There are a wide range of myths surrounding the vegan diet, particularly where proteins are concerned, and especially when talking about quantity and quality of nutrients available. While there is no debate that vegan protein is not as complete as animal proteins, there are certainly notable exceptions, including things like quinoa and amaranth. But does every vegan person truly need a protein supplement?
Vitamin B12 is really the only supplement that people on vegan diet shouldn't avoid. But there's one problem: the modern pace of life can be so hectic that our diet has the tendency of becoming very monotonous. The lack of variety often means that we are exposed to protein deficiency. This is when vegan protein supplements become crucial for us to maintain a good health and muscle mass.
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection: The Best Vegan Protein Supplements
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about vegan proteins
- 4.1 What are vegan protein supplements exactly?
- 4.2 How are proteins used by the human body?
- 4.3 What is the nutritional composition of vegan protein supplements?
- 4.4 When are vegan protein supplements useful?
- 4.5 What is a good amino acid profile?
- 4.6 How can I choose a quality vegan protein?
- 4.7 Do protein supplements guarantee an increase in muscle mass?
- 4.8 Why are BCAAs (branched amino acids) so important for athletes?
- 4.9 Are vegan protein supplements only for vegans?
- 4.10 What are the differences between vegan protein and whey protein?
- 4.11 What are the differences between vegan protein bars and vegan protein powder?
- 4.12 Can vegan protein powder help me lose weight?
- 4.13 How should vegan protein powder be consumed?
- 4.14 What is the best time of day to eat vegan protein?
- 4.15 Can a vegan protein shake replace a main meal?
- 4.16 Are there any contraindications or side effects linked to vegan protein?
- 4.17 What type of vegan protein supplements are there, and which one is right for me?
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Vegan protein supplements are recommended for vegan athletes who train at high intensity and for long durations. They are also useful as supplements in unbalanced or monotonous vegan diets.
- Plant proteins have an inferior biological importance than animal proteins, since they generally lack one or more essential amino acids. We call these absent amino acids "limiting". Each plant group (cereals, pulses, nuts) has different limiting amino acids.
- Vegan protein supplements are usually manufactured from pea, soy or rice protein. Pea protein is often used because it is rich in BCAAs (branched amino acids), which promote muscle mass increase.
Our Selection: The Best Vegan Protein Supplements
You might be fully aware of just how challenging it can be to find a vegan protein supplement that is of high nutritional value and great tasting. Sometimes the nutritional value is lacking. In other cases, it can be phenomenal, but tastes so terrible that it is difficult to consume on a regular basis. In the next section, we're ranked the very best vegan proteins on the U.S. market to help you find the right product for you:
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about vegan proteins
What are vegan protein supplements exactly?
A single protein source (soybeans, hemp, rice, peas, pumpkin seed) or a combination of several types of vegetable protein (a mixture of peas, hemp and rice, for instance) can make up vegan protein supplements. Their ingredients are generally organic, with natural added colours and flavourings.
How are proteins used by the human body?
What is the nutritional composition of vegan protein supplements?
- 50-86% protein, essential amino acid sources
- 1-10% carbohydrates
- 1-11% fat
- 4-13% dietary fiber
- Regarding energy, the recommended portion of vegan protein powder (between 20 and 30 grams) will provide you with between 100 and 130 calories.
As we had mentioned earlier, the nutritional composition of vegan protein supplements can very much vary. This is why you should always read the nutrition label. It would also be ideal to consult a nutritionist before starting supplementing with this kind of product. A higher protein content doesn't necessarily rhyme with better quality.
When are vegan protein supplements useful?
Non-vegan athletes can be intolerant to milk protein supplements and experience bloating, flatulence, or diarrhoea after consuming it. This is when vegan protein becomes particularly useful for them. Older adults can also use these supplements to reach the right protein intake.
What is a good amino acid profile?
|Essential amino acid||Milligram per gram of standard protein|
|Methionine + cysteine||2.5|
|Phenylalanine + tyrosine||6.3|
How can I choose a quality vegan protein?
A protein containing all the amino acids (both essential and non-essential) is called complete or whole, and it is considered to be of high biological value. Three main essential amino acids – called branched (BCAA) – play a key role in the development of muscle mass: leucine, valine and isoleucine.
Here's a more concrete example: a pure pea protein supplement may contain over 80% protein, but it will lack an essential amino acid, methionine. On the other hand, the right blend of pea protein, rice and hemp with 65% protein can provide ALL amino acids, including BCAAs and methionine.
Do protein supplements guarantee an increase in muscle mass?
On the other hand your existing muscle mass can be reduced if you train your physical strength – like weightlifting – without consuming enough protein. Keep in mind that carbohydrates are also essential to maintain adequate levels of glycogen, which is the fuel of your muscle cells.
Why are BCAAs (branched amino acids) so important for athletes?
All amino acids are actually essential to create new proteins, but it is true that branched ones (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are particularly important in sport. BCAAs facilitate recovery after intense trainings and can hinder the destruction of muscle protein.
These amino acids also promote muscle mass gain by stimulating the release of growth hormone and insulin, both of which are related to anabolism – protein creation through amino acids, in this case. Either way, it is important to consume these supplements responsibly and according to manufacturer instructions, as they can impact your cardiovascular health.
Are vegan protein supplements only for vegans?
Supplements are commonly used to counter a deficient protein intake in elderly people. Unfortunately, they may have diarrhoea and flatulence when taking whey protein due to lactase deficiency (lactase being an enzyme that digests lactose.
What are the differences between vegan protein and whey protein?
One great advantage of vegan protein is that it usually contains 100% organic ingredients, including colourants and flavourings. On the contrary, you can find many artificial additives in whey protein. Unlike their counterpart, vegan supplements are completely suitable for lactose intolerant and milk protein allergic individuals.
|Whey protein||Vegan protein|
|Origin||Animal (cow's milk)||Vegetable (pulses, seeds, cereals)|
|Flavour||Available unflavoured, or in different pleasant flavours (strawberry, vanilla, chocolate)||Available in natural flavour or with vanilla, banana or chocolate flavour, for example. Note that the natural flavour is not well liked, especially that of pea protein.|
|Texture||Foamy, creamy (when diluted in water)||It tends to form lumps or take on a sandy texture in water. Soy protein has a very pleasant texture.|
|Amino acid profile||Complete||Complete in the case of the mixture of various vegetable proteins, hemp or soybeans. Pure vegan protein from peas or rice is incomplete.|
|BCAA content||Superior||Provides branched amino acids, but in lower quantities than whey protein.|
|Assimilation||Excellent. More than 90% of the protein is assimilated.||The percentage will vary. It is lower than that of whey protein because vegan protein contains fiber, which interferes with bioavailability.|
|Digestive tolerance||It can generate laxative effect or flatulence when consumed in excess. Lactose generates digestive discomfort for intolerant individuals.||It is generally very well tolerated.|
|Allergens||Cow's milk protein||Soy protein|
What are the differences between vegan protein bars and vegan protein powder?
Regarding digestibility, there is virtually no digestion with vegan protein powder, which is quickly absorbed. On the other hand, the composition of a protein bar will determine how long it takes to be digested, but this tends to fall between 2 and 3 hours. Here's a table to help you compare the two types of vegan protein supplements:
|Vegan protein bar||Vegan protein powder|
|Flavour||Delicious, widely accepted by consumers.||Some have a pleasant taste, while others have a peculiar natural taste.|
|Form of consumption||Ready to consume||Must be mixed with another liquid or solid preparation before consumption.|
|Digestibility||Requires greater digestion.||Digestion is very simple and the product is rapidly absorbed.|
Can vegan protein powder help me lose weight?
How should vegan protein powder be consumed?
What is the best time of day to eat vegan protein?
Can a vegan protein shake replace a main meal?
Excessive intake of branched amino acids has been linked to cardiovascular disease, and too much protein can also provoke headaches and dizziness. Individuals suffering from allergy to soy protein should naturally stay clear of supplements containing this legume.
What type of vegan protein supplements are there, and which one is right for me?
- Protein blend: the most common combination is peas, rice and hemp, and are available in very tasty flavours. Their offer excellent quality: while peas lack methionine and rice lacks lysine, they compensate their limiting amino acids when mixed together. Hemp seed, on the other hand, is a whole protein.
- Pure protein: The most commonly used protein sources in supplements are peas, soybeans, rice and hemp. Pure pea, rice and hemp proteins generally have a natural flavour, while soy protein comes in different flavours (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and banana).
Soy and hemp both contain all the amino acids (essential and non-essential), while peas lack methionine and rice lysine. Soya supplements are easily dissolved in water and have a soft, pleasant texture. Hemp has a nutty taste.
Smoothies made with naturally flavoured pure pea protein aren't well liked when blended with water only, but they mix very well with vegetable drinks (oat or almond), cocoa and cinnamon. Pure rice protein presents a neutral taste.
As you now know, vegan protein products can greatly vary in terms of solubility, amino acid content and taste. In the following section, we'll go over the most important factors that you need to take into account in order to find the most suitable supplement for your needs. These aspects are the following:
Vegan protein supplements with added flavor are particularly useful, as all you need to do is dissolve them in water and they're ready to be consumed. Unflavoured or natural tasting protein can be added to juices, milkshakes, soups and pancake dough. Pea protein have a very peculiar natural flavour, but you can also find them in neutral flavour on the market.
Dissolution capacity and texture
As we mentioned earlier, vegan soy protein powder easily dissolves in water and produces smooth, foamy shakes. Certain proteins, on the other hand, may give a thick, granular or sandy consistency to your protein shake if you don't mix it thoroughly. To avoid this, we recommend using a blender or an electric mixer.
Vegan proteins in powder are generally free of allergens, lactose and gluten. That being said, individuals suffering from food allergies – including gluten intolerance – must absolutely verify that the product they are buying is certified free of dangerous ingredients. People allergic to soy protein should naturally avoid them altogether.
Protein and BCAA content
Quality vegan protein supplements provide at least 50% protein, and up to 86%. The content in branched amino acids is another key factors to consider. As you now know, they promote the development of muscle mass and recovery after intense training. Here are approximate BCAA values:
- Leucine: 2.43 grams per portion of 30 grams
- Isoleucine: 1.56 gram per portion of 30 grams
- Valine: 1.6 gram per portion of 30 grams
You might not have thought so, but vegan protein supplements can truly have an amino acid profile as complete as whey protein. The market offers a wide variety of flavours, brands, and combinations. The most commonly used ingredients are soybeans, peas, hemp and rice, which are marketed as pure protein or as part of a protein blend.
The objective when taking vegan supplements is to get all of your essential amino acids, both in terms of quantity and quality, in order to build muscle mass. After having read the above article, you should have everything you need to go out and choose the vegan protein that makes the most sense for you.
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