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PROTEIN IS KEY! Are you getting enough? Is your body functioning at its best? Info & thought piece.

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

***Please note I am not a doctor. This blog post is written using school notes and based off of personal experience.

I used to be vegan and it was a ride that taught me the importance of protein!

Humans have been eating both plants and animals, since as long as we decided it was worth surviving and populating the planet.


  • Immune system - includes protein structures.

Do you keep getting sick?

  • Muscle structures are made of protein.

How do you recover from physical activity? Injuries? Energy levels?

  • Skin collagen is protein.

Best way to boost collagen? Eat collagen- bone broth and slow cooked fatty meats.

  • Hair keratin is protein.

Common symptoms of low protein demonstrated in our hair quality: texture, amount, hydration, thickness, hair line, colour.

  • Hormones- the precursors are proteins

Here we can think about the many types of hormones used throughout the body...

Disclaimer: the body is complex so it's not JUST protein involved with all of this-

Important Hormones Created From Protein:

  • Reproductive hormones for fertility, menstruation, sexual desire and performance (versus impotence). Hormonal imbalance like fibroids, cysts, PMS, cramping, sperm/egg quality, etc.

  • Digestive hormones like insulin, that is used to regulate sugar intake into our cells to produce energy.

  • Growth hormones used in pregnancy and early childhood development.

  • Thyroid hormones used to regulate the metabolic rate in our body. Our metabolic rate determines the rate at which we create and use energy (our energy levels, the rate at which our thoughts fire and our average body weight).

  • Our brain neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These hormones determine our body's ability to feel good, happy, content, euphoric, satisfied.

Me must consider both the QUANTITY and the QUALITY of the protein sources we consume.

This graph demonstrates the alternating amino acid structure from different sources of protein isolate- the brown is from whey (milk), green from a vegan sprouted protein powder which includes both grains, legumes and potato, and the blue is the World Health Organization recommended amount for optimal functioning.

The graph lines would be different depending on whatever food we put on it- chicken, broccoli, wheat, eggs, etc. All foods have various amino acid levels and that is what makes them unique.

As you can see there are benefits to consuming both animal and plant foods to gain all the nutrients we need!

The graph is from - the Canadian athlete performance product company. For our discount code and more infomation of their protein isolate- here.


  • Animal foods

Plant foods contain sources of protein, however they are known as 'incomplete protein sources' because they contain a partial spectrum of amino acids IN HIGH LEVELS.

The graph above is showing a vegan plant-based protein isolate, a product that is specifically formulated to contain high amounts of all the essential amino acids.

Below is an example of how plant foods in their wholesome state contain contrasting amounts of amino acids and therefore must be consumed in higher amounts, with partner foods or with a animal protein source to ensure we gain all the nutrients we need.

So as you can see, the bar graphs for the legumes, grains and nuts are shorter than the animal foods. Not by much, but they are. So over time if this is not taken into consideration, the body may begin to lose it's optimal protein concentration, it's nitrogen balance and therefore begin to break down.

I'll zoom in a bit:

and then here (below) is a graph indicating the total amount of protein PER SERVING of different types of food.

The overall level of protein can be compared to the amino acid graph (above)- which is showing the TYPE of protein we are receiving.

When we put both concepts of these graphs together we can see the importance of a balanced diet to ensure we get all the nutrients we need.

Protein Amino Acid Level Graph
Protein Amino Acid Level Graph

  • The overall quantity of protein PER SERVING in plant foods (shown above in the left bar graphs) is much shorter than the animal foods shown in green on the right side. We can make up for this by eating MORE plant foods to gain more grams of protein, but sometimes our system can get overloaded with fiber and we can get too full or bloated.

  • An example of this is eating 3 cups of beans to get the same grams of protein we can get from 1 piece of chicken. Pair chicken and beans together; 1 serving of beans + 1 serving of chicken = overall protein consumption is high, plus there is a variety of amino acids.

For me when I was vegan, I was very active and unable to consume enough protein without overconsuming too much fibre. This resulted in my body becoming imbalanced and deficient. My body's symptoms were demonstrated with cystic acne, hormonal imbalance and reoccurring injuries that impacted my athletic performance.

So yes, plant foods are a source of protein too but humans evolved eating both plants and animal foods, respecting both kingdoms and understanding the value they both bring to the table.

Generally all foods, unless they are overcooked or refined, contain a spectrum of amino acids (and other essential nutrients), it's just a case of whether there are adequate levels versus the amount needed by our body to function at it's best.

Imbalances don't occur overnight or from eating one meal- it's lifestyle choices, restriction and lack of access, that occur over time that impact how our body functions as a whole.


Amino acids are the building blocks of the protein strand. This means that over time, an incomplete exposure to all the amino acids can push our body into working too hard to gain the essential building blocks it needs for optimal functioning.

The following lifestyle patterns impact our exposure to quality protein, along with other valuable nutrients. All three of these examples below are common patterns I have observed during nutrition sessions:

  • A restrictive diet, ignoring inflammation symptoms from the body.

  • A diet consisting primarily of processed foods (like frozen boxed meals) versus cooking from fresh.

  • Frequent take-out foods from bulk suppliers, prepared quickly, additives for flavour disguise quality of food.


  • Fermented foods & sprouted foods.

The fermentation & sprouting process deactivates "anti-nutrients" that can prevent proper mineral and amino acid digestion. (Keep this in mind when buying vegan protein powders, a fermented version ought to digest more efficiently.)

Another benefit to fermented foods, is they bring bacteria into the colon to promote complete digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Bacteria produces vitamins such as B12 and K2 and enzymes to boost our metabolism.

Some examples of delicious fermented foods: sauerkraut on the side of a meal, real probiotic pickles on your hamburger, fermented mustard on your steak, kombucha on a hot day, yogurt garnishing a meal or in a sauce, fresh sprouts topping a meal.

Sprouting a legume/nut/seed/grain activates nutrients that the plant needs to survive, including enzymes and nutrients that otherwise may of passed through our system inactivated. Sprouting at home can be as simple as soaking beans in a warm place for 24 hours+ before boiling them (this helps them digest less gassy). A neat idea is to get a sprouting tower to make at home tasty homemade sprouts for sandwiches, salads and garnishes.

  • Sea vegetables

Did you know that sea vegetables/seaweeds have been dubbed one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the Earth?- in my house at least! We take them in tablet form as a 'morning multivitamin'.

When we eat a sheet of seaweed we aren't gaining a whole whack of protein, however seaweed's complete nutrient panel, can be eaten raw and with a high absorption rate. This is a prime example of something being a QUALITY protein source without providing QUANTITY.

To choose seaweed as your main protein source at a meal, might leave you short in your needed protein requirement. However, garnishing your meal with seaweed alongside another protein source, such as beef or fish, will tackle both quantity and quality.

Wrapping it up

Here are some more pieces I have written relating to these ideas:

- Samantha


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