So many people are now starting to reject the notion of consuming animal derived proteins such as whey, egg, beef and making the switch to other plant-based alternatives.
And for good reason too! The reality is that your body needs a natural, clean energy source for long-lasting sustainable energy without the host of digestive issues that come with animal-based protein powders.
Once you head over to the plant-based protein world, you'll quickly realise that there's actually a lot more choice in terms of both taste/flavour and nutritional profiles.
There are just so many (better) alternatives to whey protein. So much so, that it can be a bit perplexing as to why anyone would choose an animal based product in the first place.
It's one of those things, that once you make the transition, you'll think back and wonder why you didn't think of switching earlier and what took you so long!
In terms of choosing a the right plant-based protein powder, there a number of sources to choose from - each with their own nutritional benefits depending on what you're dietary requirements are. Here are a few:
- Sprouted Pea Protein Powder (80-85% protein)
- Sprouted Rice Protein Powder (80-85% protein)
- Hemp Seed Protein Powder (60-70% protein)
- Sacha Inchi Protein Powder (65-70% protein)
- Pumpkin Seed Powder (60-65% protein)
- Sunflower Seed Meal (50-55% protein)
Now, I know what you're thinking. Those values are much lower than traditional whey protein powder - which is typically around the 90% range (unflavoured with no other additives).
However, your body is a complex machine and requires alot more than just protein. What about vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and fats?
This is where plant-based alternatives really come into their own. Let's talk about that.
1. Digestibility And Fibre
Fibre is probably the single most important part of plant protein's superiority. Only plant-based foods contain fiber, which is what helps keep your digestive system running.
Fiber is made up of two key elements - soluble and insoluble fiber. It’s the insoluble fiber that helps our digestive system run smoothly. The soluble fiber keeps us feeling full and happy after we eat.
There are many whey-based protein powders that are designed to serve as meal replacements, however many of them are packed with carbohydrates and artificial "fillers" designed to help you feel fuller for longer.
Plant-based protein powder on the other hand, naturally keeps you feeling full while also keeping you "regular".
2. Naturally Occurring Amino Acids
Protein is found throughout the body, in everything from muscles to skin and hair. However your body does not store protein (unlike other macronutrients such as fat!), so protein needs to delivered externally from your diet.
To put it simply, a protein is built with amino acids. There are 22 types of amino acids. A person's body needs a balance of all 22 types of amino acids to function correctly.
Now 9 of those amino acids are referred to as "essential amino acids". You may see some protein sources referred to as a "complete protein", this simply means that it contains all nine.
The great thing about most plant-based proteins is that they are considered "complete proteins", meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids.
In many cases, plant-based protein sources actually contain more amino acids than whey protein. Rice protein for example, exceeds the amount of BCAAs found in whey.
This is precisely why you'll find that many plant protein powders combine a number of different protein sources into a blend. The blend is often designed so that the final product is both high in protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids.
Plants are naturally packed with antioxidants (unlike milk) and other vitamins and trace minerals that are simply not present in animal-based proteins such as whey.
Plant-based proteins contain a number of "special" phenolic compounds that are highly effective antioxidants. These plant-based phenols have been studied to reduce the risk of many lifestyle diseases, such as heart diseases, cognitive disorders and diabetes.
In addition, many whole grain derived proteins such as quinoa deliver zinc and selenium, in addition to phytochemicals thought to help protect against heart disease and cancer.
4. More Good Fats.
Fats have a bit of reputation in today's world, however they're not nearly as bad as they're made out to be. The problem is that the standard diet uses carbohydrates and sugar as a fuel source so any excess fats don't gets burned by the body.
One of the great things about plant-proteins is some of them naturally contain "healthy fats" such as Omega-3. Sacha Inchi for example, is particularly high in Omega-3, with around 50% of the fat from seeds. These good fats not inly help prevent inflammatory diseases, such as coronary heart disease, but also serve as a reliable, sustainable source of energy - particularly for the brain.
5. Environmentally And Ethically Sourced
There are a number of problems with dairy based proteins, many of which come down to how and where the products are produced.
Unfortunately, whey-protein often comes from livestock that are specifically bred purely for milk production and are often consumed as meat afterwards. This is why there are differences in "dairy cows" (the white and black ones) and other cow breeds (such as angus).
Additionally, a dairy cow can only be female (obviously), which means the male calves are considered of little value to the dairy farmer and are sold for meat. Millions of these calves are taken away to be raised for beef or veal.
Lastly, livestock are often treated with hormones and antibiotics. This can easily translate into the whey protein you may want to use for your workouts.