There is no stressing enough the importance of having the correct amount of protein in your body. Whether or not you want to gain lean muscle mass, protein has many other benefits than just gaining muscle. As a matter of fact, your body would more then likely not function very efficiently if you didn’t consume enough protein.
The next order of business to this is what kind of protein you should be getting. Remember with protein it is all about quality of protein, not necessarily quantity. It is important that you are getting the correct type of protein so that your body gets all of the essential amino acids that it can not produce on its own.
Whenever we think about protein, most of the time we think of animal-based. When protein pops to mind, I personally think beef, chicken, turkey, whey protein powder, egg whites etc. but animals aren’t the only sources of protein. Plants can also provide you with the protein that you need throughout your day, but many times people wonder if plant-based protein gives you the correct amino acids.
While various sources of plant protein might be low in certain amino acids, there is usually a complementary plant that would provide the missing amino acids. A common combination that you might find is rice protein and pea protein, these two plant proteins complement each other to make a complete protein. I am going to avoid soy protein powder in this article, as soy has been the center of attention lately for the way it is grown in the US and raises many concerns. Soy is a story for another day though, we’ll just avoid it for now. Let’s jump right in and take a look at some of the benefits of plant-based protein powders.
Benefits of Plant-Based Protein Powders
People that choose to go with plant-based protein powders do so for a various number of reasons. Some people are vegans, and vegetarians who are choosing plant-based protein powders for obvious reasons, Other people have issues with animal-based protein powders such as whey and casein. Lactose intolerant people especially have problems with protein powders such as whey and casein. This is where plant-based protein powders come in, they can be a great alternative to people looking to avoid animal-based protein powders.
Everyone still needs their protein, no matter what you choose to eat, or if you have an extra sensitive digestive system, your body still needs protein no matter what. So let’s see why plant-based protein offers such a great solution.
- Easy to Digest – One of the main benefits of plant-based protein powders is that it is easy for your stomach to digest. Sprouted proteins particularly seem to be able to absorb even better, and it also the best way of processing plant proteins to keep most of the nutrients. Some protein powders such as THRIVE by Legion Athletics come with digestive enzymes to further help you with digestion, this could be beneficial to older individuals or those with extra sensitive stomachs.
- Naturally Nutritious – The extra benefit of using plant-based proteins is that most plants are rich in nutrients along with the protein. Proteins that are sprouted carry the most vitamins and minerals along with it. Organic plant-based protein powders such as Orgain’s Organic Protein are an even better choice to avoid heavy metal contamination and potential GMOs.
- High in Fiber – This is one of the added benefits of using a plant-based protein powder is that it contains high amounts of fiber. Fiber is important in having a healthy bowel, help with cholesterol levels and maintain good body weight.
- Healthier – Most major brands do not have any artificial sweetener, flavoring, or ingredients, therefore leaving you with a healthier protein powder.
- Just As Good As Whey – There was a study that was done on brown rice protein and it showed that it performed just as well as whey. Therefore you don’t have to worry about plant-based protein powders not giving you what you need if you are looking to build lean muscle mass.
- Hypo-Allergenic – It is a great option for anyone with allergies to soy, dairy, or wheat. Anyone with celiac disease can rest assured they won’t have a gluten reaction as most plant-based protein powders are gluten-free.
- Antioxidant – Brown rice protein powder, in particular, may have antioxidant effects and would benefit your liver by reducing the stress that it gets from oxidative damage.
- Great for Baked Goods – If you are looking to make protein cookies, or brownies plant-based protein powders generally work well when it comes to cooking or baking.
What About The Amino Acids?
One big concern with plant-based proteins is the amino acid profiles of the proteins that are coming from these plants. People start to point out that they arre deficient in whatever amino acid, and point to the fact that whey is a complete protein.
Rice protein, in particular, is often criticized for being low in the amino acid lysine, which is an amino acid involved with bone health. Solution to this is to combine rice protein with pea protein, which is rich in lysine and many other amino acids. Even better pea protein is rich in the three branch-chain amino acids that is involved in the protein synthesis process helping your muscle growth and post-workout recovery.
If you are using a protein that is short on a certain amino acid, there is a good chance that you would be able to obtain it from your diet, as there are many combinations of grains & Legumes and Nuts & Seeds with Legumes that would give you all your essential amino acids.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The amount of protein that you need will vary from person to person. It all depends on your activity level, muscle mass, age, and goals are. It is also important to remember that protein supplements should not be your primary source of protein, you should be getting the majority of your protein from your diet. Even if you are vegan or vegetarian, there are many options for you to get your protein from your diet.
Therefore regardless of your eating preference the DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) suggest for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That translate to about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is enough protein to stay healthy and maintain your muscle mass.
For those of you that are training to gain more lean muscle mass may need to get more protein per pound of body weight. Most in the fitness community go by the easy 1 gram per pound of body weight when you are looking to gain lean muscle mass. You really don’t need too much more then than 1 gram. Check out this video from Sean Nalewanyj about vegan protein powder vs whey protein powders, and how much protein you need a day.
What About the Heavy Metals?
Recently the Clean Label Project caused a huge stir up when they published an article where they tested out 134 different protein powder products from 52 different brands. They screened them for over 130 toxins including heavy metals, BPA, pesticides, and other contaminants that are linked to cancer and various health conditions.
However many people criticized the group of lack of transparency, not truly showing data, no peer review, and the methods for testing were not released. The funding of the project was also a bit unclear and controversial.
It is important to remember that “detectable” levels of heavy metals does not mean unsafe. Many plant-based products will contain some levels of heavy metals due to them just naturally absorbing them from the earth. Even the vegetables that you purchase from the supermarket will have some traces of heavy metals in them.
Are plant-based protein powders a good choice? We believe so, the only one downside to plant-based protein powders is the taste. Some people do not mind the taste, but people that are generally used to whey protein powders dislike the taste. Most plant-based protein powders have a fairly nutty taste to them. Certain brands taste better than others
If you like this be sure to check out our article on the benefits of brown rice protein powders.
Have you tried plant-based protein powders? How do you like them? Let me know below! As always thank you all for reading, if you have any comments, questions, or concerns please don’t hesitate to leave them below and I will get back to you.