I've always been a huge smoothie/protein-shake lover as part of my daily routine. As a form of dietary nourishment, a post-workout recovery too and, (I'll be honest) as a delicious endorphin boost.
Recently though, I came to the realization that whey protein, is not particularly good for my digestion (amongst other things).
For years, I didn't even really think about plant-based proteins. My favourite "Triple Chocolate Fudge" dairy-based protein powder was my go-to post-workout recovery meal.
I had heard a lot about plant protein and its apparent miraculous effects on your digestion, energy, blood sugar management, appetite control, and mental focus and knew I had to try it out sooner or later.
The plan was to switch to a plant-based protein powder for my smoothies, protein shakes, yogurts etc...
The idea is that plant-based proteins are lower in calories and fat than animal proteins but higher in fibre, vitamins, key minerals, antioxidants and healthy fats. And by swapping out dairy-based protein for plant-based, your body will reap those benefits.
When I asked my local GP about plant protein, she told me that it'd be worth trying out for at least the short term, for many of the reasons above.
So I did exactly that. Here's what happened!
I chose to go with Vebena Organics as I've been helping them out with their blog, recipes, social media and stuff. They've got plant protein in 3 different flavours but I chose to go with their Coconut & Vanilla Bean as it's the most neutral in flavour and versatile for smoothies etc.. Also I like how their proteins are naturally flavoured and have added superfoods for extra nutrition!
At first, I have to admit, the taste was a little different. I mean, don't get me wrong, it tasted really good, but it just lacked that "creamy" milkiness I was used to from my whey protein.
For the first few shakes, I tried to mixing it with activated almond milk to give it bit of a "milky" boost. This definitely did the trick and was much closer to the taste I was used to.
Eventually though, I weaned off the vegan "mylk" and just started mixing it with plain water. After a few days, I got used to the taste and even looked forward to it!
On workout days at the gym, I'd do the my standard - add it to my meticulously dried shaker (I'm seriously a shaker clean freak. If there's literally even a drop of water in it, I totally freak out), then fill it with water at the gym after my workout.
Anyways, back to the story. So on my workout days, I did actually feel like I had more energy. At first I thought it might just be the placebo effect, but I definitely felt like my endurance was improving.
For my training sessions, I didn't really feel like I had more strength or powder, but I definitely felt like I could do more reps. My cardio improved too! For runs and cycling, I felt like I could just go longer. I don’t know if it was the fact that the plant protein contains real "food", or if it was just my mind playing tricks on me. But anyways I really did feel like something was different.
After a bit of research on that thing everyone calls the Internet, I put it down to the healthy fats that are naturally present in plant protein. My guess is that my body was feeding off those fats for energy. Which explains the improvements in my endurance.
So one of the biggest differences was the effects on my digestion. I guess years of pumping my stomach with indigestble whey had really taken its tole on my gut.
You know that feeling you get when you're doing a lot of protein shakes and your stomach just feels "loose"? Yeah, that feeling. Well I'm happy to say it totally disappeared, even when I'd double-down and do 2 shakes a day.
I guess this comes down to the fact that plant protein is naturally high in fibre. Whey protein on the other hand literally has 0g of fibre! Not to mention, humans were never meant to drink cows milk.
The other thing I noticed was my portion control (seriously this is usually a real problem for me). Whenever I did a post-workout shake, I ate less on the next meal. I also had less of those 9pm sugar cravings (don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about). Instead of franticly rummaging through the fridge for anything the even the slightest bit sweet, I'd feel nice and satisfied after my post-workout shake or smoothie.
My weight fluctuates like A LOT. On a low-carb, treat-free healthy week I can drop anywhere from 1 - 1.5kg easily. I know, it sounds like a lot but really it's not that much. Carbohydrates absorb a lot of water and you can easily drop 1kg in a week from simply reducing your carb intake (think breads, pasta, rice, grains etc..)
Anyways I weighed myself today and I'm 700g lighter than I was at the start of this week. Obviously this is not just some magical effect of the plants. I put it down to the extra fibre in my diet and the appetite control from the plant protein. In any case, I'm super excited with the results so far. I'm going to keep going and see where this whole dairy-free thing takes me.
To be honest, I'd prefer to use real food for my protein intake and yes sure there are other ways to use protein powder, such as adding it to smoothies, yogurts and cereals etc... But when you're busy (lazy) like I am, and struggle to get enough protein in your diet, plant-based protein powders might be what you need to shake it up! (see what I did there!)
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