How can you get enough protein on a raw vegan diet?
A raw vegan diet does not contain any:
So where does the protein come from?
Michelle (pictured to the right) is a raw vegan fitness champion. (She mentioned to me personally that she hates the fake tan, but that it is required for body building competitions so that muscle definition stands out when you're under bright lights on the stage.)
How does Michelle get such a strong muscular body when she eats a purely raw and vegan diet?
Raw Vegan Protein
The raw vegan diet provides protein predominantly in its basic form; amino acids. And it provides plenty of it. 
Do meat-eaters build muscle faster than vegetarians?
The simple answer is: No. If adequate minerals, protein, vitamins, exercise, etc, are present, muscle building is the same, regardless of the protein source.
In 2003 a study was published in the Journal of Sport and Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. They had vegetarians and meat eaters perform the same training protocol over eight weeks.
The vegetarian group ate 450 fewer calories than the meat eaters. The vegetarians ate 79 grams of protein per day, and the meat-eaters ate 138 grams of protein per day.
All groups showed the same muscle growth, which was two to five pounds of muscle gained.
I personally do not recommend eating 79 grams of protein per day. I'd like to see a study where people eating 35 grams of protein per day did the same exercises as people eating 60 or more grams. From everything I've experienced, seen and read, I believe they would have the same results.
Can cooking food reduce the protein content?
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouts do not require cooking. In fact, cooking food reduces food in more ways than just volume – it reduces the usable amino acid content of the food.
- Vitamin C
- Enzymes a. k. a. Protein
And what's worse, cooking requires electricity, gas or wood. We're using energy and resources to ruin our food!
When proteins are subjected to high heat during cooking, enzyme resistant linkages are formed between the amino acid chains. The body cannot separate these amino acids. What the body cannot use, it must eliminate. 
Can a cooked protein be considered a toxin?
Anything that can not be used by the body is a toxin that the body must find a way to get rid of. With this definition of toxin, cooked foods contain a lot more toxins than the acrylamide formed when frying, baking or toasting.
Acrylamide, by the way, is something I learned about in detail from lesson 16 in The Vegetarian Health Institute's Raw Vegan Mastery Program. It's a very serious carcinogenic toxin that is often overlooked by nutritionists, dietitians and doctors.
When we consume refined sugar, our body can't use all of the sugar, and thereby must pass it. In order to pass sugar, it must be carried in the bloodstream. In order to carry it in the blood stream the body must bind the sugar to a mineral, generally calcium. This calcium is often taken directly from our bones. 
Like refined sugars (cane sugar, corn syrup, molasses, syrup, etc), cooked proteins are a source of toxicity: dead organic waste material acted upon and elaborated by bacterial flora.
This dead organic waste is what makes you smell when you use the bathroom. Eating raw and effectively detoxing will actually cause that toxic smell to go away with time. 
What is a living food? And why does it really matter that the food is alive?
When you cook something, you denature its enzymes. Enzymes are long chains of amino acids. And what is protein made up of? Amino acids.
What happens if you burn your finger? The skin tissue dies.
What happens when you cook your food? The food dies.
Before whole foods are cooked, they may still grow if planted. Their seeds will still sprout.
Try this at home: Take a leek from the grocery store and chop off the top of it, leaving only two or three inches at the bottom. Place this bottom in a glass with a little water. Change the water every day or two, and watch it grow. You can plant in the ground if you like.
This also works with celery. 
I've done both successfully on several occasions. I put my celery in vases when I buy it, filling the water up to a half inch at the bottom of the vase. It keeps the celery growing right up until the moment I consume it.
Fresh food – prior to wilting or rotting – sustains life. Freshly picked plants are bursting with nutrition that is highly bio-available to humans.
Think about this: Every animal on the planet eats food as it is growing. Most animals don't even pick food prior to putting it in their mouth. Cows, horses, elephants – all of these animals walk up to a bush or tuft of grass and they bite into it. For a more extensive look at the difference between the way animals eat and the way humans eat, look at this article. (Click here.)
Why and how we are ruining our foods' nutrition
Everything we do to food reduces its wealth of nutrition:
- Storing food reduces nutrition. The more time passes from the time a food is picked, the more the enzymes do their job and become unavailable for doing their job inside our stomach. Enzymes rot, wilt and ripen foods, but if consumed immediately after harvesting, these enzymes play a vital role in digestion.
Modern food practices include waxes, preservatives, and tricks like freezing. These tricks "preserve the corpse" of the food to make it look as though it's still rich in those vital enzymes.
In order to get the most out your food, try to buy things grown locally, and shop at farmer's market. The less shipping time, the less time between the time its picked and the time you eat it.
For optimal results, eat home-grown and wild raw foods.
- Chopping food reduces nutrition. When you slice food, oxidation begins to occur, reducing the existence of available vitamin C in the food. Oxidation causes foods to brown. If you see foods losing color in your blender, that is because the food is oxidizing.
The above is also why you should buy a masticating juicer. A masticating juicer does not contain blades. It essentially mashes your food until the juice comes out, without ever cutting the food. This preserves the fresh flavor and nutrition. 
- Mixing food types reduces digestive absorption. Certain foods require alkaline digestive enzymes while others require acidic digestive enzymes. If both are released at once, they are both neutralized and rendered useless. Neither food digests. When food is not digested, it passes into the intestines where bacteria feast. 
Depending on how healthy your intestines are, this could be a serious problem, or just a minor issue of not absorbing nutrition from a given meal. If your intestinal flora is out of balance (due to Candida, parasites, or antibiotics), then feeding the bad flora in your gut can cause very uncomfortable symptoms (gas pains, bloating, smelly burps and gas, painful bowel movements, etc), and if this pattern is sustained, life-altering symptoms (inability to remember efficiently, foggy mind, itchy scalp, flaky skin, acne, etc).
Simplified food combination rules:Fruits are best consumed alone at least thirty minutes before eating other foods, and at least two hours after eating other foods. Plain fruit is an excellent breakfast. Ideally melon should only be eaten with other melon (cantaloupe and honeydew), and sweet fruits only with other sweet fruits (banana with mango), and acid fruits only with acid fruits (lemon with pineapple).
Leafy greens and celery may be combined with everything.
Fats should be limited, as they slow all digestion down. Fats should be held off until after lunch so as not to drag you down throughout the day. Fats should only be mixed with non-starchy vegetables.
Fats should not be consumed too close to bed time because of their long digestion time. It disrupts your hormonal balance to digest food while you're sleeping.
Thereby, it's ideal to skip eating fats some days, and save fats for days when you're not very active, and it isn't too hot (digesting fat raises your body temperature). On the days when you do consume fats (oils, nuts, seeds, avocados, coconuts, olives), aim to eat it with vegetables (not fruits) six hours before bed time. Do not consume fruits for at least four hours after eating fats.
- Cooking food destroys the bio-availability of enzymes. This is explained throughout this page, including in the videos that follow.
- Dehydrated food is hard to assimilate.  Dehydrated food has little to no water content. The body is made up of 80% water. Ideally, our food should be 80% or more water.
The above are just a few common examples of what you might be doing to your food to reduce its nutrition. It's not that you should necessarily strive to never do these things again. On the contrary, most of my recipes call for doing many of the things above. The point is to become aware of how perfect foods are straight from the ground they grow in.
However, I want to make one thing clear. Do not embark on a 100% raw vegan if you're unclear about anything. There are mistakes that can be made that have serious consequences. I advise either getting an experienced raw vegan coach, doing a lot of research on your own or following a detailed nutritionally complete meal plan.
What are your priorities?
While economy, ecology and ethics are very important, you can't do anything for anybody without your health. I recommend making your health your number one priority. Everything else tumbles if you don't have your health.
You will not become deficient in protein on a raw vegan diet. All you need to do is eat enough calories and you will get plenty of protein. The only exception to this is when following a fully fruitarian diet, which I do not recommend.
How can it be possible that any combination of fruits and vegetables will give you enough protein?
Tim Van Orden
Tim Van Orden of Running Raw is a stunning example of a person who defies everything we know about protein. He doesn't even eat nuts or seeds on his raw vegan diet! Listen to what he has to say about this topic in the stunning four minute video below.
Bottom line: The more fresh things you eat, the more amino acids are in your body. The more amino acids, the more effective you can build muscle. You don't need "protein" as we know it.
Okinawa has some of the healthiest people in the world... How much protein do they eat?
Okinawa life expectancy: 86
U.S.A. life expectancy: 70
Okinawa calories from carbs 84%.
U.S.A. calories from carbs: 42%.
Okinawa calories from protein: 9%.
U.S.A. calories from protein: 16%.
What can we learn from this? A high-protein diet is not the answer. In Okinawa they eat a lot of fermented vegetables, sweet potatoes, fresh fruits such as mangoes and passionfruits, green tea, long-grain brown rice, and fresh greens. Not a bunch of meat, nuts and beans. You can learn more about the people of Okinawa here.
Don Bennett explains the details; the relationship between protein and amino acids
Don Bennett explains the details of protein and amino acids in an eight minute video below. I do not believe that his wording is 100% accurate in all ways, but it gets the picture across, and Tim and Michelle are just two of hundreds of athletes who are proving that a raw vegan diet supplies muscles fantastically.
My Personal Experience
This is not something most doctors know. My doctor cautioned me away from a vegan diet because she believed I would neglect protein. She even said, "You can't get enough protein from nuts."
And yet, I have not lost muscle since I became a raw vegan. In fact, I have more muscle mass now than ever before in my life. I can lift more weight than ever before, run longer than ever before, walk longer, and climb more steps without becoming winded. In fact, I was able to run up seven flights of stairs (2011) without any trouble when visiting a community building and too impatient to wait for the elevator. I was astounded by this, because a year previously I had attempted this same trick and had given up after walking up two flights.
Before I became a raw vegan in the summer of 2010, I couldn't even walk one mile without experiencing pain. Now, I can walk all day long without side stitches, gas pains, feet pains or becoming winded. And as far as raw diets go, mine doesn't even focus on getting maximum amino acids.
How can you get more amino acids?
If you want to focus on getting maximum amino acids, focus on eating sprouts and young green plants. These young green plants contains multitudes of bio-available amino acids because they have a tremendous stockpile unfolding to create an entire plant. One tiny sprout contains the "life force" to create an entire head of broccoli, or an entire cabbage, or entire sunflower stalk. Imagine what a cup full of sprouts has to offer.
Some people struggle with maintaining a weight that they feel is healthy on a raw vegan diet – but this is generally not due to a lack of protein. These people may have one the following problems:
- Poor digestion (not absorbing nutrients from food)
- Confused body image (surrounded by fat people)
- Lack of amino acids (not eating baby plants)
- Lack of calories (not eating enough)
- Lack of exercise (a sedentary lifestyle means little muscle mass)
Do you have poor digestion?
If your digestion is poor, avoid fats. (Aim for 9% to 15% of your calories from fat.) I recommend a teaspoon of seeds per day, soaked and rinsed. That will provide plenty of fat. In nature, enough fat is often found just by eating the seeds of the vegetables or fruits you are eating.
Doing a juice feast can help digestion. A juice feast means lots of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables juiced with a masticating juicer. I have a friend who personally found that juice helped her reach a weight she desired on the raw vegan diet. (She had previously felt she was underweight.)
Do you have a confused body image?
If you feel you need more fat on your body to look and feel healthy, surround yourself with live people, media and images of muscular people. Join a running club and notice the shape and form of athletic people who seem healthy to you. Attend yoga classes and notice the form of people who are highly capable and have stamina all through class.
I developed my ideals for the shape I want during yoga class. I find that the women in yoga look like I want to look. Not overly muscular and not really thin. Capable, strong women who do a lot of yoga tend to have heavily muscled thighs, buttocks and shoulders, while having thin waists, toned abdomens, toned slender calves, and defined medium-sized arms. I personally find this form the most attractive and natural on a woman. I notice this form is not small, nor bulky, nor does it contain excess fat.
Cultivating a sense of what healthy people look like will help you straighten out your idea for what you want yourself to look like.
Do you lack in fuel, calories or amino acids?
Try tracking your calories using some internet service. Google "calorie counter" and many options will come up. Track how many calories you eat per day for a week. If you're getting more than 2000 a day, then you're probably fine on that note. If you're getting less than 1200, this can be a serious problem. Eat more raw mono-meals of fruit if you're lacking calories. Five mangoes, for example, can be one of five meals you eat in a day.
If you're simply lacking muscle fuel, try drinking blended green leafy vegetables and sprouts, freshly juiced vegetables and sprouts, and eating salads with lots of sprouts. If you don't like sprouts, mix them into guacamole, spicy salsa, or disguise them in small amounts in sweet smoothies (using bananas, peaches, mangoes, etc) and juices (using oranges, lemons, grapefruits, etc).
Are you lacking in exercise?
Try new activities. Chances are that you're bored with the methods you currently are using.
Try long walks with friend or a partner. Join a jogging club. Take your bike to work. Try yoga, and if you can't afford the usual class cost then use meetup.com to seek out local donation-based community classes.
Try getting a rebounder (small trampoline), a jump-rope, a hula-hoop, or an exercise ball. Try getting a set of tiny three-pound weights to use while dancing or doing pilates. Try going ice-skating or roller-blading. If you can afford it, go skiing or snowboarding. Go swimming. Take up martial arts, tai chi, or dance classes. Take up a sport. As a last resort, try going to the gym.
Personally, I like to use YouTube to discover videos on yoga, chi gong, pilates, etc, and then do these in my own home. I also like my trampoline. They both offer the convenience of not leaving my home.
The big advantage of using YouTube videos is that I am always learning something new, which keeps it interesting.
Your Problem Is Not Lack Of Protein
In any case, if you have trouble gaining muscle, it's not a lack of protein. If you feel somehow sick or unwell without eating beans, meat or dairy, it's not a lack of protein. While some people do feel unwell at first, it's usually detoxification systems. Detoxing too fast is one of the most common mistakes.
While a protein deficiency is possible, it is very rare. I advise looking into every other possibility thoroughly before coming to the conclusion that you need more protein. It is very possible that you're deficient in some other essential component for health, such as vitamin B12, which is a common deficiency among omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and raw vegans alike.
Your Problem Might Be Too Much Protein
In the video below, Dr. Tel Oren MD discusses the topic protein at length. He explains that many Americans eat so much protein that the protein is making them sick. Even vegans are getting health problems due to too much protein because of the rampant belief that we need more.
Many well-meaning companies are using hemp seeds or whey in their products so that they can proudly boast "high protein" on the label, and yet the products are actually harmful because of the excess in which people consume protein.
Dr. Tel explains that 35 grams of protein per day is ample protein, and yet few people consume less than 50 grams of protein in a day, and many people who eat a lot of meat or who eat a lot of specialty high-protein foods eat as much as 200 grams of protein per day!
In the short videos below you'll find healthy raw vegans showing their muscles, creativity, knowledge and lifestyle.
I would be delighted for you to check out all of these sources. Of course, much of what I write is from memory (and often I discover the same information in many forms from many sources), but here are some sources I have read:
 Markus Rothkranz
P.S.: I must note, it is possible to not be assimilating all the amino acids you're eating into protein. This is not a lack of eating protein, this would be a bodily dysfunction, most likely due to lifestyle. The only way to know if this is the case is to get your blood tested. If that is the case, I would personally recommend a green juice feast for a week as a big step to remedying the issue.
To your good health!
~ Raederle Phoenix
P.P.S.: My raw vegan meal plans provide 50 grams of protein per day on average. (On an average of 1950 calories per day.)
P.P.P.S. (Post-post-post-script): My long-awaited free online course in health, success, nutrition and self-love is finally released. Sign up below. (If you're logged in to facebook, you only need to click the "submit" button.)