If you’ve been on the hunt for one of the best non-dairy protein powders, you may be wondering how plant-based options hold up to whey in regards to muscle growth and strength. The good news is, plant-based proteins in general continue to prove their worth when it comes to building lean muscle mass. Plus, studies show that certain plant proteins (especially in combination) are just as effective as whey protein in the fitness arena.
In particular, the combination of pea and rice protein together have been shown to be very beneficial for muscle gain. In this article, we’ll examine the evidence in favor of the brown rice and pea protein combo in performance-based protein powders – to determine if they truly do match up to whey, casein, and other dairy-based protein powders.
The Case for Plant-Based Proteins
In light of new research, plant-based proteins are enjoying some time in the limelight. Whereas they are now regarded as highly-beneficial for health and fitness purposes, this wasn’t always the case. Instead, it was previously believed that it wasn’t as easy to meet your daily protein requirements with a diet consisting of solely plants as it was with one containing animal-based foods.
The main issue here has to do with amino acids – or organic compounds that the body uses to build muscle. Although there are 20 different amino acids that all play important roles in your body, only nine are considered essential amino acids (EAA’s) – because your body cannot make them on its own. The best sources for these EAA’s are known to be animal proteins (meat, eggs, dairy) – which are also known as complete proteins.
In contrast, plant-based proteins have been called “incomplete” since it was previously believed that each plant did not contain all of the needed amino acids. Newer science has clarified this issue, stating that all plants do indeed contain all amino acids – however, the quantity of each amino acid varies by plant. In addition, overall absorption might not be as strong for plants vs. animal proteins within the body.
That being said, as long as you eat a varied diet each day as a vegetarian, vegan, or mostly plant-based eater, you can absolutely get all of the protein and amino acids you need. In addition, some plant-based proteins in combination with others are particularly great for getting all the EAA’s you need, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), which are the most powerful for fitness gains.
In particular, one combo that’s gotten a lot of attention over the past few years is a pea and brown rice protein blend…
Benefits of Brown Rice and Pea Protein
On their own, pea protein and brown rice protein both offer amazing benefits as superior plant-based proteins; They only contain a few downsides, that you make up for when you use a diet shake that combines the two of them together.
This plant-based protein is easily digestible and very high in protein (about 90%). It’s also highly bioavailable, (meaning it offers great absorption potential in the body), at a rate almost equivalent to animal proteins. It also contains all 9 essential amino acids, including those that are particularly beneficial for muscle growth.
Pea protein is high in the amino acid, lysine, which assists with the synthesis of muscle. In addition, it’s a great source of arginine, glutamine, leucine, isoleucine and valine, which all assist with the muscle growth and recovery process.
Brown Rice Protein
This plant protein is also a complete protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. In addition, it’s also a great source of complex carbohydrates, and contains high levels of antioxidants. In particular, it’s a great source of vitamins B and E, and minerals iron, potassium, and phosphorus.
Pea and Rice = Complete Protein
For the areas in which both pea protein and brown rice protein shine, there is also one area in which they lack; But, they make up for the lacking when you place the protein powders together!
Pea protein is low in the amino acids, cysteine and methionine, but it’s high in lysine. Whereas brown rice protein is the complete opposite… being low in lysine and high in the other two amino acids! Therefore, like perfect puzzle pieces fitting together, pea and rice proteins complete each other perfectly and when combined, offer a protein efficiency ratio in line with whey protein and other dairy proteins!
Evidence for Plant-Based Protein Powders
One of the most well-known studies favoring plant-based proteins in the last few years was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and showed that plant proteins were equally as beneficial for muscle health as animal proteins! This study was a huge win for plant proteins, especially since they used to be regarded as inferior to dairy proteins for muscle growth.
Another 8-week study had similar findings… measuring the effect of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. The study found that the rice protein was comparable to whey in regards to decreasing fat mass and increasing lean body mass, muscle gain, power and strength. And finally, a third study showed that pea protein, in addition, was comparable to whey in building muscle thickness and strength.
Plus, along with controlled studies on the subject, there are also some well-known real life examples of the power of plant proteins – shown in successful athletes who traded in animal-based proteins for vegan or vegetarian diets.
Before plant-based proteins were as popular as they are today, one example of this is Houston Texans running back, Arian Foster, in 2012. When he decided to go vegan, his football fans created an uproar – but his later stellar performance on the field convinced them of the incredible power of plant proteins!
Ready to try a plant-based protein powder on for size?! In particular, we recommend one of the best rice and pea protein powder combo shakes, like our #1 rated diet shake right now, 310 Shake. In addition, feel free to check out more plant-based diet shake reviews on our site!