Protein: Animal or Plant-Based?

April 17, 2017

What’s the best type of protein? A question a lot of us have been asking for a long time. Especially with the rise of allergies to cows milk protein and dairy, people are cutting down on dairy protein sources and leaning towards plant-based protein powder. But, not all plant proteins are complete proteins. Find out what’s the most suitable protein powder for you below. 

 

Reem Al Ahmadieh, dietetic intern is the author of this post and it’s edited by Baraa El Sabbagh, US registered dietitian nutritionist, sports dietitian, personal trainer at Healthy Happy Us, a nutrition and exercise diet center in Beirut, Lebanon.

 

Why are people always so concerned about protein?

The structural and functional roles of protein:

  • Repair body tissues after a great workout because of muscle breakdown and rebuild 
  • Maintaining body tissues
  • Growing body tissues
  • Supplying energy (a great concern for all the endurance athletes like runners, swimmers, or even body-builders)

Plant versus Animal Protein

Healthy Protein choices by Baraa El Sabbagh, US Registered Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist and Personal Trainer at Healthy Happy Us

Animal protein sources include eggs, poultry, meat, dairy and fish. These are considered to be complete sources of protein because they contain the essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins like beans, lentils and nuts are usually incomplete proteins. In this case, vegans and vegetarians can always combine two or more foods with incomplete sources to provide adequate amounts of the essential amino acids.

 

What is protein powder used for?

Baraa El Sabbagh, US Registered Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist, Personal Trainer at Healthy Happy Us Beirut Lebanon

Baraa El Sabbagh preparing snacks using our favorite whey at Healthy Happy Us

Athletes usually support their protein needs by adding these powders. They are high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fats. Several types are available, and while whey is known as the king of proteins and it’s derived from milk there are still other alternatives. So, for those looking for vegetarian sources, there are many options available such as soy, hemp, pea and many more. 

 

What would you choose, animal or plant protein?

Plant-based protein by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Dietitian, personal trainer and sports nutritionist at Healthy Happy Us in Beirut Lebanon

Animal-based protein is not necessarily better or worse than plant-based protein. Some plant-based powders may be incomplete proteins, so you may have to combine certain types to get a complete source. So, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet is crucial.  But, you do not have to consume 100% complete protein at each meal, you can spread them out throughout the day. A good combination for muscle growth could be brown rice and peas.

 

For absorption, which is better?

Whey protein may cause flatulence, diarrhea and bloating for some people because of lactose. Ingredients that could be easier on the stomach include rice, pea, hemp, and soy proteins since they are dairy-free.

 

So what are the alternatives for vegan and vegetarian athletes?

The dairy-free muscle builders

  1. Soy products 

    Protein sources by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist and Personal Trainer at Healthy Happy Us in Beirut Lebanon

    Soy Protein

 

  • High-quality protein isolated from soybean
  • High in Arginine and glutamine
  • High in protein – 81 g/100 g of soy
  • Contains vitamins (E and b complex) as well as minerals ( iron, zinc, phosphorus and potassium )
  • Complete protein

 

  1. Hemp powder

Hemp protein by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, and Sports Nutritionist at Healthy Happy Us Beirut Lebanon

Hemp Powder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Comes from grinding the nutrient rich seeds of the hemp plant
  • Protein content: 31.56 g/100 g of hemp 
  • High levels of Omega 3, Omega 6 fatty acids and fibers
  • Contains vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron and zinc
  • Positive effects on heart health, decrease the risk of osteoporosis, cleanse the colon, reduce sugar cravings, and boost the immune system
  • Not easily dissolved in milk.
  • Blend hemp with frozen fruits or ice for better texture.
  • Available at Healthy Happy Us!

 

 

 

  1. Spirulina

    Spirulina powder by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Sports Nutritionist at Healthy Happy Us Beirut Lebanon

    Spirulina Powder

  • Natural “algae” (cyanbacteria) powder
  • Has muscle and endurance benefits
  • Complete source with 60% protein content
  • Nutrient dense powder: rich source of antioxidants, vitamins (A, B, C, D, E).
  • It is also a source of potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium and zinc.
  • Spirulina lovers can find it at Healthy Happy Us!

 

  1. Pea powder

Pea protein by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist at Healthy Happy Us, Beirut Lebanon

Pea Powder

 

  • A natural vegetable protein derived from peas
  • High-quality source of protein (80%)
  • Easily absorbed by the body (the powder contains less fiber than the whole peas)
  • A complete protein that contain all 9 essential amino acids and has a high concentration of branched chain amino acids
  • Available at Healthy Happy Us!

 

 

 

 

  1. Almond powder

Almond protein powder by Baraa El Sabbagh, Registered Dietitian, Sports Nutritionist, Personal Trainer at Healthy Happy Us

Almond protein powder

  • Nuts highest in proteins (21 g/ 100 g of almonds)
  • Nutritionally dense food with several vitamins and minerals
  • Customers can find it at Healthy Happy Us!

 

  1. Brown rice proteins

 

  • Brown rice is treated with enzymes that separate carbohydrates from proteins
  • Easily digestible
  • As low in carbohydrates as other forms of powder ( 80% protein)

 

Plant-based proteins that are also high in amino acids include pumpkin, leafy greens, chia seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and sunflower butter, avocados, figs, raisins, quinoa, and wheat.

 

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Baraa El Sabbagh

US Registered Dietitian, Personal Trainer, Sports Nutritionist at Healthy Happy Us
Her passion for athletics and nutrition is contagious. The fireball of the group is a certified personal trainer and sports nutritionist, who will always find a solution for your exercise woes. Baraa is a research enthusiast who will never let a new study slip past her without dissecting it. She loves sharing all of her daily health tricks with you as they will be one of the reasons you will succeed in your health journey.

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