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Why vegans require different macros?

Updated: Oct 3


"Macros" are the 3 key macronutrient categories that make up our food: Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein.


Macro-tracking or "counting" macros is the process of tracking how many grams of each macronutrient you consume per day in your food, typically aiming to meet a certain daily target each (i.e. Xg of carbs, Xg of fat, Xg of protein)


Now the question is - if you're vegan or plant-based, do you have different 'optimal' macros to someone on an omnivorous diet?

And the answer, to a degree - is yes!

It largely comes down to your protein intake.


Plant proteins are less anabolic (i.e. their ability to induce and create muscle growth). This is because plant-based protein sources can often be incomplete or missing important essential amino acids, or contain fewer Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) than their animal-based equivalents.

In particular, the branched-chain amino acid Leucine is limited in most plant-based proteins. Leucine acts as the trigger or catalyst for muscle-protein synthesis. This makes it difficult for vegans to get enough Leucine in a single dose or frequently enough.


Additionally, plant-based proteins are harder to digest than animal proteins, which can lessen their uptake and absorption in the human body.


For vegans - “How much protein do I need?” is a common question.

But in reality, that amount is rarely a static figure and can change depending on changes in your goal, exercise and lifestyle. Your age, gender, body composition, lifestyle activity, exercise, and goal all influence what's going to be your optimal amount of protein, fat and carbs.


For example, someone who is training to run a marathon and does a lot of cardio-based training may require a higher amount of energy and carbohydrates to fuel their exercise, while someone who is mainly sedentary during the day and has a weight-loss or muscle-building goal would require less energy and more protein.


But the consensus is that individuals on a plant-based diet need to consume more protein due to the lesser efficiency and digestibility of plant-based sources.

It's recommended vegans consume 10-20% more protein than their omnivorous counterparts.

Grams per kilogram of body weight, per day

Vegan/Plant-based

Omnivorous/Meat-eating

General Health

1

0.8

Fat Loss

2-3

1.8-2.5

Endurance Athlete

1.5-1.8

1.4-1.6

Strength Athlete

1.8-2.4

1.6-2

So when setting your macros on a vegan or plant-based diet, your protein target will be different to someone on an omnivorous diet.


Try our specialised plant-based & vegan calculator to work out your optimal macros

The optimisation of protein intakes for vegans and plant-based diets also requires that attention is paid to the quantity and quality of protein consumed.


Some tips include:

  • Prioritising complete and efficient protein sources - which are typically soy foods like tofu, tempeh, TVP, soy-protein isolate, and soy-containing plant-based meats

  • Complementing your protein sources to improve amino acid profile via protein combining

  • Utilising less efficient protein sources - like nuts, seeds, legumes and grains - to support your key protein sources

  • If required, supplement with a complete protein powder or leucine

But all in all, if you have a health and fitness goal on a vegan or plant-based diet you should have a good focus on ensuring you are getting enough protein because you may need a little more than you thought!

Sources

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17908291/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15212752/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21167687/