Proteins are some of the most essential nutrients for your body. They comprise of chains of amino acids joined together to give proteins their shape and function. As a result, they form complex molecules that aid in vital cellular functions, help build muscle, and increase immunity. If you’re an athlete or bodybuilder, you’ll likely require supplementary protein products to boost the level of proteins in your body. The main reason for doing so is that 9 of the 20 amino acids required by our bodies are considered essential, meaning our bodies do not have the machinery to produce them.
Hence, the only source we can obtain them is from the food we eat. The most common protein supplements found in the market are protein powders that isolate plant or animal proteins. However, which one should you use? Here we take a look at plant protein powder why it is a better alternative than whey protein powder.
Plant Protein Powder
As their name implies, plant protein powder is derived from plant sources like rice, soy, hemp, and pea. Depending on the different amino acids and proteins present in a plant, manufacturers can use different methods to extract and isolate them into a finished product. Additionally, they add flavoring and control the amount of other nutrients present in them. Rice and peas are the two best sources of plant powder, but manufacturers can make a blend using different plant proteins so that the end product contains sufficient quantities.
Proteins denature in extreme temperature and pH. As a result, cooking food at high temperatures can affect protein uptake and digestibility. Since protein powder supplements don’t rely on extreme temperatures for extraction, the quality of proteins extracted is higher and more concentrated.
Most people think that rice is heavy on carbs, but that’s not entirely true. According to this study, rice, specifically brown rice, has the highest lysine content among cereal proteins. It also exhibits the highest digestibility and energy digestibility among staple foods. Because of these reasons, rice protein powder is an excellent protein substitute for infants with allergies to cow’s milk.
Though its lysine content is the highest among cereal proteins, its amount isn’t sufficient enough to be called essential. Whey protein powders do contain more lysine content; however, the abundance of rice and the low cost of production of rice protein powders allow for additional lysine to be added to the end product.
Pea protein powder is made by grinding up and extracting proteins from yellow split peas. It is a rich source of essential amino acids, namely, isoleucine, valine, and leucine. These amino acids make up proteins that are essential for muscle growth and repair, promote healing of wounds, and stimulate hormone production.
The only drawback to pea proteins is that they are low in methionine, an essential amino acid that helps detoxify the body and is important for healthy hair and nails. Again, it can be supplemented as per the manufacturer in different protein powder mixes.
How Plant Protein Powder Is Better than Whey Protein Powder
Although whey protein powder contains all 9 of the essential amino acids required for complete protein synthesis in our bodies, plant protein powder is still a better alternative on account of a number of reasons.
Whey is the liquid part of milk after it is separated from its solids during cheese production. Because it is a derivative of dairy products, people with lactose intolerance may experience severe digestive issues like bloating, acidity, stomach aches, and even irritable bowel syndrome. Lactose intolerance gets worse with age. If you were taking whey protein powder with mild tolerance issues, it might develop into a more severe discomfort.
Your only alternative is to consume plant-based protein powders. Considering the variety of raw materials for extraction, you’ll find multiple sources of proteins that are lactose-free and don’t exacerbate intestinal issues.
In addition, like whey protein powder, plant protein powder is gluten-free as it is not derived from cereal proteins such as wheat, barley, and rye. This makes it suitable for consumption for people who have celiac disease.
A balanced diet not only consists of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats but also requires trace amounts of other substances. These nutrients are essential to the absorption of primary dietary requirements and also prevent rare diseases.
Pea protein powder is rich in iron, an element required for hemoglobin synthesis. Hemoglobin aids in the transport of oxygen throughout our bodies. If you’re low on hemoglobin, you’ll experience lethargy when carrying out your daily activities.
Moreover, they contain a host of vitamins and antioxidants that help the uptake of calcium, strengthening bones, improving skin and hair health. Whey protein powder does contain these additional nutrients; however, their amount is not comparable to plant protein powder. It also has higher calories in the form of saturated fats that tend to deposit in our bodies resulting in unhealthy gains.
Given the abundance of plants, they provide a much more inexpensive source of proteins than whey as a raw material. This leaves more room to play with when making blends. As a result, you’ll find products that cater to specific eating lifestyles like veganism and vegetarianism. This is also why plant protein powders also taste better, allowing for better flavors to be added.
Perhaps the biggest reason for choosing plant protein powder over whey is the lessened impact it has on the environment.
Modern farming practices involving dairy production include clearing large areas of land for grazing spaces for cattle. This may require deforestation on a grand scale, making the practice net carbon positive. However, the biggest threat to the environment comes from manure. Cows and their waste produce methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat 30 times more than carbon dioxide and contributes to climate change.
Additionally, uncontrolled farming practices don’t account for the manure that runs off into streams and rivers. Manure in water bodies promotes algae growth that can destroy marine life. Algae form a blanket over lakes and ponds, preventing river plants from receiving sunlight. As a result, the whole food chain gets disturbed, and an ecological disaster may follow suit.