Eating 100% vegetarian this week; Amino acids & athletic performance.

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April

26

2016

Even though we still have some chicken breasts and seafood left in the freezer (it will not be replaced once it’s gone), I purposely didn’t defrost any chicken over the weekend. The main reason I didn’t defrost my usual lunch protein is because I am very excited to try out the excellent vegetarian/vegan lunch ideas provided by many of you last week.

Yesterday for lunch I had one of the Morningstar Farms black bean burgers that some of you recommended. I cooked the burger in a frying pan (I figured that would be better than nuking it), and ate it with lots of fresh kale, tomato, onion, dill pickle and spicy brown mustard. It was awesome! Thanks for the recommendations. These black bean burgers are definitely something we’ll keep on hand, as they make a great quick meal.

On a related note, my friend Craig sent me a recipe for homemade black bean burgers, and they look incredible! I’m going to wait and have the homemade burgers for dinner so that Lisa can enjoy them, too. We’ll probably have that sometime this week. The recipe Craig sent came from the Racing Weight Cookbook, which is the companion to Racing Weight. I bought Racing Weight 3 years ago on Craig’s recommendation, and it’s an excellent book. I’ll probably pick up the the cookbook at some point, too.

Today I think I’m going to make some quinoa for lunch, and have that with various veggies. I love quinoa. My biggest problem with it is that I have a hard time stopping once I start eating it. 🙂

Quinoa is one of the few plant-based “complete” protein sources. Complete proteins, as most of you know, are simply protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids. There are 22 proteinogenic amino acids, and the essential aminos are the 9 that human bodies can not synthesize. In other words, these 9 aminos are considered “essential” because our bodies require them, but they can only be obtained from foods.

The 22 amino acids.

The 22 amino acids.

With quinoa, you’re getting all 9 of those of those essential aminos. Not that it really matters much.

Wait. What?

While quinoa is an excellent plant-based protein, it’s not true that vegetarians need to consume “complete” proteins, or even complementary proteins in a single meal. As an athlete and someone who trains with weights, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading on the subject of vegetarian diet and protein consumption. I found this article by Jeff Novick to be enlightening: The Myth Of Complementary Protein.

In addition to dispelling the complementary protein myth (I was one of those who was misinformed on this subject), Jeff’s article contained another bit of information that I found highly interesting:

Modern researchers know that it is virtually impossible to design a calorie-sufficient diet based on unprocessed whole natural plant foods that is deficient in any of the amino acids. (The only possible exception could be a diet based solely on fruit.)
 
-Jeff Novick, M.S., R.D.

That makes sense to me, and I believe Jeff’s assertion that that virtually all vegetarians are getting their essential aminos. What I am unsure of, however, is that this strategy (or lack thereof, as it were) is ideal for hard training athletes.

I suspect this question will be answered when I read Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier:

Thrive seems to be the go-to book for vegan athletes.

Thrive seems to be the go-to book for vegan athletes.

Thrive was highly recommended to me by several vegan and vegetarian cyclists that I respect a great deal. I purchased the book a couple weeks ago, but I have not had time to dive in and read it yet. I can probably make the time by putting this book in the bathroom and leaving my smartphone on the desk. 😉

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