2.22 Amount of Protein
The USDA recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 46 g/day for women and 56 g/day for men. Athletes such as marathon runners and bodybuilders are frequently recommended to have a very high protein diet, about 2-3 g/kg of protein compared to 0.8 g/kg in normal people, however there are many examples of competitive bodybuilders eating less protein than this. On the flip side, many cultures that live long, vibrant lives such as the Okinawans, obtained only 7% of their calories from protein. That translates to less than 40 g/day assuming a 2000 calorie/day diet! This goes completely against the common consensus that we need to eat large amounts of protein to be healthy!
So…we may not really need to get as much as RDA stated above by the USDA, however if you get the right healthy protein source from plants, the amount may not matter all that much. You may be thinking, “How can I get enough protein from only plant sources?” To answer this question, go find an elephant, gorilla, or stallion and look at the size of their muscles. They are purely on a whole food plant based diet.
How about consuming enough protein to be able to athletic or exercise at a high level? Don’t all athletes eat a lot of protein from meat sources? Not at all. Just the opposite. Many athletes thrive on a plant based diet such as bodybuilders including the worlds strongest man Patrik Baboumian (and many other body builders) and ultra-endurance athletes like Rich Roll (who did 5 ironman triathlons in 5 days on 5 islands of Hawaii).
Lets think about how easy it is to get 46-56 g/day of protein on a plant based diet. See the protein content of many plant foods below:
Now lets see how an animal source directly compares to a plant based source of protein. You will see it is quite easy to get protein from plants!
Lastly, lets examine a diet that focuses only on 2 specific plant foods. Say brown rice and peas. If you ate 1500 calories of brown rice and 500 calories of peas, you would get 35 g of protein from the brown rice and 34 g of protein from the peas to make 69 g of protein! No one will really eat this way, but still you can see how easy it is to get adequate protein from plant based sources. Brown rice and peas are not even the highest protein plant foods. Legumes and nuts/seeds are even higher in protein!
On a whole food plant based diet, do not worry about getting enough protein as long as you are eating a good variety of whole plant foods. If more than 30-50% of your calories are coming from fruit, which is indeed lower in protein, then there may be reason for some concern, thus be sure not to eat 20 apples per day trying to keep the doctor away.