When it comes to Vegan Protein Powders, or any type of supplement for that matter, there is simply no substitute for natural, fresh ingredients. Protein is an essential nutritional component for any individual as it essential for the recovery and growth of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood and the human body in general. It is also broken down to make important enzymes and hormones.
If you enjoy functional fitness, weightlifting, CrossFit®, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, climbing or any other type of strenuous exercise then you should make sure that you are getting enough protein in your diet. Insignificant amounts will not enable your body to recover properly. Your muscles need time and the right nutrition in order to recover and grow stronger and tougher.
What exactly are Vegan Protein Powders?
Vegan protein powders are a type of supplement created from natural sources with no traces of animal products. Whether you chose to be vegan or not, or simply want to vary the protein sources in your nutrition, there are many variations to choose from.
A quarter-cup (28-gram) serving of unflavoured pea protein powder packs about 21 grams of protein and 100 calories. Pea protein is rich in the BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine.
“Pea protein is a high-quality protein and a great source of iron. It can aid muscle growth, weight loss and heart health.”
According to this study, 10% of American females are iron-deficient, so the addition of a vegan protein powder such as pea protein becomes an effective ancillary benefit in addition to the protein itself.
Pumpkin seed protein
A quarter-cup (28-gram) serving of unflavoured pumpkin seed protein powder provides around 103 calories and 18 grams of protein. The seeds are gently milled into a powder that provides a highly digestible source of vegetable protein that is gluten, soy and dairy free.
They are also a good source of magnesium, a which is important for the formation and growth of strong bones.
As it’s low in the essential amino acids threonine and lysine, it’s not a complete protein however pumpkin seed protein is also a good source of zinc and iron.
A quarter-cup (28-gram) serving of unflavoured hemp protein powder has around 12 grams of protein and 108 calories.
Hempseed “possesses excellent nutritional value. It is very rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) and other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). It has almost as much protein as soybean and is also rich in Vitamin E and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, and zinc“.
Soy protein powder is a complete protein, which is uncommon for plant protein. It’s also high in BCAAs that will support the development of muscle strength and growth.
A quarter-cup (28 gram) serving of soy protein isolate powder contains around 95 calories and 22 grams of protein. Soybeans have been linked with improving cardiovascular health. One study stated that this is due to the fact that they “…contain additional components, such as isoflavones, lecithins, saponins and fibre that may improve cardiovascular health through independent mechanisms.”
Plant blend protein
Different powdered plant proteins are often combined and sold as blends.
One of the advantages of blending plant proteins is that it can balance and optimise the sum total of all the essential amino acids in a single product.
For example, pea protein may be combined with rice protein. The pea protein supplies significant amounts of lysine (in which rice protein is low), while the rice protein supplies methionine (in which pea protein is low).
Should you add vegan protein powders into your diet at all?
Protein powder should be used to supplement (not replace) protein intake as part of a natural, varied and healthy diet. Many people eat insufficient amounts of protein, which is highly detrimental to the growth, repair and general health of their body.
If you exercise regularly then a vegan protein powder supplement can be an effective way to raise your daily intake of protein, and allow you to recover naturally and properly.
Why Vegan Protein powders?
Vegan protein powder is ethically sourced (no animal products), healthy and natural.
They are not just for vegans either. Diversifying your protein intake is a great way to improve your diet and enhance your overall health, performance and recovery. There are numerous health benefits attributed to the vegan diet, so whether you choose to adopt this diet and lifestyle or not, it will be beneficial to your health to introduce more vegan dishes and products into your regular meals.
Protein and it’s importance for the Human Body
Proteins are long chains of amino acids that function as the basic building blocks of human life. The human body consists of around 100 trillion cells. Every cell contains thousands of different proteins.
Protein is constructed from about 20 types of amino acids. These are alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine.
Proteins serve many purposes within the human body. They are essential for the growth, recovery and structure of the human body. They take many different forms in order to fulfil a spectrum of important physiological purposes. These include:
- Structural (collagen)
- Hormonal (insulin)
- Carriers (haemoglobin)
- Enzymes (amylase)
Unlike fats and carbohydrates, your body does not store protein. That is why it is essential that you get enough from the foods and supplements that you eat.
An insufficient protein intake can lead to:
- Weak muscle tone
- Edema (swelling due to fluid retention)
- Thin and brittle hair
- Skin lesions
- In adults, loss of muscle mass
- In children, stunted growth
It is also worth mentioning at this point that if you are an active, fit individual that loves to run, climb, kayak, lift weights or follow CrossFit® programming for example, then protein is absolutely vital for effective muscular recovery and progress. Whether your aim is to consciously grow and improve, or you simply enjoy the process, inadequate levels that do not correspond to the body’s requirements for that particular degree of intensity and recovery will lead to negative consequences such as fatigue, stunted progress and a weakened immune system.
Vegan Protein Powders – BCAAs
BCAAs stand for branched chain amino acids. 9 of the 20 different amino acids listed above are considered essential because they cannot be made by your body and must be consumed instead. 3 of these are branched chain amino acids.
These all play important roles in increasing muscle growth, decreasing muscle soreness after exercise and reducing the effects of fatigue during exercise.
Protein and Muscle Recovery
During intensive sports such as Weightlifting, CrossFit® or HIIT training, muscle breakdown occurs.
Once the training session has been completed, the muscle tissue needs protein to repair the tiny tears that have been created in the muscles and allow then to heal. This enables them to grow back stronger and more resilient than before. Adding vegan protein powder supplements to your diet is a great way to keep your body on top form, and maximise the effects and gains from your training.
“There is robust evidence which shows that consuming protein pre- and/or post-workout induces a significant rise in muscle protein synthesis. It should be noted, however, that total daily caloric and protein intake over the long term play the most crucial dietary roles in facilitating adaptations to exercise.”
The Clean Label Project
If you are interested in health, fitness, natural food and nutrition then I would highly recommend checking out The Clean Label Project.
This is an independent, unaffiliated organisation that tests and ranks proteins and other supplements in the US based on a wide range of criteria including 130 harmful environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins. This allows you as a consumer to get an impartial and scientific look at the exact ingredients of each product, away from the marketing and the labelling that a company often provides for its own products.
To conclude, plant based vegan protein powders are an excellent way to supplement and augment the levels of protein in your nutritional diet. It does not matter if you choose to be vegan or not. Diversifying your protein sources will lead to a varied and richer diet.
Select one that works for you and buy the best quality that your budget allows for. Your body and health will thank you for it.