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Diversify Your Protein! A vegan athlete serves up a delicious article!

August 05, 2013


Just as diversification is an important element of effective triathlon training programs, the diversification of protein sources to include plant-based proteins in triathletes’ diets is crucial for maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet.

As a vegan athlete, the question I am mostly frequently asked is, “where and how do you get your protein?”  The simple answer is: ample quantities of protein can be found in natural plant based foods including legumes (beans), nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and plant-based protein supplements.  

While I am not advocating a strict vegan based diet for all triathletes, the incorporation of plant-based proteins into endurance athletes’ diets is an effective way to diversify protein sources.

Vegan and vegetarian athletes have excelled in endurance sports, including triathlons and ultra-marathons. Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, Laura Kline, for example, have excelled as endurance athletes while maintaining vegan diets. Based on personal experience, I have not experienced the symptoms of protein deprivation in any of my athletic endeavors.

The most important part of becoming a successful vegan athlete or incorporating vegan dietary concepts into conventional athletes’ diets is learning what constitutes a healthy, plant-based diet.  The keystone of a healthy, plant-based diet is the incorporation of whole foods (grains, legumes and veggies) and high quality plant-based protein supplements, rather than processed vegan proteins designed to emulate meat (i.e., vegetarian bacon). 

To get you started on the integration of plant-based proteins in your diet, my delicious recipe for summer quinoa is provided below.  This simple and easy to make dish contains a variety of plant-based proteins, including quinoa, almonds and chickpeas, and is also packed with vegetables.  Each serving includes approximately 17 grams of protein and provides essential amino acids, healthy fats, among other benefits.

Enjoy this well-balanced, protein-packed dish that will keep your energy and endurance up as a meal, side, or snack! 

Melissa Robbins teaches vegan and macrobiotic cooking classes in New York City.  Melissa apprenticed with renowned macrobiotic chef and counselor, Melanie Waxman.  Melissa graduated from Boston University with a degree in Biology. Outside of the kitchen, Melissa enjoys running, swimming, cycling, Yoga, and CitiBiking.  

For more information on the importance of proteins in an athlete's diet, check out this article and our amino patch!

Melissa’s Summer Quinoa (pictured above)

Serves: 3-5 People

Preparation: 40 Minutes Total - 20 minutes preparation & 20 minutes cooking

Cookware: Medium Saucepan, Grater, Measuring Utensils


1 Cup Quinoa Washed and Soaked (Soak minimum of one hour prior to cooking)

1 Can Chickpeas

1 Yellow Onion Diced

1 Carrot Grated

½ Cup Almonds Roasted and Chopped

½ Cup Raisins

1 Ear Fresh Corn or ½ Cup Frozen Corn

2 Tablespoons Ume Plum Vinegar

3 Tablespoons Brown Rice Vinegar

Handful of Parsley or Cilantro Chopped

Juice of 1 Lemon

2 Cups Water

1 Pinch Salt


  1. In medium saucepan add diced onion and ¼ cup water cover with water.  Let water come to boil and simmer for two minutes.  
  2. Add remaining 1 ¾ cups of water and bring to a boil. When water is boiling steadily add ¼ teaspoon salt and quinoa (discard soaking water).  
  3. On a medium flame bring water back to a boil, cover, turn heat low, and let simmer.
  4. In meantime, grate the carrot, remove corn from cob, chop parsley, roast and chop almonds.  
  5. After 15 minutes remove lid and add carrots, corn, almonds and raisins, recover and let cook for 3-5 more minutes.  Turn heat off and let sit for 3 additional minutes covered.
  6. Transfer quinoa to a large bowl. Add chopped parsley, lemon juice, brown rice vinegar and ume plum vinegar and mix throughout.  
  7. Eat warm or let cool to room temperature and enjoy!


  • All ingredients can be purchased at your local WholeFoods or natural grocery strore.
  • Ume plum vinegar is a tangy vinegar with beneficial amino acids made for the brine of pickled plums.  This vinegar also aids in digestion.

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