When you have a specific goal in mind, be it building muscle or fat loss, but are struggling to get in an adequate amount of protein through whole foods alone, munching down on a vegan protein bar is one of the most convenient ways to give your daily dose a little boost.
With the surge in Veganism over the last few years, vegan bar alternatives are on the rise, with new plant based bars coming onto the scene more frequently than ever before.
Yet, if you were to close your eyes and play a game of ‘protein bar lucky dip’ in the shops, the likelihood is, it will still be of the Whey variety.
Whilst Whey protein has its benefits, boasting a complete amino acid profile and a fast absorbing rate, being the main two, it does come with a couple of drawbacks.
Obviously, they are unsuitable for anyone who has an intolerance to dairy products and then there is the whole ethical and environmental aspects (Whey being a by-product of processed cow’s milk).
Vegan bars of course, don’t have these issues, making them an increasingly more popular choice.
Add to this, the fact that vegan bars pack just an equally good punch of muscle building protein per bite as their dairy counterparts and its easy to see why they are gaining in popularity.
That being the case, we thought we take a look at the most prevalent plant based protein sources and what makes them just as effective to helping you reach your physique goals.

Soy

When it comes to vegan bars, the usual go to source of protein is Soy isolate.
This is due to the fact it’s a great source of branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s), and contains all nine essential amino acids. With high levels of Leucine, It’s an ideal source to support muscle growth, recover from a demanding workout and improve physical performance. (1)
If you’re looking for a protein bar to help with your fat loss goals, then Soy also comes up trump as it contains very little saturated fat or cholesterol, helping keep total calories lower than dairy alternatives.
The good news doesn’t stop there. Soy protein also has a relatively high level of zinc, which is a vital nutrient to keep testosterone levels high, which of course, helps aid muscle building. (2)
It’s also a great source of vitamin B, calcium, magnesium and potassium, all of which support the immune and energy systems, and has an overall positive effect on our health.

Pea

Another popular choice for those looking for a healthy protein source, with its abundance of BCAAS and high levels of arginine and lysine.
Whilst it just falls fractionally short of being a complete protein – only by 0.6% on just one of the nine essential amino acids – it is often combined with another protein source in order to easily make up for this “pea-sized” shortage.
Despite not quite being a complete protein source, research has shown that when it comes to promoting muscle thickness and increasing strength through resistance training, pea protein was still on par with Whey (3)

Brown Rice

Derived from treating whole grain rice with enzymes to sperate the carbohydrates from the protein and in doing so producing a powder, brown rice protein is another plant based option that boasts all  nine essential amino acids (although somewhat low in lysine).
In fact, rice protein has been shown to be just as effective as whey protein in its positive effects on body composition and exercise performance. (4)
Better still, it’s a superb option for those with food sensitivities as it virtually has no allergenic substances and also a great choice for overall health due to its high fibre and B vitamins content.

Hemp

Hemp protein is one of the lesser used plant based sources, this is largely due to the fact it has a smaller protein content, compared to the other plant sources (approx. 53g/100g). Yet despite this being the case, it still provides all the nine essential amino acids and comes with its own unique health benefits.
Research on dietary hemp seeds, whilst limited, has shown that they can be beneficial to cardiovascular disease and heart health, thanks to their high levels of both Omega 3 and Omega 6. (5)
Alongside this, hemp has also been found to be rich in vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc. (5)
With so many varieties of protein sources available, and used, within vegan protein bars, you are sure to find one that suits your dietary needs, whilst still providing the protein hit you need to reach your goals.
References
  1. Mero A. Leucine supplementation and intensive training. Sports Med. 1999;27(6)
  2. Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, Hess JW, Brewer GJ. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. 1996;12(5):344-348. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(96)80058-x
  3. Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12(1)
  4. Joy, J.M., Lowery, R.P., Wilson, J.M. et al. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutr J 12, 86 (2013).
  5. Rodriguez-Leyva D, Pierce GN. The cardiac and haemostatic effects of dietary
hempseed. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010;7:32. Published 2010 Apr 21. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-7-32

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