In previous years, protein powders have been almost exclusively dairy based, such a whey and casein protein, with very little alternative options. Recently, however, there has been a shift towards more plant-based protein powders, with most major brands developing their own version of them. But what exactly is in plant-based protein powder? Does it have benefits over dairy-based proteins?
This article will cover the basics of plant-based protein powders, including where they get their protein from, their benefits relative to dairy-based proteins, and what to look for in your next plant-based protein.
Before going into protein powders, let's touch on what protein is first. Protein is one of the three macronutrients (the other two being carbs and fat), and is essentially the bricks from which your body builds things, from muscle tissues to hormones and enzymes and nearly everything in between. Proteins are made up of varying combinations of amino acids. Think of amino acids as lego blocks; by putting them together in different shapes and combinations, you can make different proteins, each with its own unique function.
There are 20 total amino acids, of which 9 are considered "essential," such as leucine, lysine and valine. This means that our bodies cannot make them on their own, so we must consume them through our diets. Protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids are called "complete" proteins for this reason.
How Much Protein Do We Need?
This answer varies from person to person, with things like activity level, weight and muscle mass all factoring in to our protein requirements. Generally speaking, however, for most active individuals, a good goal to aim for is 1 gram of protein per pounds of lean body weight. For example, let's say you are 200lbs and 20% body fat. This means you would have 160lbs of lean body weight (200 - 20%), so your protein goal would be 160 grams a day.
Where Plant Protein Comes From
Now that we know what protein is and how much we need, let's dive into plant-based protein powders. Plant-based protein powders can use several different protein sources, with the most common being pea protein, brown rice protein and soy protein (some honorable mentions include: hemp seed protein, mung bean protein and pumpkin seed protein).
Each of these proteins are made up of their own mix of the amino acids that we talked about previously, with some being high in certain amino acids and low in others. Because of this, most plant-based protein powders use a mix of protein sources in order to make it as "complete" of a protein source as possible.
Benefits of Plant Based Protein
Interested in trying a plant-based protein powder to help you reach your protein goals? Here are some of the benefits of plant-based proteins:
Reach your protein goals while avoiding animal products
For the vegan community, it can be difficult to reach protein goals with a whole food diet alone, specifically when you are on the go and don't have anything prepared. Plant-Based protein can help to fill this gap by providing a quick and convenient way to increase your protein intake without the use of animal products.
Avoid digestion/bloating for those with dairy intolerances
If you have an intolerance to dairy products, dairy-based proteins like whey may cause digestive discomfort and bloating. Plant-Based protein can solve this issue by providing a dairy-free alternative!
Increase nutrient intake
Plant-Based proteins are typically higher in vitamins and minerals relative to dairy-based proteins. This can help ensure you are consuming enough of these nutrients throughout the day to avoid any deficits.
Choosing the Right Plant-Protein for You
If you're ready to give plant-based protein a shot for yourself, here are a few things you should consider before making a purchase:
Check out the protein sources
Is the protein from pea protein? Rice protein? Soy? knowing what protein sources are used can be very helpful in determining if the protein is a good choice for your needs. This is specifically important for those with an allergy to soy, so you can ensure the protein powder is soy free.
Check the nutrition label
How much protein does it have? What about other macronutrients? Total calories? It's important to choose a protein powder that aligns with your overall fitness goals. A higher calorie protein may be better for you if you are trying to put on weight, and vice versa.
Is it a "complete" protein?
As we discussed, most plant-based protein sources are not very "complete" sources of protein on their own, meaning they don't have a good amount of each of the 9 essential amino acids. Combining protein sources can help with this, but doesn't solve the issue entirely, as almost all plant-based proteins are short on some important amino acids, like leucine and lysine. It may be worth considering using a plant-based protein that is fortified with these amino acids to ensure it is as "complete" of a protein source as possible!
Introducing: Massif Vegan Protein Powder!
When we set out to create our first protein powder, decided to make a plant-based one because we felt the plant protein market was very underserved. Specifically, the protein sources weren't very "complete" in comparison to whey protein, and there weren't nearly as many "fun" flavors as there are with dairy-based proteins.
After doing a lot of research, analysis and trial and error, we are happy to present the final product: Massif Vegan!
What sets Massif Vegan Apart?
Massif Vegan is a mix of 70% pea protein and 30% brown rice protein. We found this mix to be the best in terms of making a more complete amino acid profile as well as mixability of the powder.
We didn't stop there, however, as we also fortified our formula with both leucine and lysine, two essential amino acids that are important for building and retaining muscle. Adding these amino acids into Massif Vegan brings its amino acid composition close to whey!
Lastly, we added digestive enzymes to help our bodies break down the protein more efficiently, thereby allowing us to make the most of the protein and reduce any bloating effects.
Whether you're vegan, lactose intolerant or just someone looking for a whey alternative, Massif Vegan is a great option to help you reach your protein goals. Try it today!