There are tons of myths and misconceptions surrounding plant protein powder and vegetarianism in general. But, the reality is that vegan and vegetarian athletes do just fine with a plant-based diet.
And, by consolidating nutrient-rich plants into a convenient, protein-dense package, plant protein powders can be a valuable tool toward helping the herbivorous out there reach their athletic goals.
To clear things up, then, let's tackle some of the most common myth about plant protein powder and plant-based diets.
Myth 1: They're Low-Quality
Your body needs many different amino acids to function, but is capable of making most of them itself. The eight that it cannot simply create are called “essential amino acids.”
For many people, “quality” of a protein is often based the amount of essential amino acids that it contains. But, in reality, this is sort of a misleading way to describe things. If a protein is lacking any of these essential amino acids, experts refer to it as “incomplete.” A protein that contains all of the essential amino acids is called “complete.”
So, why is that a problem? Just because a protein is “incomplete,” that does not make it low-quality. Your body does not need to ingest every amino acid at every meal. Instead, it collects them over the course of the day and binds them together as needed.
Several incomplete proteins, then, can all be combined throughout the day to provide everything you need. And, while plant protein powders are often incomplete proteins, then generally contain high levels of many amino acids. Any that are lacking can simply be procured through another food source.
Myth 2: It's Just Not Enough Protein
People generally assume that they need to be taking in tons of protein each day to be healthy and active. This assumption leads them to think that there's no way that someone could possibly get all the protein that they need through plant sources.
In reality, most people believe that they need a lot more protein than is really necessary. The Recommended Daily Allowance for protein, for example, is about 0.36g per pound of bodyweight. This represents the minimum amount required to avoid any health problems.
For the average person, this evens out to about 10 percent of their total daily calories. While the average vegan manages to keep their daily intake to about 10 to 12 percent of their total calories, it's not uncommon for the numbers to rise well past that.
In fact, some vegan athletes manage to take in as much as .86g per pound of bodyweight – equaling about 23 percent of their total calories.
Myth 3: They Don't Support Muscle Growth
At some point, someone decided that plant protein does not bind to muscle as efficiently as that taken from animals. This simply is not true and has absolutely no scientific backing.
On the contrary, plant-based protein is often easier to digest and absorb then animal products, which often cause digestive discomfort.