Protein powders can be a great way to add additional protein to your diet, whether you want to manage your weight, build muscle, or just supplement a low-protein diet. Many popular protein powders are made with whey, a milk-based product that boasts complete animal proteins.
But whey-based protein powders aren’t for everyone. For one thing, if you’re lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, you can’t use whey-based protein powders. Those following a vegan diet can’t use them, either.
The good news is that you don’t need animal products to make an effective, nutritious protein powder. Plant-based, vegan protein powders have all the complete plant proteins you need to support your muscle gains. Plus, plant proteins also contain additional nutrients, and they’re better for the environment. Let’s take a look at what you need from your vegan protein powder.
A Quality Source of Protein
When you’re choosing a vegan protein powder, the first thing you should look at is the quality of the protein used. Ideally, you want to use a protein powder that contains complete protein, which is protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Animal-based sources of protein, like meat and dairy, all contain the nine essential amino acids in the correct ratios to support your body’s metabolic processes, as well as your muscle growth. There is even clean vegan protein powder available that contains complete proteins from plant-based sources, like peas, hemp, and brown rice. Be sure to check the nutrition facts on any vegan protein powder you’re considering to make sure it meets your body’s nutritional needs. Additionally, look for protein powders made with minimal processing and without chemicals or artificial ingredients added.
Most plant-based sources of protein are incomplete, meaning they lack one of the nine essential amino acids. This is why vegetarians and vegans have to take extra care that they get enough protein in their diets. If you don’t eat dairy, meat, or other animal products, you need to make sure you’re eating complementary plant proteins that fill in the gaps for one another to create the complete proteins your body needs, not just for growing and maintaining muscle, but for many other processes, too.
However, you can get complete proteins from a vegan protein powder, because some plant-based proteins do contain all nine essential amino acids. Researchers are pretty confident that soy contains complete proteins, and there is evidence to suggest that peas, hemp, and rice do, too. And, while it used to be thought that you had to eat the sources of complementary incomplete proteins together in the same meal in order for your body to extract the complete proteins, it’s now been discovered that eating the different sources of incomplete proteins throughout the course of the day is sufficient. And many vegan protein powders mix different sources of plant protein, or use the food fortification process, to make sure the proteins they contain are complete. Read reviews and shop carefully to find a vegan protein powder that offers complete proteins.
Nutritional Benefits Of Vegan Protein Powders
Both animal and plant sources of protein contain a range of other nutrients that can be beneficial to your health. Whey protein, for example, also contains healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. But many plant-based sources of protein also offer a complete range of other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
For example, plant protein sources contain a lot of fiber, which can help keep you feeling fuller longer and help you manage your weight. Plant protein sources are also high in antioxidants, which can eliminate free radicals from your body and protect against cancer, heart disease, and other ailments. Plant-based proteins can help keep your intestinal microbiome healthy, to protect against depression, anxiety, autoimmune disorders, and more.
Certain sources of plant protein are also high in specific vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Pea protein, for example, is high in iron, while nut-based protein sources are rich in healthy fats. Eating more plant-based proteins can have a range of health benefits, from helping you hold onto your youthful looks, to fighting disease, improving exercise recovery times, boosting energy levels, and even extending your life. In general, plant-based proteins are more nutrient-dense than animal-based proteins, even though many of them contain incomplete proteins.
You don’t need to use animal products in order to get more protein in your diet. Vegan protein powders are a great way to get more plant-based protein into your diet, for better health, bigger muscles, more energy, and even a happier, longer life.