How much protein do you need?

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need? [Podcast Episode #105]

For years, going on a diet meant counting calories. Eat less, exercise more, lose weight. That's how pretty much all diets worked.

But, in more recent years, dieting has shifted away from just calorie-counting. Dieting has become more sophisticated, tracking calories AND macronutrients.

There's a trend right now towards eating fewer carbs and more protein. Apparently that will help you quickly lose weight. But is this true? And is it healthy?

How much protein does your body really need? And where should you be getting all that protein from? Can you get enough protein without eating meat or animal products?

These are just a few of the questions we're going to tackle in today's episode... 

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need? [Full Text]

Dave: Hey, thanks so much for joining me in this episode of Make Your Body Work podcast. As you know, this show is all about helping you live a healthier and happier life.

Today we're talking about protein, and specifically protein for anyone who's practicing vegetarianism or veganism. Can you get enough protein without eating animal products? And then beyond that, what are the benefits of going vegetarian or going vegan? Is that something that you should consider?

So this all started when Margaret wrote in and said, "Dave, I know that you don't eat a lot of meat, so I'm wondering where you get your protein from. I think I do well on a vegetarian diet, but I'm a little concerned about the protein not being there."

And Margaret, thanks for writing in, thanks for asking this. I know for me, I call myself a vegetarian very loosely. I'll talk a little bit about it in this episode, but my guest, she's been a vegetarian since she was 11 years old, so for her it's been over 20 years and much of that, she's actually been a vegan.

She's quite strict on it, and it's really interesting to hear about her sources of protein. And even beyond that, how vegetarianism and then veganism has improved her health, improved her performance, and does so for the clients who she works with.

So if you've ever heard someone that cut out meat and decided that they were going to start eating more vegetables and vegetable-based products, and thought, "I couldn't do that," and maybe you have that question that Margaret has, where do you get your protein, I'm going to lose all my muscle, I'm going to lose my energy, I'm going to get fat. Whatever you might have thought, this is a really great episode, a really important interview for you to tune into. So without further ado, I'm really excited to introduce to you, Karina Inkster.

Meet Karina Inkster

Dave: Hey Karina, thanks so much for joining us today.

Karina: Thanks so much for having me on.

Dave: So I don't mean to embarrass you, but I was on your website and you know what I'm so impressed by?

Karina: I can guess.

Dave: You are a monster when it comes to doing chin-ups.

Karina: Why, thank you! I have worked my butt off.

Dave: There's a couple videos I was watching there of you doing different variations. Again, not trying to embarrass you, but how many chin-ups? Like, regular, just an overhand chin-up, how many do you think you can do in one set?

Karina: You know, I haven't tested my max for a long time because I've been working on all these crazy variations, but I think on a good day, it would be about 13 pull-ups with palms facing away, and 14 or 15 chin-ups. On a good day.

Dave: That's awesome. You just gained the respect of every listener here, 'cause I hear from women all the time ... Well, women and men, but a lot of women will say, "I just want to be able to do one chin-up."

Karina: Oh, I know. The first one's the hardest one to get. After you've nailed that first one, it's basically just, it's good to go from there.

Dave: Yeah, well, for the listeners to give them a little bit of background ... So you and I just had a cool chat before we started recording here and we both live in Vancouver on the west coast of Canada. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your history. Tell us about how you got into training, what sort of training you focus on, and tell us ... We're mostly interested, actually, in your nutrition philosophies.

Karina’s Nutrition And Fitness Journey

Karina: Yeah, so I'm born and raised in Vancouver, and as we talked about before, that seems more and more rare now, to be a lifelong Vancouverite. But, yeah. So I think my fitness and nutrition journey started actually when I decided to become a vegan, which was 15 years ago. So I was vegetarian before that, but I decided I no longer wanted to support any form of animal agriculture. Went vegan.

And it just seemed normal to me to couple the nutrition with the fitness, so the nutrition came first. Totally plant-based, cut out all animal products, totally changed my diet. And at the same time, decided I wanted to get into strength training, specifically.

I've always been a total stick body type. It's really hard for me to gain any sort of weight, which is good on the one hand, but for someone like me who really wants to work on strength and gaining muscle, I put a lot of work into eating and training. It actually took me eight years to gain 15 pounds of muscle, which is a pretty long time, but it's all the long game that we're focusing on here.

Plants contain all the protein you need. Nobody needs to eat meat.

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So I got into strength training, which is what I focus on. And about seven years ago, decided to make that my career. And now I help other people, mostly women, also get into strength training and get super strong and do badass things like chin-ups, which are just so exciting and empowering for people to do.

Dave: Chin-ups and you're doing, I saw a picture of you doing a pistol squat. And when I talk to people about fitness, those are the two things. Chin-up is such a great sign or signature of strength, and doing a pistol squat, flexibility, strength, balance, all kinds of things. So even though you and I have never met, I am impressed. I am a fan.

Karina: Oh, thank you. That's awesome.

Dave: When you were telling a little bit about your history there, you said you decided to go vegan, avoid any sort of products that are derived from animals. What was the impetus? Why did you make that decision?

Why Did Karina Become a Vegetarian?

Karina: That's a good question. So it actually started with vegetarianism. So I was only 11 when I decided to go vegetarian, and that was 100% an ethical decision. If we can all agree that animals have some moral value, and I think we can, basically the only reason we eat any sort of animal products is because we think they taste good. There's no biological, there's no health reason that we need to be eating animal products.

So if we can agree that they have moral value, the only ... Basically, it's just a definition of unnecessary suffering and death to support animal agriculture. So the ethics side of things was definitely the catalyst, but there's two other reasons too why I decided to go vegan.

So after the ethical decision, I did more research and found that my second reason or motivation was actually our environment and climate change and our planet. Animal agriculture actually creates more greenhouse gas than all forms of transportation combined, which is just mind-blowing to me.

It's not a sustainable industry at all, and it's inherently immoral, I believe. So, yeah, the environment, pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity. All of these things, I didn't want to support anymore.

And then the third reason is my own physical health and ability to train really hard. So there's a lot of research coming out now that shows that people who eat more plants and less animal products generally do better on health markers.

Now, there's more research that we need here, of course, especially experimental research. But the physical health side of things, being personally allergic to/sensitive to dairy was definitely a step towards veganism…

And the ability to train really hard! Nowadays, there's actually a lot of professional athletes who are adopting a totally plant-based diet specifically to improve their game and their performance, because they find that they're taking in more antioxidants and fewer pro-inflammatory foods that they would have got from animal products, and they feel like they can recover faster, which that means they can train more and improve their game. So it's kind of a three-pronged approach. I think at this point, it's really just a lifestyle.

Dave: That's fascinating. And actually, I can relate to a lot of what you're saying about ... Maybe about 10 years ago, I started looking at different ways to reduce my carbon footprint, and I remember reading that the best practical step that you can take is to go vegetarian or not eat any meat one day of the week.

And I remember, I don't have the [scraffle 00:08:11], see if I can find it and include it in the show notes for this episode, but it showed that compared to not driving a car anymore.

Karina: Yeah.

Dave: And it makes a bigger impact. And I remember just thinking, at first I was like, "This can't possibly be true!" And then researched it and it was. And so I started with, you hear people doing meatless Mondays, and then gradually over time, ate less and less meat.

And I always worried about the performance side of things, because like you, I'm an ectomorph and I've worked so hard to get the strength and the body size and shape that I have right now. And I remember thinking, "My performance is going to drop like crazy if I cut meat out altogether. "And I was at a fitness conference and I met Brendan [Braser 00:08:50], who I'm sure you know 'cause he's a…

Karina: Yeah.

Dave: …west coast guy. For the audience, he's the guy who founded Vega Supplements. And he was talking about ... He's a professional triathlete, and he was talking about his performance and how it improved as he fine-tuned his diet, including removing meat. And that, I was just sold. He was so passionate about it, and very poignant in the research that had gone into it.

And so I call myself a vegetarian. I will eat meat if it's presented to me by ... if I'm out at someone's house and that's what they're having. But performance-wise, health-wise, I've never felt better.

Karina: That's amazing. That's really good to hear.

No Meat? Where Does Your Protein Come From?

Dave: So, yeah, when you were talking about those three prongs, I 100% agree with you. And this, all these into ... You're a perfect guest. When we connected and I had this question waiting for Margaret, and she was referencing some of the stuff that she's heard me mention on the podcast.

She says, I know you don't eat a lot of meat, but probably the number one question, you and I actually, it sounded like we were kind of laughing via email when I said, "I know you're probably going to get this question all the time. Where does your protein come from?" So first of all, do you get that question all the time?

Karina: I sure do. It's still very prominent.

Dave: And so you probably have very nice little prepackaged answer. What do you say very briefly to someone if they just in passing say, "Hey, where do you get your protein from?"

Karina: Well, that's a good question. I could go into so much detail, but generally, I just start listing foods. I actually have a list of 350 vegan healthy ingredients that I give my clients. So if anyone ever asks you where you get your protein from, just show them these 250 foods, 'cause protein is in everything. It's really the amino acids that our bodies need to build protein.

So I could list things like your tempeh and your tofu and your nuts and your seeds, but the main point is, if you're focusing on those protein sources as a whole, you don't need to worry about getting protein.

I don't actually know where this whole concept came from where people have to start thinking that they're not going to get enough if they go vegetarian or especially vegan. I don't want it to stop people from adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.

There's certain populations which we can go into who might need to think about protein more, so there's some details there that we could talk about, but in general, quick and dirty, it's easy to do. You don't need to actually think about it that much. And it shouldn't be the factor that's stopping someone from making that choice if that's something they want to do.

Dave: Okay. A bunch of followup questions from that. So first question is, is there any chance that we'd be able to get that list, that I could include it in the show notes for this episode?

Karina: For sure, yeah. I can send you a link to it. You can include it just as a URL in the show notes if you like.

Dave: Perfect. So for the listeners, if you go to, I'll put a link to ... Karina, you said 350 foods?

Karina: 350 foods.

What Do We Really Know About Protein?

Dave: Okay, I'm excited to take a look at that. So we'll have that as a resource. But then my followup question is, you mentioned that basically people have this misconception that they need more protein than they actually do. Where do you think that misconception comes from?

Karina: That's a great question. I feel like a lot of our ... And by our, I mean our society's, thinking around food has actually been influenced by industry as opposed to research. So for example, if you think about the information we've been taught about how supposedly healthy milk is, where is that information actually coming from?

Much of our "understanding" of nutrition has actually been influenced by industry, not research. Be an informed consumer.

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It's not peer reviewed journal articles, it's the dairy industry, generally, who are paying for ads and who are supporting our government's food guide and things like that.

So I feel like there's a part of the picture that's probably influenced by industries who have a stake in ... No pun intended ... getting your protein from meat and dairy. But I'm not totally sure. I feel like there's more to the story, and I haven't quite figured it out, honestly.

Dave: I agree with you when you talk about industry. I remember I was writing an article one time, talking about different sources of protein or different protein supplements and which ones I'd recommend, and was talking about whey protein.

And listeners, maybe you've heard this before, maybe you haven't. Karina, I'm sure you have. But whey is simply a byproduct of cheese making, and if you trace back the origins of it, literally it is cheese makers sitting on all this byproduct, this whey, with no commercial value.

And it was basically just garbage that they had to dispose of, and so they realized, hey, it's got high protein content, we can repackage and resell this as a nutritional supplement. And boom, all of a sudden we have oodles and oodles of whey, which is why it's probably the cheapest protein powder you can buy.

But going back to your whole thing, well, a) is dairy healthy on its own, and then b) even if you could argue that there are health benefits of dairy, what about the byproduct of cheese making? Is that healthy?

Karina: That's a good question. I feel like it's actually ... I could go into a whole definitions conversation here about, is it actually useful to see a food as healthy or not, 'cause it doesn't take context into effect. For example, we all think of kale as a healthy food, I'm sure we can all agree. But if all you ate was kale, you would not be a healthy person.

So I think you gotta look at the context and the diet as a whole, and it seems ... We still need more research, but it seems like it's going in the direction that dairy and meat are not so great if you want to be a healthy person. There's definitely more research we need here, but there's a lot of research, and actually full institutions that are promoting a 100% plant-based diet as the one that's best for our health.

What Benefits Will You Notice When You Begin Eating More Plants, Less Animals?

Dave: So can you give some specifics there? When you say things like best for our health, what would specifically be some benefits that people would notice if they were to choose to ... I don't even want to say eliminate, but reduce their animal product consumption?

Karina: Right. Well, there's some long-term benefits that you're going to reap later on in life, and then there's some shorter-term, quick benefits. So longer-term ones are all about prevention, which is not sexy and doesn't sell millions of diet books, but it's a super important approach.

So things like preventing heart disease, preventing cancer, diabetes, all these horrible diseases that honestly, a lot of us don't really think about a lot until someone we know gets one or until we're diagnosed with something. So that's more a preventative approach. A lot of research is showing that 100% plant-based diets are really good at preventing those types of conditions.

But on the shorter term, I think a lot of it has to do with an individual. But athletic performance, if that's something that's important to someone, is often something that people notice right away.

So you were saying, you kind of notice that you feel really good on a plant-based diet or a less meat-based diet. People can lose weight, which is an important thing for a lot of clients of mine, and yours too I'm sure. And I think just overall energy levels, which is hard to quantify, but it's something that you can talk to people about and it's easy to gauge how someone is feeling.

So it's kind of two things. Short-term benefits and then long-term evidence based, things you're going to prevent.

Dave: Again, I completely agree with you. Speaking specifically to dairy, for many, many people, dairy creates a lot of inflammation and all of the clients that I deal with, we're working towards weight loss. And chronic inflammation is the antithesis of a body being able to lose weight.

Karina: Exactly.

Dave: And meat would be similar. Again, it's not necessarily proven as definitively as dairy, but meat does have an acidic reaction in our body, and probably causes a lot of inflammation. Again, research maybe isn't quite as conclusive on that point.

Karina: Well, that's interesting that you mention that, actually, because for my book I interviewed the director of nutrition education for the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is a great resource for all things research and veganism and nutrition and things. And she actually said, yes, we do need more research. So you're right on that, especially experimental research.

But it seems that the reason why all these athletes are noticing performance increases on a plant-based diet is actually because they're getting an immune boost from having less inflammation.

So they're eating all of these high antioxidant foods, like your whole grains and your nuts and seeds and your fresh fruits, fresh veggies, and they're eating less or no animal products. And apparently that's one of the theories for why this potential performance enhancing effect can happen, is because it's actually inflammation related.

Dave: I would agree, and anecdotally I would say that I've noticed that in myself, particularly I've had a bunch of knee injuries through sport and my knees have felt better since I've gone vegetarian.

But again, it's tough to make that into a direct study, because there's so many variables that impact that, and so to have a study where that's the only variable that's being tested, I know there's research always being done on that. But anecdotally, I agree with you. There's tons of examples of people who would say that they have felt better, they've lost weight, or whatever it is by going vegetarian.

Karina: Yeah, absolutely.

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need Each Day?

Dave: We started to talk a little bit about protein and we touched upon how much do you actually need. I'm going to press you a little bit and see if you have any guidelines, 'cause that's the followup question.

So if someone asked me, "Where do you get your protein from?" Almost always the subsequent question is, "And how much protein do you try and eat in a day?" And again, I know that this is very general, but do you give guidelines like that?

Karina: Okay, so that's a great question 'cause it's actually a two-pronged answer, and it kind of depends on if you are just starting out in fitness or you're a sedentary person, or if you're active, which I'm sure most of our listeners are.

So there is a recommended daily allowance, which is similar to the ones that we have for vitamins and minerals, which tells us we need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

So for me, I weigh 125 pounds. That's 45 grams of protein per day, which is basically a cup of tempeh plus three quarters a cup of tofu, for example, for the whole day. That's super easy to get.

The thing is, these recommendations are for sedentary people, non plant-based people, so active people and vegans actually need much more than that. So if you're just starting out in fitness, if you're a sedentary person, that's going to be fine. You don't have to worry about it at all. It's basically the minimum amount you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements.

So if you are active, especially strength training, you need closer to 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day, and that's coming from the dieticians of Canada, the American College of Sports Medicine, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. So I'm not making this up. This is evidence based. So now, using myself as an example again, 125 pounds. We've now jumped from 45 grams per day if I were sedentary to 113 grams of protein per day.

Now I normally get 150, just because I eat so damn much. I'm usually eating about 3000 to 3300 calories per day, so I don't even really need to think about it. But someone who is not eating that much volume of food will find it fairly straightforward to get that much protein.

With a lot of my clients, I actually start converting it into macro ratios, which is also something we can talk about, so then we can think about it as a percentage of their total calories instead of grams.

But really, on a really simple scale, if you're a strength athlete, you should be towards the higher end of that 1.2 to 2 grams scale. So probably 1.8 or 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. If you're an endurance athlete, triathlon, whatever your sport is, then you can be closer to the 1.2 range. So it kind of depends on your activity, but it's totally doable, not hard to get.

The other side of this whole picture here is that if you're 100% vegan, vegan protein sources have a slightly lower content of essential amino acids. So essential amino acids are amino acids our bodies can't produce, so we need to get those from our diet.

So people who are totally plant-based might actually need to get slightly higher total protein content compared to someone who's an omnivore. But it's only about a 16% difference in those essential amino acids.

So we don't really have a straightforward guideline. This is why it's all kind of confusing sometimes. There's no set recommended daily allowance, especially if you're an active person. But someone like Anastasia [Zenchenko 00:22:06], who's a fantastic person to follow, by the way.

She's an international level power lifter and vegan and PhD in biochemistry. She's just super badass. She recommends 2.1 grams of protein per kilo per body weight for vegan strength athletes or vegan lifters. So that's just slightly above what the dieticians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine recommends.

So there's still more research we need here, but as it stands right now, I would say if you're strength training, aim for 1.8 to 2 grams per kilo of body weight. If you're an endurance athlete, then you can be closer to the 1.2 range.

Dave: And for all the American listeners, I'm going to do a quick little conversion for you. Anyone who's working in pounds, roughly somewhere around a gram per pound of body weight.

Karina: Yeah, that seems about right.

Dave: So I guess that actually changes the equation a lot. When you first said, did your first calculation and said that for sedentary folks, 45 grams, you're right. Everyone's going to get 45 grams. But what bought for someone who ... I used the term strength training athlete versus endurance athlete. What about someone who works 9-5? She goes to the gym, she does a little bit of weights, does some cardio. Sort of a regular career type person, where would you say they fall?

Karina: I think as you get more and more towards that full strength athlete definition, you're going to accordingly increase your protein. So I would say probably 1.5 grams, whatever that translates into, per pound. It's kind of a mid-range between 1.2 and 2, so not someone who's competing and really lifting five days a week kind of deal, but also someone who needs to make sure that she's supporting the hard work she's doing at the gym with her nutrition.

What Are the Big Sources of Vegan Protein?

Dave: And just thinking about breaking this down, I was wondering if you could give us some tips. So let's say it is that woman who we just talked about who's going to the gym and is active, but is not doing this professionally by any means. She has a job and does this in her spare time to stay fit.

She might needs somewhere around 100 grams of protein. And so just breaking that down, if you're eating three meals a day, you're looking at roughly 30 grams of protein per meal. What would some of those big sources be at those individual meals, 'cause that's actually a fair bit. 30 grams at breakfast? That's actually quite a lot.

Karina: It is, yes. And I feel like breakfast is one of those things where people are not getting a lot of protein on a plant-based diet, so I work with my clients very often about how they can amp up their protein intake at breakfast.

So your go-to sources like tofu and tempeh and beans and lentils and nuts and seeds are all really good sources. I feel like smoothies are a really good vehicle for packing in tons of nutrition, and that's, for a lot of people, especially if they're rushing out the door in the morning to go to work, it's a really good breakfast option.

So I add ... I think there's 10 things in my smoothie, it's kind of ridiculous. But I've got a whole different set of seeds, like chia seeds, ground flax seeds, hemp hearts. There's peanut butter in there.

A lot of whole foods type sources, but also because it's convenient, protein powder can be useful for some people. I don't want listeners to feel like they have to take supplements in order to get the results that they want. That's totally not true. But especially for really busy people, it's super convenient. It's easy to add into things that you're already making.

For example, I make these little energy balls with chickpeas and they taste pretty much like peanut butter cookie dough. They're amazing. But they're all whole foods. Things that are already high in protein like hemp hearts and chickpeas, but they're just easy to add things to, so I'll occasionally put protein powder in there just to boost it a little bit.

But just with a little bit of extra thought towards your food, which is whether you're vegan or not, something that will help you get the results you want. It's totally doable. So a tofu scramble in the morning will give you easily 30 grams of protein, super easily.

You could do a stir-fry for dinner, for example. Tempeh is a little bit less processed than tofu and it actually has more protein than tofu, so I use tempeh a lot, for people who are into it. So yeah, there's tons of options.

Dave: I love the fact that you brought up smoothies. You and I, we need to be best friends. I was just waiting for you to talk about smoothies, because I'm a huge fan. I have probably one or two every single day.

Karina: Oh yeah.

Dave: Can you talk about your specific protein powder that you use, or your supplement, when you do use it?

Karina: Yes, so I use a brown rice protein powder just because it is super simple and literally one ingredient. There's tons of other options. Pumpkin protein is actually also in my cupboard because it's higher in the omega-3s, which is important for vegans to get.

So what I normally use is the brown rice, it's unflavored so I can add it to things. I have just one protein shake a day, and I do it separately from my smoothie. I don't really know why, but it's usually just after workout, easy to digest, just chug it down.

And, yeah! There's tons of options nowadays. 15 years ago when I first went vegan, there was none of this available. No supplements specific for vegan athletes, there were no faux meat and dairy products and all those things that we have now. So there's lots of options.

"But, I Need My Meat!"

Dave: One question that I wanted to pose to the audience. I imagine there are some people who are listening to this rolling their eyes thinking, "Okay, that's great for you guys, but I love my meat, or I need my meat." That's actually something I hear a fair bit. "Oh, I could never give up meat. I need my meat."

And a question I would pose is, would you be willing to try giving it up, and I just mean as a sort of temporary experiment, if there is potential that your performance would increase, that your results would increase, that your life would actually feel better? You'd feel better in life.

Because I don't know, Karina, if you think along these same lines. But when I hear people that are resistant to it, whether it be dairy or meat or whatever it is, that's really the question that we need to ask, is, "Okay. Is it so important to you that you eat those foods that that becomes more prominent or more important to you than potentially getting the results you're looking for?"

And if it is, then okay, that's a conscious choice. In my opinion, great, go ahead, continue to eat that meat. I'm not going to be someone that tells you to stop.

But if you're really interested in getting different results, it's sort of that same old thing. It's insanity when we try to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. There has to be a change in our choices in order to get a change in our results.

There has to be a change in your choices in order to get a change in your results!

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Karina: Yeah, definitely. And I think approaching it from a very personal level, like this is how eating less meat or no meat is going to impact you and your performance immediately, that's a huge motivator for a lot of people.

There's other more grand-scale things as well, of course, like you're going to be helping the planet. David Suzuki's number one tip for saving the planet is to eat less or no meat, like we said earlier. But yeah, on a personal level I think that's a really good motivator to get started, for sure.

How to Use Positive Dietary Displacement

Dave: And again, speaking to those listeners who maybe are a little bit resistant to the idea, would they see benefits if they were to cut meat out, say, one or two or three times per week? Because I think that's a little bit more bite-sized than saying, hey, cut meat out and start buying all these foods that you normally don't eat. Would they notice a difference, or do you think it has to be a full, all or nothing sort of approach?

Karina: No, it definitely doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach. Any step in the more plant-based direction is going to have a positive effect, 100%.

Any step towards a more plant-based diet can only bring a positive change in your body.

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Dave: ​I was hoping you'd say that. I believe that as well. And again, I can speak from experience and I would love to know if this is the same for you, but when I said that I started doing meatless Mondays, I did feel ... I felt so good on that Monday, particularly from a digestive standpoint.

I talk about this all the time, but I just used to be bloated all the time. And I noticed, hey, I feel pretty good on Monday. What's different about Monday? Yeah, it's meatless Monday.

Karina: That's interesting. See, it's been so long for me, I honestly can't remember. I've been vegetarian for 20 years, so I have not had any meat for two decades. So it's been a long time. Can't really remember what it was like then, but I'm sure that happens for a lot of people. I'm sure you're not the only one.

Although I do want to touch on what you said about cutting out meat for those days. It's not just about cutting things out, right? I think that mindset, about, "Oh, what can't I eat? What should I eat less of? What should I cut out?" It's a very negative approach for some people.

Instead, we can turn it around, do a 180 and think about all the plant-based foods that we can eat more of. It's this whole idea of positive dietary displacement, which is basically just a fancy term for eating more plants, which will then automatically crowd out all the animal products.

So there's so many things that I'm eating now that I didn't even know existed even while I was vegetarian, before I went vegan. All these new things I'd never heard about. So if we reframe it as a ... I don't know what would be a snappy name like meatless Mondays, but if you just reframe it as, what are some new plant-based foods that I can try, what can I eat more of? You're automatically going to crowd out the stuff that you want to eat less of.

Dave: I, again, I completely agree. It doesn't have the same ring to it as meatless Monday, but…

Karina: I know.

Meet the Magical Lotus Root 😉

Dave: …I totally agree with you. Can you tell us ... We're going to wrap up here in a second, but can you tell us, what is one food that you've discovered along your journey that is maybe an atypical food that you just really love now?

Karina: Okay, so there are tons, but right now for this current week it's lotus root, which I'm obsessed with. Vietnamese curries and soups and noodle dishes and things. I actually get it from an East Asian supermarket here in Vancouver, and the lady at the till when I was there seemed really confused when I was buying it.

She was like, "You eat this?" I was like, "Yeah, it's awesome! It's so good!" So it's a root vegetable that I didn't know existed, and it's from a cuisine that I don't normally get into.

But there's tons of foods like that, things I'd never heard about. I didn't even know what tempeh was, and that's now on pretty much every vegan menu everywhere. But yeah, my current obsession is lotus root, I have to say.

Dave: Well, I'm exciting for me personally to look through your 350 foods list and for the listeners to be able to as well, and maybe pick out some of those ones that we've never seen or never tried before and try it. It's neat.

Karina: Yeah.

Dave: We've got Google at our fingertips, throw it in, find a recipe that looks easy, give it a shot.

Karina: Exactly. And then that's the more positive approach, right? Like, "Ooh, I can try this new food," instead of, "Oh, I've gotta cut out all this stuff that I like."

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

Dave: I love it. We like to wrap up the show with what's called a Make Your Body Work takeaway, and basically, we talked about a lot of things today, and I want to boil that down to an action step.

So someone like Margaret who's saying, maybe I'm thinking about including more vegetarian style eating into my regular routine, or I'm thinking about going vegan but I'm worried about my protein intake. What is one consideration or one step that someone in that position should do?

Karina: That's a great question. I honestly think it has to do with going through a list of really awesome foods that you have not tried before, so you get that adventurous feel. And we're going to make that list easily available to everybody.

Then pick a day, like maybe if you do food prep on Sunday, something like that, to consider it an experimental cuisine day. It doesn't have to be anything crazy. You're not making a five-course meal here.

 But it's basically, try something recipe-wise that you have not tried before. Make sure it's plant-based. And who knows, that might be your new favorite thing. It might be your new breakfast for the next week. It might be the lunch that you pack for work. You don't really know until you try new stuff that's just slightly outside your comfort zone.

Trying new recipes, even one per week, is a great way to keep adding healthy food to your diet.

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Dave: Yeah, oh, I love it. Quick little side story, yesterday I was going to a potluck dinner and I tried a new recipe. It was zucchini tomato tofu curry.

Karina: Ooh, that's good.

Dave: And I thought it was delicious, but taking it there ... You never know when you go to a potluck. And I actually thought, "This is me being really selfish." And I thought, "No one's going to want to eat this," because there was pizza and spaghetti and all the typical type foods there, and I'm going to get to bring home all kinds of leftovers.

I was really excited about that. And then lo and behold, it was probably the hit of the potluck. I came home with a little bit of leftover rice and that was it. So.

Karina: That's amazing!

Dave: But to your point, you never know. You never know until you try it, whether it's going to be amazing, and maybe it won't be for you. But if you've got a list of 350 foods sitting in front of you, if one's not for you, there's something that is.

Karina: 100%.

Dave: Well, Karina, thanks so much for being on the show. Can you tell us a little bit more about where people can be in touch with you? I know there are going to be followup questions based on some of the stuff we just touched on, and if someone wants some help or some tips, where can they reach out to you at?

Keep In Touch With Karina

Karina: So is the hub of all things vegan health and fitness. So they can download the list there, but we'll make it available to the listeners without going through the download page.

And there's also a free 10-day how to go vegan course, so it's a five minute quick email you get every day with a different action step towards being more plant-based. If that's something you're interested in, you can get that there.

And then if you go to, you can actually book a free 20-minute mini power coaching call with me. So if you have specific burning questions you want answered, if you need to go over your food log, if you're wondering what the next step is for going more plant-based, we can talk about anything you want. You can book your call at a time that works for you. We can do Skype, we can do phone. So just

Dave: Karina, that is super generous of you. I'm going to put links to both of those, to your free course as well as your "let's chat" link in the show notes, so that if anyone's on my website, and they can make one click and get over there. So listeners, if you go to, I'll have links to both of those as well as her 350 foods list and a bunch of other resources that we talked about in this episode, so be sure to check that out.

Book your call with Karina and ask her some questions. Start to dialogue, because right now if you came into this episode thinking, vegetarianism or veganism isn't for me, there's probably some baby steps that you can do very easily that will allow you to at least try.

Karina: Definitely.

Dave: Karina, again, just thanks so much for being here and for sharing so much wisdom. Really, really appreciate it.

Karina: Thanks so much for having me on.

Dave: Karina, thanks again for being on the show today and just for sharing your personal experience with vegetarianism and veganism and I think really just inspiring people to know that it's not a huge leap.

​To go from having a diet where maybe meat's included every single day, and maybe for some people, every single meal. I used to be that person. I used to eat meat every single meal. And to take a step from there and maybe think, "How about for one meal, I'm going to focus on trying some new vegetable options or plant-based options?" Just for one meal and see how it goes.

And then maybe that turns into one day. And then maybe two days a week. And see where it goes. See how you feel, see how your body changes, see how your performance changes.

So I really appreciate that positive message. And for anyone who tuned in, maybe you're someone like I talked about in the introduction to this show who kind of rolls your eyes at the idea of going vegetarian or vegan, and maybe you've even said, "I could never do that." I just want to encourage and challenge you by letting you know that I once said that too.

I very clearly remember saying I could never give up meat, and I clearly remember saying I could never give up dairy. And both of those, I have, and just anecdotally from my own experience, it's been very positive. And maybe it would be for you as well.

So if you want any help with that, I've given a bunch of great resources. Again, if you go to, there's a bunch of great resources from Karina there. And feel free to reach out to Karina or myself and we'd love to help you out. So thanks again for joining us in this episode, and I can't wait to see you here again next week.

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