Protein powder is a national obsession. Alternately touted as a metabolism booster, a weight loss aid, and an energy source, protein powder has become one of America’s most popular dietary supplements, with a multi-billion dollar industry to fuel it.
Whenever a new client asks me about protein powder—and they frequently do—I point out that most Americans get an adequate dose of protein simply from eating a balanced diet.
Even so, protein supplements serve an important purpose, especially for athletes in training. And if we’re going to supplement our protein intake, it’s best for us to seek out high quality products.
Many conventional protein powders are loaded with artificial ingredients and flavorings. And the proteins that are most popular—soy and whey—can be irritating to people with sensitive digestion or food allergies.
Fortunately, a number of plant-based protein alternatives are appearing on the market, and I suspect that it won’t be long before they’re as popular as their more processed competitors. They include hemp protein (derived from hemp seeds), yellow pea protein (from legumes), and brown rice protein (from rice bran). All are easy to locate in health food stores, and are ideal for people trying to build muscle while maintaining a focus on whole foods. I’m particularly fond of the Sun Warrior Brown Rice protein, Nutiva hemp protein (which has a ton of fiber, as well as a funky green hue), and Olympian Labs yellow pea protein.
If you like these options, but miss the chocolate or vanilla taste of your favorite whey protein, you might want to explore a plant-based smoothie infusion instead. Right now, I’m loving Brendan Brazier’s Vega line, which sports a whole foods optimizer (great for athletes) and a whole foods smoothie infusion that’s 100% kid friendly! Brendan is a professional triathlete himself, not to mention a bestselling author, and he knows a thing or two about maintaining muscle mass with the power of plants!
Americans are getting savvy about whole foods, and that means getting savvy about our supplements, too. The next time you want to whip up a recovery shake, give one of these protein powders a try. If you need a dose of inspiration, here’s one of my favorite smoothie concoctions—perfect re-fueling after a workout.
Gena’s Choco-Berry Protein Shake (serves 1)
1 large frozen bananas
1 cup blueberries or strawberries
2 tbsp carob powder
1 serving / 2 tbsp hemp or brown rice protein powder (often the container will include a scoop, which would be one serving size)
3/4 cup almond milk (I like the Pacific brand)
Lots of ice
Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender till super thick and creamy.
Gena Hamshaw is a certified clinical nutritionist with an emphasis on plant-based nutrition. She writes about body image, green living, and a plant-based lifestyle on her popular blog, ChoosingRaw.com.