For a few years now my wife and I have followed a strict vegan diet. We started eating this way mostly for health reasons. As a new year’s resolution this year we decided to add more exercise into our life. I have always been a thin guy and wanted to add some muscle so I decided to start weight training. I knew I would also need to alter my diet, include increasing my overall caloric intake and upping my protein intake to meet my goals.
Need for Vegan Protein
After some research I realized I needed a lot more protein if I wanted to gain muscle. I was consuming roughly 60 grams a day from my regular diet, which by most standards is good and healthy, but not enough for building muscle. For my weight I needed at least 140 grams according to most bodybuilding experts. For a vegan, this seemed like a pretty daunting task. The most often recommended high protein food source I saw for vegans was Soy. For the amount of soy I would need to eat I was nervous about the phytoestrogens and its possible effects on testosterone. I’d rather be safe than sorry. I also didn’t want to rely solely on vegan protein drinks either. After more research I learned about Seitan.
Seitan - An Alternative
Seitan is wheat gluten, which is the main protein in wheat. Seitan has been used as a meat replacement in Asia for a long time and is nicknamed “wheat meat” or “mock duck”. It soaks up the flavor of whatever it is being cooked with which is what makes it such a great meat alternative. It’s nearly pure protein and a serving can have 20+ grams. Obviously, if you have gluten intolerance then this is not a good option for you, since its 100% gluten. For me, this was my answer!(assuming it tasted decent of course)
Where do I try this stuff?
After days of struggling to pronounce it (no two people say it the same but I call it “say-taan”) I finally found it at my local Whole Foods and bought a package. I was glad to see that it wasn’t expensive, about $1.50 a serving. I’ll be the first to say it, it looked weird. It looked a little like clay but it smelled very good. It was packaged with a broth that helped it keep its consistency. I decided to use it in a stir fry as a way to ease myself into it (come on, what doesn’t taste good in a stir-fry?). I added it in just like it was beef strips or chicken and it was phenomenal! It soaked up every bit of flavor. The texture wasn’t very meat-like to me but that was just an observation, not a downside. I was hooked.
Can I DIY?
I began to research making my own Seitan. I won’t go into detail about the recipes or process, I’ll save that for another article but the minimum needed to make it is wheat gluten and water. It’s so simple. I have since experimented various ways to make it and different spices to add to make it even better and fit with different dishes. It has become a staple of my vegan diet and an important source of my daily protein intake.
I’ve gotten up to my 140 grams per day and I’m seeing great results building muscle (my wife will be the first to tell you!). I’m so glad that I learned about Seitan and it has become a fun project for me to experiment with. Combined with a balanced diet Seitan is a vegan protein powerhouse!
Bob's Red Mill Wital Wheat Gluten
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(price as of Jun 7, 2015)