by Geoff Palmer

Choosing the Best Plant-Based Protein: Digestion, Utilization, and Quality

Finding the best plant-based protein when you're following a plant-based or vegetarian diet ensures that your body has the resources it needs to repair current muscle fibers and build new ones. Evaluating the plant-based proteins you have available based on key factors helps you pack as much nutrition into every bite. Consider the following three crucial elements: digestion, utilization, and quality.

Quality vs Quantity

If there was ever an argument for quality vs quantity, it's worth exploring here. It's important to remember that the amount of protein you consume isn't the primary concern. Instead, what you need to think about is what portion of the protein you consume can be utilized by your body. In order for your body to effectively absorb protein via the bloodstream, it has to be broken down into peptides and amino acids. Three key elements to consider when choosing a plant-based protein so the maximum in amino acids is available include:

  • Enzymes: Research has shown that the protease enzyme, ProHydrolase, is the most effective at breaking down proteins. It's been shown to be so effective at breaking down proteins that not only do they have more bio-availability, but the peptides that can cause bloating and gas are reduced as well. This is the enzyme we use in our Clean Green Protein.
  • Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS): This score is a measurement of the quality of a protein. It's based both on the ability of a human to digest it and how well that protein meets the requirements for essential amino acids. Proteins are scored from 0.0 to 1.0 with the latter demonstrating the maximum digestibility in amino acids. For reference, hemp protein has a PDCAAS of .46 while pea protein is close to .90 and Lentein is a solid .93.
  • Fiber and Prebiotics: Prebiotics -- perhaps better known as soluble fiber -- encourage a healthy gut microbiome so your body is better able to digest nutrients, including protein, and absorb their elements. Consuming protein that contains prebiotics assists with maintaining a healthy gut in a sustained way instead of relying on short-lived probiotics that are sprinkled in randomly. In addition, if your protein doesn't contain fiber, constipation could result. A single scoop of Lentein, a whole food, contains 32% of your Daily Value for fiber.

The Other Side of the Protein Coin

Depending on the plant-based protein you choose, your body will have access to differing amounts of amino acids (AAs). Ensuring that you ingest enough of the right types of AAs is vital to both your health and your performance. Choosing plant proteins that offer richer sources of AAs allows for greater efficiency. You can then eat less protein which means you'll consume fewer calories and reduce the potential for fat gain. At the same time, you'll be providing your body with the optimum amount of AAs that allows for the stimulation of muscle growth that will support the physique you desire.

The "Complete Protein" Myth

It's time to put the outdated and false idea that plant proteins are "incomplete" to rest right here and now. The fact is that all plants are complete proteins. This means that they each contain all nine of the essential amino acids (EAAs).

To further dispel this falsehood, it's important to realize just how intertwined plants are to the very makeup of your body. All of the EAAs that are contained in every human and animal's muscles are made up of plants, as well as some bacteria. Like other animals, humans are not able to make EAAs on their own. This is why they must be consumed. Hence the name: "essential amino acids." Animals and humans must consume EAAs from their diets.

All Plants are Not Created Equally in EAAs

Though it is true that all plants have all the EAAs (essential amino acids), there are some that are better sources of these EAAs than others and that higher amounts. Muscle growth relies on a sufficient amount of EAAs while other proteins -- such as enzymes -- are necessary for nearly every function within the human body. In order to stimulate optimal muscle growth, seek out protein sources with the most EAAs. While soy and pea protein is at the top of the list, Lentein contains the highest amount of EAAs.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Protein Quality

The proper synthesis of muscle protein relies on three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): isoleucine, valine, and leucine. In addition, leucine boosts muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Lentein contains the highest amounts of BCAAs.

As you can see, the quality of the plant-based protein you choose is closely related to the ease with which your body can digest and then utilize it. Choosing a plant-based protein that offers your body the most in EAAs and BCAAs while also maintaining a high PDCAAS, BCAA and fiber level gives you more bang for your buck without increasing your caloric intake.

Geoff Palmer
Geoff Palmer



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