Do you find yourself using whey protein as a post-workout supplement just because everyone else seems to? Chances are good, then, that you haven’t considered a plant-based protein supplement. One of the most well-kept secrets in this sector is that plant-based protein – specifically brown rice and pea protein – can be just as effective as whey when it comes to helping you achieve your exercise goals.
And, to boot, they’re generally a lot healthier than most of the whey products currently on the market.
Making the Case for Plant-Based Protein
Plant-based protein powders can be just as effective as whey protein and they don’t exhibit any of the drawbacks whey tends to (including flatulence, artificial sweeteners and being heavily processed). Popular plant-based protein supplements include brown rice, pea, hemp and soy, and are easily digestible, especially compared to dairy products (so they won’t induce those horrifically-scented side effects). What’s more, they’re healthier, as most brands add little or no artificial sweeteners, and they actually taste okay – plant proteins tend to boast a neutral taste and mix well with water.
As a gym rat, you have probably been weaned on whey protein and have most likely never even considered vegetarian or plant-based protein supplements…well, consider this your wakeup call. For years, whey has been the go-to supplement for athletes, regular gym fanatics and anyone generally interested in topping up on the protein they absorb through whole foods. There’s a reason whey protein dominates the shelves at supplement shops to the exclusion of nearly everything else.
Plant-based protein supplements – specifically the aforementioned brown rice and pea protein – are just as effective at helping you to build muscle or achieve other exercise goals. You read that right: Just as effective. There are several types of plant-based proteins on the market, but not all of them are created equal.
As we have been stressing up until this point, the most popular of these are brown rice, pea, hemp and soy protein – and of those, brown rice and pea are the best in terms of muscle growth and recovery. In general, though, plant-based protein shares these common features:
- Allergen-Free – Plants are much easier to digest than dairy products and as such cut down on possible allergies.
- Healthier – Most brands add little or no artificial sweeteners.
- Tastier – While they might not be as flavor-rich as your double chocolate whey, plant proteins tend to exude a neutral taste, as we stated, and mix well with water; when you consider the sweeteners that were necessary to concoct that double chocolate whey, this is a very positive thing.
Now, you’re probably looking for some clinical statistic that proves how effective plant protein can be, right? Ask and ye shall receive:
One very interesting study from 2013 focused on brown rice protein and how it was clinically shown to be the equal of whey protein with regard to building muscle, strength and aiding in exercise recovery. The dose in this study, published in the National Institutes of Health’s US National Library of Medicine, was 48 grams – not a particularly inaccessible amount to be supplementing.
In Conclusion: Six Key Things to Keep in Mind
When choosing your plant-based protein powder – such as the excellently-rated Elevate Nutrition Protein Powder – keep these six considerations in mind:
- Think about whether you want a single source protein or a blend of two or more; if your goal is to build lean muscle, a fusion of brown rice and pea protein is recommended.
- Avoid powders with artificial flavors and sweeteners.
- An unflavored powder is better for you, but if you are drawn in by rich flavors, make sure it contains natural sources like cinnamon, vanilla, cacao or mesquite (you can make an awesome post workout shake with these flavors).
- Not all plant-based protein powders or post workout shakes can be considered gluten-free, but all are vegan.
- All will be boyfriend/girlfriend approved.
Finally, when it comes to protein powders, the fewer ingredients the better, generally speaking.