Do vegans need more protein ?

I read from a vegan athlete Melody Schoenfeld that whatever is recommended for what you are doing as an omnivore a vegan should double the protein and also heard a vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke say that with vegan protein you should subtract 30% from the protein amount.

An interesting calculator . . .
How much protein do I need, and how do I get it from plants?

The truest SUCCESS is but the development of self. - Charles Atlas.


  • I don’t understand the logic of doubling protein for vegans. Perhaps it’s to ensure complete amino acids? If so, then a better approach, in my opinion, is to ensure more variety rather than more overall protein. Having more incomplete proteins won’t help.

    Did this person explain the reasoning?

    Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

  • I did some 100% vegan diet and used Cronometer to see the amino acids and they were even, maybe one had to be brought up to level. The people I mentioned didn't say why but I read this article . . .

    Soy and wheat proteins helpful for building aging muscles, but not as potent as animal protein

    The truest SUCCESS is but the development of self. - Charles Atlas.

  • Protein from meat is more available than proteins from plants. They are easier to access and digest. You might digest >90% of protein from meats but more like 70-90% from plant sources.

    Hypothetically, if a plant food had the same amount of protein and the same amino acid profile as a meat source you wouldn't get quite as much protein out of it for your body to use.

    Karen Stark
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  • Thank you, Karen, that makes sense, though the recommendation to double seems a bit much.

    Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

  • I LOVE chatting about plant-based protein as it's an area of expertise (and one that I apply daily as an OCR athlete). In general, vegans should aim for about 10% higher protein than their matched controls, but it depends on the type of protein you include. Soy and wheat gluten are absorbed as well as meat (>95%), pulses and grains are absorbed at 80-90% efficiency, and all other plant foods with protein are absorbed at 50-60%.

    If you are an older adult, pregnant, or an athlete, your protein needs will be higher than standard recommendations.

    In general, it's helpful to aim for at least 1 g of protein per kg of healthy body weight as an adult. For athletes, it depends on the sport and how well "trained" you are (new athletes need more protein to build muscle). For my sport, which combines both endurance and strength, I'd aim for a protein intake around 1.5 g per kg. This is easy to obtain since athletes eat A LOT of calories.

    The only other key message is to divide your protein throughout the day to maximize absorption. Most vegans I work with lack protein at breakfast or are consuming amounts that are too small.

    Happy to answer any other questions you may have on this topic!

    Susan Macfarlane, MScA, RD
    Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
    As always, any and all postings here are covered by our T&Cs:

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