Protein: Animal or Plant-Based?
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
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?
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?
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
- 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
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
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.