These days it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that vegans have no problem whatsoever getting enough protein from normal everyday food. This myth is long done, dead, buried.
However, many vegans are trying to grow bigger, stronger, and more powerful by lifting heavy objects and really pushing our bodies. For this purpose it’s beneficial(1) to go beyond average recommendations and increase our protein intake.
Optimal protein intake
It is recommended to consume at least 2 grams protein per kg lean body mass(2).
Say I weigh 90 kg, minus 20% body fat. That’s 72 kg lean body mass. 72 kg * 2 g protein equals 144 g of protein per day.
That’s one huge plate of tofu!
This is where protein supplementation comes in. There’s nothing magical about it but a convenient way of getting some extra protein.
For vegans this usually means one of four types: soy protein, hemp protein, brown rice protein, or pea protein.
Amino Acid Profiles
We won’t get too bogged down with sciency stuff but let’s just get the foundations in place.
Protein is made up of smaller building blocks – amino acids. There are 21 amino acids which are useful for our bodies and we can actually produce all but nine of them (the essential amino acids).
Basically, we have to eat these nine.
How much though? That’s what the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) tells us:
Quite a lot of leucine, lysine, and tyrosine. A little less valine. Even less threonine, isoleucine, methionine, and histidine. Not very much tryptophan.
If a protein hits those levels it’s called a complete protein.
Let’s see how our vegan proteins stack up to that.
A complete protein(3). Plenty of leucine, tyrosine, valine, and isoleucine (three of which are the branched amino acids – BCAA).
Hemp is close to having enough of some amino acids but it’s not really a complete protein(4). That doesn’t make it bad though – it just means you shouldn’t replace all your meals with nothing but hemp protein shakes.
Rice protein has an abundance of some amino acids, in addition to most of the branched one’s(5). The only one lacking is lysine, to make it a complete protein.
Pea protein has most of the amino acids covered but is a little low in tyrosine and methionine(6).
Bonus: mixed protein
Rice protein is lacking lysine but has plenty of tyrosine and methionine. Pea protein on the other hand has plenty of lysine but lacks some tyrosine and methionine.
So what do you do? You combine them!
This is a popular blend because the texture of pea protein makes for a nice complement to that of rice protein. It tastes a lot better together.
Personally I’ve only had a chance to try the BULK POWDERS® Vegan Protein Powder (Chocolate Peanut Flavour) but I’ll attest to the taste. Very good indeed!
Whatever protein powder you pick should be completely up to your own personal preferences. Any differences between two types won’t stretch very far beyond the paper it’s written on.
Found one that tastes great? Sounds like a good candidate. Or one that finally doesn’t cause problems with your sensitive stomach? Go for that!
Personally, I’ll continue eating loads of food and top that up with the occasional Vegan Protein Powder.
About the Author:
Tobias Sjösten is the founder of Athlegan.com, a blog about the rise of Veganism. Tobias shares his stories as he learns to create the strongest, fastest and healthiest version of himself possible.
(1) Metabolic advantages of higher protein diets and benefits of dairy foods on weight management, glycemic regulation, and bone.
(2) Protein and amino acids for athletes.
(3) Evaluation of the protein quality of an isolated soy protein in young men: relative nitrogen requirements and effect of methionine supplementation.
(4) PROTEIN: Hemp Protein Powder
(5) Amino Acid Composition of an Organic Brown Rice Protein Concentrate and Isolate Compared to Soy and Whey Concentrates and Isolates.
(6) Pea Protein Powder