One of the biggest problems I’ve run into recently has been determining the reliability of sources of information. I have a lot of questions, and there isn’t one particular person I can go to for answers, so that leaves me with the internet. There’s so much out there though that it’s hard to narrow down things sometimes. It’s especially difficult to find information that is actually accurate.
For example, I have always been told that vegetable protein sources are not complete proteins. Being in Australia, I’ve had to look for different supplements than what I’m used to using, mainly due to availability. I’ve recently been introduced to yellow pea protein. I had never heard of this type of protein before so I was curious if it would be enough to use as a supplement and whether or not I needed other things in my diet to make up for what this protein lacks, if anything.
Okay, first off – a complete protein is a protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Amino acids are quite literally the building blocks of life, and we need them to make our own protein so our bodies can break down food, grow, repair body tissue, and perform many other functions. They’re also used as a source of energy. Our bodies don’t make these amino acids on their own so we have to get them through the foods we eat. Without these, muscle loss results and there are problems with repair.
So how much protein do you really need, anyway? That’s dependent on several factors. There’s a nice handy website available for calculating how much you need a day according to your age, height, weight, and activity level.
For example, I am a 26 year old active female who is 5’ 6” and weighs 135lbs. My recommended daily amount of protein, specifically, is 49g. (If you want to know how it’s mathematically calculated, it’s 0.36g x weight in lbs.) This is important to help figure out how much supplementation might be needed to add to your normal diet.
Will increased protein intake help to increase muscle? According to a Harvard Health website, “The potential benefits of higher protein intake, include preserving muscle strength despite aging and maintaining a lean, fat-burning physique”. However, this research is ongoing and it’s important to take into consideration what else is being consumed along with the protein (such as fat, carbs, etc). More isn’t always better, but whatever your body doesn’t use will be flushed out anyway.
It’s very important to note that all proteins are not created equal. They’re all digested differently and some are absorbed faster than others. (For a good explanation of the different types of protein, check this out.) There’s also the whole food allergen aspect to take into account as well. You really have to find out what works best for you and your body. In my opinion, if I’m going to take the time and money to consume a supplement, I want to make sure what I’m putting into my body will be as useful as possible. This is why it’s important to read the labels and do product research, but more on that later.
Typically, vegetable proteins are missing one or two amino acids, so they can’t be considered complete. There are some vegetable proteins that are complete, such as soy, but to get the same amount of protein per serving, you’d have to consume more (raw foods, not powdered supplements) of these. Soy is also very heavily processed and can mimic the activity of estrogen in the body.
Animal proteins are complete, which may be why they are more popular. There is also more research to support milk-based protein. Unfortunately, some people are sensitive to lactose and milk protein might not be the best choice for them. Lactose allergies can produce bloating and discomfort, along with other GI issues. One of the proteins I recently tried was milk based and was so heavy after a workout that it was hard to finish, so I started to look for something else.
So back to the yellow pea protein..
The benefits to pea protein are that it is gluten and cholesterol free, vegan, easily digestible, and does not produce food allergy symptoms; it’s actually considered hypoallergenic. The cons are that it is an incomplete protein, so it should be used in conjunction with another protein source.
I’ve been drinking Raw C. These 330mL dairy free drinks yield 20g of protein a piece, which seemed pretty perfect for me. It’s also premixed and convenient. So far, I like them a lot. It’s mixed with coconut water and cacao so it reminds me a bit of chocolate milk, but it has a bit of a bitter after-taste. It’s a bit too soon to know what kind of results I will get from this supplement, but I really love that I don’t feel too full/sick after drinking them. Either way, I can’t wait to see what happens after two and a half months of solid cross fit training.
I definitely suggest trying pea protein to see if it works for you, even if it’s just to complement your current regimen.