At first, the thought of consuming protein powder as a yogi may seem incompatible.
Many yogis pride themselves on leading a sustainable, plant-based, whole foods lifestyle and protein powder seems to scream processed dairy, fake flavours like "red velvet cake", additives and artificial sweeteners.
While the majority of protein powders on the market fall into this mainstream category, there are a growing number of companies that are passionate about offering an alternative that is plant-sourced, vegan-friendly, organic and sustainable for the planet.
Why Yogis Need Protein
Yogis tend to forget that the classes they do can be extremely demanding on the body, especially the muscles. Yoga is perhaps one of the few – if not only – workout that activates so many muscle groups at one time.
Without adequate protein in the diet, muscles take longer to recover and repair after each practice (and therefore feel sore), lose strength over time, and can even increase the chance of injury.
This is why it's important to ensure you're getting enough protein every single day if you're a regular yogi. And especially if you're vegan (or even mostly vegan), as the protein content in plant-based foods is much lower than in animal products.
Of course, it is entirely possible to get enough protein through your diet, from whole foods such as lentils, beans, tempeh, nuts, seeds and more. However, it can be a struggle if you're on a busy schedule (hello parents!) or if you have difficulty digesting legumes.
This is where organic vegan protein comes in, and is incredibly useful for busy people who want to improve and sustain their yoga practice.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The general rule of thumb for moderately active adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you are a 60 kilo (132 pound) woman that practices yoga a few times per week, you will need 48 grams of protein per day. (1)
However, if you're more active – i.e. if you're a yoga teacher leading 1 or 2 classes per day – you may need a higher intake of 1.4/2/kg of body weight, given the higher rate of protein turnover. For example, this would be 84-120 grams of protein per day for a woman weighing 60 kilos. (2)
Types of Vegan Protein Powder
Vegan protein powder is typically sourced from legumes, seeds and grains. It can be found as a blend of multiple types of protein, or as a single source of protein as well. The great advantage of plant-based protein over dairy-based options is that they contain fibre, which makes you feel more satiated and also aids digestion.
Below are three good sources of vegan protein to choose from:
Brown rice protein
Surprisingly, brown rice can be a good source of protein once you separate it out from carbohydrates! Brown rice protein is a good hypoallergenic option for people with food sensitivities or allergies. However, it does not contain a full amino acid profile so it often needs to be paired with another type of protein. It should also be noted that brown rice protein is the grittiest or chalkiest option of the three options.
Hemp has a fantastic amino acid profile and is a unique plant-based protein since it contains essential fatty acids (Omega 3s) in addition to protein and fibre. It also has a faint, nutty flavour that is delicious in smoothies. The two downsides to hemp protein is that it's difficult to dissolve in water (it needs to be blended), and since it is minimally processed (to protect the Omega 3s) it has less protein per serving compared to the other two options.
This is Niyama's favourite option. It's excellent for people with food sensitivities or allergies, or anyone with a weak digestive system. This is because pea protein is 80% protein and very easily digested by the body. Another big benefit of pea protein is that it's much lighter and less chalky than the other two options, so you're more likely to feel energized rather than bloated afterwards.
It has a neutral taste and is highly soluble, making it ideal to mix into a smoothie or on its own with water.
What about soy protein?
Although this is still commonly found on the market, we would not recommend using soy protein. Processed soy is a genetically modified crop that is heavily sprayed with pesticides, a common allergen and contains unhealthy fats and compounds. It should not be confused with fermented, traditional soy, in whole food forms such as miso and tempeh, which offer many health benefits.
Vegan protein powder ingredients
While considering the source of protein is important, it's also crucial to look at the other ingredients or label information. Below are some of the most important things to keep an eye out for:
- Sweeteners – avoid anything with artificial sweeteners or excessive sugar (yes, even if it's organic cane sugar!) Ideally, there should be no sweetener or a natural one with no impact on blood sugar, such as stevia or monk fruit. Also avoid sugar alcohols like xylitol as they can cause digestive disturbances for a lot of people.
- Artificial flavours and colours – it's not necessary for your protein to taste like red velvet cake or cookies and cream, stick to the basics like vanilla and chocolate, which are easier to get from a natural source!
- Organic – if you're going to consume a protein shake everyday, try not to consume pesticides along with it!
Added nutrition – while this isn't mandatory, it's useful to get a protein powder that also serves as a bit of a multivitamin! Many companies add in vitamins in minerals or additional superfoods and greens. Niyama Organic Plant Protein contains a broad spectrum of micronutrients along with 20 grams of pea protein.