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Where do you suppose cows get their protein?

April 18, 2012

A quick dive off into one of our side topics: diet.

No, don’t worry. We haven’t given up giving up wheat.  No, don’t fret. We are still overwhelmingly raw.

Via onegreenplanet.org

What I want to touch on is the oft-heard bugaboo for vegetarians (and raw foodists, unless you’re daring enough to eat beef carpaccio regularly): How do you get enough protein?

The answer Bobbie always gives is: “Where do you suppose cows get their protein?”

Right — plants.

I just came upon a nice, tight article on this subject by endurance athlete Rich Roll. Here’s a taste:

Proteins consist of twenty different amino acids, eleven of which can be synthesized naturally by our bodies. The remaining nine – what we call essential amino acids – must be ingested from the foods we eat. So technically, our bodies require certain amino acids, not protein per se. But these nine essential amino acids are hardly the exclusive domain of the animal kingdom.  In fact, they’re originally synthesized by plants and are found in meat and dairy products only because these animals have eaten plants. Admittedly, plant-based proteins are absorbed differently than animal proteins. And not all plant-based proteins are “complete”, containing all nine essential amino acids – two arguments all too often raised to negate the advisability of shunning aminal products. But in truth, a well-rounded whole food plant-based diet that includes a colorful rotation of foods like sprouted grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and legumes will satisfy the demanding protein needs of even the hardest training athlete.

Roll cites a number of athletes like himself who are vegan or vegetarian. But what really caught my eye — and the reason to pass this on — is the endurance part of his training regiment:

Provided your diet is made up of different combinations of the aforementioned foods, I can absolutely guarantee that you will never suffer a protein deficiency – it’s impossible.  Despite the incredibly heavy tax I impose on my body, training at times upwards of 25 hours per week for ultra-endurance events, this type of regimen has fueled me for years without any issues with respect to building lean muscle mass and properly recovering between workouts.  In fact, I can honestly say that at age 45, I am fitter than I have ever been, even when I was competing as a swimmer at a world-class level at Stanford in the late 1980’s.

Without sliding too much into a discussion of how “good for you” Ashtanga is, physically — studies sometimes imply yoga raises heart rates, others that it doesn’t, and I think we all know there’s a difference between a Yin Yoga class and a Mysore one — I tend to give it credit for “physical benefits” largely because of the amount of time we spend on our mat, in relative states of motion.

We may not jack our heart rates up as high as someone doing interval training, but does that training last 75 or 90 minutes? It is easy for an Ashtangi to put in seven to nine hours of practice a week.

Just by default, I think, that’s good for you. When I was training for a marathon, and running upwards of 35 or so miles a week, that still might have been six hours at most.

Ashtanga is, in some sense, an endurance sport. So Roll touting the worth of a plant-based diet translates easily to us, with our Niyamas.

Posted by Steve

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane permalink
    April 19, 2012 4:40 pm

    Has anybody come up with a time frame in which the various amino acids must be injested in order for them to neatly combine into a complete protein? Used to be thought it had to happen in the same meal and I understand that’s no longer considered necessary. So, what? Same day? Three hours? Just curious.

  2. Krista permalink
    August 3, 2013 8:15 pm

    Not to mention… cows eat a HUGE amount of bugs in grass and grain. There really is no such thing as a strictly vegetarian cow. Or very many other animals for that matter.

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