You want a plant based protein powder to match your plant based diet. Or you’ve tried a few whey proteins and found they disagree with you and your digestive system. Or maybe you’re just curious about the increasing number of plant based protein powder out there.
This guide will help you choose the best plant based protein powder to meet your fitness goals, be kind to your digestive system and stay within budget.
A Protein Refresher
Chances are you’re well aware of the reasons for consuming protein. But, we’re going to have a quick refresher on protein, and the implications might surprise you. Dietary protein is made of 20 amino acids. Nine of these are known as essential amino acids. Essential as in you need them to be fighting fit and healthy.
Not that long ago we believed you needed to consume all nine amino acids at the same time. This left plant based protein struggling to compete with whey protein as most plant based proteins fall short of being a “complete protein.”
We now know from 2016 research from the Academy of Nutritionists and Dietetics that eating a good mix of plant based foods will ensure you have enough essential amino acids throughout a full day. Your body is an incredible thing. It’s super efficient at using, breaking down and recycling essential amino acids to create its own complete protein.
Research shows moderately active adults need around 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. While those who are more active such as athletes may need a higher intake of between 1.4-2/kg of body weight. Many of the foods you eat will contain protein, regardless of whether or not you are vegan.
What about the ‘ates?
Protein powders tend to come in three forms; isolate, hydrolysate, and concentrate. This describes their purification and manufacturing process.
When you see isolate, you can be sure that the powder contains almost entirely isolated amino acids. There will be little fat, fiber or other substances.
These tend to digest slowly and are typically less allergenic than other protein sources. The slow rate of digestion means they keep you feeling fuller for longer while supporting muscle protein synthesis.
As the hydro suggests, these are proteins soaked in water which induces rapid digestion. This is because the amino acid bonds have been cut and undergone enzymatic activity.
Hydrolysates usually increase the speed of dietary amino acid uptake into skeletal muscle protein. Due to this, hydrolysates are great for supporting muscle repair after an intense workout.
Concentrates are high in protein while being less concentrated than isolates and hydrolysates. They undergo the least processing, so they’re great options if you’re seeking a more natural protein powder.
What is Planted Based Protein?
You’ve been asked a thousand times where you get your protein form and for vegans, there are thousands of options. Plant based protein mainly comes from legumes, nuts, and seeds. Although smaller amounts can be found in grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Most plant based protein powders tend to come from legumes, seeds, and some grain products, or combinations of the three. Some of the key advantages that plant based protein has over animal-derived proteins include containing large amounts of fiber, being lower in fat, and being free from cholesterol. Plant proteins keep you feeling full for longer while keeping your calorie intake low, and still meeting your protein needs.
A Look at the Best Plant Based Proteins
The five most popular sources of plant based proteins are soy, pea, brown rice, hemp, and blends. Let’s have a look at each one and see what fits your needs best.
Probably the most popular (but not always the best plant based protein) soy protein isolate has been in use since 1959 due to its many uses and benefits. The ingredient comes from soy flour and has a high solubility in water while retaining its protein content. Soy proteins guarantee a minimum of 90% protein.
Due to the intensity of the protein, there is little room for anything else such as fats or carbohydrates which gives it a neutral flavor perfect for adding to smoothies. It also tends to be less gassy than other soy products.
There is some controversy surrounding soy because of the presence of phytoestrogens. Some studies also show that it lowers the absorption of calcium, zinc, iron, and magnesium. However, these are absorbed from the consumption of soy so you will experience no net loss.
Much of the controversy surrounds suggestions that soy causes feminine attributes in men such as enlarged breast tissue. However, only a small percent of men are sensitive to soy, and these types of side effects only appear after extreme consumption – 12 or more servings per day! In moderate amounts, soy is safe and healthy.
When someone mentions peas, you probably think of the little green garden variety. Pea protein comes from field peas instead. Field peas are nearly four times as protein dense compared to garden peas.
Pea protein comes in at a minimum 80% making it easy for your body to absorb. It’s also allergen-friendly and free from just about anything that’s ever been controversial. It’s perfect for the perfect vegans and anyone with intolerances.
If you choose pea protein make sure your diet has a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to keep your amino acids complete.
Brown Rice Protein
Hold on! Rice is a carb? You’re not wrong. But much like pea protein, the processing involved in making brown rice protein shifts the nutritional profile. This makes it just as low in carbohydrates as other protein powders – so long as it doesn’t have any added sugars.
Rice protein is hypoallergenic and free from many ingredients that cause gastric distress. Making it an excellent choice.
Many of the best plant based protein powders come from a variety of sources – such as brown rice & pea protein or soy & rice protein or some other combination of plant powders. There are a few reasons for this.
First, it creates a complete protein by combining the essential amino acids. They also have a tremendous nutritional profile, highlighting the importance of variety in any diet.
Arguably more important though is blending makes for a smoother, creamier shake and 90% of the time a better flavor. No amount of protein can be considered the best if you can’t swallow it. One of our favorite blends is the Vega One precisely because it tastes great!
Now you know why you need best plant based protein powder and you know the options out there. All that’s left is to go out and try them for yourself. Many of the criticisms against plant based protein powders are regarding the taste.
The only way to get through this is to get out there and taste them for yourself. Check out our review of Plant Fusion if you’re not ready to make a purchase just yet.