Are Plant-Based Protein Powders Better?Nov 27, 2023
Protein powders are the backbone of every great diet out there, especially if you exercise regularly. This is because they provide the essential protein content your body needs that daily meals can’t always offer.
However, one central question looms over every exercise-enthusiast and health-conscious individual: are plant-based protein powders better?
While we would love to give a straight yes or no answer, that would be unfair. The true answer is much more complicated and depends on you.
To discover what plant-based protein powders are and if they’re better than traditional protein powders, sit back, relax, and read on.
What Are Plant-Based Protein Powders?
Just by looking at the name, can you guess what these protein powders are made of? Easy enough, plant-based protein powders are derived from various plant sources. Why does this make them different?
It’s because traditional protein powders are typically extracted from animal sources. For instance, the most famous type of protein powder, whey, is derived from milk during the cheese-making process.
However, instead of relying on animal by-products, plant-based powders harness the natural protein found in certain plants and process it into a powder we can use.
The protein content differs from plant to plant, and that’s why there are many options available.
Common Plant-Based Protein Powders
Among the best types of plant-based protein powders, you’ll find the following:
- Pea Protein
One of the most famous plant-based protein powders is pea protein. You might think this is made with the usual green peas, but it’s not.
Due to their high protein content, the pea protein powder is made from yellow split peas.
The reason this powder rose to fame is because of its digestibility. To illustrate, this could be the powder for you if you have a sensitive stomach or suffer from specific allergies, like lactose intolerance.
- Hemp Protein
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Of course, it doesn’t have any of the psychoactive properties associated with the plant, as it contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
The main drawback to this plant-based protein powder is that it doesn’t offer you the nine essential amino acids. Basically, it’s deemed as an “incomplete” protein powder because it has low lysine acid.
However, you can quickly solve this problem by filling up on legumes. Also, on the plus side, hemp protein powder contains zinc, magnesium, and other nutrients that can help your body.
- Soy Protein
Last on our list, we have soy protein powder. Unlike the previous option, this is a complete protein powder derived from soybeans.
Unfortunately, even though it contains the primary amino acids to help you build muscle, soy protein powder fell out of fame for several reasons.
Many individuals report digestive issues or allergies related to soy, making it a less favorable choice if you have a sensitive stomach.
Moreover, individuals have become more aware of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and their effects on us. Add this information to the fact that most soy powders aren’t non-GMO, and you’ll understand even more why people took a step back from soy products.
The Benefits of Plant-Based Protein Powders
Now that you know what plant-based protein powders are and the various options available, it’s time to look at their benefits. Here are the main ones:
- Great Nutritional Value
The best advantage to using plant-based protein powders is that they don’t just offer protein; they provide a broad spectrum of nutrients.
For instance, if you use pumpkin seed protein powder, you’ll get high amounts of zinc which helps your immune system.
It also provides the iron and magnesium your body needs for growth and development. So, while some plant-based protein powders may not have the complete amino acid profile, they provide many vitamins and minerals.
- Easy on Most Stomachs
Do you remember what whey protein powder is made of? It’s a by-product of the cheese-making process. Essentially, it has traces of lactose in it, which makes it very difficult for those with sensitive stomachs to digest.
Even though it might not be much, it can still leave you with stomach aches and uncomfortable gas.
On the other hand, when you choose a plant-based powder, you won’t have to worry about this issue as there isn’t any lactose.
The only problem you might have is possible soy allergens. To avoid this, simply read the nutrition label and pick the protein powder that fits your needs.
Because, in their essence, plant-based powders are naturally vegan, they’re an ideal choice if you follow a vegan lifestyle.
What’s more, just because you choose this lifestyle doesn't mean you have to miss out on good flavors or be limited to specific options.
The vegan-friendly nature of plant-based protein powders means there are many options to choose from based on nutritional needs, taste preferences, and even potential allergies!
Plant-Based vs. Whey: Which is Better?
After learning almost everything about plant-based protein powder, we must answer our central question: is it better than traditional protein powder?
Unfortunately, the answer is a bit complicated, but some main points can make it easier to differentiate between them.
As you might’ve deduced from our earlier explanation, the main difference between both products is how they’re made. One product is plant-based, while the other is taken from animal by-products.
Both products offer the same protein content you need, but it can vary depending on brand and type.
Plant-based protein powders are perfect for almost everybody, while whey powders may be better for those with stronger stomachs.
So, the takeaway?
It’s a personal choice. Both products don’t really differ regarding the nutritional values they offer. Hence, unless you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, either product will be just fine.
However, we do have to point out that plant-based protein powders are more environmentally friendly due to their low carbon footprint. So, in an effort to be more sustainable, you can try plant-based powders instead of the traditional whey ones.
Potential Drawbacks of Plant-Based Protein Powders
While there are many benefits from consuming plant-based protein powders, there are also some disadvantages. These disadvantages include:
The main problem with plant-based protein powders is that they’re a tad more expensive than their animal-derived counterparts.
This is because most are advertised as vegan-friendly, keto-friendly, and such, boosting their price tag a little. Moreover, the brand type and sizing can affect the price tag.
- Vitamin Deficiency
After reading about the benefits and the amount of mineral and nutrition that plant-based powders provide, you might think they’re the perfect alternative.
However, there’s one vitamin that’s commonly found in animals and their by-products that’s hard to come by in plant-based ones: Vitamin B12.
The only solution to counter this is by checking the label before purchasing any plant-based powder to ensure it contains B vitamins.
- Incomplete Protein
Another problem that faces plant-based powder enthusiasts is that not all of them can provide the nine essential amino acids.
Hence, some are “incomplete” when it comes to the protein profile, unlike whey or casein.
- High Carb Content
Finally, compared to animal-derived protein powders, these powders generally have a higher carbohydrate content.
As a result, if you’re on a low-carb diet, you can get negatively affected by consuming it. This is why it’s always best to check the nutrition label and ensure that you choose a powder that aligns with your dietary goals.
Considerations When Choosing Protein Powders
Now that you’ve reached this part, it’s safe to say you know enough about plant-based protein powders to buy one!
However, there are some things you need to keep in mind before doing so, including the following:
- Is it non-GMO?
Do you remember what we said earlier about GMO products? Well, the only way to find out if your product is non-GMO is by thoroughly reading the label.
You can also check to ensure there aren’t any extra ingredients that aren’t vegan-friendly, like egg white and bone broth. These are the first and most essential points you need to check.
- What’s the Brand’s Reputation?
Before buying any protein powder, look at their website and the reviews. Look for what people are saying and how their experience went to help you determine if this is the right choice.
You can also look for a brand that runs third-party testing to ensure quality and safety.
- Are There Artificial Sweeteners and Additives?
Artificial sweeteners are mainly added to protein powders to make them more tasty without negatively affecting the calorie count.
Nonetheless, artificial sugar can harm your body in more ways than one. The same can be said for other additives like flavors or colors. Hence, always go for protein powders free from artificial sweeteners and additives to guarantee your health and safety.
So, are you still wondering: Are plant-based protein powders better? We hope not!
We know you hoped the answer to this question was a straight no or yes, but sadly, it’s not. The choice between plant-based protein powders and others depends on you and how much your stomach can handle!
If you’re not lactose-intolerant or vegan, then there isn’t much difference between both products. The main distinction would be in using artificial sweeteners and how environmentally-friendly the products are. In this case, the plant-based protein powders win!