Protein is one of the three macronutrients needed in the human diet. We need macronutrients in larger quantities to produce energy, namely protein, carbohydrates and fat. Protein is not only consumed for energy production, but our body needs protein to build muscles, bones, tendons, hair and skin. But did you know that immune cells, hormones and haemoglobin (the molecule that makes our blood red) are also made of protein? What proteins exactly are? What are they made of and why do we need to consume a protein rich diet? Read our article for the answers!
What is protein?
Proteins are large molecules that exert a vast array of functions in the human body. We consume protein for energy, but there is much more to these complex molecules. Proteins have their role in enzymatic and metabolic reactions, immune response, blood clotting, hormone homeostasis DNA replication, they give structure to cells and tissue (does the name collagen sound familiar?), they can be transporting and signalling molecules in the human body amongst hundreds of other biological functions. The reason behind such diverse functions is the different 3-dimensional structures proteins can be organised into, and the numerous amino acid sequence possibilities. Besides these versatile functions, proteins are best known for their musculoskeletal functions. Muscle itself is made of protein fibers, called the myofibrillar proteins. Muscles also use protein as a source of energy for their functioning. No doubt why proteins are in the centre of attention for those following a regular exercise routine!
What are amino acids?
Proteins which occur in the human body can be formed out of the countless combination of 20 different amino acids. In other words, amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Amino acids are organic molecules and can be divided into two groups: essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids must be consumed through our food intake as these nine amino acids can’t be produced by the human body. This is important because our body uses the amino acids to synthesise proteins. If an amino acid is missing, the protein is missing its building block. The other eleven amino acids are also important for protein synthesis, but are called non-essential, as they can be produced by the human body and it is not essential to consume them from food sources.
There is a special subgroup of amino acids, called branched-chain amino acids which are leucine, isoleucine and valine, all essential amino acids. They promote protein synthesis; they are important in metabolic and signalling pathways. The consumption of BCAA is preferred when pursuing physical activity, as they can be oxidized by the skeletal muscles and used as energy during exercise. Strenuous exercise can lead to lactic acid build up in the muscles causing metabolic acidosis and muscle soreness. BCAA supplementation has been shown to decrease the level of lactic acid in muscles by facilitating glucose metabolism, also meaning lower blood glucose levels. Recent research has found that BCAA reduce the level of circulating free fatty-acids in the blood. Through a complex biochemical pathway, this can eventually result in the reduction of the sensation of tiredness and fatigue during exercise. Leucin, isoleucine and valine are the most dominant amino acids in the human skeletal muscle in a ratio of 2:1:1 respectively. Essa Blend Vegan Protein Powder is a great source of BCAA, more so as it contains these three essential amino acids in the same ratio as found in human skeletal muscles.
Why should I consume protein powder?
Protein consumption before or after physical activity can help in enhancing energy-yielding metabolism, muscle growth and can promote muscle recovery as well as maintaining lean body mass.
Protein consumption after working out has a strong positive effect on protein synthesis, thus muscle gain. Protein supplementation is essential when following a regular exercise plan, either from natural sources or from food supplements. Protein, or more so amino acid consumption promotes muscle growth and muscle strength. Exercising can even have a negative effect on muscle growth if not enough nutrients are provided afterwards to rebuild muscle tissue, resulting in muscle loss. For frequent exercisers, as the duration and the volume of resistance training increase, protein supplementation is proven to enhance muscle growth and muscle strength. To conclude, protein supplementation is a great idea, not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for performance benefits.
Protein consumption after exercising is not only needed for muscle growth, but it also induces muscle recovery, both for endurance and resistance training. The previously mentioned BCAA are necessary for muscle protein synthesis which is critical for muscle recovery. However, it is important to note that no amount of protein supplementation can outdo excessive over exercising. Our body needs rest days between workouts, and it is advised to consult a certified trainer about individual exercise routines for best result.
Protein from plant sources?
Essa Blend Vegan Protein Powder is made of peas, rice, sunflower, pumpkin, flax seed and chia seed. This is a great combination of different plants with different properties and different amino acid content. Combining different plants for an optimal protein intake is key, as plants do not contain complete protein as animal sources do. A complete protein is a food source of protein that contains an adequate proportion of each of nine essential amino acids that are necessary in the human diet. Animal sources of protein are considered complete protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids, while plants are incomplete proteins, as they lack some of the essential amino acids. By combining different plant sources of protein, a vegan diet can be a source of complete protein as well.
Pea protein was found to have similar properties to whey protein when its effect on muscle gain was assessed. Rice protein is also comparable to whey protein regarding muscle strength development.
Our formulation scientists chose six different plant-based protein sources to create a food supplement that contains a complex amino acid profile.
The power of fruits and vegetables: Super green and red blend
Moreover, our product contains a special fruit and vegetable blend that we call the Super green and red blend. Ten different fruits and vegetables are the basis of this nutritious powder mixture. The Super green and red blend is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and flavonoids. Let’s see the benefits of these compounds!
Dark green, red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant secondary metabolites that exert antioxidant activity as they have the ability to reduce free radical formation and neutralise free radicals. Body cells are continuously exposed to damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Oxidative stress can be induced by poor lifestyle, such as lack of sleeping, smoking, excessive exercising, alcohol consumption, mental stress, inadequate nutrition, crash dieting. Other external factors, such as exposure to sunlight, air pollution, heavy metals, certain medications also contribute to free radical formation in the body. Unfortunately, these compounds cause cellular damage, which can manifest as early aging or in various diseases. Body cells are protected from this negative effect by antioxidants. Flavonoids are able to directly scavenger free radicals. More precisely, flavonoids are oxidised by free radicals which result in a more stable and less reactive radical. In other words, free radicals are more likely to react with antioxidant molecules than body cells.
Our Super green and red blend is not only rich in flavonoids, but in vitamins and minerals as well, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, iron, magnesium, calcium, iodine, and zinc. These micronutrients have a role in energy-yielding metabolic processes, reduction of oxidative stress and contribute to the normal functioning of muscles among many other advantageous properties.
Are there any other benefits of Essa Blend Vegan Protein Powder?
All the protein rich plants and the fruits and veggies from our Super green and red blend are a great source of fibre. Fibre is important for healthy digestion and the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested, and unlike most other carbohydrates, fibre is not broken down into smaller sugar molecules, but instead, it passes through the intestines undigested. By doing so, fibre regulates blood sugar levels and reduces hunger while helping to feel satiated.
Essa Blend Vegan Protein powder is a great choice, not only because it is nutritious and delicious, but vegan proteins have many other benefits. There is a reduced risk of allergens in plant-based food. Most non vegan protein powders are made of whey or milk which can cause allergic reactions or intolerance in individuals sensitive to dairy products. This can occur as itching, rashes, swelling of the throat and tongue or in severe cases cow’s milk allergy might trigger anaphylactic shock. Vegan protein sources are much safer in this regard, with the exception of soy that is also a major allergen. Essa Blend Protein Powder is free of soy and does not contain any source of plant protein that holds risk for allergic reactions.
Vegan protein powders are also more environmentally conscious and better for the planet.
Protein powders can be added to smoothies, yoghurt or you can even experiment with delicious recipes such as our salted caramel protein balls!
So, are you taking Essa Blend Vegan Protein Powder to your next workout session?
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Joy JM, Lowery RP, Wilson JM, Purpura M, De Souza EO, Wilson SM, Kalman DS, Dudeck JE, Jäger R. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutr J. 2013 Jun 20;12:86.
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.