What’s the Best Vegan Protein for a Race?
What’s the most important advice you’ve ever been given when it comes to fueling for a race? We’re sure the answer is related to protein!
Yes, protein is an important part of what to have before a race as a vegan, yet how do you know if you’re having the best vegan protein, or the best vegan protein powder, and digesting it properly in order to maximize the benefits?
What are the best times to have vegan protein for a marathon?
Beside protein, what other nutrients are essential to take?
And how do you deal with pathogens in your gut that could be inhibiting endurance and recovery time?
How about supporting your immune system?
Not only are the answers to these questions important for training, but also for overall health!
When you use the right vegan protein, at the right quantity and times and assist digestion and immunity properly, you can create an ideal concoction that maximizes energy, endurance, muscle growth and strength, maintains muscle tone and assists recovery after a race…as well as optimizes overall health.
So let’s dive in…
When you want optimal performance, the Vegan Sports Performance Trio provides the best vegan protein shake consisting of fermented pea and rice protein (a pre-digested complete amino acid profile) along with Phages to attack the bad bacteria (what’s slowing you down), and Super Spirulina, boosting endurance and immunity as you build healthy muscle and bone and support faster muscle recovery.
Why You Need Protein as a Marathoner
Proteins are so important because they help provide structure for the body’s cells, organs, bones, muscles, and connective tissue.
The right protein can help:
- Jumpstart your metabolism
- Support and encourage muscle growth, repair and recovery
- Promote higher energy levels
Protein supplies amino acids that make up your muscles. They’re the building blocks of protein and play a huge role in promoting muscle growth, fat burning, high energy levels, and better mental clarity – all enormously important factors in maintaining a healthy body and mind. Basically, amino acids are the critical foundation for the growth and maintenance to the tens of thousands of proteins within the human genome.
And you know that there are 9 essential amino acids (a complete amino acid profile) that your body can only obtain from certain foods you eat. Obtaining a complete profile helps the methylation of proteins to detoxify the body.
Simply put, methylation is a biochemical process that contributes to how the body completes certain processes related to hormone regulation, energy production, immunity, gene regulation, fat metabolism, detoxification, and inflammation amongst others. Imbalances in these processes, along with a genetic mutation, can throw off how the body functions optimally.
The methylation process helps to convert homocysteine (can be toxic if high levels are in blood), into methionine, which is beneficial and essential for many of the metabolic processes in the body. One of those processes includes producing new proteins in your muscles after they’re damaged from an exercise-induced event.1
How Much Protein Do Endurance Athletes Really Need
According to a joint position paper by the American College of Sports Medicine, Dieticians of Canada and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,
“Recent recommendations have underscored the importance of well-timed protein intake for all athletes even if muscle hypertrophy is not the primary training goal, and there is now good rationale for recommending daily protein intakes that are well above the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) to maximize metabolic adaptation to training.”
“Current data suggest that dietary protein intake necessary to support metabolic adaptation, repair, remodeling, and for protein turnover generally ranges from 1.2 to 2.0 g/kg(lbs)/day. Higher intakes may be indicated for short periods during intensified training or when reducing energy intake.”2
The Best Times to Have Vegan Protein
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, they state that it can be evenly distributed every 3-4 hours and that “the optimal time period during which to ingest protein is likely a matter of individual tolerance, since benefits are derived from pre- or post-workout ingestion; however, the anabolic effect of exercise is long-lasting (at least 24 hours), but likely diminishes with increasing time post-exercise.”3
How Much Protein Are You Really Utilizing?
You may be used to consuming a specific type of vegan protein or protein powder, but do you know how well your body is digesting it? Unbelievably, even though we’re eating protein, we’re really not digesting protein most of the time – so it’s important to know how well your body is digesting protein. It’s easy to become protein-malnourished without realizing it, for this reason. Signs of protein malnourishment may include anxiety and feeling stressed, as cortisol levels start to go up.
If the body doesn’t digest protein properly, undigested protein turns into ammonia, a very dangerous endogenous toxin.4 Most ammonia in the body forms when protein is broken down by bacteria in the intestines. But if you don’t chew properly, eat under stress, have low stomach acid and don’t have enough pancreatic enzymes in the small intestine, these are all reasons why you might not be receiving the full benefits of the protein you’re eating.
Let’s take a look at what the body actually utilizes. According to Dr. Minkoff and Ben Greenfield, here’s a breakdown of protein utilization and the waste:
- Whey + Soy protein: 18% or less is utilized, 83% is wasted
- Meat, fish, poultry: 32% is utilized, 68% is wasted
- Eggs: 48% is utilized, 52% is wasted
This is good backup on the benefits of being a vegan, right?
Yet, you may be wondering, what’s the best vegan protein to use then?
The best vegan protein should then be one that is pre-digested (fermented) containing those 9 essential amino acids so that your body maximizes the absorption of the protein consumed.
In fact, unfermented vegan protein shakes are both difficult to digest, and you are lucky if you obtain 20 percent of it or a partial amount of the protein that’s on the label.
The Best Vegan Protein that Maximizes Utilization
Surely you’ve heard about the benefits of fermenting your food. Atleast over here at Body Ecology, you’ll hear about that a lot because of how essential it is for balancing your inner ecosystem with optimal nutrition for superior gut health.
Fermented foods are foods that have been colonized by bacteria highly beneficial to the human body – and those bacteria are actually enzymes too.
The good bacteria in fermented foods produce lactic acid. This helps maintain a healthy pH in the gut. The right balance of acid and alkaline is critical — it can inhibit the growth of unfriendly bacteria or yeast like candida, which can irritate the gut lining and trigger inflammatory signaling.5
Good bacteria also metabolize certain parts of food, especially the fibrous parts of food the body can’t digest.6,7 As they metabolize food in the gut, helping to break it down, they also synthesize their own food molecules — for example, short chain fatty acids. Surrounding cells can use these short chain fatty acids as a source of nutrition and energy.
They act upon the food, breaking it down so that it’s useable in small amounts. They also break down and extract the nutrients so they can be absorbed into the body; when you eat foods, they’re meant to be broken down.8 Otherwise, they can’t be absorbed. The enzymes and the bacteria play a critical role in making this happen.
So, with that said, let’s look at 2 outstanding vegan proteins: Fermented pea and rice protein.
- Can be fully absorbed by the body
- Are an easy to digest protein source
- Create limited waste
- Enable maximum endurance and muscle recovery as well as build bone and muscle
- Will give you a complete amino acid profile
Fermenting the plant proteins makes them pre-digested which takes the strain off your digestive tract and makes it even easier for the body to use.
While building muscle, improving endurance, fostering a healthy gut and enhancing digestion, it is also one of the best alternatives to soy, which some are concerned could create hormonal imbalances and is at high risk for being genetically modified.
The proteins are fully absorbed by the small intestine within minutes of ingesting – so it won’t take hours to digest and absorb, and doesn’t create waste – so you maximize bioavailability and the benefits from all of these great amino acids.
You may have guessed then – your body digests fermented protein best. Unless a protein is fermented, you may only obtain a small percentage of what you eat. Many protein shakes may promise 15-21 grams per serving, but unless it’s fermented, most likely you’ll only obtain a small percentage of that.
In a study published in Nutrition Journal, a split group of resistance-trained males took 48 grams of whey protein and 48 grams of rice protein on training days following exercise. They concluded that rice protein was comparable to whey protein in that it improved performance and body composition.9 Basically, this combination is equivalent to the beloved animal-based whey protein.
And pea protein is full of the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) that can reduce or prevent muscle breakdown during exercise. In a placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BCAAs helped to reduce exercise-induced muscle damage in a group of men who were resistance training.10 As your body uses and digests this fermented pea protein, long, lean muscle growth – instead of muscle breakdown after exercise – becomes automatic.
Pea protein can promote muscle growth by preventing breakdown, but its benefits for exercise recovery are distinct. Remember, the BCAAs in fermented pea protein are especially bioavailable for muscle repair after exercise. Researchers have also discovered that these BCAAs can encourage post-exercise recovery and protect against injury.10, 11 Some studies even indicate that supplementation is a practical way of ensuring the proper quality and quantity of protein and also could help athletes and exercisers to reduce soreness, improve recovery time, and encourage muscle gains after a workout.3,12 And because pea protein offers much more bioavailable protein, it shows in the muscle you gain.13
The branched chain amino acids in the fermented pea and rice protein taken with the powerhouse probiotic bacillus is even that much more effective. Remember how undigested protein turn into the harmful toxin ammonia? Well, the pea protein, coupled with bacillus probiotics, create a powerful combination to halt this harmful cycle and reduce ammonia buildup.
You may be wondering about carbohydrates too. The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that endurance athletes should focus on the intake of adequate carbohydrates in addition to protein to promote endurance, recovery and less muscle damage.3
Yet, according to a report by the American College of Sports Medicine, Dieticians of Canada and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Training with limited carbohydrate availability may lead to some metabolic adaptations during training, but did not lead to performance improvements. Based on the evidence examined, whereas there is insufficient evidence supporting a clear performance effect, training with limited carbohydrate availability impaired training intensity and duration.”
Other Important Nutrients for an Endurance Training Vegan
Choosing the right protein may be essential when it comes to fueling for training and a race, yet, there are many other key nutrients that are super important as well when it comes to maximizing energy and strength, as well as supporting digestion and immunity.
1. The Right Probiotic
When researchers examined the clinical and physiological effects of probiotic supplementation for athletes, they confirmed that — because of probiotics ability to directly interact with gut microbiota — probiotics may impact the immune system and influence immune signaling with organs and other systems in the body. Researchers also considered good gut health important to help the body adapt to exercise and physical activity.14
A study conducted in association with the Irish Rugby Football Union found that both exercise and diet can influence microbial diversity in the gut — athletes were found to have more diverse gut bacteria than the control group.15 High microbial diversity has been linked to good health. Scientists have even investigated bacteria-rich bovine colostrum, similar to mother’s first milk, to use as a tool to reduce gut permeability, or leaky gut, in Olympic athletes. Exercise-induced gut disorders, like leaky gut, are known to be especially common among runners.16
For daily probiotic protection needed for strenuous exercise, bacillus is one of the only probiotics that survive stomach acid and reach the gut with 100% survivability, enabling it to reach the lower part of the colon. It has the ability to heal inflammation in the gut – which can be huge for endurance. Bacillus helps to relieve gut disorders — including gas, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and stomach pain — while equipping the immune system to fight off infection.
Research has even shown that the type of bacteria you have in your very own gut controls the amount of calories you extract from the food you eat, the types of food you crave and also what that food is converted to in the digestion process.
Foods consumed, especially carbohydrates, can be converted to compounds that lead to insulin resistance, fat storage, gas production, and metabolites that cause inflammation.
The flip side to that coin (and the very good news) is that the right bacteria can convert the very same foods to important compounds that increase insulin sensitivity, increase fat burn, prevent fat storage, reduce inflammation, reduce gas production, and actually improve satiety.
2. Fermented Spirulina
When you endure intense physical training, the body turns acidic. As a superfood that is predigested, thus easily utilized by the body, fermented spirulina can alkalize – and when it’s fermented, this is the only way you’re going to get the benefits from it. Fermentation maximizes bio-availability.
To be truly healthy, your blood must remain slightly alkaline at all times. When your blood is alkaline, it will function at optimum efficiency – processing toxins and disposing of them properly, absorbing nutrients and providing life-giving oxygen and energy to hard working cells.
Fermented spirulina is energizing, and nutrient-dense, ideal for athletes following a vegan diet who want to also detoxify the body and preserve good health. Promoting even faster muscle growth, spirulina in its raw form is difficult to digest, so you wouldn’t get any of the benefits. Fermenting is the only way to go!
It’s so easy to put into your morning greens.
As mentioned, pathogens in the gut can cause a host of issues that some aren’t even aware of.
Phages can kill harmful bacteria that may be affecting optimum performance.
Bacteriophages have been around since the early 1900’s, and haven’t received the attention they deserve mainly due to antibiotic use. Now with so much antibiotic resistance, research has been showing promising results from the use of phages for gut health. The phages travel into the small intestine and immediately recognize any pathogenic bacteria living where it’s not supposed to be, and it attacks. It attaches itself to the cell wall of the bad bacteria, leaving the good flora and cells alone.
While the phages attack the bad bacteria and what’s slowing you down, immunity is boosted, as you build healthy muscle and bone and support faster muscle recovery.
Several studies have found that while moderate exercise benefits the immune system, repeated strenuous exercise has been found to actually impair the cellular immune system with potential to increase inflammation. This is because the body sees intense exercise as a physical stressor, impinging on immune cell function.17
To have a backup plan that supports immunity can go a long way.
Taken with calcium (not citrate form) and magnesium, phages could be even more of a powerhouse.
So if you want to perform at your best….
We decided to create a package for you to do just that….
You already know how maximizing athletic performance starts with a healthy body. While the phages in EcoPhage attack the bad bacteria and what’s slowing you down, you’ll boost your immunity as you build healthy muscle and bone and support faster muscle recovery. The Probioitic Protein Shake and Super Spirulina Plus are both fermented offering you a complete amino acid profile in a high quality vegan protein source and bioavailable nutrition!
Between (1) EcoPhage + (2) Probiotic Protein Shake (over a 30 day supply) + (1) Super Spirulina Plus, you get the amazing benefits of pea and rice protein, and everything needed to eliminate bad pathogens, support digestion and immunity, and create a flourishing microbiome….
Exactly what you need to maximize energy, endurance, muscle growth and strength, maintain muscle tone, assist recovery after a race and maintain overall optimal health!
What You Need to Know + Extra Tips
There you have it! Between the combination of pea and rice protein, the amazing bacillus probiotic, spirulina and phages, you truly have the best opportunity to not only condition your body optimally for the next race, but also for the best health you’ve ever had in your life!
And here are some last little nuggets of wisdom that may make even more of a difference in your training…
Celtic Sea Salt. In the morning, daily, and especially on race day, mix a teaspoon of Celtic sea salt with water to help with cramps and the metabolic processes related to training and rest and recovery. Lower in sodium content, it contains trace minerals that could be deficient in a normal diet. Compared to Himalayan salt, it is higher in most of the trace minerals.
Some vegans may not get enough of this essential vitamin, and it’s vital to assist in the ATP (energy) cycle. This may apply more to someone who has been a vegan for a long time, who may want to consider a very good B12 supplement. Of course speak to your functional medicine doctor or practitioner before doing so.
There are good and bad carbs and for some endurance trainers, they may work particularly well. We’re talking about those plant-based miracle foods that have actually been around for thousands of years that are complete proteins as well – quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat.
We hope some of these tips help you see a difference in your training…and in life. Come back to let us know what works for you!
- Phillips SM. A brief review of critical processes in exercise-induced muscular hypertrophy. Sports Med. 2014 May;44 Suppl 1:S71-7. doi: 10.1007/s40279-014-0152-3.
- Position Paper. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. March 2016 Volume 116 Number 3.
- Ralf Jäger, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Published: 20 June 2017.
- Rangroo Thrane V, Thrane AS, Wang F, Cotrina ML, Smith NA, Chen M, Xu Q, Kang N, Fujita T, Nagelhus EA, Nedergaard M. Ammonia triggers neuronal disinhibition and seizures by impairing astrocyte potassium buffering. Nat Med. 2013 Dec;19(12):1643-8. doi: 10.1038/nm.3400.
- DR Tucker, et al. Protection of Vaginal Epithelial Cells with Probiotic Lactobacilli and the Effect of Estrogen against Infection by Candida albicans. Open Journal of Medical Microbiology. 2012; 2(3), 54-64.
- D’Aimmo MR, Mattarelli P, Biavati B, Carlsson NG, Andlid T. The potential of bifidobacteria as a source of natural folate. J Appl Microbiol. 2012;33:975984. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2012.05261.x.
- Bergillos-Meca T, Navarro-AlarcÃ³n M, Cabrera-Vique C, Artacho R, Olalla M, GimÃ©nez R, Moreno-Montoro M, Ruiz-Bravo A, Lasserrot A, Ruiz-LÃ³pez MD. The probiotic bacterial strain Lactobacillus fermentum D3 increases in vitro the bioavailability of Ca, P, and Zn in fermented goat milk. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013;33:307â€“314. doi: 10.1007/s12011-012-9544-0.
- Boye J, Wijesinha-Bettoni R, Burlingame B. Protein quality evaluation twenty years after the introduction of the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score method. Br J Nutr. 2012;33(Suppl 2):S183â€“S211.
- Jordan M Joy. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutrition Journal. Published: 20 June 2013.
- Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Jul 12;9:20. doi: 11.1186/1550-2783-9-20. eCollection 2012. PubMed PMID: 22569039; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3395580.
- Thomson R, Buckley J. Protein hydrolysates and tissue repair. Nutr Res Rev 2011;24:191-7. doi: 10.1017/S0954422411000084. Epub 2011 Nov 21.
- McLellan T. Protein supplementation for military personnel: a review of the mechanisms and performance outcomes. J Nutr 2013;143:1820S-1833S. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.176313. Epub 2013 Sep 11.
- Babault N, Païzis C, Deley G, Guérin-Deremaux L, Saniez MH, Lefranc-Millot C, Allaert FA. 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 Jan 21;12(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s12970-014-0064-5. eCollection 2015. PubMed PMID: 25628520; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4307635. Wang, X. C., Xi, R. J., Li, Y.,
- Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;15(1):63-72. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2014.971879. Epub 2014 Oct 23.
- S. F. Clarke, E. F. Murphy, O. O’Sullivan, A. J. Lucey, M. Humphreys, A. Hogan, P. Hayes, M. O’Reilly, I. B. Jeffery, R. Wood-Martin, D. M. Kerins, E. Quigley, R. P. Ross, P. W. O’Toole, M. G. Molloy, E. Falvey, F. Shanahan, P. D. Cotter. Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. Gut, 2014; DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2013-306541.
- Ray Playford et al. The nutriceutical, bovine colostrum, truncates the increase in gut permeability caused by heavy exercise in athletes. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, March 2011.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine – Medical Encyclopedia – Exercise and Immunity.