When it comes to protein, the conventional wisdom used to be that fauna sources bested flora. That’s because many plant-based protein sources are incomplete (meaning they don’t contain all the aminos the body needs), and they come with more carbs than animal-based proteins. But recent improvements in plant-based protein supplements have ensured that these plant proteins rival — and in some ways surpass — some animal proteins, depending on your needs and goals. Here’s a brief rundown.
Soy: Rare among plants, soy is a complete protein, and the fact that it’s on the faster side when it comes to digestion makes it ideal for when you awake and before and after workouts. It has been shown to boost growth-hormone and nitric-oxide levels, and enhance recovery after exercise. It’s also ideal for vegetarians or those who don’t tolerate whey well. Combine it with whey around workouts for a potent muscle-boosting shake.
Hemp: It won’t get you high, but it might get you growing. Hemp is a great source of branched-chain amino acids, which stimulate protein synthesis and provide an energy source during training, and arginine, which increases nitric oxide and therefore muscle pumps and delivery of nutrients to your muscles. Hemp protein generally consists of about 50 percent protein and a lot of fiber, which slows digestion and makes it ideal for those times (like before bed) when your body needs a sustained release of protein.
Pea: Perfect for those with allergies or other intolerances to protein products, pea protein has a high biological value, which means that it’s readily absorbed and put to use in the body. Composed of as much as 90 percent protein, pea protein products are an excellent vegetarian source of protein with a moderate rate of digestion.
Brown Rice: High in the amino acids arginine and glutamine and containing as much as 70 percent of its calories from protein, brown-rice protein can help you lose fat and keep cholesterol levels low. Like all the other vegetarian forms of protein, brown-rice protein is great for vegans, vegetarians and those who have trouble digesting animal-based sources.