‘How do you get enough protein?’
‘But vegan food is so expensive…’
‘Something something amino acids…’
There’s lots of reasons why someone might be a bit intimidated to try a vegan diet.
As children, we’re told that milk gives you strong bones. Not that consuming it is directly linked to more bone fractures.
As teenagers, we’re told that lean meats like chicken are vital for building a strong body. Not that there’s better protein sources that aren’t laced with antibiotics and produced from suffering.
As adults, we get stuck in our ways and do what we’ve always done.
Yet just like how you don’t wear that ridiculous Pokémon hat pointed to the side like you did when you were 13 (...just me?), you also don’t need to eat like how you’ve been told to do your whole life.
When I first went vegan, I was eating steak and eggs for breakfast, chicken and rice for lunch, and salmon for dinner. Throw in a few whey protein shakes, and several stomach aches, and that was my rough day.
After cutting out the animal products, my weight actually skyrocketed, and so did my numbers in the gym.
It took me a while, though. I bought into the myths and inaccuracies about going vegan.
To help shine a light on the reality of a plant-based diet, I've taken a look at the top 5 most common myths about the vegan diet!
Myth #1 - A vegan diet doesn't provide enough protein
As we all know, Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle, and is important for healthy hair, nails, and collagen. The average person needs around 0.8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight (athletes require a bit more, around 1.3-1.8g per kg)
Simply put a whole-foods plant-based diet will provide plenty of protein.
For example, a simple breakfast of...
- 1/2 cup of oats
- 2 tbsp of peanut butter
- 2 tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 cup of soy milk
...will provide 28 grams of protein!
One study found that people who eat a plant-based diet tend to get roughly twice the recommended amount of protein in a day. Plus, ask any doctor - protein deficiency is virtually unheard of in the western world, and a simple vegan diet will make sure you get enough protein in your day.
For athletes though, it can sometimes be a struggle to eat enough whole foods. In that scenario, it can be worth considering a high-quality plant-based protein supplement.
And while we’re talking about protein...
Myth #2 - Plant protein is inferior to animal protein
When I first started trying to put a bit of muscle on my skinny-fat frame back in the day, I really believed this one. I was convinced I'd have to have a Doctorate in nutrition to get everything I needed to build muscle optimally. I was wrong.
In short, the idea that you need to go out of your way to combine amino acids on a vegan diet is a myth, and has been dispelled by the nutrition community years ago.
While some plants are admittedly low in certain amino acids, there is no need to eat complementary proteins together in every meal (so instead of just rice, you ought to have rice AND beans, or your biceps will fade to nothingness by morning).
The human body is extremely intelligent, and it maintains pools of free amino acids, meaning that our body will complement the food that we eat. It then effectively recycles protein; around 90 grams of protein are thrown back into our digestive tract every single day, in order to be broken down and reassembled.
This means that our body can easily mix and match amino acids to whatever proportions we need. The only reasons that animal products have 'complete' amino acid profiles, is because their body has already done this for them - but there's no need! Skip out the middleman and simply eat the plants.
Myth #3 - Vegans rely on supplements to stay healthy
Yes, we are a supplement company - but bare with me.
Vegans don’t need to take any supplements that omnivorous eaters shouldn’t take either!
While we make supplements to optimise your health, we’re fully transparent that only a few are really important.
The most common vegan supplements are:
Vitamin B12: produced by bacteria found in soil. Due to modern farming methods, we no longer get this in our foods. B12 is only found in animal products because they are given a supplement.
Omega 3: Algae is the primary source of omega-3 fats. The only reason fish contain omega-3 is because they eat the algae!
Vitamin D3: Generated from the sun, a D3 supplement is recommended for people who live in greyer climates, and who don’t get a lot of sunlight. It’s particularly important in the winter months. We highly recommend that vegans and non-vegans alike take a high quality vegan Vitamin D3 supplement.
Myth #4 - Following a vegan diet is too expensive
Just like most things in life, you can make it expensive if you want to. But in reality, Vegans don’t only eat expensive processed fake-meats or dine out in gourmet restaurants every night. Most eat whole foods that are significantly cheaper than meat products, and with more protein.
Dry lentils - 1.6 cents per gram of protein vs Eggs - 2.5 cents per gram of protein
Dry beans: 1.1 cents per gram of protein vs Chicken: 1.5 cents per gram of protein
Brown rice: 1.9 cents per gram of protein vs Ground beef: 4 cents per gram of protein
Psst...worth noting that this is US pricing, and taken from your run-of-the-mill store. It is almost definitely out of date by the time you read this.
However, the point still stands: whole-foods are significantly cheaper than animal products!
Myth #5 - Vegans are weak and lacking in energy
The idea that vegans are scrawny and stick-thin is fading rapidly, in no small part due to the large amount of athletes who eat a vegan diet for performance.
Just to name a few, look at...
Lewis Hamilton, the most successful Formula 1 drivers in history
Serena Williams, who has won 23 grand slam tennis single titles
Morgan Mitchell, Australian Olympic 400m and 800m sprinter
Kendrick Farris, double American Olympic record holder in weightlifting
If they can perform on a vegan diet, the average person can too.
For more athlete inspo, it’s worth checking out ‘The Gamechangers’, produced by James Cameron
Still got doubts about going vegan?
That’s okay - seriously. Changing your lifestyle can be tough.
Start by taking small steps, and don’t get down on yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day!
To provide support, we’ve created the Plant Based Pledge, a completely free content hub where we provide expert support on how to transition to a vegan lifestyle.
It’s really flexible, so pledge whatever feels achievable to you: whether that is eating plant-based one, two, or all seven days of the week. This isn’t like Veganuary: we’re running the Pledge all year. So if you drop off, or have a bad day, just jump back on when you can.
Remember, be kind to yourself, make little improvements day by day, and your future self will thank you.
Take it easy,
Marsh KA, Munn EA, Baines SK. Protein and vegetarian diets. Med J Aust. 2013;199(S4):S7‐S10.
Clarys P, Deliens T, Huybrechts I, et al. Comparison of nutritional quality of the vegan, vegetarian, semi-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian and omnivorous diet. Nutrients. 2014;6(3):1318‐1332.
Karlsen MC, Rogers G, Miki A, et al. Theoretical Food and Nutrient Composition of Whole-Food Plant-Based and Vegan Diets Compared to Current Dietary Recommendations. Nutrients. 2019;11(3):625.
Mariotti F, Gardner CD. Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets-A Review. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2661.