If you are a vegan or are considering going vegan, then the one question troubling you might be, “Will I get enough protein on a plant-based diet”. Protein is essential in a diet, especially for athletes and gym-goers to recover, build and keep training.
Not to worry, Protein Powders come in vegan options as well. Although whey protein powders have gained momentum since bodybuilding became popular in the 80s, meat and dairy are not considered the only viable sources of protein. There are various options of plant-based protein powders such as rice, soy, pea, and hemp. A lot of brands also add stevia, fruit/veggie, and monk protein to add extra protein.
Plant-based protein powders are the way to go to build muscles without consuming artificial steroids.
The difference between Whey Protein and Vegan protein
How it is made?
Whey Protein: The liquid remaining after the milk has been curdled and strained is known as Whey. In simple words, it is the by-product of cheese and casein. In previous years whey was considered waste and was fed to pigs. It wasn’t until when bodybuilders and dairy marketers realized that it is a cheap source of high protein.
Plant-based protein: Plant-based protein, as the name suggests, is derived from plants. They require little to no processing and grow with essential amino acids included like oats, nuts, and beans. Nut butter and tofu, on the other hand, require some processing, but still comparatively less than what it takes to process whey protein.
Density of Nutrition
Nutrient density is calculated by the number of nutrients food can provide per calorie. One of the most important reasons that people choose a protein powder is to gain vital nutrients since they are the building blocks of any workout routine.
Whey protein: Whey protein is high in protein. It is also low in fat and carbohydrates. Whey is high in calcium. Contains B-vitamins. According to research, whey protein can increase vitamin B12 and folate in elderly people. Whey also contains other vitamins and minerals in low quantities. If you are looking for straight protein with high levels of protein and low calories, then whey is your best choice. Although whey protein powders often contain more sugar and have high levels of saturated fat than vegan protein powders.
Vegan protein: Nutrient density in vegan protein powders depends on what source of plant protein you use, e.g., pea, soy, hemp, etc. Vegan protein is also high in protein and in fiber. Plant protein tends to have more carbohydrates than whey protein. Also contains high amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. If you are looking for a protein powder with no additives and artificial sweeteners, then plant-based protein is your best option. This is because plant-based powders are more natural than whey protein. Along with all the necessary nutrients, vegan protein also has a naturally pleasant taste, and hence no artificial additives are needed. They also require less processing than whey protein.
Health and digestion
Whey protein: Since whey is derived from dairy, it is harder to digest. 65% of people are known to suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance, which explains the Gastric distress after consuming whey. According to some studies, consuming milk or milk products on a daily basis can increase the chances of cancer and heart diseases. Plus, you never know how the livestock that produces your dairy are treated in the dairy industry. The dairy industry is known to widely use antibiotics on livestock. Moreover, the additives in whey protein powders can also damage your health
Vegan Protein: On the other hand, plant protein contains sufficient amounts of enzyme and fibre, which actively aid digestion. Unlike livestock, most plants are taken good care of and are produced naturally. By choosing plant protein over whey, you are escaping the harmful additives.
Muscle building and recovery
Most people use protein powder to support their workout routines, it may be both weight loss and muscle gain or weight gain and muscle gain. The question is how can vegan protein or whey protein help in terms of muscle recovery and gain.
Whey protein: Whey protein is popular for offering all nine amino acids required for muscle development. Products like whey protein that contain all nine amino acids are known as complete proteins. Moreover, whey protein contains BCAAs – branched-chain amino acids. These include leucine, isoleucine, and valine. The BCAAs are vital in muscle protein synthesis and are also known to promote muscle growth. Although these ingredients are beneficial and get the job done, they aren’t flavourful and most people don’t like the taste. Furthermore, producers are known to add unknown ingredients and artificial sweeteners to make it taste good and improve the shelf life. Although whey protein contains all nine amino acids, it is a dairy product at the end of the day and can cause acidity.
Vegan protein: Plant protein powders that contain pea in their ingredients aid in muscle thickness. It does the same job that whey protein powders can do. When combined with other protein-rich plant ingredients like hemp and quinoa, vegan protein also offers amino acid profiles.
Whether or not you are an environmental enthusiast, you should know how your protein choice affects the environment. You should be aware of how they are manufactured and if their production puts the environment around you at risk.
Whey protein is an opportunity for manufacturers to capitalize on unwanted waste. When dairy factories produce yogurt and cheese, they dump the whey. Instead of wasting it, the fitness industry turns it into protein powders and other products. Animal farming and meat industries are controversial topics. The reason most people turn vegan is to rid themselves of the guilt of harming innocent animals. There’s no doubt that the meat and dairy industries have an unsustainable impact on the environment, and this is why people look for alternatives. You may be shocked to find out how much milk is required to produce whey protein powder. Moreover, most of the cows are forcefully inseminated to produce milk. They are also force-fed hormones and other antibiotics to increase milk production. When it comes to environmental factors, there is no doubt that vegan protein is the better and a sustainable choice.
Expert opinion on the right vegan protein powder.
There are a lot of options to choose from when it comes to plant-based protein powders. Here are the types of vegan protein powders, their nutritional highlights, and the right vegan protein powder according to experts.
Pea Protein powder
Pea protein powder isn’t produced from sweet green peas but from high protein yellow split peas. This plant protein powder is also being added to a variety of products like meal replacement shakes, energy bars, veggie burgers, and even breakfast cereals.
A quarter cup or 28 gram serving of pea protein powder contains around 21 grams of protein and 100 calories, depending on the product. It is significantly high in BCAAs. According to a study, pea protein and whey protein both provide similar muscle gains. Animal and human studies also claim that pea protein provides a feeling of fullness and promotes lower blood pressure.
Like legumes, pea protein contains all the essential amino acids but has less content of one amino acid, methionine. In simple words, pea protein can be mixed with other plant-based protein ingredients and should not be used as the only choice throughout the day.
Pumpkin Seed protein
Pumpkin seeds as a whole are relatively high in protein and healthy fat. Once it is converted into powder form, most of the fat gets eliminated resulting in fewer calories.
A quarter cup of unflavored pumpkin seed protein powder provides approximately 103 calories and 18 grams of protein. Although it is not a complete protein as it is low in essential amino acids, threonine, and lysine. Pumpkin seed protein contains high levels of magnesium, iron, zinc, and other minerals along with beneficial plant compounds.
Studies provide evidence that pumpkin seed protein may contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Soy Protein powder
Soy protein powder is probably the most popular among all protein powders. Soy is a complete protein and is also high in BCAAs.
A quarter cup of soy isolate protein powder packs about 95 calories and 22 grams of protein. It also includes additional benefit plant compounds that may help lower your cholesterol levels. Experts suggest that you should look for brands that don’t genetically modify their soy protein powder.
Soy is very beneficial but be careful of the allergies and potential negative health impacts like breast cancer. Although according to a recent study, soy protein was found to contain plant compounds with anti-cancer activity.
Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp protein powder is produced from the seeds of the cannabis plant. Don’t worry you won’t get high with hemp protein since it is produced from a variety bred that contains only trace amounts of the euphoric compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
A quarter cup of unflavoured hemp protein powder contains around 12 grams of protein along with 108 calories. Hemp protein is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, zinc, fiber, and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) or the plant form of omega-3 fat. Hemp is not a complete protein since it is low in essential amino acid lysine. However, you can fill the gap by routinely combining it with other plant-based proteins like quinoa or legumes.
According to test tube research, hemp seed protein help in lowering blood pressure in people.
A South American native plant, Salvia Hispanica produces chia seeds. Chia seeds have gain popularity as a dietary addition in oatmeal, smoothies, puddings, porridges, and baked goods. Moreover, these can also be made into protein powders.
A quarter cup of chia protein powder contains around 50 calories along with 10 grams of protein. Like most seed-sourced proteins, it is low in essential amino acid lysine.
Chia protein powder may help aid digestion. Since they are high in Omega-3 fatty acid, they help reduce inflammation, it can also stabilize blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, chia seeds are good for bone health, can reduce heart disease risk, and are high in fibre and antioxidants.
Sunflower seed protein
Using sunflower seeds is a fairly new approach in manufacturing vegan protein powders. A quarter cup of sunflower protein powder provides about 91 calories and 13 grams of protein. It also includes muscle-building BCAAs. Sunflower seeds are loaded with Vitamin C and Vitamin E along with minerals like magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, manganese, phosphorous, sodium, zinc, etc. Sunflower seed protein can help boost immunity, reduce inflammation and cholesterol, and also acts as an antioxidant. Sunflower seeds are also good for our skin and boost functions of the brain.
Brown rice protein
Among all the vegan protein powders, brown rice protein powder is relatively inexpensive and also easy to find. A quarter cup of unflavoured brown rice protein will give you 22 grams of protein in 107 calories. Like all vegan protein powders, brown rice protein is a good source of BCAAs.
Brown rice protein mixes well with other vegan proteins, for example; you can combine it with pea protein and make it a complete protein package for muscle building. Brown rice is also known to boost metabolism in people.
Sacha Inchi protein
Sacha Inchi is derived from a star-shaped seed grown in Peru. Since there is only a limited supply, it is rather expensive when compared to all the other vegan proteins.
A quarter cup of Sacha Inchi protein powder will provide you 17 grams of protein in 120 calories. Sacha Inchi is 30% protein by weight, which is higher when compared to many nuts and seeds. With the combined richness of iron and protein, Sacha Inchi protein develops, repairs, and maintains lean muscle mass. Sacha Inchi satisfies hunger and will keep you feeling full for a long time. It also supports digestive health and helps maintain a healthy weight. This protein is also known to boost metabolism and fight inflammation.
Best protein powders available for vegans
Garden of life raw organic protein powder unflavoured
This protein powder is the top pick when it comes to vegan protein powders, it is a unique concoction of 15 plant-based legumes, grains, and seeds. Each scoop offers 22 grams of sugar-free vegan protein. The addition of pea protein makes the protein easy to digest. Garden of life’s raw organic protein powder is manufactured at low temperatures to preserve the amino acids and to ensure a high-quality product, it does not include any added fillers.
Aloha organic protein powder
Aloha organic protein powder is popular for its many flavour options, like, chocolate, banana, and vanilla. The protein powder is naturally sweetened with monk fruit extract and coconut sugar. Sourced from organic ingredients like peas, brown rice, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds, each serving contains 18 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre. Aloha’s organic protein powder will keep your hunger satisfied and support blood sugar control. Moreover, it is certified, organic, gluten-free, vegan, and devoid of any artificial ingredients.
Orgain simple organic plant powder protein
This plant protein powder is the tastiest protein powder you can ever get! It is available in chocolate, vanilla, and peanut butter and will add flavour to your protein shakes, smoothies, and baked goods.
Each serving offers 20 grams of protein and is made of natural ingredients like almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, peanuts, and golden peas.
This protein powder is certified, non-GMO, vegan, and is free of gluten, lactose, and soy.
Now sports pea protein powder
If you are on a low-carb diet, then this protein powder is perfect for you. Its per serving provides you with 24 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of carbs. This vegan protein powder is made of yellow pea protein isolate is free of GMOs and soy. Since it is unflavoured it can be easily mixed into drinks and desserts alike.
Moreover, it is certified by Informed-Choice and has also achieved certification for Good manufacturing practices (GMP) from the Natural Products Association.
Naked Pea Premium Pea Protein Powder
If you are looking for a simple plant-based protein powder devoid of artificial sweeteners, flavours, and colours, then this protein powder is for you.
It is made exclusively from raw yellow peas and provides 27 grams of protein per serving. It is also certified gluten-free, vegan and is produced with environmentally-friendly farming techniques.
KOS Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
This vegan protein powder is the best organic protein powder available in the market. Available in many flavours including chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, and chocolate chip mint, it is free of gluten, soy, dairy, and artificial sweeteners. Infused with organic cacao, organic coconut milk, and monk fruit, it offers a smooth chocolatey flavour.
To conclude, Vegan protein powders are gaining popularity in the market because of it’s organic and environmentally friendly ingredients. Unlike whey protein, they do not contain any additives and have more health benefits.