • Chia Seeds
  • Goji Berries

Directions

  1. To make the base layer, add the frozen banana, acai pack, frozen raspberries, almond milk, maca powder, and protein powder to a blender. Blend until smooth, pour into a bowl, and set in the freezer while you make the spirulina drizzle.
  2. To make the spirulina drizzle, add the frozen banana, spirulina, and almond milk to a clean blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Remove your base layer from the freezer and add your desired toppings. Using a spoon, drizzle your spirulina mixture on top. Serve immediately.

Questions, comments, or thoughts on this recipe? Leave a comment below!

 

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