IS PLANT-BASED PROTEIN BETTER?

Written by: Chandler Milligan

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Time to read 5 min

Maybe you’re on a vegan diet. Perhaps you’re sensitive to dairy, or maybe you’re just sick of whey protein. This is where a plant-based protein powder can change the game.

The real question that many ponder before swapping supps is this: Is plant-based protein better than whey protein?


What is Plant Protein?

Let’s start here. Plant protein is basically just a form of protein that is found in plants, as opposed to meat and animal sources. Plant protein is becoming an increasingly popular choice in the health and fitness community. It has become a valuable alternative for those on vegan and vegetarian diets who need to maintain their protein intake and anybody sensitive to whey protein.


While many people believe you can only get high-quality protein from red meat and other animal products, this is simply not the case. In fact, plant-based foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains are all excellent sources of protein (Covington, L. 2022).


What sets plant protein apart is the fact that it is not only better for the environment, but it can also be a great way to improve your overall health and avoid many of the adverse side effects associated with consuming large amounts of animal protein, including bloating and digestion issues. Despite their different blueprints, plant protein is just as effective at building muscle, aiding recovery, and supporting weight loss (Garone, S. 2022).


Sources of Plant Protein?

When it comes to plant-based protein sources, you’re not short of options. There are a lot.


Among the best sources of plant protein, you will find options like rice, pea and sunflower seed. While these ingredients alone aren’t as protein-packed as meats and fish, food processors work to remove the fat and carbs, isolating the protein content into protein-rich vegan alternatives.


Let’s look at some of the best plant protein sources (McCulloch, M. 2018).


Pea protein

A pea protein supplement is generally made from sweet green peas and yellow split peas, which are higher in protein and are especially rich in the essential BCAAs.


Pumpkin seed protein

Pumpkin seed protein is nutritious and high in several essential minerals. This form of plant protein can also offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.


Brown rice protein

Brown rice protein is rich in BCAAs and supports muscle building. In terms of high-protein grains, brown rice protein is one of the most nutritious and delicious options.


Soy protein

Soy protein is a complete protein source rich in BCAAs. This form of plant protein may also help to lower cholesterol levels.


Sunflower seed protein

Sunflower seed protein delivers BCAAs that can support muscle growth and recovery while being low in calories and containing minerals and vitamins, including vitamin E and zinc.


Watermelon seed protein

Watermelon seed protein provides a rich source of proteins, vitamins, omega 3, omega 6 fatty acids, magnesium, zinc, copper, potassium and more that can support your nutritional needs.


Plant protein blends

Because of the different strengths of certain plant proteins and the limitations of others, they are often combined in plant protein blends to deliver an adequate amount of amino acids. Most commonly, pea protein and rice protein are combined. Or different seeds like sunflower seeds and watermelon seeds are blended together.


Is Plant Protein Better Than Whey Protein?

Animal protein sources like whey protein are considered ‘complete’ proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids you need in your diet. Most plant proteins, in contrast, are considered ‘incomplete’ because they don’t contain all twenty amino acids. While they generally combine different plant protein sources to combat this. For a plant-based protein to be utilised effectively over whey protein, you must ensure you are still getting enough zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D (WebMD. 2021).


If you have dietary sensitives that rule out whey protein as an option, or you simply prefer the vegan-friendly lifestyle, plant-based protein powders can offer plenty of benefits. Plant protein provides high amounts of nutrients, fibre and antioxidants that can support your overall health and gut performance.


Plant-based protein supplements are also a fantastic source of phytochemicals, which are compounds found in plants that are found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes and are known to give plants their colour, flavour and scent. Phytochemicals may aid in immune system function, help to protect cells and DNA from damage, reduce inflammation, help to regulate hormones and more. Phytonutrients are often referred to as phytochemicals and may act as an antibacterial or antiviral agent (Roswell Park. 2019).


Plant-based protein supplements can elevate your overall health by providing a combination of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre to support not only muscle growth, repair and weight management but also digestive and immune health.


So, is plant-based better? Well, plant protein typically has a lower calorie count and is higher in fibre, which can aid in digestion and weight management. Additionally, some studies have shown that plant protein can have similar muscle-building effects to whey protein. But what makes plant protein truly special is its ability to provide a wide variety of nutrients and minerals essential for overall health (Garone, S. 2022).


The Best Plant Protein Options

If you’re looking for the best plant protein powders to fuel your muscle growth, recovery and diet goals, we stock the best.


Evolve Vegan Protein utilises a combination of pea protein and naturally defatted peanut protein - both of which are high in fibre and amino acids - to provide a complete plant-based protein source that tastes just as good as it works.


Macro Mike are plant-based protein experts, and their Macro Mike Peanut Plant Protein is the cream of the crop. This plant-based option delivers a creamy and smooth option built with the perfect blend of peanut, pea and rice protein. With 25g of complete protein per serving, this blend is nutrient-dense with fibre, amino acids and essential vitamins and minerals.

Phyba is a new player in the plant protein game, but their formula is next level. Phyba PLNT Protein uses an innovative, custom Gut Matrix™ and a vegan-friendly blend of plant-based protein sources that aid in supporting healthy digestion and utilisation of nutrients. With 22g of organic pea protein per serving, and a mixture of watermelon seed protein, sunflower seed protein, and pumpkin seed protein, this formula can support your health and training needs.

If you’re looking for a plant-based mass gainer protein, PranaON have you sorted with their Natural Mass. This formula contains premium quality, plant-based proteins and essential amino acids essential for muscle growth and recovery. With over 30g of protein in each serving, it’s an excellent source of the nutrients needed for lean mass gain

Summary

At the end of the day, it comes down to which protein option best supports your health, goals and dietary needs. While whey protein may be a great option for some, it’s worth considering the benefits of incorporating more plant protein into your diet, especially if you have sensitivities to whey protein.


Plant-based protein is an effective option that supports your muscle growth, muscle repair and weight management goals while nourishing your diet with a combination of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre that can support your gut and immune health.


If you need help finding the right plant-based protein to support your goals, our friendly team at ASN can help you find what you’re looking for, just head in-store or reach out online. Alternatively, head to our Top 10 Vegan Protein Powders page here for our recommendations.

References

Covington, L. 2022, ‘What Is Plant Protein’, The Spruce Eats, accessed 5 June 2023, https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-plant-protein-and-how-is-it-used-5114486


Garone, S. 2022, ‘Plant-based Protein: The Best, the Worst, and Everything In between’, Healthline, accessed 5 June 2023, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/plant-based-protein-the-best-the-worst-and-everything-in-between


McCulloch, M. 2018, ‘The 9 Best Vegan Protein Powders’, Healthline, accessed 5 June 2023, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-vegan-protein-powder#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3


WebMD. 2021, ‘The Difference Between Animal Protein and Plant Protein’, Nourish by WebMD, accessed 6 June 2023, https://www.webmd.com/diet/difference-between-animal-protein-plant-protein


Roswell Park. 2019, ‘For the Health Benefits of Phytochemicals, “Eat a Rainbow”’, Roswell Park, accessed 6 June 2023, https://www.roswellpark.org/cancertalk/201912/health-benefits-phytochemicals-eat-rainbow#:~:text=Phytochemicals%20are%20compounds%20in%20plants,their%20color%2C%20flavor%20and%20aroma.