You don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy the many benefits of a plant-based protein powder.
Protein powders from plant sources such as rice and hemp can help you increase muscle mass, be a healthy ingredient in a meal replacement shake, and help you get more beneficial protein in your diet (whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or a full-blown carnivore).
Your body needs protein to function.
Without it, you couldn’t repair muscle tissue, digest food, grow hair and nails, or regulate your hormones. If you don’t get enough protein from your diet, particularly when exercising, your body will begin to draw from it’s own muscle tissue as a source.
So how much protein do you need?
In general, 30% of your daily calories should come from protein. And you can easily fulfill that need with a plant-based diet.
Do I Really Need a Protein Powder?
There are so many reasons why people choose to supplement with protein powders.
- If you’re looking to reach or maintain a healthy body weight, many studies have shown that a high-protein diet is effective at boosting metabolism, reducing caloric intake, and increasing satiety (the feeling of fullness and satisfaction after a meal).
- If your health goals include increasing muscle mass and strength, higher protein intake has shown to be very effective. Experts recommend approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily if your goal is to build muscle.
- If your goals are simply to eat healthier and more balanced, a protein powder can help you improve the nutritional factor of some of your favorite meals. Adding protein to a fruit smoothie, for example, can transform a sweet treat into a healthy grab-and-go meal. Add some protein powder to your morning oatmeal and you’ll stay full and satisfied even longer and balance out your bowl of whole-grain carbohydrates, as well.
You can even use protein powder to make nutritious versions of pancakes, energy bites, cookies, and more.
How to Choose a Plant-Based Protein Powder
Soy protein has long been a preferred alternative to whey protein for vegans and vegetarian athletes. But soy protein has been immersed in controversy, and just may not be as healthy as you may think. Proponents for soy protein say that it can lower cholesterol, while opposition claims that the estrogenic compounds naturally found in soy may lead to dangerous effects in males and females alike. One thing’s for certain -- soy protein is most likely to come from GMO soy. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 94% of soy grown in the United States is genetically modified.
Luckily, you don’t have to settle for soy. There are many different options available when it comes to plant-based protein powders. Here’s two to consider:
Rice Protein Powder
Rice protein powder is an excellent alternative to both whey and soy protein powders. Want to increase muscle mass? Rice protein powder contains the 9 essential amino acids that the body needs from dietary sources. Studies have shown when taken after exercise, rice protein powder is comparable to whey protein powder for muscle gains and recovery. It’s a near perfect alternative for vegetarian or vegan athletes.
The benefits of rice protein also include:
- As a meal replacement, rice protein powder is low-fat and low-calorie.
- The protein from brown rice is separated from the starch or grain, so it is a good choice for the carb-conscious.
Rice protein powder is also allergenic, making it a good choice for individuals with dairy, soy, or gluten allergies.
Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp protein powder is made from the seed of the hemp plant. Hemp seeds are protein powerhouses, containing at least 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine). Amino acids and proteins are the building blocks of the human body.
Hemp protein provides the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 in a healthy 3:1 ratio. Hemp is also one of the few sources of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a healthy, plant-derived omega-6 metabolized differently than other (less-healthy) omega-6s.
Hemp is a great source of dietary fiber and is easily digestible, as well.
If organic and non-gmo is a concern, hemp protein is a great option.
Not only can hemp protein be purchased in a certified organic form, but hemp farmers also report that its cultivation in general hardly requires pesticides, herbicides or petrochemical fertilizers. Hemp lends itself to organic agricultural methods, and this makes hemp a comparatively safer plant source of protein in general.
The best way to choose the right plant-based protein powder for you? Start trying them! Choose a hemp, brown rice, or other plant-based protein powder and start mixing up shakes, smoothies, adding protein to chia pudding bowls, oatmeal, pancakes, and other recipes.
Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just looking for a great way to get more beneficial protein into your diet, plant-based is definitely the right way to go.
Learn more about the health benefits of a plant-based diet.