Plant-based protein benefits - your questions answered
We love it when a post triggers passion and comment - our piece on plant-based protein benefits over whey sparked a lot of debate! Here we answer your most frequently asked questions - can plant protein really be better than whey?
FAQ 1: Doesn’t whey contain more protein than plant proteins?
Actually, no. Calorie for calorie, many plant sources contain as much protein - if not more - than their previously mooing, clucking animal-based counterparts.
After all, whey contains just 0.9g of protein per 100g as a raw ingredient before processing so is just 1% protein.
You'll struggle to find any quality plant protein source that begins life at such a weak concentration. Rice for example at 3% protein has three times as much protein in its raw state than whey, while peas are five times higher at 5%.
Raising the bar sunflower seeds come in at 21%, while plants happily go on to leave all animal protein sources for in the dust with sources like spirulina (57% protein).
With plant sources all delivering more protein bang for buck than whey out of the starting gate, this means less processing to create the right blends for athletes, and less resources needed from the environment to do so when plant protein sources are used over whey.
You don’t have to eat here to get your protein in
FAQ 2: But plant-based protein meals are hard to cook, right?
This can be a barrier for some, but in reality it’s just a mindset that's easily changed.
When first pondering adding plant-based proteins to your diet, the default thought is often 'what on earth can I eat?!'.
But after a little digging around, you’ll discover a smorgasbord of foods which we’re not usually eating.
The best way to start is to sort three to five go-to plant-based dishes you can knock-up with little time and effort – it can even just start with a simple beans and rice combo, which can be cooked so many ways and contains a brilliant carb & protein macronutrient mix ideal for athletes.
FAQ 3: Will I be deficient in B12 if I only consume plant protein?
If you’re asking this, that’s great because you’ll know vitamin B12 is the one thing a totally plant-based diet can't deliver without supplementation. This can easily be addressed by still occasionally eating high quality animal products, or if you're opting for a fully plant-based path, using a quality daily B12 supplement.
After all, quality nutrition's not all about protein - that’s just a core macronutrient to get right along the way. We created our Ultimate Daily Greens to boost your daily nutrient intake in one convenient (tasty) and cost effective shot.
Add Ultimate Daily Greens and boost your daily nutrients
FAQ 4: Isn't a plant-based diet too low in calories for athletes?
A plant-based diet can be lower in calories if you only eat leafy salads, but mix up your meals and snacks as you would with an ordinary diet and there's no need for any calorie deficiency.
Great ways to pack quality calories - with protein - into a plant-based diet include:
- Legumes - lentils, chickpeas & black beans. Good protein sources, use in chilis, curries, etc in place of meat
- Good fats like avocado coconut and olive oil - nutrient dense calories for long-lasting energy
- Nuts including almonds, cashews and pecans - power packed calories with a protein kick. Sprinkle on salads, blend into smoothies
- Superfood seeds like chia, hemp and flax are athletic rockstars loaded with high quality proteins and good fats. We use these in our Chia Energy Gels and Elite Pre & Post Workout Shakes here at 33Fuel for a reason!
- Training heavy? After the above, add bulk when needed with traditional rices and pastas, or get creative with sweet potatoes, buckwheat, polenta and quinoa
FAQ 5: Can I get enough iron from plants?
Good news, there's no need for any iron deficiency on a plant-based diet.
Best plant sources of iron include tofu, nuts, fortified cereals, pumpkin seeds, figs and lentils.
Beyond this focus on whole foods as the cornerstone of your meals and aim for a variety of colours on your plate - if every meal's beige you can be sure you're low on available nutrients.
FAQ 6: How do I get calcium without dairy?
Calcium's important, especially for bone health, but what if I told you an increasing number of studies are showing dairy consumption could actually increase the risk of osteoporosis, as well as a lot of other bad stuff?
Yes, you read right.
A major Swedish study - following 100,000 men and women for 20 years - found milk consumption was related to “more heart disease, increased cancer prevalence and significantly more bone fractures”.
Well, that’s a surprise.
Getting calcium from milk isn’t the best idea.
Fortunately, as with protein and iron, you can easily get your calcium from seeds, nuts and leafy greens. Plus, soya, oat and almond milks are usually fortified with calcium too
Cows - lovely. Cows' milk for humans? Rather less lovely as it turns out
FAQ 7: Can overall health improve by swapping whey for plant-based proteins?
Yes. But only to a point.
Protein is just one macronutrient to get right. If the rest of your diet is refined sugars, simple carbs and trans fats, supplemented with the occasional kebab, swapping out the animal proteins for plant versions is certainly a step in the right direction but won't offset all the other crap by magic!
FAQ 8: Will using plant-based protein reduce my energy?
No. As plant-based proteins are more digestible than their animal-based counterparts including whey, you'll use less energy digesting them leaving more energy for you and your training goals, and a goodbye to unwanted post lunch/dinner slumps.
If you’re looking at going beyond choosing plant-based proteins and are considering adopting a plant-based diet then, as mentioned above, you will want to make sure you’re getting enough calories by using plenty of nutrient dense whole foods in your meals and snacks.