What is Plant Protein?
As the name suggests, plant protein is the protein from plants. Just like protein from other sources, it can be used to promote lean gains, fat loss, and muscle recovery.
Where Does Plant Protein Come From?
Technically, any protein from a plant origin can be defined as a plant protein. However, the most common forms of plant protein are soy, pea, and rice.
Plant Protein Benefits
Although whey protein is the most commonly used, and arguably, best form of protein, it is not suitable for everyone. Vegans choose not to consume animal products, and milk allergy suffers are unable to use many forms of whey proteins. Plant proteins are therefore a viable alternative.
Out of all the plant proteins, soy protein is probably the best known and best studied. There is strong evidence supporting soy protein for use as a supplement for bodybuilding and exercise. This has been covered in great detail in our "Soy Protein" article. Studies have shown that soy protein is rapidly digested and (Tang et al, 2009) and contributes to lean gains (Brown et al, 2004). Results such as this also suggest that soy protein is one of the best plant proteins, and it is also contains a complete amino acid profile. However, in cases where individuals have soy allergies and wish to remain with a plant protein, other sources such as rice and pea are also good alternatives.
Plant proteins, depending on their source also have unique nutrients that are absent from animal derived protein sources. For example, soy also contains isoflavones and antioxidants which may be beneficial for general health.
Plant Protein Negatives & Side Effects
Perhaps the largest criticism of plant proteins is that they do not appear to promote an anabolic response as great as whey, especially in the long term (Phillips et al, 2005). However consuming a variety of different plant proteins may be able to improve the anabolic effects of plant proteins, and provide a more diverse range of amino acids.
Each type of plant protein also has its own draw backs. These include allergies and potentially unbalanced amino acid profiles. It is therefore important to research each protein individually.
Plant Protein Recommended Doses & Ingredient Timing
Plant protein can be used to make up part of, or all of your recommended protein intake per day. This can be anywhere between 1 to 2 g/kg bodyweight depending on your goals and level of exercise. Just like other protein, timing for protein intake is important. It has been well established that protein intake before and immediately after exercise is important for muscle gains. This has been covered in detail in our "Supplement Timing" and "Nutrient Timing" articles.
Plant protein Supplements
Plant protein can be found in a variety of different supplements. They can be found as protein powders or in protein bars. Plant protein powders may be classified as natural protein powders, soy proteins, or rice proteins.
Stacking Plant Protein
If you have no dietary restrictions, plant protein can be a good complement to your existing protein supplements. However, if you are after a purely plant protein based stack, then it is recommended that different plant proteins should be stacked to provide optimal nutrients for good gains and general health. Having considered this, plant proteins can be stacked much like any other protein, and works well together with carbohydrates and creatine. This has been covered in great detail in our "How to Stack Supplements" article.
Brown et al (2004), Soy versus whey protein bars: Effects on exercise training impact on lean body mass and antioxidant status. Nutrition Journal, 3 (online)
Phillips et al (2005), Dietary Protein to Support Anabolism with Resistance Exercise in Young Men. J Am Coll Nutr, 24: 1345-1395
Tang et al (2009), Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol, 3: 987-992