“Where do you get your protein from?” is probably one of the most popular questions thrown at vegans. If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you already know that the protein you get from your diet isn’t always enough. To top it off, going vegan further limits your protein intake. Enter protein powder!
However, with all the options that are available to you, it can be confusing to choose the best and the healthiest one. To find “The Protein Powder,” here are some things you have to look out for.
1. Choose A “Complete” Protein
While pure grass-fed organic whey protein is the go-to choice for most fitness enthusiasts, finding one that’s vegan can be slightly tricky. Ideally, the protein you choose must not only be vegan but also “complete.” Our body uses 20 different kinds of amino acids to make protein for building cells, tissues, and other connective organs, but not all 20 can be produced by your body. You need to obtain 9 essential amino acids from your diet. Hence, it’s important that the protein powder you go for should be “complete” and contain all 9 essential amino acids.1
[pullquote]Look for protein powders that are a combination of two more or more proteins that together would make a complete protein.[/pullquote]
However, most complete proteins are derived from animals, and vegetable proteins are usually incomplete. Several experts recommend that vegans use hemp protein or pea protein. They can be easily digested and absorbed, making them suitable for most vegans. For example, a powder containing pea protein and brown rice protein would make a complete protein. If your powder isn’t complete, you can get the most out of your it by mixing it up with other protein-rich foods like flax or chia seeds.2
2. Avoid Artificially-Sweetened Protein Powders
If your protein powder’s ingredient list is filled with unpronounceable chemical names, then it’s probably artificially sweetened. Sometimes, a powder might say it contains only natural flavors but can contain sugar substitutes of stevia or monk fruit, which are respectively 150 and 300 times sweeter than sugar. The protein powders containing these “natural” flavors often leave an unpleasant aftertaste, cause digestive issues, and also result in weight gain. Also, more importantly, most of the sugar substitutes used are non-nutritive and don’t contribute to your health in any way.3
[pullquote]Go for protein powders that contain natural spices like cinnamon or cacao.[/pullquote]
When you’re choosing protein powder, it’s best to stick to the pure and unsweetened kind. You’ll have the liberty to add it to any of your dishes without altering their taste. Also, artificial sweeteners and chemicals could be toxic to you, so it’s better to stay away from them.
3. Watch Out For Ones That Are Fortified With Other Nutrients
Some protein powders are fortified with nutrients like vitamins, iron, probiotics, or even certain digestive enzymes. While most fortified protein powders are beneficial and safe, it’s wise to consult a nutritionist to ensure you’re not surpassing your daily recommended intake of the fortified nutrient. Also, it’s not necessary that you opt for fortified protein powder, as it doesn’t enhance the basic function of the powder.
4. Pick A Protein Powder Based On Your Needs
Although all protein powders contain a healthy amount of protein, each of them caters to different needs. Protein powders vary in their protein concentration. If you’re looking to grow those envy-worthy abs, you need to go for a powder that is meant for muscle gain. Usually, powders that help you bulk up contain a certain combination of protein isolates and concentrates – the two different forms of protein differentiated based on how they’re filtered. Whereas, the composition of these two forms of protein varies for a powder that’s meant for weight loss. So, conduct research on which protein powder is best for you, based on your requirements.
Apart from this, you need to know how much protein powder you require in a day. Typically, you need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, this is the amount you absolutely need to carry out basic body functions. Experts argue that you need to aim for at least twice the amount of this daily recommended value of 0.8g per kilogram of weight.4 To understand how much protein you actually need, it’s important to consult a nutritionist and understand your requirement.
|↑1||Complete and incomplete proteins in grains and vegetables? Go Ask Alice, Columbia University.|
|↑2||Increasing Protein in the Diet. Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Michigan Health System.|
|↑3||Brown, Rebecca J., and Kristina I. Rother. “Non-nutritive sweeteners and their role in the gastrointestinal tract.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 97, no. 8 (2012): 2597-2605.|
|↑4||How much protein do you need every day? Harvard Medical School, Harvard Health Publishing.|