Not a day goes by that Rich Roll isn't asked the same question, "But where do you get your protein?" Instead of getting his protein from steak, dairy, eggs and whey supplements like many athletes do, this 47-year old, accomplished vegan ultra-endurance athlete prefers to get his protein from whole plant food sources like beans, grains, greens and nuts/seeds. Rich explains in his article, Slaying the Protein Myth, how we have been deceived regarding the benefits from consuming animal-based protein. "We live in a society in which we have been willfully misled to believe that meat and dairy products are the sole source of dietary protein worthy of merit." The message that "the more protein - the better" is everywhere, especially among athletes. For example, a wide-spread misconception is that "Without copious amounts of animal protein, it's impossible to be healthy, let alone perform as an athlete."
Rich's experience has led him to realize that these misleading and false notions are "fueled by a well-funded campaign of disinformation perpetuated by powerful and well-funded Big Food, Big Ag, and industrial animal agriculture interests that have spent countless marketing dollars to convince society that we absolutely need these products in order to continue breathing air in and out of our lungs." He goes on to say, "The animal protein push is not only based on lies, it's killing us, luring us to feast on a rotunda of factory-farmed, hormone- and pesticide-laden, low-fiber foods extremely high in saturated fat. Eating this way, I remain convinced (despite the current populist fervor over high-fat, low-carb diets), is indeed a contributing factor to our epidemic of heart disease (the world's #1 killer) and many other lifestyle-induced infirmities that have rendered our prosperous nation one of the sickest societies on Earth."
In regards to protein requirements, Rich emphasizes, "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. Short of starving yourself, it's almost impossible [to be protein deficient.]"
Meeting our protein needs can easily be done when eating a whole-food, plant-centered diet. Protein from animal sources contributes to many leading causes of death and disability. Scientists have known about these devastating health problems that arise from consuming excess protein for more than a century, while the general public has little awareness of this fact.
Rich, who went from being a couch potato to one of the world's most fittest men, says that his athletic accomplishments were achieved as a direct result of adopting a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle. "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. In reality, I believe that eating plant-based has significantly enhanced my ability to expedite physiological recovery between workouts — the holy grail of athletic performance enhancement. In fact, I can honestly say that at age 47 I am fitter than I have ever been, even when I was a world-class-level competition swimmer at Stanford in the late 1980s."
Rich encourages other athletes by saying, "Despite what you might have been told, more protein isn't better. Satisfy your requirement and leave it at that. To my knowledge no scientific study has ever shown that consumption of protein beyond the RDA-advised minimum (10 percent of daily calories) stimulates additional muscle growth or expedites physiological repair induced by exercise stress. And yet most people — the overwhelming majority of whom are predominantly sedentary — generally consume upwards of three times the amount of daily protein required to thrive."
Rich's Forks Over Knives article lists many other athletes that have discovered these same truths. Read his entire article, Slaying the Protein Myth here.
For more information, click on the following links:
(1) Protein Overload