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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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    A Look Back.



5 Warning Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein: A Guest Post from No Meat Athlete

Greetings from the middle of Virginia!  While I am transporting my life across the country, I have a special surprise for you guys.  No Meat Athlete is one of the first vegetarian blogs I started reading way back in the day, and I still look forward to each new post that pops up in my reader.  I even have the t-shirt (ignore my scraggly hair). 

[IMG_1265[3].jpg]

Matt’s blog is all about helping people run marathons and ultramarathons on a vegetarian diet – VERY cool.  You guys are in for a real treat today, because he wrote a special guest post just for Front Burner readers!  And it’s on a topic that I know a lot of you are interested in, because I get emails about it ALL the time.  So without further adieu…

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5 Warning Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein

A guest post from Matt Frazier, writer of the No Meat Athlete blog.

Where do you get your protein?

If you’re a vegetarian, especially an athletic one, you’ve likely heard that question dozens of times. We hear it so often it becomes a joke. But the question is a valid one: So many people who try out a vegetarian or vegan diet can’t make it last. After the initial energy gains, an imbalance in their diet (usually a protein or iron deficiency) catches up with them, and everything goes downhill. Their bodies crave meat again, they obey their cravings, and that’s the end of it.

What I did wasn’t perfect either

When I became vegetarian, I felt incredible. And I ran better than ever, qualifying for the Boston Marathon and running my first 50-mile ultramarathon, thanks largely to a lighter frame and more energy that allowed me to train and recover like I never had before. But with this energy and these accomplishments came the idea that my diet, by virtue of being plant-based, was exempt from traditional sports nutrition rules. I concluded that we don’t need nearly as much protein as the people in charge would have us believe. This belief caused me to let my diet slip, loading up on carbohydrates and slacking on the effort I once made to include protein in every meal. And—surprise, surprise—my performance suffered. And not just in running, but in my day-to-day activities. Fortunately, I recognized what was happening and addressed the problem. But had I been a new vegetarian when this happened, it might have led me to conclude that "a vegetarian diet doesn’t work for endurance sports," and I never would have made gotten all the benefits of such a clean diet. In case you’re that new vegetarian, here are five signs that (just once!) you need to listen to the critics when they say you need more protein.

1. You’re tired when you shouldn’t be.

Most vegetarians will tell you they have more energy now than when they used to eat meat. If you experience less energy, not enough protein might be the cause. I’m not talking about feeling groggy when you wake up. I mean wanting to take a nap in the middle of the day or evening when you never used to. And it doesn’t have to be just physical—a mental lack of motivation is also sometimes associated with protein deficiency.

2. You’re weak when you lift weights, run, do yoga, or do any other strenuous activity.

When you don’t get enough protein, your muscles aren’t able to repair themselves after a workout. In such a case, strenuous exercise can actually be counterproductive—you aren’t able to rebuild what you tear down, and you actually become weaker.

3. You’re flabby where you used to be muscular.

It’s not just the performance of your muscles that declines when you’re protein-deficient: Their appearance and size does, too. Why? If your body can’t find enough protein in your diet to sustain itself, it takes it from wherever it can find it. And wouldn’t you know it, your muscles, not your body fat, are where the protein is. Bottom line: If you don’t give your body enough protein, it’ll cannibalize its own tissue to get what it needs.

4. You’re getting injured and not recovering quickly.

Slowed recovery doesn’t just apply to rebuilding muscles after a tough workout—when you’re injured and protein deficient, your body will take longer to heal. Again, it’s pretty logical. Protein is necessary to build new tissue, so if it’s not available, your body can’t rebuild itself.

5. Your hair is falling out.

Seems like a weird sign of protein deficiency, doesn’t it? What’s going on here is that when you’re not getting much protein, your body goes into conservation mode. Among other things, it stops spending valuable protein on the production of things like hair and nails. The result: Hair in your shower, broken, brittle nails, and other pleasantries.

What to Do About It

So while the protein question is fair, there are plenty of good answers to it for vegetarians and vegans. Here’s what to do if you think you’re not getting enough. To figure out how much protein you should be getting each day, take your body weight in pounds and multiply by 0.4. That’ll get you slightly more than the U.S. recommended daily allowance. And as an athlete, you may find you need to up that number. There are plenty of fine non-animal sources of protein, even if you’re not down with eating soy at every meal. My favorite sources are beans of all kinds, but you’ll also find a good amount of protein in nuts, grains and seeds like quinoa, and even vegetables like spinach and broccoli. (Vegan bodybuilder Robert Cheeke has a great list of vegan protein sources on his website.)

Supplementing is another option. I find that starting the day with a smoothie with protein powder helps me ensure I get enough. Hemp protein is my favorite, but pea, rice, and soy protein powders are all viable vegan options. Finally, make sure you’re getting all the essential amino acids. If you rely too heavily on a single protein source, it’s likely you won’t be getting all the amino acids you need. On my website, I have page dedicated to helping people go vegetarian, which includes a chart of the amino acids in vegetarian foods.

So the next time someone asks you the protein question, don’t just blow them off. They have a point; protein should be a concern for vegetarians and vegans. But it’s absolutely not something you can’t overcome if you’re committed to experiencing all that this diet has to offer.

[matt nf finish image]

Many many thanks to Matt!  You guys make sure you check out his blog – I guarantee he has a lot more to teach you. 

Next time you hear from me, I’ll be in my new home – wheeeeeeeeeee!

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65 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Andrea @ Run, Eat, Date, Sleep     at 1:12 pm

Great post!!! I’m bookmarking so I can come back later and read it all when I’m not at work.

Can’t wait to see pictures of your new home!!

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kATH     at 1:20 pm

Great post!

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R @ Learning As I Chop     at 1:21 pm

Thank you!!

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Ashley     at 1:31 pm

Thanks you both! :)

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Rachel @ FitFunandFabulous     at 1:49 pm

Very informative! I definitely felt the lack of protein in my diet when I went veggie. Now I eat fish, so I guess I’m a pescatarian. It works fo rme!

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Christin L.     at 2:19 pm

I laughed pretty hard when my Google Reader displayed the title as only “5 Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough.” My mind went straight to the gutter on that one! :)

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Ron S Reply:

Lol. I am all of the above. Christin I must not be getting enough! Protein that is ;-)

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Jillian@ ReshapeYourLife     at 2:26 pm

Awesome guest post! I am not vegetarian but like to limit my meat consumption and often wondered the protein question.

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Dorry     at 3:31 pm

Awesome post – full of very useful info + resources. :) Hope the move is going well!

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Amber K     at 3:53 pm

I really enjoyed this post! Even more so because I was asked that question just yesterday.

It tends to also be accompanied by a particular face *squinty, quizzical face* “WHAT do you eat for protein????” lol

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judi0044     at 4:10 pm

Glad you made it! Hope your pups settle in. Hope you get everything unloaded safely and rest up! Enjoy your blog and adventures.

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Heather     at 4:22 pm

not a vegitarian, but still very informative! love the shirt!

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Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen)     at 4:45 pm

Love this guest post! Really great information!

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Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef     at 6:31 pm

great info! i’m not a vegetarian but still useful info. :)

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Ana     at 6:40 pm

Great post, love all the tips!!
Thanks to both Emily and Matt!
Ana

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Ashley R.     at 6:47 pm

This has been so helpful. I can definitely relate. I limited my meat consumption to about twice a week 4 months ago and became anemic and ironically I noticed my hair has been coming out more than usual. Soooo I’m assuming I’m low on protein as well. I will be making adjustments – thanks!

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sarah     at 8:31 pm

Just one thing. It’s without further ado. Not adieu. Unless you were feeling French. Why did I feel the need to comment? I have no idea. Maybe because I’m hungry. AHA! A sixth sign of protein deficiency: going into proofreader mode!

HOW’S THAT MOVE COMING???

Oh, and great post, Mr. NMA! I am, alas, one of those “can’t make it work, so gave up on it” non-veg-heads, but still a NMA devotee…

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Hahaha your comment is ridiculous. :) And that is why I love you.

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Annie@stronghealthyfit     at 12:07 am

Great guest post!

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maria @ Chasing the Now     at 9:03 am

Great post. I have been wondering a little about this, since I’ve stopped tracking calories and nutrients. It’s good to know what I need to keep an eye out for!

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Kristen @ Kristen, Sweetly     at 9:51 am

Awesome guest post! I’ve tried to be conscious of my protein intake since I went veg last year. I think I’m getting it down, at least more than I used to. But I never thought about the mental clarity aspect. I’m not physically weaker, but I really do wake up groggy sometimes. I don’t think I would have associated it on my own. Something new to consider! Thanks, Matt and Emily.

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S @ extremebalance.net/blog     at 10:17 am

Good to know… I’m not a big meat-eater, and was a veggie for a long time, but after 12 years I became severely anemic and found that I stayed healthier with one red meat meal a week–which I ate grudgingly at first! Fish became my staple, because birds and I don’t mix. Then I became allergic to fish, and found it hard to work out my lean protein. So these days, as I’m trying to put muscle on, I’ve worried about my protein intake more than ever… but now I have a new website to give me tips for working out without losing the benefits. Awesome! Thanks, Matt! Happy move, Emily!

[Reply]

5 Warning Signs You Aren't Getting Enough Protein: A Guest Post … Eating     at 1:01 pm

[...] posted here: 5 Warning Signs You Aren't Getting Enough Protein: A Guest Post … By admin | category: protein | tags: protein | Take Protein Supplements When Working [...]

Sarah @ EatRunGarden     at 2:07 pm

Thanks for this post, I just found out that I need more protein in my diet.
can’t wait to see photos of your new home. Good luck with moving everything back inside.

[Reply]

April @ Crazy Fabulous Life     at 8:57 pm

Awesome post!

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Robyn @ Wannabe Writer Runner     at 9:22 pm

Perfect post since I’m a new no-meat athlete! I wonder if lack of protein has contributed to my knee problems, hmm.

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Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul     at 6:26 pm

Thanks, Matt, for this informative post! I am not vegetarian or vegan, but have considered going animal-free for a while. As you might expect, protein is one concern. It’s great to have a list of tell-tale signs protein deficiency to keep in mind – even for us non-veggies.

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Caroline     at 10:02 am

I’m new to your blog, but I’ve been reading NMA for awhile, and I’m loving them both! I’ve been about 95% vegetarian for awhile now but recently made the full commitment and I think I actually eat more protein now because I’m not assuming that the meat I’d eat once a week and nuts as a snack would see me through (okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I definitely focus on it more now and have some source of protein in every meal). My nails are stronger too. I hadn’t thought of that as a sign before!

[Reply]

Emily @ The Front Burner Blog Reply:

Hi Caroline – welcome to the blog!

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Cati @ crave and create     at 6:38 pm

Thank, Emily and Matt! I’ve actually been struggling with a few of the issues you mentioned for awhile – low energy, low mood, slow-healing injuries. I eat a mainly vegetarian diet but always assumed I was getting enough protein – I think I’m going to take a closer look now!

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Why, Really, Do You Run (or Do Whatever it is You Do)? | No Meat Athlete     at 11:42 am

[...] At the D.C. Vegfest on Saturday, I got to meet my blog-buddy and fellow vegetarian runner, Emily from the Front Burner.  Check out the guest post I wrote for Emily last week, 5 Warning Signs You Aren't Getting Enough Protein. [...]

Gena     at 10:08 pm

Great post, Matt!

I get a LOT of reader emails from the newly raw with thinning hair. Very disturbing, as it’s an obvious sign that they’re missing the vital protein they need. I appreciate your insisting, though, that eating a plant based diet is a matter of proper experimentation and adjustment — NOT of running away when something is slightly off!

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Julie     at 1:33 pm

Love this post, I am new the the Vegetarian Lifestyle and just found this source of information today .. Awesome!

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other people’s handiwork « Change Is Possible     at 5:11 am

[...] 5 Warning Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Protein from The Front Burner: Besides counting grams, how do you know if you’re getting enough protein? [...]

Orla     at 10:44 am

I needed this post!! thank you. I have been vegetarian since may (still eat fish about once every 2 weeks) but in the last 2 weeks I have been exhausted even with 10+ hours sleeping at the weekend and cutting right back on my runs.

thank you! I am glad that this is not just happening to me!

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Molly     at 12:39 am

Thanks for the signs that you’re not getting enough protein.. I think a lot of meatless eaters can’t figure out why they are being injured so often, but it’s because the protein intake is really low. I upped mine and I’m doing great now!

-Molly
Antique Jewelry

[Reply]

Tyrunea     at 8:27 pm

Is there a disorder that can cause muscle wasting due to protein deficiency? I’ve got a friend who said they had one… and I promised I wouldn’t ask any more questions about it…

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Tracy     at 2:50 am

Thanks for the info. I just ate a bowl of soy yogurt w/ground flax & hemp seed. Mmm!I’ve been dealing w/hair loss for several months now and thought it was Vit D- live in the NW :) &/or Protein deficiency. I have an appt. w/nutritionist, by way of my doc, but my experience has been that they’re not very knowledgable about vegan diets and insist you include meat and dairy in your diet. I will not do that. I also related to the tiredness
and slow recovery from overstretching my hip in karate. I will make adjustments for sure. I did read the very comprehensive list of “basic building blocks to protein w/amino acids” list on Matt’s page too. I’m going shopping tommorow.

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nuttmegs17     at 11:36 am

Great post. I am not vegan and I still run into this issue so it applies to many different groups.

One note – if you ARE getting enough protein and are even taking a supplement, look at your iron (or ferratin) levels. Know the ranges and ask your doc for a blood test (Vitamin D is also good to ask for and keep tabs on). Also, dont let them tell you you are “normal” – actually look at the range youself and see where you fall and if you need to kick it up a notch. I was deficient but my doc told me I was normal and it wasnt until I went elsewhere that I was told about it my deficiency. Since then, I have been much more proactive in knowing my numbers and adjusting accordingly. Being deficient in any vitamin can really make you feel like crap.

If you eat right and you even supplement and still are experiencing those above symptons, you might be running into malabsoprtion issues….which can be caused by a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Hair falling out, weakness, etc are also signs of thyroid problems. Again, educate yourself though, bc there are really DUMB docs out there. I’m saying this as someone sorting out thyroid disease and gluten probs at one time.

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Jeff     at 12:16 pm

This is good information and compelling. Just wondering if there are any related scientific studies in this area that anyone on this thread could point me to.

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Carpal tunnel     at 1:14 pm

I know this sounds too simplistic and cliched but the truth remains that it is true. Nevertheless, because you and I did not adhere to a healthy diet and way of life, we would be a lot more interested in solutions that would assist us remove all of the cellulite.

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Parker     at 5:50 pm

I have seen a lot of posts on other sites talking about soy being a pro-estergen food and very bad for men tring to build muscle. Is there any truth in this and if so what do you suggest?

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Amy Bourcier     at 7:29 am

I am also a vegetarian (5 years)…and have found that getting enough protein is challenging. (I love the calulator that is included above!!) I do not eat any tofu…do to the potential negative effects on your estrogen levels (tofu comes from soy and soy can act as a xenoestrogen in your body).

I am an ERVP in Arbonne – a health and wellness company. We have amazing protein shakes that are VEGAN certified – made with mostly pea protein. They taste great and are fairly low calorie (190 for Chocolate and 180 for vanilla). If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me :).

My daughter just also bought me a book on vegetarian meals (that are easy and yummy). I find I do better when I prepare ahead of time and plan out what I am going to eat.

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Tris.w     at 2:56 pm

You can’t NOT get enough protein if your eating sufficient calories. All foods contain enough protein if you are eating your daily requirements of cals. The ONLY way to get protein deficiency is by starving yourself, and you will then be deficient in most things! :)

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David Twyman Reply:

Yep

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christy     at 10:52 am

I live by a simple rule when it comes to getting the amino acid profile right in (nearly) every meal:

Combine 3 of these 4:
grain (brown rice)
seed (flaxmeal)
nut (nutbutter)
beans, legumes

Of course, brown rice and beans make an easy complete protein all on thier own!

For breakfast, I’ll often have brown rice with flaxmeal, almond butter, and some microwaved frozen fruit. Yummy!

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Jessica     at 1:20 pm

Good to be addressing this issue! I am also concerned about people getting adequate B-12 w/o supplementation. Can you address this concern?

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Getting Enough Protein « Between Your Ears     at 4:47 am

[...] as much as you think you need. By this calculator, I need between 60-67 grams per day. By this guys’ calculations, I only need 49.2 grams per [...]

David Twyman     at 5:52 am

It’s virtually impossible to be protein deficient unless you aren’t eating enough food in general, not the type of food. High carbs is the way to go. Check out Durianriders on youtube. Base your decisions on results, not theory.

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Jenn     at 10:29 am

VERY Helpful post! I recently started training for a half marathon and keep getting very sick after long runs ( dizzy and weak). I thought this was a sugar low or a dehydration problem but now I think this is because of protein! Thank you for the great advice!

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Lfcfan     at 7:46 am

Thanks a lot i was suffering from hair fall and brittle nails , i workout a lot but wasnt eating enough

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Jessy     at 8:54 am

Hello,

I am not a vegetarian but I was told last year after doing blood work that I had low protein, the nurse who called just told me to eat more chicken and fish and less carbs. She didn’t seem to be to worried and so I blew it off. Now a year later, I am regretting it. My friends told me that I wasn’t loosing a lot of hair in the shower that it was natural and that I just wasn’t sleeping very well at night so I was always tired. I now have a new doctor and they just did blood work yesterday and I am waiting for the results but I know what it will say. I have low protein. My nails are so pathetic and my hair is so thin and is always breaking. As I sit here and type this, I want to go to sleep. I wish my other doctor would have made me understand how important this was… :[

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Jessy     at 8:56 am

Thanks for the article, it’s made me realize how important protein is!

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Tyler     at 6:33 am

Great article, I’m not a vegetarian but was more interested on seeing side effects from people who do not take enough protein. The one thing I have noticed about marathon runners is they do not need a lot of muscle mass compared to other competitive sports. It can easily be recognized in the pic showing Matt being thin etc..

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Frank Rizo     at 1:22 pm

Protein deficiency is uncommon with anyone who isn’t actually malnourished. The World Health Organization outlines the optimum protein requirement as 0.75g of protein per kg of lean body weight, which works out to close to 10% total calories from protein. This amount is more than easily met without any effort on a plant-based diet, provided you eat a variety of foods.

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Ann     at 2:35 pm

I am not a vegetarian however I had bypass surgery years ago an I have the symptoms of protein defeciency. I have begun protein supplements an wonder if you can tell me how long it takes to reverse the hair loss and sagging skin.

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Maggie     at 9:17 pm

This is very helpful for me- I’m not vegetarian, but I rarely eat meat, because I don’t like a lot of it. I know I’ve been protein deficient at a few points in my life (my doctor always yelled at me, because I didn’t get enough protein to grow at my usual rate), and I have a feeling that I might be again, after reading this. I really need to find more food that I like, since being a picky eater isn’t doing me any good.

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