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Protein Needs + Healthy High-Protein Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie (Vegan, GF, paleo, low FODMAP)


Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie

When it’s hot as %!*^ in the summer, and I’m craving something refreshing and filling and healthy, THIS Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie is my go-to.


I think this smoothie is like those Shamrock Shakes that are seasonal at some McDonalds during March to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had a McDonald’s shake, but the flavor inspiration for this Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie came from the Shamrock Shake. The Shamrock version is a sugar-filled green mint flavored milkshake dessert. The recipe I included here is a balanced healthy meal - and it is DELICIOUS.


Protein content and needs

The Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie is especially perfect after a workout or if you are wanting to get a good dose of protein. The protein content is impressive: 30g+ for the vegan version, and 40g+ if you include the collagen.


Protein needs are a hot topic in the world of veganism, paleo diets, and sports nutrition. And although we love to search for ONE magic number that tells us how much protein you should aim for, the reality is this: it depends. Protein needs are dependent on many factors including weight, age, health goals, fitness routine, activity levels, and more.


Protein is important for:
  • Promoting growth and maintenance

  • Maintaining healthy muscle mass

  • Support neurotransmitters to maintain good mood

  • Promoting brain function and learning

  • Maintaining strong bones

  • Creating satiety so you feel full after eating

  • Stimulating and supporting enzymes

  • Building hormones

  • Forming the connecting framework of many structures in the body

  • Regulating fluid balance

  • Supporting immune health

  • Transporting and storing nutrients

  • Supplying energy

Protein needs are a very complex topic. Let’s talk about what research says about how much protein is needed for different people and activity levels.


How much protein do we need?

Protein needs are easily calculated in the format of grams of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you wanted to know what 0.5g protein per lb body weight would be for a 160lbs person, it would equal 80g of protein.


Here is a simplified breakdown for you to figure out how much protein you should be getting, according to your physical activity level:


Sedentary: at least 0.3g of protein per pound of body weight is recommended for sedentary healthy individuals. Now, this is just to keep you alive. But wouldn’t you want to feel great and improve your health rather than just staying alive? In addition to all the protein benefits listed above, higher protein intake will support greater muscle mass, which will lead to better resistance to injury and better long-term health. Eating more protein will make you feel full for longer, so if you’re watching your weight, raising protein intake will make weight loss easier, indirectly improving your health. The truth is, we should be aiming closer to a minimum of 0.7g/lb of body weight.


Aging population: Higher protein increases lean body mass in old age, helping with longevity, provides ability to exercise later in life and resistance to injury.

For long-term health and old age, it is recommended to have much more than 0.3g/lb, ideally over 0.7g/lb. This will help mitigate the detrimental body composition changes and muscle mass and function losses associated with sarcopenia (loss of muscle).


Athletes: If you exercise and want to support your performance, you will need a higher protein intake. For athletes, the goal is 0.8g - 2g protein per pound of bodyweight, depending on the type of exercise you partake in:

  • Endurance sports: 0.5-1g protein per pound of bodyweight per day (lower end for when carbohydrates are maxed out for special circumstances).

  • Team sports (soccer, basketball, rugby, etc.): 0.6-1.5g protein per pound of bodyweight, with a likely average of around 0.8g/lb.

  • Strength and power sports (weight lifting, powerlifting, fitness sport, American football, sprinting, jumping events, etc.): 0.7 - 2.0g/lb, with 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day on average.



Is there a protein max?

Research shows that there is no realistic protein amount that is dangerous for consumption, unless you have kidney disease or other conditions that require you to restrict protein intake.


However, the human body can only use so much protein at a time to build or maintain muscle. That amount is one-fourth of your daily protein needs - this is the amount of protein that can actually go towards skeletal muscle growth or maintenance. The excess will be used for other various bodily functions and burned for energy.



Vegan vs animal-based protein

Ahhh… A highly debated topic. It appears that if you rely on plant-based protein, you are still able to achieve similar muscle growth and exercise training adaptations (strength, body composition and recovery). However, it likely requires a larger amount of plant-based protein.


To ensure you are getting enough of all the necessary amino acids on a plant-based diet, it is recommended to consume at least 0.7g of protein per pound of body weight. Additionally, you want to focus on eating a variety of plant-based proteins, ideally including those with a variety of amino acids (hemp, pea protein, organic soy).



Best sources of protein

Below are some foods that contain high amounts of protein with a variety of amino acids. If you tolerate the foods below, it’s great to incorporate a bit of all of them in your diet! It is important to note that eggs, soy, legumes, dairy and grains can be particularly inflammatory for many people due to food sensitivities. If you want to figure out what foods are inflammatory for you, I run evidence-based MRT food sensitivity testing on my clients to understand which foods you should avoid! Often foods can be reintroduced when we heal the gut.


High source of protein include:
  • Red meat (beef, bison, lamb, pork, etc.)

  • Fish (salmon, cod, trout, sardines, tuna, herring, mackerel, etc.)

  • Seafood (shrimp, oysters, mussels, scallops, etc.)

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey)

  • Eggs*

  • Organic soy (ideally tempeh)*

  • Legumes (lentils and beans)*

  • Hemp hearts

  • Pea protein powder

  • Whey protein powder*

  • Cottage Cheese*

  • Greek Yogurt*

  • Collagen

  • Bone broth

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Certain pseudograins (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat)*

*these foods are commonly reactive for people



What to look for in a protein powder

There are so many protein powders on the market - it is very overwhelming. A couple things I look for:

  • Organic or non-GMO

  • Pea protein-based for vegan protein powders

  • Low sugar content, preferably sweetened with alternative natural sweeteners like monk fruit or stevia

  • Limited additives (avoid gums, natural flavors, skim milk powder, vegetable oils, dextrin, glucose, artificial sweeteners, gluten)

  • Protein content of 20g+ per serving

  • Certificate of Analysis (COA) - this is rare, but it confirms that the company has tested for harmful ingredients like pesticide contamination and heavy metals

Now that you’ve learned more about the importance of protein, I hope you try out this protein-packed Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie!


Book a FREE 15 min consultation with me if you want to understand more about how to incorporate protein into your diet!


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