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Best natural protein powders of 2021


Remunerator; Whey; Vega; Rachel Mendelson / Insider

What is the best natural protein for muscle gain?

The best protein powder for building muscle mass is the same whether it’s a natural formula: whey.

Plant proteins are certainly valuable and have their own benefits. But research has shown that plant protein has “lower anabolic potential” than dairy (i.e. you can’t build muscle as easily with plant protein). This may be due to a low content of leucine, as Bede mentioned earlier, an essential amino acid for stimulating muscle repair.

Besides egg white, there are two main animal protein powders to choose from: casein, which makes up 80% of milk protein, and whey, which covers the remaining 20%.

A 2020 study in Nutrients found that whey significantly promotes muscle protein synthesis (MPS) after exercise, better than soy or casein – a fact almost all experts agree.

But while whey is better for building muscle mass, casein has a slower rate of absorption, making it a good protein before bed for recovery and preventing late night hunger. Casein can also be used before fasting periods if you need to stay full for a long time. “I take casein for a slowly digesting protein that keeps the amino acid pool stored for up to six hours,” Bede adds.

As for vegetable proteins, this same study in Nutrients soybean casein has been shown to stimulate MPS. Not everyone can tolerate soy, however, and there is debate as to whether the processed form used in protein powders is the healthiest option for women. (Whole forms of soy, like tofu and edamame, aren’t a problem, our medical reviewer Samantha Cassety, RD points out.)

Most experts agree that a combination of different types (e.g. peas, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, etc.) also work well to ensure that you are getting all of the essential amino acids for boosting MPS. But the Nutrients the study authors note that you may just need to ingest larger amounts of plant protein (40g / day or more) to achieve muscle growth similar to what you would get with whey protein. [at under 30g/day].

Is Natural Protein Powder Bad For You?

No, natural protein powder is not unhealthy. On the contrary, a really durable, minimally processed, additive-free protein powder is useful.

However, Garcia points out that “natural” can be a marketing ploy as there is no defined definition, so you need to be diligent in making sure that what you are buying is of genuine quality.

There may also be pitfalls to what seems like a healthier choice, says Andrews. “Most people think of ‘natural’ as something that comes straight out of the earth without any manipulation,” he says. “While this might sound good in theory, there are many problems with this kind of thinking, as Mother Nature does not always support us (eg, poison hemlock, poisonous mushrooms) and humans can benefit from certain types of treatment and handling (eg, shelled nuts, shelled millet, protein powder). “

What are the benefits of natural protein powder?

The three experts we interviewed all gave different answers about what is considered a natural protein powder. But here’s what many of them agree that matters most, and which attributes are most beneficial:

  • No artificial ingredients, fillers or irritants: Natural protein powders must be free from artificial ingredients derived from synthesis. “With regard to artificial sweeteners (sucralose, AceK, saccharin, etc.), flavors and colors (artificial colors), research supports the security of these ingredients, but many consumers are sensitive or intolerant, and many find that avoiding these ingredients leads to a better overall feeling of health and potentially better results, ”says Bede. (Check out this full list from the Center for Science in the Public Interesting to see what all qualify.) Bede also adds that the absence of soy, gluten, and dairy is only beneficial for people with allergies, food intolerances or restrictions – while the wording gluten-free / soy-free / dairy-free may look pretty on the label, it really only applies to a person with an intolerance.
  • No heavy metals: A surprisingly high number of protein powders contain toxic heavy metals – some estimates put it up to 40% of the approximately 134 powders on the market, although it is not clear to what extent this is just trace amounts. . Third-party test labels help “to stack the odds in favor of better quality control measures,” says Andrews.
  • Minimum treatment: Keep in mind that protein powder is inherently a processed food, but the less processing it undergoes the more a positive sign is that the company is careful not to add a bunch of fillers or additives (although Bede probably points out. t change the nutritional value much). Andrew says he prefers a plant-based protein “with raw materials from sustainable farms.” For dairy products, “aim for a product made 100% from grazed cows,” he adds.
  • Sustainability and ethics: 40% of consumers want to know that their food has been produced using an approach that reduces environmental impact, according to the IFIC 2020 Health and Nutrition Survey. Andrews agrees, adding that when people look for a natural protein powder, they want to know that the product “offers a certain ethical synergy between supporting personal and planetary health.” It’s hard to verify as a consumer, but you can Check if the mark is certified B Corporation, Fair-Trade Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified, Global Animal Partnership Rated or Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW (A Greener World). The Animal Welfare Institute has a weeding guide through which labeling claims are legitimate and which are BS.