Where do you get your protein? Do you use protein powder? What's the best protein powder? This blog post is your Plant-based Protein Powder 101.
Learn when to use plant-based protein powder, the advantages and disadvantages of plant protein powder vs. whey, our recommendation for the BEST Plant based protein powder and so much more!
You'll learn answers to the questions:
Is it necessary to take protein powder?
No, it is not necessary to eat or drink protein powder.
Meeting your daily protein needs can be reached through a well-rounded diet that includes a variety of whole food protein sources such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and even whole grains and veggies!
Protein powder can be a convenient way to supplement your protein intake, especially for people with higher protein requirements or those who struggle to meet their protein needs through whole food sources alone. It can also be good for people who are following certain sports nutrition programs.
However, it's important to remember that protein powder is a supplement, and it should not replace a balanced diet that includes a wide range of nutrients from whole food sources.
Whole foods provide not only protein but also other essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that are important for overall health. If you can consistently meet your protein needs through whole foods and have a well-rounded diet, protein powder is most likely not necessary for you.
It ultimately depends on each person's goals, dietary preferences, and lifestyle factors.
Talk to a registered dietitian or healthcare professional for personalized guidance based on your specific needs and circumstances.
Is plant protein better than whey?
Instead of talking about how which is better or worse, let's simply discuss how is plant protein powder is different than whey.
Plant-based protein powders are generally free from common allergens like dairy, lactose, and gluten. This makes them a great option for people with allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities to these ingredients.
Easier to digest
Some people have digestive discomfort or bloating when eating whey or other animal-based protein powders due to lactose or dairy sensitivities. Plant-based protein powders are usually easier to digest, making them a better option for those with sensitive digestive systems.
Added vitamins and nutrients from plants
Plant-based protein powders can provide additional health benefits beyond protein content. Depending on the plant source, they may contain essential nutrients, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that support overall health. For example, pea protein powder is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are beneficial for muscle recovery and growth.
Plant-based protein powders usually contain more fiber compared to whey protein powders. While whey protein is derived from dairy, which contains no fiber (no animal foods contain fiber), plant-based protein powders are often made from whole plant sources, including legumes, grains, seeds, and other plant materials, which naturally contain fiber.
Fiber is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in digestive health, satiety, and maintaining stable blood sugar levels. It can help regulate bowel movements, promote feelings of fullness, and support overall gut health.
The fiber content of plant-based protein powders can vary depending on the specific plant source and how it's made. For example, pea protein powder, a popular plant-based option, contains a moderate amount of fiber. On the other hand, protein powders made from sources like hemp, flaxseed, or chia seeds tend to have higher fiber content.
It's important to read the nutrition label or product information to determine the specific fiber content of a plant-based protein powder, as different brands and formulations may vary. If you're specifically looking to increase your fiber intake, choosing a plant-based protein powder can be a beneficial way to incorporate both protein and fiber into your diet.
Great option for omnivores, vegans and vegetarians, oh my!
Plant-based protein powders are derived from plant sources, making them suitable for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet, and lots of omnivores love them too! Every little bit helps when it comes to reducing animal suffering! Plant protein provides a high-quality protein option without the need for animal products.
Producing plant-based protein powders typically requires fewer natural resources and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to animal-based protein powders. Choosing plant-based options can have a positive impact on the environment and contribute to sustainable food choices.
Can plant protein powder build muscle?
Yes, plant protein powders can effectively support muscle building when used as part of a well-rounded diet and exercise regimen.
Plant-based protein powders, such as pea protein, soy protein, hemp protein, or rice protein, contain all the essential amino acids needed for muscle protein synthesis. While it is true that some plant-based proteins may contain less of certain essential amino acids in comparison to animal-based proteins, eating a variety of plant-based protein sources can help ensure all essential amino acids are obtained in adequate amounts.
To maximize muscle growth, it's important to eat an adequate amount of protein throughout the day, preferably spread out across meals and snacks. The exact protein requirements can vary based on factors such as body weight, activity level, and individual goals.
Additionally, plant-based protein powders can be supplemented with other nutrients to support muscle recovery and growth. This includes consuming whole food carbohydrates for energy, healthy fats for overall health, and ensuring an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients.
Ultimately, whether you choose plant-based or animal-based protein powders, meeting your daily protein requirements and maintaining a well-balanced diet, along with regular strength training, are key factors for building muscle.
Learn more about building muscle in this article written by David Goldman, Chief Science Advisor for The Game Changers,
When should I use protein powder?
Protein powder can be used in various ways and at different times depending on your specific needs and goals. Here are some common instances when protein powder may be useful:
Post-Workout Recovery: Drinking or eating protein powder after a workout can aid in muscle recovery and repair. This can be a convenient and quick option to provide your muscles with the necessary amino acids.
Pre- or Post-Cardio Exercise: Adding protein powder to a pre- or post-cardio workout meal or snack can help support energy levels and aid in muscle recovery. This is particularly useful if you engage in intense or prolonged cardio activities.
Meal Replacement: Protein powder can be used as a component of a meal replacement shake when you're on the go or in situations where a balanced meal is not readily available. By combining protein powder with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and other nutritious ingredients, you can create a filling and nourishing meal replacement option.
Snacks or Small Meals: Protein powder can be used to enhance the protein content of snacks or small meals throughout the day. You can incorporate it into recipes like energy balls, protein bars, pancakes, or baked goods to boost their protein content and make them more satisfying.
Dietary Protein Supplementation: If you have trouble getting enough protein from whole foods, you may find that protein powder can supplement your diet effectively.
Remember that while protein powder can be a useful tool to support your protein intake, it should not replace whole food sources in your diet.
Is plant protein powder safe for kidneys?
Plant-based protein powder can be a good alternative for those with kidney issues or concerns who need to limit their protein intake.
Unlike animal-based protein powders like whey, plant-based protein powders are typically lower in phosphorus, which can be better for individuals with impaired kidney function. In people with kidney disease, high levels of phosphorus in the blood can make filtering and excreting it difficult.
That being said, it's important to note that people with kidney disease or compromised kidney function should talk to a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian or nephrologist, before making any significant changes to their diet or protein intake. They can provide personalized recommendations based on the individual's specific condition, kidney function, and dietary needs.
What are 3 good sources of plant-based protein if I don't want to eat protein powder?
For a HUGE list of whole food, plant-based protein sources, check out this blog post: 30 sources of plant-based protein
Are there any disadvantages of plant based protein powder versus whey?
While plant protein powders have lots of advantages, there are a few potential disadvantages when comparing them to whey protein powders. It's important to note that these disadvantages may not apply to everyone and can vary based on individual needs and preferences. Here are a few considerations:
While plant-based protein powders are usually easier to digest for most people, some people might be sensitive to specific plant fibers. Identifying specific intolerances or sensitivities to certain plant protein sources can help people choose protein powders that work well for their digestive system. However; one of the great things about plant-based protein powders is that if you've got an allergy to one type, you can try another!
Texture and Taste:
Some plant protein powders can have a slightly more granular texture compared to whey protein. Some people may also find the taste of plant protein powders less appealing or more distinct if they're used to whey protein. However, taste preferences can vary widely, and there are lots of plant protein powder brands and flavors available to choose from.
Plant protein powders, especially those made from high-quality sources, may be more expensive compared to whey protein powders. However, this can vary based on brand, quality, and availability.
Experimenting with different brands and types of plant protein powders can help identify the ones that work best for you!
What is vegan protein powder made from?
Plant-based protein powders can be made from various plant sources. Some of the most common plant sources used in plant-based protein powders include:
Peas: Pea protein powder is derived from yellow split peas. It is a popular plant protein source due to its high protein content, digestibility, and amino acid profile.
Soy: Soy protein powder is derived from soybeans. It is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all essential amino acids. Soy protein is commonly used in vegetarian and vegan products due to its versatility and availability.
Rice: Rice protein powder is made from brown rice. It is often used as an alternative for people with soy or pea allergies or sensitivities. Rice protein is generally hypoallergenic and easily digestible.
Hemp: Hemp protein powder is derived from hemp seeds. It contains all essential amino acids and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Hemp protein is also rich in fiber and other beneficial nutrients.
Chia: Chia protein powder is made from ground chia seeds. Chia seeds are naturally high in fiber, healthy fats, and plant-based protein. Chia protein powder can be a nutritious addition to smoothies or recipes.
Flaxseed: Flaxseed protein powder is derived from ground flaxseeds. Flaxseeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans. Flaxseed protein powder is often used as a supplement to boost protein and nutrient intake.
Pumpkin: Pumpkin seed protein powder is made from pumpkin seeds. It is a good source of protein, healthy fats, and various minerals. Pumpkin seed protein powder can add a nutty flavor to recipes.
These are just a few examples of the plant sources used in plant-based protein powders. It's worth noting that different brands and formulations may also combine multiple plant sources to create a more balanced amino acid profile. Additionally, some plant protein powders may include additional ingredients like natural flavors, sweeteners, or thickeners to enhance taste and texture - watch out for ingredients to avoid (in ANY protein powder).
Is plant protein good for weight loss?
Plant protein powder can be a beneficial component of a weight loss plan, but it's important to remember that weight loss is ultimately determined by overall calorie balance and dietary habits rather than the specific type of protein powder eaten. If you're adding protein powder to your normal diet, you're increasing your caloric intake and you may even gain weight. Here's how plant protein powder can support weight loss:
Satiety: Protein is known to promote feelings of fullness and reduce appetite, which can help control calorie intake. Plant protein powders, like other protein sources, can help increase satiety and reduce the likelihood of overeating or snacking on high-calorie foods.
Muscle Maintenance: During weight loss, it's important to preserve lean muscle mass while losing fat. Adequate protein intake, including plant protein, supports muscle maintenance, which is crucial for a healthy metabolism. Plant protein powders can provide a convenient and concentrated source of protein to support muscle preservation during weight loss.
Calorie Control: Plant protein powders are often lower in calories compared to other protein sources like fatty cuts of meat or dairy products. By incorporating plant protein powder into your diet, you can increase protein intake without significantly increasing calorie intake. This can help create a calorie deficit, which is necessary for weight loss.
Nutrient Density: Plant protein powders derived from sources like peas, hemp, or brown rice often contain additional nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients contribute to overall nutritional balance and can support overall health during weight loss.
Remember that for successful weight loss, it's not just about protein powder but also about adopting a well-rounded, balanced diet and incorporating regular physical activity. A sustainable weight loss plan should focus on creating a calorie deficit through a combination of healthy eating, portion control, regular exercise, and overall lifestyle changes.
I strongly suggest you work with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can give you personalized guidance and help you develop a comprehensive weight loss plan that aligns with your specific needs and goals!
What are some ingredients in protein powders I should avoid?
When choosing a protein powder, it's a good idea to be mindful of certain ingredients that may not align with your dietary preferences, health goals, or potential sensitivities. Here are a few ingredients you may want to avoid or be cautious about:
Artificial Sweeteners: Some protein powders use artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, or acesulfame potassium to create more flavor without adding extra calories. These sweeteners may have potential health concerns for some people, and some people may prefer to avoid them. Consider opting for protein powders sweetened with natural alternatives like stevia, monk fruit extract, or fruit powders.
Added Sugar: Protein powders may contain added sugars or sugar alcohols, which can increase calorie content and may not align with your dietary goals, such as weight management or blood sugar control. Read the ingredient label carefully and choose protein powders with little to no added sugars.
Artificial Flavors and Colors: Protein powders can contain artificial flavors and colors to enhance taste and appearance. These additives may not be necessary and could potentially cause sensitivities in some individuals. Look for protein powders with natural flavors and colors instead.
Fillers and Thickeners: Some protein powders include fillers and thickeners like maltodextrin, cellulose gum, or carrageenan. While these ingredients are generally considered safe, they can cause digestive issues and inflammation.
Allergens: If you have known allergies or sensitivities, be cautious of protein powders that contain common allergens like dairy, gluten, soy, or tree nuts. Always check the ingredient list and choose protein powders that are free from ingredients that you need to avoid.
Artificial Preservatives: Protein powders may contain artificial preservatives to prolong shelf life. If you prefer to avoid artificial preservatives, look for protein powders that use natural preservatives or are formulated to have a shorter shelf life.
How much protein do I need to build muscle?
1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is enough to maximize gains from lifting weights. This translates to 9% greater strength and 27% greater muscle mass (versus significantly less protein). Strength-sport athletes, bodybuilders, etc. can still benefit from this small increase relative to weightlifting gains alone.
Research has shown that 1.6 g/kg of dietary protein leads to similar gains in omnivorous and vegan research participants who lifted weights. Check out the paper below supporting this information.
So what's the BEST plant-based protein powder? Our favorite brand is Earth Chimp!
We love the clean ingredients with a tasty blend of pea, pumpkin, coconut, and sunflower powders. NO added: salt, GMOs, erythritol, gums, gluten, soy (if you're sensitive), or dairy!
They will even plant a tree in your name if you email them! (See my tree certificate below!)
I contacted Earth Chimp about planting a tree for me and the founder directly emailed me back and said:
Hey Dawn: Sure thing! We’re partnering with the Eden Reforestation Projects to make this happen. They’re gonna plant a tree for you in Madagascar (where our vanilla comes from) or maybe Mozambique as they have projects there also. Glad you like this idea - we started it in September 2019... because of the fires in the Amazon rainforest and have now donated to plant thousands of trees. And now another one thanks to you! Attached is your digital certificate! Dave (founder) @EarthChimp
*Amazon Affiliate link: By clicking the link and purchasing, you help support VegeCooking. We can't thank you enough for helping us teach kids, teens and adults to LEARN to cook and LOVE their veggies!