PT on the Net Research

Vegans and Protein


Question

I have a friend who is vegan, although she makes every effort to maintain a balanced diet she is suffering from lack of energy, repeated colds and is very slow to heal if she gets a cut (this is my biggest concern). She is also a trainer, so has a good idea of nutritional requirements and is not over training. But I am concerned. Having spoke together about this there seems to be very little fat in her diet and she does not always maintain regular eating habits due to time management... Can fat intake be a factor in these problems or am I barking up the wrong tree?? Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer

Adequate fat in the diet is important, as it is required in many biological functions. Also, there are essential fatty acids that, as the name implies, must be acquired or serious health problems can ultimately result. Anything termed essential in the diet means that it is necessary for proper functioning of the human organism and cannot be manufactured in sufficient quantities or at all by the body. That leaves the diet or supplementation as the only means of acquisition of these substances. Your friend's symptoms could be the result of inadequate fat in the diet, but it sounds to me more like inadequate protein intake. Dietary protein provides essential amino acids. These essential amino acids are often low or lacking in non-animal food sources. While eating a variety of foods (food combining) minimizes this problem, it can still be difficult to get enough of these essential amino acids, especially in an active person eating a vegan diet. Look at the diet, and shoot for at least 2.0 g/kg of body weight for protein. Your friend may need to go higher than this if activity is high and calories are not sufficient. Look to incorporate higher protein vegetarian foods, such as soy products (milk, cheese, tofu, etc). If normal food means fail to provide enough protein, look to a soy powder or a full spectrum amino acid supplement. Just in case the basics were overlooked, make sure your friend is taking a multivitamin and mineral formula, and if she participates in a lot of aerobic/endurance exercise, then an antioxidant formula makes great sense as well. I hope this helps.