Vegan Protein vs. Whey Protein: Research Behind The Trend
According to a recent poll, the number of vegans in the UK has increased by 360% over the past 10 years. The poll also revealed that close to half of all vegans are aged between 15-34, meaning that the UK vegan population are in their physical prime and a high percentage will be into their exercise, sports and going to the gym. But when you think of exercise, you think of protein.
With the most popular protein supplement in the world being whey protein (made from milk), there hasn’t been much choice for someone who wants to reduce their dairy intake or find something a little healthier. This has led to the explosion of vegan proteins such as Rice, Pea and Hemp. But what does the research say about this trend?
Is Whey Protein Healthy?
Research has shown that whey protein causes greater muscle growth and it can boost our athletic performance, but is it healthy? One study from 2012 by retail watchdog ‘Consumer Reports’ found that a variety of whey protein powders on the market today contain worrying amounts of arsenic, cadmium, or lead. Studies have also shown it can inhibit vitamin D, it can create problems with our kidneys if overused and it can be a cause of inflammation in the body.
Pea vs. Whey Protein
A recent study in 2015 by the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research put Whey Protein against Pea Protein, to see which was better at promoting muscle growth. The study found that Pea Protein group showed large increases compared to a placebo group, and there was no difference between the Whey and Pea groups in terms of performance. Which means Pea Protein could easily be used as an alternative to Whey-based products.
Rice vs. Whey Protein
In 2013 a study was published by the USA (Florida) Department of Health Sciences and Human Performance analysed the effects of Rice and Whey over a 8 week period on a focus group of athletes. Their results found that both proteins improved muscle recovery and growth, with no different between the two groups. Showing again how vegan proteins can performance equal to whey protein.
Mixing Vegan Proteins Together
One approach that athletes are taking recently is to mix plant-based proteins together, to balance the nutritional profile so the protein can be accepted by the body more naturally. There are lots of vegan proteins to choose from and they mix well, because they are all plant-based. Such as PlantWarrior which mixes Rice, Pea, Chia, Hemp and Quinoa to create a healthy balanced protein powder.
The Bottom Line
Studies show that vegan proteins can perform just as well as whey proteins when it comes to muscle growth and recovery, so they could used as a healthy alternative. However, it is very importantly whatever supplement you pick, to take it with as part of a balanced diet and always take it with some natural food (even if it’s just a quick banana) to help it digest well.