Protein plays a vital role in the functioning of our bodies and is essential for muscle growth, healing, reproduction and maintaining a healthy immune system. Our bodies use protein to build and repair tissue, making it an essential macro-nutrient for muscle growth. But muscles aren’t the only benefit, protein is needed for balancing hormones, assisting in weight loss, supporting detoxification, digestion and a healthy immune system. Protein is also the key nutrient that helps you get ageless glowing skin and lean toned muscles.
While most of us get enough protein from a balanced diet, there are times you may need a protein boost. If you are vegan, a growing teen, trying to bulk up or follow a rigorous exercise regime, you may benefit from incorporating a good protein powder into your diet. Extra protein also helps keep your blood sugar balanced, and promotes a feeling of fullness, which is a big benefit if you are trying to lose some weight.
As there are so many protein powders on the market, and so many different sources of protein, choosing the best protein can become tricky. Plus far too many protein powders are full of nasty ingredients including artificial flavours, sweeteners and colours. It is always best to choose a powder that is as natural as possible. Luckily, there are plenty of natural and organic protein powders our there. To help simplify your decision, we’ve gathered up the info on the top choices for protein powders.
Whey is one of the most commonly used protein powders on the market as it is rapidly digested. Whey is one of the two predominant proteins found in milk: 80% being casein and 20% being whey. It is separated out during the manufacturing of cheese from dairy milk, and then filtered, purified and dried to form whey powder.
Whey protein contains all 9 essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source including the three branched-chained amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine, famous for their stimulating role in muscle protein synthesis.
Unfortunately, whey isn’t for anyone. Lactose which is found in whey is one of the most common food sensitivity triggers. In people who are sensitive, the body may mount an immune response to these ingredients, increasing inflammation, which in turn results in negative symptoms such as fatigue, bloating, congestion and skin disorders. Thankfully, there is great alternates to whey protein which can be a great resource for those who have food sensitivities and reactions, as well as for those who prefer plant-based proteins.
Pea protein is extracted from green and yellow split peas, making it the perfect non-dairy source of proteins for vegans, vegetarians or for those with allergic or sensitive to dairy. It is high in branched chain amino acids and low in carbohydrate, so a quick smoothie made with pea protein is a quick and efficient way for your body to absorb protein to facilitate muscle recovery. This plant-based protein powder can also work effectively to regulate the appetite, increase satiety and encourage significant weight loss. Due to its high soluble fibre content, pea protein can have a positive effect on cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure.
The unfortunate downside of pea protein is that it contains all 9 essential amino acids but does not contain enough methionine to meet the required daily amounts. However, methionine is found in many other foods. So, if you combine a wide variety of different plant-based protein sources that have complementary amino acids, this will ensure you get all the ones you need.
Hemp is part of the species Cannabis sativa, but without the intoxicating THC compound found in marijuana. Luckily, hemp plants contain less than 0.3% THC, an amount so little it can have no influence on the body. This earthy, nutty tasting protein source is environmentally friendly and has seen many health benefits, making it a popular superfood by many.
Hemp protein contains all 9 essential amino acids that benefit the body, however it has relatively low levels of lysine, making it a poorer quality option for that nutrient. However, it contains high levels of tyrosine and arginine, which studies have shown arginine boosts blood flow while tyrosine supports cognition, especially during stressful situations.
Hemp protein may be suited to you if you have digestive issues as it is extremely digestible. It also provides a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which are essential for energy production, brain, heart and immune health. Its soluble and insoluble content also helps the body’s digestive function and elimination process of toxins. This high-quality, plant-based, vegan protein is an excellent choice to supplement your protein intake.
When you hear “rice”, you don’t usually think of protein. But there is enough protein in these little grains to boost lean muscle and strength. Brown rice is typically used in more products over white as it provides slightly more protein – approx. 5g per cup of brown rice. Rice protein is a great choice for those with allergies or sensitivities to soy, lactose, eggs and gluten. It also has the added bonus of being sustainable and easy on the environment. Plus, it is considered easier to digest than whey and does not typically cause digestive discomfort.
Like the other plant-based powders, rice protein does not meet the criteria to be considered complete. With that being said, it isn’t too far off the mark. It provides all the EAA’s but falls short of lysine. Fortunately, rice protein pairs perfectly with pea protein as pea protein is low in the amino acids cysteine and methionine, but high in lysine and rice protein which is low in lysine, but high in cysteine and methionine. Together, they offer an optimal amino acid profile which is superior to any single plant protein source.
Soy protein is derived from soybeans and is considered a good source of protein if you’re vegan, vegetarian or lactose intolerant. Soybeans are one of the very few sources of plant-based protein that provides all the essential amino acids the body requires. However, soy protein contains phyto-estrogens which are plant compounds that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. This can cause negative effects in certain hormonal conditions. It is best to consult your practitioner as whether consuming phytoestrogens on a regular basis would be beneficial for you. Soy is also considered to be goitrogenic which means it is best avoided in people with hypothyroidism. An additional factor to consider when choosing soy-based products is the origin of the soy plant. Majority of western soy is now genetically modified. It is always the best to avoid these types of food due to the serious health concerns that have been raised in new studies.
No matter which powder you try, take care to notice how you feel after eating it – not just hours but days after. That way, you can identify whether the powder is right for your body. There are so many options available, so keep looking until you find the perfect fit for your needs.