If you've ever perused the aisles of your favorite vitamin or health food store, you've probably been overwhelmed by the wide variety of protein powders staring you down. The most commonly-used protein powders are whey or casein, which fall under the category of animal-based protein. However, there is also another type of protein that hides in the shadows of animal protein, and that is plant-based or vegetable protein. While not as popular as whey and casein, plant protein offers many benefits and can be just as effective or even more so than animal protein. Let's take a look at some things to consider before you try plant protein.
What is plant protein comprised of?
The most popular types of plant proteins are derived from soy, hemp, rice and peas. While there are protein powders dedicated to only one type of plant protein, there are also combination proteins that contain multiple plants ingredients.
Why would someone want to use plant protein instead of animal protein?
People choose to use plant protein over animal protein for myriad reasons. Plant protein is the best option for vegetarians and vegans, as whey and casein are derived from cows' milk; some also find plant protein easier to digest than protein from animal sources. Additionally, some favor plant protein—specifically soy—over animal protein because it may be able to provide essential heart support and help prevent certain cancers and other illnesses, according to research from the Department of Human Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba.
Does plant protein provide the same support for building muscles as animal protein?
In general, the answer is yes. While most professional bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts use whey or casein protein, plant protein can also help fuel your body and encourage lean muscle growth. Plant proteins are packed with nutrients and essential amino acids, although perhaps not as much as in animal protein; those who prefer plant protein can achieve the same shredded physique at the gym as those who consume animal protein, according to Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD.
Does plant protein have the same amount of amino acids as animal protein?
While animal proteins are often considered “complete” proteins, containing all essential amino acids necessary to build new proteins, many plant proteins are missing some amino acids. Pea protein in particular exhibits a deficiency in the amino acid cystine, but on the other hand, soy protein has a complete amino acid profile. This means that if you're using an incomplete plant protein powder, you'll want to supplement it with another protein that contains the absent amino acids. For example, if you're using a brown rice protein powder—an incomplete protein—you'll want to balance out the amino acid content with an add-on like quinoa, tofu or beans, which can restore the nutrients that you may be lacking from solely relying on rice protein.
Generally speaking, most types of protein provide the same effects for your health. We hope this article is able to clarify your understanding of plant protein and help you to decide whether it's something you should try. Check out our selection of plant-based protein supplements at eVitamins, and have a great day!