The Truth About Plant-Based Protein Supplements - Onnit Academy (2023)

*This article has been reviewed by the Onnit Advisory Board, including Scientific Advisor Vince Kreipke, PhD.


– Strength athletes need up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. You need even more when you're on a diet.

vegetable proteinThe powders offer a sustainable and sometimes more digestible alternative to milk and other animal protein powders.

– Most vegetable proteins are not complete sources on their own, but when mixed with other vegetable powders they can provide the same amino acids and amounts of leucine asLeche.

– Vegetable protein can help control hunger and help you lose weight.

The truth about vegetable protein supplements

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PAGPeople who wear glasses are smart. Overweight people should be lazy. And the vegetarians are all long-haired hippies, so weakened by malnutrition that a strong breeze could knock them over.

There are some stereotypes that never seem to go away. And while the first two we listed are clearly hogwash when you think about it, the third, on vegetarians, still seems to have quite a following, especially among athletes and muscle-builders who think you don't build size and strength at the top. . of each other can diet without meat. After all, massive hunks aren't called "meatheads" for nothing.

The thing is, though, it's not the meat itself that makes your muscles grow, it's the protein it contains.bean proteinreyesmay serve its purpose just as well as a rare steak– and in the supplements department, vegetable protein powders made from blends ofpea, rice or seeds can match the whey.

However, if you are trying to eliminate or reduce the amount of animal products in your diet for ethical or environmental reasons, or if you are a vegetarianveganIf you're just getting started with strength training, you may find it difficult to get all the protein you need in one day, as plant-based sources are generally not as high in protein as animal-based foods, and therefore In general, they do not contain all the necessary amounts of amino acids that complete their protein. In this case, supplementation is helpful.

You are about to discover the truth about plant-based and muscle-based protein supplements.

How much protein do I need?

The amount of protein you need each day depends on your goals and activity level. If you are just trying to make ends meet (i.e. you don't exercise or play sports), theFederal Government Dietary Guidelinesrequire at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That's enough to keep a sedentary person alive and it's not hard to consume at all. If you're a 140-pound woman who fits that description, you only need a little more than 50 grams of protein per day.

However, if you want to be great, muscular, strong and athletic, you need a lot more. HeInternational Society of Sports Nutrition(ISSN) recommends1.4-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day for those training to get stronger.So a 180-pound man who lifts weights needs between 115 and 164 grams of protein per day. Still, many nutritionists recommend even more protein. If you're a seriously committed powerlifter or bodybuilder, you'll want to round the number to one gram per pound of body weight just to make sure your bases are covered.

If you are on a diet to lose fat,You will almost certainly need more- up to 2.3-3.1 g/kg of body weight. For example, a 200 pound man should aim for 210-280 grams of protein to maintain muscle mass.timewhile dieting your body fat.

It can be difficult to get that much protein from whole foods alone, especially if your diet excludes meat or animal products. Vegetarians/vegans often get their protein from carbohydrate-rich foods like beans, rice, and quinoa. So if you're also watching your carbs, it becomes even more difficult to get enough protein to support a plant's muscles. based diet. Conversely, if you're trying to keep your fat in check to control calories, you won't be able to fit many nuts or seeds into your diet to reach your protein count.

For these reasons, protein supplementation is extremely beneficial, and in some cases may be necessary to ensure you get enough protein to meet your goals. Plus, for those who lead busy lives and don't have a lot of time to prepare meals, protein powders make reaching your protein goal much more convenient and achievable.

What are the benefits of vegetable protein supplements?

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Plant protein powders made right rival animal protein in almost every category and offer a few other benefits that whey, casein, egg, and beef protein powders can't.


Although soy is an exception, most plant proteins are easily digested and well absorbed. As we reported in ourPea Protein GuideThe digestibility rate of peas is 94%, which means that almost everything is broken down in the intestine. Your body absorbs most of it, too, better than soy, hemp, and bean proteins.

The digestibility of rice protein exceeds 90%, higher than that of soybeans.According to a 2015learnRice protein is also more easily digested than whey.If you have discovered that milk proteins make you feelswollenand give it gas, this shouldn't be a problem with most vegetable sources.

Hemp is a flourishing source of plant-based protein. TOlearnsoyJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistryfound that the absorption rate of hemp seed protein is on par with that of casein, a milk protein used for its slow release of amino acids. This suggests that hemp could rival casein as a great nighttime protein to take before bed to ensure muscles get an even supply of amino acids throughout the night.

Low risk of allergens

Allergies and intolerances to milk/dairy, egg, and soy are common, but most plant proteins are not to blame. Pure pea and rice proteins are known to be free of allergens.


It takes fewer natural resources to produce plant-based protein than it does to raise dairy cows for whey and casein. And unlike cattle, plants don't burp or fart, release carbon into the atmosphere, or pollute bodies of water.

How does plant protein compare to whey?

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Whey protein is widely considered the gold standard for protein supplements due to its complete amino acid profile, bioavailability, and rapid digestion. However, plant-based protein powders aren't necessarily inferior, especially when you combine them.

The main problem with plant proteins is that few of them are complete (soy protein is a notable exception).This means that they do not contain the nine essential amino acids or do not supply them in sufficient quantities.It's an important distinction because your body can't make these amino acids on its own, they must be obtained from the diet.

But just because a plant protein isn't complete doesn't mean it's useless. According to a 2018ArticleInMinutes of the Food Society,You just need to consume more or combine it with other plant proteins to make up the difference.Pea protein, for example, contains all nine essential amino acids but is low in methionine and cysteine. Rice protein also has all the necessary amino acids but is low in lysine. If you mix the two powders together, or buy a product that already has them combined, voila! Problem solved. Of course, methionine + cysteine ​​and lysine are also found in many commonly eaten foods among omnivores and vegans, so simply adding a protein shake with a meal or a few hours after should balance everything out. By the way,Pumpkin and watermelon seedsthey are sometimes added to plant protein blends as an inexpensive and sustainable way to round out their amino acid profiles, as both are good sources of protein.

One of the outstanding characteristics of whey protein is its leucine content. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) andscientists believeIt is the most important amino of all for signaling muscle growth. In fact, leucine is so powerful that it alone can stimulate muscle growth, and whey protein has the highest amount of leucine of any protein source.

According to theISSN,The optimal amount of leucine to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is between 0.7 and 3 grams per serving.of protein. One to two scoops of most whey protein powders will cover this window, but two to three scoops may be needed for soy, rice, pea, or hemp protein. Although plant-based proteins don't provide leucine as efficiently as whey, they will still get the job done.(Note: some plant protein supplements contain extra leucine to make up the shortfall, so you don't need to use more product to get the same amount.)

2015learnstudied the effect of pea protein compared to whey in men aged 18 to 35 who performed the same 12-week weight-lifting program. One group supplemented with 25 grams of pea protein twice a day, and another took the exact same amount of whey protein. Each 25-gram dose of pea protein provided around two grams of leucine, compared to 2.65 grams for whey, but both were within the ISSN optimal range for leucine. At the end of the 12 weeksSubjects in the pea and whey protein groups showed identical gainsInbicepsMuscle and both types of protein showed better results than placebo.

ANutrition Magazine learnshowed similar results when rice protein was pitted against whey. Both groups had equal results in muscle thickness, body composition, and strength.

On the other hand, after areviewsoyJournal of the American College of Nutrition,Soy protein does not seem to promote muscle growth as well as whey protein.possibly due to its amino acid composition or speed of digestion. (This is interesting because, as mentioned above, soy is a complete protein, just like whey.) For this reason, in addition to the evidence that soy protein may decrease the absorption of iron and iron in the bodyzinc(1,2), we don't like soy protein as much as other plant-based protein options.

Is vegetable protein good for weight loss?

Increasing your protein intake, whether from plants or animals, has numerous health benefits, and weight loss tops the list.Protein is the most abundant of all nutrients, so it helps control appetite.It's also metabolically expensive for your body to digest, meaning your body burns a ton of calories processing and absorbing it.

Alearnsoyamerican journal of clinical nutritionshowed that obese people lost a similar amount of weight when they ate more protein, regardless of whether it came from plants or animals.

However, pea protein appears to be particularly effective in promoting satiety. TONutrition Magazine learnSubjects consumed equal amounts of casein, whey, pea protein, egg albumin, a carbohydrate drink, or water 30 minutes before a meal. Pea protein ranked behind casein in reducing appetite, resulting in subjects consuming fewer calories in the meal overall.

How does vegetable protein taste?

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Many plant proteins have a chalky aftertaste that some people find hard to swallow (no pun intended). This is another reason why milk proteins are more popular. But newer technology and sweeteners are making vegetable powders tastier. Powdered avocado can be used to reduce chalk and improve mixability, while stevia and monk fruit can sweeten the powder without adding sugar, calories, or chemicals that could lead to unwanted side effects.

What to look for in a plant-based protein supplement

High-quality plant protein supplements can hold their own against whey powder. They should have between 100 and 150 calories per serving and offer at least 15 grams of protein with little to no fat. Because plants are naturally carbohydrates, it is normal for plant-based protein supplements to contain three to five grams of carbohydrate per serving, but they should not contain sugar.

To ensure you get all the essential amino acids your body needs to support activity, look for a powder that blends several plant proteins, such as: B. Peas with rice or seeds.Get one that also hasdigestiveEnzymes are also a good idea.2015learnfound that taking enzymes along with a blend of pea and rice proteins improves protein absorption, bringing it closer to the rate at which whey concentrate is absorbed by muscles.

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