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On Vegan Protein Powder – Better Than Whey?

The powerhouse of the protein supplement whey is a respected giant on the market. Containing the likes of dairy and several other ingredients, ready to maximize muscle gains. However, to the conventional vegan or vegetarian consumer also looking for this attribute of increase in muscle mass, whey, or even casein for that matter, is not the most appealing choice. Due to its production from dairy, it is a no-go for vegans. As a solution, vegan protein powders of all sorts were created and in this article, we will explain the benefits, drawbacks, and if it even stacks up against the likes of whey.

Sources of Vegan Protein

Just like whey protein powder, there are several types of vegan protein powders. What makes these powders different, are the main ingredient in the respective powders. Each ingredient does change the overall benefits, tastes and side effects of every powder. We will be covering 3 of the most popular sources of protein for vegan protein powders…

Peas

As the most popular vegan protein ingredient, yellow peas are pretty much used in every vegan protein powder. By extracting protein from the peas, it gets used in many smoothies, shakes and protein powders.

 

Brown Rice

Another popular source of protein in many vegan protein powders is brown rice. Many believe that rice is a rich source of carbohydrates, however, it also contains a good source of gluten-free protein. By isolating it through enzymes that separate carbs and proteins, brown rice can prove to be a good alternative to dairy protein.


Hemp

By crushing up hemp seeds into a powdery substance, the nutty tasting powder can provide high-quality vegan protein. Not only do the seeds contain proteins, but it comes along with a few rich sources of nutrients.

What’s So Good About Them?

Each different source of vegan protein comes with their own benefits that the other substance might not contain. For this reason, many vegan protein powders will mix the sources of protein for a better source of protein and other goodies. We will once again discuss each source but go in depth on their benefits, but also their drawbacks…

Pea

Benefits

1.Quality Protein Source

To many people’s surprise, pea protein is a complete protein, meaning, it contains all our essential amino acids. With the BCAAs, branch-chained amino acids, in play, it matches whey on several benefits, such as muscle building, weight loss, and satiation. 

2.Very Heart Healthy

Continuing the topic of amino acids, and amino acid pea protein is rich in is arginine. As a conditionally essential amino acid, an amino acid that isn’t essential until you are sick, arginine may promote healthy blood flow and heart health.

Not only that, pea protein has been proven to reduce a person cholesterol levels. This is thought to happen through an increase in uptake of cholesterol in cells while reducing the production of fat in the body.

3.Source of Iron

Pea protein is an exceptional source of iron. Although it is not as absorbable as iron in animal products, pea protein can be a staple in a wide variety of diets. Why is this good? The increase in absorption can come from the rest of the diet, more specifically, food with good Vitamin C. In the United States, approximately 10% of women have iron deficiency, adding a pea protein powder to their diet can increase the intake of this nutrient.

Drawbacks

1.High in Sodium

Pea protein is low in fiber, which, unlike many other proteins, may cause bloating or gassiness. However, as a sort of trade-off, pea protein may be high in sodium, something you may want to keep noted if looking for a low sodium diet.

2. Other

Here is a brief list of not so much drawbacks, but limitations pea protein may have…

  •  Pea protein is not as easy to digest as animal-based protein
  • The iron is also not absorbed as well as iron in animal products
  • Low in the amino acid methionine, critically important in cell function in the body

Brown Rice

Benefits

1.Hypo-Allergenic

Brown rice protein can be consumed and is suitable by almost anybody. As it is gluten-free, contains no artificial sweeteners, colors or fillers, brown rice protein is a perfect organic protein for almost everyone.

2. Also a Quality Protein

Like touched briefly before, brown rice has the same, more or less, benefits of pea protein. However, it should be mentioned, that brown rice protein is not a complete protein. For this, the protein powder is almost always mixed with other ingredients like quinoa or chia proteins to make up for the missing amino acids. However, brown rice protein does carry the same fat loss benefits and satiation like pea protein.

Drawbacks

  • As mentioned before, brown rice is not a complete protein.
    • Also worth noting, pea and brown rice are mixed a lot of the time to make protein powder. What brown rice lacks in protein, is made up for when pea is in the mix
  • Many claim brown rice protein has a distinct taste, some like it, many do not
  • Low in amino acid lysine, an amino acid that fends off cold sores and can help wound healing

Hemp

Benefits

1.Good Source of Fiber

Unlike the other proteins on this list, hemp is a great source of fiber. More fiber in any diet is proven to promote a healthier gut and reduce the risk of bowel cancer. The addition of fiber to this protein also helps you feel full for a longer period of time.

2.Complete Protein

Just like pea protein, hemp contains all your essential amino acids.

Perfect for muscle building, fat loss, and satiation of hunger. To also clear up concerns, the THC content is hemp is not enough to affect drug tests results.

3.Rich Minerals/Antioxidants

Hemp protein has an incredible array of minerals, including phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc. To go along with this, hemp provides strong antioxidant properties. With this, it cleans out and prevents oxidant damage, a cause of heart disease and diabetes.

 

Drawbacks

  • The high fiber may come back to bite you if consumed too quickly, leading to bloating, gassiness and even diarrhea.
  • Many claim that hemp’s “earthy” taste is too strong, while others do like it.
  • May cause adverse reactions to individuals allergic to hemp.

Put Up Against Whey

After establishing all the benefits and drawbacks each vegan protein has, it is now appropriate to compare them to the monster that is whey. A conclusion that I have come upon is that pea protein is the superior vegan protein powder. It has many valuable attributes when considering a protein powder, and is no pushover when compared to whey. Hemp I’d say is another good competitor when thrown in the ring of protein powders. However, the little brother of the vegan proteins is brown rice, as its lack of essential amino acids basically means, it cannot stand alone as a good source of protein and needs a mix of other ingredients to make up for it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the vegan protein powders do their job very efficiently, for the most part, along with some added goodies along with them. If you have any questions on the likes of vegan protein you’d like to ask, feel free to leave them below along with any comments you may have.

7 Comments

  1. Emilio Tan

    You forgot to mention soybeans. Soybeans are higher in both protein and fat than other beans and are relatively low in carbohydrates. Soybeans get about 35 to 38 percent of their calories from protein compared to approximately 20 to 30 percent in other legumes. Soy protein is also of the highest quality and is easily digestible than cow’s milk. However, whey comes from milk and contains complete essential amino acids and is a better source of protein compared to soybeans.

    • Jose Gallegos

      Sup Emilio, I know soy is used regularly in vegan protein powders, but I will definitely look into soybeans as a protein source. I will include a section about soybeans after in-depth research on it. The feedback is much appreciated!

      Thnx, Jose G.

  2. IVA ILISIĆ

    Hi,
    I myself am very interested in this topic i I know some stuff about that. I just want you to say that this article is very educational for people who does not know much about it. This article covers all relative and interesting facts about this topic. Great.

  3. Strahinja

    My everyday meals include a lot of vegan proteins and I am very satisfied with the results I have regarding my strenght and general health. The only problem is high fiber in this food. I already have problems with bowels and too much gassieness can be a big deal for me.

    Love your website, by the way.

  4. Kendra

    What about the allergenic properties of pea proteins? I watched a news program talking about how they have seen a rise in pea allergies due to the heavy use of pea proteins in packaged goods now. I’d love if you could do an article on that.

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Sandra, I’d love to cover a topic on the concerns of allergies with protein powder. I’ll definitely link you the article once I finish one I’ve started working on… 🙂

      Thnx for the feedback,
      Jose G.

  5. Alex Griffith

    Great article! I didn’t even know vegan protein power was a thing, but now I know it is a viable source! I think I’ll stick with whey for general and bulking processes, and I might include vegan protein during a cut!

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