Protein powders as meal and exercise supplements have been around for decades. Even old-school athletes in the early part of the 1900s turned to protein-rich meals and supplements as a way to enhance their body’s response to stressful workouts.
In today’s junk food world, discerning consumers are looking for ways to make sure they get enough protein in their diets for all sorts of reasons. Athletes need about nine-tenths of a gram of protein per pound of body weight, while the rest of us can get by on less. Often, the standard American diet is sadly lacking in healthy sources of protein, which is why powdered supplements are growing in popularity.
Why vegetable protein?
What are the advantages of protein supplements, specifically powdered vegetable protein? In contrast to those early 20th Century athletes, most of today’s healthy individuals seek out non-animal protein sources for a number of reasons.
Vegetable protein powders that come from peas, hemp, soy and rice bran:
- Are an ideal choice for people who are lactose intolerant (most of the animal-based protein powders contain milk or dairy derivatives)
- Can have an anti-oxidant effect that is hard to get with animal proteins
- Tend to have a longer shelf life than other types of protein powders
- Meet the requirements for most vegetarian and vegan meal plans
Those new to the supplement discussion often wonder whether plant-based powders can offer a full range of amino acids. The answer is yes. In fact, soy and hemp protein powders contain all eight essential amino acids. Plus, vegetable supplements are typically a mixture of several sources, like sprouts, brown rice, chia, spirulina, millet, quinoa and the aforementioned hemp and soy.
Fiber is another big plus of the vegetable protein supplements, many of which are a good source of dietary fiber that is so lacking in the typical American food regimen.
The shopper’s checklist
When you head to the store to buy protein supplement powders, keep in mind that not all products are created equally. You should be aware of, at least, the following three factors:
- Whether the product is animal- or plant-based
- What the cost per serving is
- What other ingredients (particularly sweeteners) were used in making the product
While the type of sweetener used in protein supplements is not a primary reason for choosing a specific product, some consumers want to avoid artificial sweeteners, while others (“purists”) try to use supplements that have no sweeteners at all! One of the great things about the free market economy is that people can pick and choose from a wide variety of products to get exactly what they are looking for.
When you shop, always read the ingredients of protein supplements to find out what kind of protein is used and learn what kind of sweetener, if any, is in the product.
Cost: the bottom line
Whether at a “health food” store or a national chain grocery outlet, prices of protein powder supplements varies greatly. Be sure to calculate the price per serving for each product you consider. And remember, while you are still new to the game of supplements, don’t commit to a large quantity. Sample a few different protein powders that meet your basic criteria and settle on the one that offers the best combination of cost, taste and nutritional quality.
After you find the protein powder supplement that is right for you, it’s generally a good idea to buy in large quantities to get the best deal on cost per serving. Two-pound tubs, and larger, are available at most retail and online stores. Happy shopping!
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