Your usual pick-me-up, caffeine, is found in coffee, cocoa, and guarana plants. Today we’re here to talk about plant sources that not only energize you, but provide your body with building blocks. Furthering your knowledge on the subject of nutrition will not only help you understand your body’s needs better, it’ll also help you stay motivated to stick to your diet.
What is a plant protein?
The name is self-explanatory, a plant protein is a food that is high in protein and derived from a plant source. Some of the most common examples that would come to mind are lentils, chickpeas, and tofu. When comparing animal protein to plant protein from a nutritional perspective, animal proteins tend to be higher in protein content, and also have a more complete amino acid profile. Out of the 20 amino acids found in nature, 9 are considered essential, which are the ones you need to eat through your diet. Animal protein contains all 9 in sufficient amounts, but most plant protein sources offer a limited amount of at least 1 essential amino acid. This may make it seem like plants are an “incomplete” source of protein, but as long as you eat a variety of plant based protein you’ll get sufficient amounts of the amino acids your body needs. Protein is the building blocks of your body, and amino acids are what make up proteins. Let’s understand the relationship between amino acids and plants a little better.
How much variety does my plant based diet need?
The “myth” that plants are an incomplete source of protein comes from a 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. She recommended “protein complementing,” strategically pairing plant proteins at each meal to achieve a certain balance of amino acids. Can you imagine pairing 2 meats to get the right balance of muscle building protein? The world would be so different if every dish had to include at least 2 meats, but it doesn’t seem so with plants as it’s quite commonplace to eat a variety of plants in one dish. 10 years later, Lappe went on to say that as long as someone isn’t dependent on fruits, tubers or junk food, the building blocks they’ll receive from plant based protein will cover all the essential amino acids. Let’s understand the link between amino acids and energy.
Fuelling up with amino acids
BCAAs, branched chain amino acids, are a common form of nutrition supplements that people use, one of their benefits being an energy boost. These amino acids make up over 30% of our muscle building protein, have been proven to improve running endurance and reduce fatigue, and are found in beans and legumes. BCAAs only contain 3 out of the 9 essential amino acids, so let’s do a complete review of which essential amino are involved in us feeling energetic:
- Valine: a BCAA, it is actively involved in energy production.
- Leucine: also a BCAA, its aids regulate your blood sugar
- Isoleucine: the third BCAA, which aids metabolism and energy regulation
- Histidine: This regulates your sleep-wake cycle.
- Lysine: Plays a major role in energy production
- Methionine: Important for zinc absorption and metabolism.
- Phenylalanine: Helps your body with creating nonessential amino acids.
- Threonine: Aids in fat metabolism for energy usage.
- Tryptophan: Regulates sleep.
As you can see, all the 9 essential amino acids play their own role in different processes that supply you with energy. This gives you an overview of how a macro, protein, plays its role in providing you with fuel. There are also micronutrients that are responsible for energy production. Let’s talk a little bit more about how you can ensure you’re receiving enough essential amino acids through your plant based protein
The micronutrient quotient
The list of micros that provide you energy is a long one, but not all of them are found in foods that are also high in plant protein. Let’s narrow our list down to know the best foods to include in our diet:
- Soybeans: High in protein, B-vitamins, copper, and phosphorus. Phosphorus, the heart of everyone’s favorite energizing food, banana, and copper, are involved in conversion and absorption of food into energy.
- Pumpkin seeds: One of the 5 plant sources for Terra Origin Organic Plant Protein! Seeds are an excellent source of protein and energizing minerals like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Zinc is needed for the production of hormones in the body that affect energy and mood, and also for muscle recovery. As mentioned earlier, the amino acid methionine helps with the absorption of zinc.
- Brown rice: The second source for our Organic Plant Protein is high in manganese, a mineral that breaks down carbohydrates and proteins to generate energy.
- Quinoa: Another grain, it’s high in protein and magnesium, which helps relax blood vessels and muscles and provides you with lasting energy.
- Beans: High in protein, this gives you long-lasting energy through complex carbohydrates that take time to get digested.
Now you know the micronutrients that energize you and some great foods that contain those along with protein!
You reap what you sow…
This old adage is also the perfect metaphor for nutrition, because you will notice the benefits of eating healthy in the long-term. Filling up on sources of plant protein that energize you will not only provide your body with building blocks and a clean source of energy, but will also provide you with a plethora of micronutrients that will not only energize you but benefit you in many other ways. Jumpstart your protein intake with our vegan protein powder, Organic Plant Protein!