MH: Protein Types Pt. 2- What’s the Best? Worst?

Continuing with the theme of alternate protein powders, we’ll start this second half of the discussion focusing on plant-based protein powders. Many plant based protein powders are useful for those on a vegan diet or for those who find milk based protein to be taxing on their digestive track. A common misconception with plant proteins is that they do not have the same potential for muscle growth as whey-based powders. Research has shown plant based powders, pea protein for example, yield the same muscle growth effects as any whey powder. While with consideration to the rest of your diet you can use these powders to supplement your protein consumption it should be kept in mind that many of these powders are lacking in their amino acid content whereas animal derived powders provide a more complete amino acid profile.

Soy, one of the most commonly used plants in milk substitution provides is one of the substitutes that does contain a complete amino acid profile, marking this plant as a complete protein. Soy contains all the 21 known amino acids including the 9 that the body cannot produce on its own. In addition to its protein properties, soy has been found to contain compounds that can aid in reducing the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Of course there are some minuses when it comes to soy proteins. Many of the isoflavones found in soy can interact with your hormone levels and potentially throw them off balance. The fear is that soy can react with estrogen levels when taken in excess. Not much data has been collected as far as how this affects men on HRT however but research suggests that this shouldn’t be a huge concern. The amount of soy needed to affect ones hormone levels would be excessive in comparison if one were only using this as a supplement. Soy protein concentrate is a way around this concern for this version of soy protein contains less isoflavones due to the way it is processed.

Pea Protein –
Typically made from yellow peas, this protein is naturally fat and cholesterol free, gluten free and  isn’t derived from any dairy products or dairy substitute products making it the most hypoallergenic of the alternative protein powders. Those with specific dietary considerations may find this protein to be the easiest on the digestive system. Pea proteins also host a myriad of other health benefits including the reduction of the hunger hormone ghrelin, healthy heart support by lowering the blood pressure and the decrease of coronary heart disease overtime.  The downside… this particular protein has been shown to be deficient in the amino acid cystine which is known to help facilitate the growth of healthy skin, hair and bones as well as removes toxins from the liver.

Hemp Protein –
Made from hemp seeds which are considered a superfood because they are rich in polyunsaturated fats. These fats are processed from the seeds using a cold press and the “press cake” that the seeds become as a by products is then pround into a powder. Derived from the cannabis plant but contains no THC (sorry guys!) the seeds contain high levels of omega 3 & 6 fatty acids. Another plant based protein that has not been subjected to genetic modification, needs no pesticides and is highly digestible but also comes with a higher fat content resulting in a higher calorie count. So this powder may not be completely suitable for those with goals of weight loss but can be used in a pinch as a healthy mass gainer. Also, hemp proteins tend to be more expensive due to the fact that the plant often has to be imported from other countries.

Brown Rice Protein –
This plant based protein provides nearly the same benefit that whey protein does when compared. This alternative can also improve liver and heart function, regulate your cholesterol and tends to be packed with antioxidants. Also a gluten free alternative the downside tends to be its lack of certain amino acids. Quinoa and chia are often used to supplement whatever aminos brown rice is lacking on its own. Paring this protein with other supplements or animal sources would give you a complete amino acid profile as well so take this into consideration. This may be the powder for you if you like to have a shake along with a meal.

There are often products that blend all of these powders together to give you a more complete powder without missing out on certain criteria such as omegas and aminos. Read the label carefully to make sure you are getting what you want out of the powders you buy. So now we know what alternatives to whey powders exist and their pros and cons, but the manufacturing process should also be taken into consideration when purchasing a whey alternative.

How is the protein derived from these plants in the first place?
Methods of synthesizing proteins from plants have caused a few of its would be consumers to second guess their choice of using plant based protein powders as a healthy substitution. Listed below are a few methods used to create many of these powders:

Hexane-based – removes the oils from the plants by using this chemical neurotoxin derived from petroleum which has been known to damage your CNS.

High Heat – Various methods using high heat help process the plants into powders but that heat can destroy healthy nutrients and make it harder for the powder to be digestible.

Enzyme-based – This method uses natural enzymes added to plant seeds to remove the protein. This process preserves most of the nutrients and is considered to be the cleanest method.

Even the healthiest whey or plant powders can contain some unsavory or processed ingredients. Listed below are some ingredients you should watch out for as well:

Click the links below for a better explanation on what these chemicals are and how they can be detrimental for you or your goals.

All in all, if you can get your protein from natural whole food sources, do. If like me, you have a hectic, forever changing hell-schedule and you need to take meals with you so you can get your calories in on time and in a quick and convenient way, take some time and figure out which powder will help supplement your nutrition the best. By no means should you rely only on the powder to feed your body but a supplement is always better if the alternative is not eating at all. In the comments below, list what powders you use if any. What tastes good? Which one tasted like chalk?

Stay full guys!