Despite what most people think, “protein is protein”, is FALSE. Not all protein is created equal, especially in the plant based protein supplement industry. This blog post is going to break down the key components that make up a high quality protein supplement and explain what to look for and the calculations to make in order to make sure you’re purchasing a high quality protein supplement.
First, let’s talk about amino acid profiles. I am sure most of you have heard of AAP’s but just incase you haven’t, I will briefly explain them right now. An AAP shows the 18 amino acids typically listed in your protein and shows the abundance of each amino acid (usually in miligrams) in each scoop or serving of protein powder. Here is an example of an AAP:
Different amino acids serve different purposes and there or also different categories of amino acids. The main categories you may have heard of are Non Essential, Essential, and Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s). Non Essential amino acids are amino acids that can be synthesized or produced by the human body. Essential amino acids are amino acids that cannot be produced by the human body and must be consumed in your diet. There are 9 Essential amino acids : Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine. BCAA’s are amino acids that have an aliphatic side chain with a “branch” (a central carbon atom bound to three or more carbon atoms). Enough of the crazy science talk, here’s what you need to know about BCAA’s. There are 3 of them: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine. They are essential amino acids so they must be consumed in your diet or through supplementation. They are arguably the most important to muscle recovery and building. They are also not as abundant in plant based protein products as they are in other non vegan sources (one reason a lot of bodybuilders have always preferred whey protein) but they can be added to any protein blend. Glutamine is also a very important amino acid just like BCAA’s that is pertinant to muscle recovery and building. There are BCAA and Glutamine supplements out there but ideally you want to get them in your protein powder. An ideal amount of BCAA’s and Glutamine per serving is 1500mg of Isoleucine, 3000mg of Leucine, and 1500mg of Valine alongside 5000mg of Glutamine. As you will see in the products listed further down this blog post, most products don’t reach those numbers.
Now let’s talk about protein concentration. When I say “protein concentration” I am referring to the amount of actual powder it takes to achieve a certain amount of actual protein. Example: Serving size is 30gms and each serving contains 21gms of actual protein. 21gms/30gms=70% protein by weight. Protein concentration is arguably the most important factor to consider when choosing a quality protein product. The reason I say this is because any company can list an amino acid profile based off a certain amount of protein such as 25gms and compare almost identically to another product’s amino acid profile based off 25gms of protein. It doesn’t tell the whole story. Example: Product A and Product B both contain 25gms of actual protein per serving and have similar amino acid profiles listed. However, Product A’s serving size is 30gms of powder and Product B’s serving size is 40gms of powder. This means that Product A is 70% protein by weight and Product B is 63% protein by weight. If they came in the same size/weighted jug, were priced identically, and you flipped a coin and chose Product B you just got ripped off. Moral of the story, always look at the nutrition facts to compare serving size, the amount of servings, and the amount of protein in each serving. Most of the top plant based products have a relatively balanced and “complete” amino acid profile so the most important thing is to check protein concentration! The biggest company in the plant based industry just pulled a fast one on people introducing their “new and improved” formula but if you look at the numbers, they actually made their product weaker and are ripping you off! Keep reading to find out what I am talking about.
Listed below are some of the leading plant based protein product’s nutrition facts and amino acid profiles for you to compare. As you will find, the current best plant based products are around 70% protein by weight. Real Pro Life Nutrition is aiming to be closer to 80%.
Now onto the industry leader that just came out with their “new and improved” formula that they claim offers more protein and costs you less.
Vega was recently purchased by WhiteWave Foods for $550 million in cash. WhiteWave is public traded on the stock exchange. It’s no surprise that a publicly traded company would pinch pennies anywhere they can to maximize profit for their shareholders. So here’s the deal on their “new and improved” Vega Sport formula. The original Vega Sport protein blend was made up of pea, sacha inchi, sprouted brown rice, and alfalfa protein. The new formula took out brown rice and sacha inchi protein and replaced those ingredients with pumpkin seed and sunflower seed protein. Currently, pea protein and brown rice protein are some of the best purest plant based protein forms raw. Taking out brown rice protein and replacing it with pumpkin and sunflower seed is a mistake. But don’t take my word for it, lets look at the numbers. The original formula contains roughly 25 servings, serving size of 34grams, delivering 26grams of protein per serving, and roughly 5000mg of BCAA’s and 5000mg of Glutamine. That means the original formula is roughly 76% (26/34) protein by weight. With a total protein amount per jug of roughly 650grams of protein (25servingsX26grams per serving). The NEW Vega Sport promises 30grams of protein per serving, 6000mg of BCAA’s, and 6000mg of Glutamine!! Wow sounds great right?? WRONG. All they did was increase the serving size from 34grams of powder to 41-43grams of powder (depending on the flavor). A Vega representative told me there are only 19-20 servings per jug! Their serving size went up 20% but protein per serving only went up 15%. The new total protein per jug is only 600grams (20servingsX30grams of protein). Original Vega Sport-650gms vs NEW Vega Sport-600gms. For virtually the same price (depending on where you buy it), you’re getting roughly 8% (650/600=108) LESS PROTEIN! Here is the nutrition facts label of the NEW Vega Sport that you can see on their website.
Thank you for reading this super long blog post. I hope you found it informative and valuable when it comes to making your next purchase of protein. If you have any questions or need advice feel free to hit us up through email or on our Instagram @RealProLifeNutrition. Thanks again for reading!