The buzz around plant-based protein has hit at an all-time high. Plant-based protein has gained a massive surge in popularity due to consumers looking for plant-based alternatives to include in their diets. In fact, according to a recent Nielsen Survey, nearly 40% of Americans are actively seeking out plant-based alternatives.
If your Vegan, getting enough protein that packs in all the essential amino acids to help burn more body fat, build more muscle, and support faster recovery from your workouts can be a challenge. Yet contrary to popular belief, there are some plant-based protein sources that are better than others, that you can chase your heavy training session with and claim your gains.
In this ultimate guide to plant-based protein, you will learn
- What Is Plant-Based Protein?
- Is Plant Protein As Good As Animal Protein?
- Complete Vs Incomplete Proteins
- What Are The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources?
- What Is The Best Plant-Based Protein Powder?
- Plant-Based Protein Dosage
- The Best Plant-Based Protein Powder
What Is Plant-Based Protein?
Plant-based protein is exactly what it implies - protein that is derived from plant-based sources. As you know, protein is the macronutrient superhero and is proven to help you build, rebuild, and repair muscle mass after your workouts. Choosing a plant-based lifestyle however can be somewhat challenging, especially when it comes to getting all of the essential amino acids your body craves. But don’t fret, that’s where plant-based protein powders come in so handy.
Plant-based protein can come from a variety of plant sources such as
- Chia Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sacha Inchi
- Brown Rice
- Watermelon Seed
What Are The Difference Between Plant-Based Protein And Animal Protein?
Animal proteins such as whey, egg, or milk have always been considered a superior source of protein amongst athletes and those looking to improve athletic performance and body composition, due to its complete amino acid profile. Most plant-based protein sources are considered incomplete sources of protein and do not contain all nine essential amino acids, making them an inferior source of protein for ergogenic benefits.
What Is A Complete Protein?
A complete source of protein is a protein that contains all of the essential amino acids.
There are 21 amino acids that are utilized for human growth and metabolism. Twelve of these amino acids are considered to be nonessential, meaning that they can be synthesized by your body and do not need to be acquired through your diet. The remaining nine amino acids (methionine, lysine, isoleucine, histidine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, phenylalanine and leucine.) are essential and need to be consumed through dietary sources of protein. The absence of these essential amino acids will inhibit the ability of tissue growth and repair, therefore limiting your capacity to build and rebuild lean muscle mass [R].
What Are Incomplete Proteins?
Incomplete proteins are those found in plant sources such as beans, legumes, and nuts and generally lack in one or more of the essential amino acids.
For Vegans, it’s important that you eat a variety of different foods, in order to derive all of the essential amino acids through incomplete protein sources, in order to create what’s called a complementary protein (a complete protein from two or more sources). Combining incomplete protein sources will provide a good nutritional profile to support athletic performance goals. However eating a non-varied diet, with limited protein sources can result in a limited capacity to build and rebuild lean muscle mass, and initiate the recovery process as compared to consuming animal-based protein sources [R].
Is Plant-Based Protein As Good As Animal Protein?
Despite arguments of uptake, digestibility, and amino acid profile, recent studies have shown that not all plant-based proteins are the same. And that some plant protein sources are far superior to others, rivaling the protein king himself – whey.
Plant proteins also have one or several things technically that animal proteins do not have – micronutrients, healthy fats, and fiber. Plant-based proteins contain valuable micronutrients, such as magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, chromium, calcium, iron, and manganese. Better yet, plant-based protein sources such as Sacha Inchi and Hemp contain healthy Omega fats such as EPA, DHA, and ALA which are critical to optimizing the way you live.
Not to mention, plant-based proteins such as pea protein and quinoa are considered complete proteins and are rich in muscle nurturing branched-chain amino acids.
Let’s talk about a few of the best sources of plant-based protein that rival animal proteins, and provide the reparative and muscle-building essential amino acids you need to crush your health and fitness goals.
Supplementing with a protein source that has a full essential amino acid (EAA) profile, is critical to initiating the muscle-building process, better known as muscle protein synthesis. As compared to other plant-based protein sources, pea protein has the highest essential amino acid mix, almost rivaling that of Whey Protein the gold standard of protein powder [R].
In a double-blind randomized controlled study published in the Journal Of The International Society Of Sports Nutrition, pea protein went head to head against whey protein, to investigate the effects on muscle composition and strength. 161 male participants enrolled in a 12-week resistance training program and were randomized into a pea, whey, and placebo control group. The results showed a significant and greater effect on muscle composition amongst the pea protein group, with no clinical difference between groups in regard to muscle strength.
Therefore, this study proves that Pea protein is a phenomenal plant-based protein source to help increase muscle strength and composition, to further improve athletic performance [R].
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At Lipscomb University in Tennessee, they compared the effects of whey and pea protein supplementation in conjunction with 8-weeks of High-Intensity Functional Training (HIFT) on strength, body composition, muscle size, IMTP peak force, IMTP RFD, and WOD performance. The results confirmed that whey and pea proteins promote similar strength, performance, body composition, and muscular adaptations following 8-weeks of HIFT [R].
Despite having a complete amino acid profile with all nine essential amino acids, some critics believe that peas are actually an incomplete protein. The amino acid methionine falls a bit short of traditional complete protein standards. However when compared to whey, pea protein has more arginine, an important amino acid in promoting the natural release of nitric oxide and delivering more nutrients to your muscle tissue. Peas are also rich in the branched-chain amino acids, which are responsible for the muscle-building process.
When you’re looking for a plant-based protein to toss in your blender bottle post-workout, make sure it has pea protein in addition to a few other high-quality plant-based protein sources.
RELATED ARTICLE Pea Vs Whey: Which One Is Better?
Hemp is also a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. In fact, research has shown that the amino acid profile of hemp protein is similar to egg whites, which is a very high-quality source of protein [R]. In addition to a complete EAA profile, hemp is rich in healthy fats [R]. Hemp contains an essential 3:1 balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that Omega-3 fats, have a myriad of health benefits including improved heart, joint, and brain health.
Another great benefit of hemp protein is that hemp is abundant in fiber. Hemp contains around 8 grams of fiber per 1/4 cup (30 grams) and provides 32% of the recommended daily intake. Fiber is essential for digestive health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
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Lastly, hemp protein is abundant in minerals, antioxidants and micronutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, zinc and copper. Micronutrients can help bridge the gaps in your diet and optimize biological functions and processes.
When you’re looking for a quality plant-based protein powder, make sure it contains hemp so you can get healthy fats and fiber in addition to your protein.
Pumpkin Seed Protein
The pumpkin seed, much like hemp contains nearly 60% protein and 30% fat with an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and copper [R].
Pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of Magnesium. Magnesium is a critical element in helping the body regulate blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. If you can optimize your blood sugar levels, you can therefore minimize your risk of chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Despite the healthy fats and micronutrients, pumpkin seeds are an incomplete source of protein due to a relatively low lysine content. When you’re looking for plant-based protein powder, make sure that if it has pumpkin seed protein, it also contains other types of plant protein, so ensure it’s a complete source of protein.
Supposedly the next, “superfood’, Sacha Inchi is a nut native to the Amazonian jungles of South America. Sacha Inchi contains all essential amino acids making it a remarkable source of protein to help build muscle mass, strength, and improve athletic performance. Not to mention, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense nuts on the planet. Sa
cha provides another source of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and is packed with alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) [R].
A study published in the Journal Of Agricultural Food Chemistry found that Sacha Inchi has an uncharacteristic amount of tryptophan (an essential amino acid, to balance the production of serotonin, which is involved in regulating appetite) [R]. Serotonin also helps control your mood, promotes better quality sleep, and improves overall vitality. No wonder Sacha Inchi, has been elevated to ‘super’ status.
Quinoa has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years and is indigenous to the Andes in South America. Technically a seed, quinoa is classified as a whole-grain and is a very high-quality plant-based protein source. Quinoa is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids, with an abundant amount of fiber. One cup of cooked quinoa typically provides eight grams of protein and five grams of fiber.
What’s impressive about Quinoa, is that Quinoa contains 7.2% leucine content to total protein. Leucine is proven to be the core branched-chain amino acid, that is responsible for initiating muscle protein synthesis. The more muscle-nurturing leucine in your diet, the more muscle mass you’ll build, which translates into better athletic performance and better results [R]. Oh, and did I mention, quinoa is naturally gluten-free.
What Is The Best Plant-Based Protein Powder?
When you’re specifically on the hunt for the best plant-based protein powder, there are a few critical factors to consider before reaching checkout on Amazon for the cheapest plant-based protein option.
Factor #1: Proprietary Blend Free
Most plant-based protein powders use what’s called a proprietary blend. A proprietary blend is a mixture of ingredients that does not disclose how much of each individual ingredient a product contains. Supplement manufacturers do this so that they can claim a product has certain ingredients while adding only a fraction of that ingredient to save on manufacturing costs. Case and point take a look at the examples below, which contain a proprietary blend, or do not disclose how much of each ingredient they use, by placing them in the other ingredients.
As you can see, this very popular plant protein powder contains pea protein, pumpkin seed protein, sacha inchi protein, sunflower seed protein, and chia seed protein. The only problem is that it tons of added ingredients, and does not list how much of each plant protein source it uses. Not to mention this product only has 9 servings per container.
In the second example, you'll also see the same thing. This product contains pea protein, brown rice protein, sacha inchi, quinoa. Again, this product lists the plant protein sources it uses but does not disclose how much of each ingredient it has. An educated guess, tells us that since this product contains 24G of protein per serving, and pea protein is the first listed ingredient, chances are, it's 95% pea protein. Don't forget, this also has a low serving size at only 19 servings per container.
The third example shows a plant-based protein nutrition label, which you should look for when buying a plant-based protein powder. This label provides complete transparency and provides the amounts of each type of plant protein it contains. This product clearly contains nearly 19.22G of pea isolate, 4.4g of hemp protein, 4.4g of quinoa protein, 1.75g of Sacha Inchi, and 1.75g of pumpkin seed protein. Oh, and it has 25+ servings, with 21G of protein per serving. If you didn't know already, this is the nutrition facts label for PLANTPRO5.
Pay attention to the supplement label and make sure the amounts for each type of protein are listed.
As a health-conscious consumer, it’s your right and important to know what the products you use, really contain. It’s crucial to find a supplement that is transparent and tells you how much of each ingredient your plant-based protein has. Most plant-based protein powders use proprietary blends and do not disclose how much of each ingredient they use. Without knowing the amount your ingesting, you won’t know how much protein, or essential nutrients you’re really getting in your plant-based diet.
For example, if your plant protein has, “pea protein, brown rice, quinoa, and chia” chances are your plant protein powder is made with a ratio of 9:1 ratio of pea protein, or rice. All Swolverine products provide complete transparency and are proprietary blend free. Our premier plant-based protein PLANTPRO5 contains five superior sources of plant-based protein superfoods [Pea, Hemp, Quinoa, Sacha Inchi, and Pumpkin] delivering 21g of protein per serving, along with vital micronutrients healthy omega 3 fats, and an abundance of fiber. Made with a delicious chocolate cake flavor, PLANTPRO5 is the smoothest and best plant-based protein to optimize your performance.
Factor #2: Make Sure It Has Pea Protein
If you’re using plant-based protein as a post-workout supplement, then it’s important to find a plant protein powder that has pea protein. Pea protein contains all nine essential amino acids and is rich in the branched-chain amino acids which is critical to initiate the muscle building and rebuilding process. Studies have shown that pea protein is just as effective as whey, with nearly three times the amount of arginine. Pea protein is also easily digestible. Most plant proteins have low bioavailability (meaning the body has a hard time absorbing the nutrients). Pea protein isolate, however, ranks at a 0.928, on a scale of 1 being the highest in digestibility and compares to whey, casein, and egg. That being said, don't buy just plain pea protein. Pea protein is low in Methionine, and you'll need other protein sources to make up for the low content.
Factor #3: Protein Content
When you’re searching for the best plant-based protein powder, you’re going to find a ton of products that only have 15-18g of protein per serving. Those who have a plant-based diet and that are using protein powder to supplement their diet, need higher concentrations of protein. Therefore, look for a protein that has at least 20G of protein per serving.
Keep in mind, that since most plant-based proteins use blends and do not disclose how much of each ingredient they have, plant protein powders with 25+ grams of protein per serving, will typically be made with nearly 100% pea protein. Pea protein has around 90% protein purity, meaning that in order to get that high of a protein content per serving, you would need mostly peas. If it wasn’t made with peas, your serving scoop would be enormous, since other plant-based proteins have less protein density and content.
Plant-Based Protein Dosage
Like other protein powders, the amount of protein you ingest on a daily basis varies based upon several factors such as activity level, age, sex, height, weight, athletic goals, etc. The minimum recommended daily amount of protein intake to meet basic nutrition requirements is 0.37 grams per pound of body weight (or 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight) if you’re using the metric system. According to the FDA, the daily value for protein is 50 grams based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the optimal daily protein intake is 0.5-0.9 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Other sources, say physically active individuals that are optimizing training performance protein need at least 1.4–1.6 g/kg/day of protein [R]. If you’re not sure how much protein you really need, follow the table below, or better yet hire a certified nutrition coach from The Swole Kitchen to help get you started on your transformation or goals the right way from the start.
MINIMUM DAILY PROTEIN REQUIREMENTS
Weight in lbs.
Do You Really Need Protein Powder?
If you already include an abundant amount of protein in your diet, supplementing a protein powder might not be necessary. There are a ton of great plant-based foods, that are packed with protein. However, vegans, and those with other dietary restrictions allergies, such as dairy allergies, should supplement with plant-based protein powder, to help bridge dietary gaps and post-workout for better performance benefits and optimal recovery.
RELATED ARTICLE Do You Really Need Protein Powder?
What's The Best Plant-Based Protein Powder?
Swolverine's PLANTPRO5® is the perfect mix of high-quality plant-based protein, to provide the nutrients you need to power your performance. Made with Pea Isolate, Hemp, Pumpkin Seed, Sacha Inchi, and Quinoa Protein, PLANTPRO5® provides 21g of the protein you need to increase strength, build more lean muscle mass, and optimize performance. With a delicious Chocolate Cake flavor, PLANTPRO5® Is the perfect addition to your plant-based diet.
SWOLVERINE is an endurance athlete and active lifestyle brand. Made for the elite athlete, and the strong-willed our products were designed to fuel your athletic performance. We perform when you perform.
We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.