Protein powders remain sought after products in sports nutrition; reason being, they can help you to conveniently increase your intake of protein – the nutrient that’s key to muscle growth and repair.
Protein powders remain sought after products in sports nutrition; reason being, they can help you to conveniently increase your intake of protein – the nutrient that’s key to muscle growth and repair. Whilst whey is at the forefront of this group, it’s not suitable for everyone. This might be because of dietary reasons, e.g. an allergy/intolerance to dairy, or perhaps it comes down to ethical choice, such as a vegan lifestyle. Alternatively, perhaps you’re looking to add variety to your usual supplement arsenal.
One of the main concerns with plant-based proteins is their bioavailability (BV), and how this compares with whey. Amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of protein chains, and despite there being virtually hundreds (or even thousands) of amino acid units, just 20 of these are utilised by the human body (approximately). Of these, eight (nine in infants) are classed as essential; this term doesn’t denote their importance over the others – it simply means that our bodies cannot make them. Thus, we must obtain these eight from food sources, and/or supplements.
Whey delivers a full-spectrum of amino acids; the same can be said for other animal sources of protein, such as eggs, fish and red meat. They are known as ‘complete’ proteins. When it comes to plant-based proteins, certain aminos can be lacking.
For example, legumes (such as peas, beans and lentils), tend to deliver insufficient quantities of methionine. This can be easily solved by eating things like grains or nuts, which are usually low in lysine (but not methionine). Legumes contain useful levels of lysine, which is why plant protein powders are usually based on a blend of say, pea protein isolate and brown rice protein isolate.
The ‘protein combining’ theory stems from this. However, so long as you’re getting a good variety of plant-based proteins throughout the day, it’s not really necessary to mix them at every meal.
Soya protein differs from the above in that it contains all essential aminos, which renders it ‘complete’. This makes it a common, plant-based alternative to dairy, beef or egg-based protein powders.
As well as the aforementioned, other ingredients you might find in plant-based formulae include hemp, sunflower, or nut-derived protein concentrate/isolate. For best results, mix plant-based protein powders with almond, hemp, or other type of non-dairy milk. Many varieties are flavoured, so you can enjoy them around your training, to help you meet your protein requirements. The unflavoured sorts can be added to both sweet and savoury recipes to boost their nutritional value.
- Plant Protein products Products