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Plant-Based Protein still sounds like an oxymoron to some. No, oxymoron doesn’t mean "an eight-armed moron". That word is Octomoron. But we digress.
People who are focused on optimizing their nutritional intake (eating habits) are increasingly adopting the plant-based protein lifestyle, for its clean protein and increasingly evident health benefits.
Research continues to amplify the plant-based diet as a lifestyle option that may lower body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure, while managing blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Just for starters.
What super high-tech research laboratory produced these nutritive miracles? Answer: the laboratory we call the ecosystem. There are no beakers, no test tubes, no centrifuges or pipettes. This stuff just pops out of the dirt underfoot. Too good to be true? Guess again. You can combine the whole of nature's physiology-building arsenal in a highball glass. Believe it.
Plant-Based Defenses and Your Body
Plants are much more than leafy trinkets for the windowsill. The plant kingdom offers a dizzying variety of functional foods.
Plants have spent millennia perfecting themselves against every kind of natural onslaught, which is why many of our pharmaceuticals are synthesized replicas of healing agents found in green nature.
As a stark example, some 50% of cancer drugs approved during the past 30 years derive from the plant kingdom. When we consider that “nature” is an enormous machine whose countless moving parts are all integrated with one another, it all makes sense—because we sprang from nature. If that sentence suggests an image of a dirt-covered Jack-in-the-Box? Go with it.
Drinking Your Plant-Based Protein Shake
A plant-based protein powder can make your protein intake a delightful, dessert-like experience. Or you can blend it with kale to make it that other kind of experience. KIDDING. Who doesn’t love kale? (Put your hands down, you fools! It’s a rhetorical question!...) The point is, a protein shake (or smoothie) can be both functional and delicious.
No matter how wonderfully loaded your plant-derived protein powder is, your protein smoothie regimen need not have the aim of replacing whole foods in your daily diet. In fact, when you throw fruits and veggies into your protein shake recipe, you ARE adding whole foods. Tossing in the actual green stuff only makes your shake that much more potent.
Taking care to track the vitamins, minerals and other necessary nutrient quantities of the ingenious protein shake you’re assembling, you can indeed consider a plant-based protein shake a meal. Not a meal replacement, but an actual meal.
Breaking that Fast with a Plant-Based Protein Shake
When not using your plant-based protein shake to augment your diet, you will likely be using it to fuel your workout. If yours is a morning workout, your nutritional intake is especially crucial. You will have been fasting for the 7 – 9 optimal hours you slept the night before.
The food you take in first thing in the morning will be breaking that fast – hence the word “breakfast”. A high protein breakfast throws nourishment at your muscles while providing your body the energy it needs to slow walk you into your day. It will also have the handy effect of preparing your body for the later workout.
Jumping Through the Anabolic Window
What about the ceremonial protein drink you imbibe “for your workout”? We intuitively think a protein infusion immediately prior to a workout will have the effect of giving the body what it will need to endure and prevail in the coming exercise session. Is this physiologically correct? To paraphrase the dietician community – “Huh uh!”
The phenomenon of the Anabolic Window comes into play here. The word anabolic refers to molecular, and thus physical, growth.
The idea of the anabolic window is this: when you pump iron, distance run, have a long swim, and otherwise put your body through a good resistance exercise workout, you have a given amount of post-workout time during which your body is particularly attuned to maximizing the results of your efforts at the gym -- using your ingested protein to restore your musculature.
Note that when you overwork your muscles, catabolism ensues—in which your overtaxed muscle, seeking depleted energy, begins to consume itself for energy. Not good.
Plant-Based Protein Shake: Your Post-Workout Recovery Kit
After a good workout you know you’re going to be sore. Why? Your (sensibly!) rigorous exercise is going to inflict what’s called microtrauma on your complaining muscles. Microtrauma (another interesting oxymoron) refers to the microscopic tears and structural roughing-up done to your muscles as you put them through their paces. This is a good thing -- and the process by which our muscles grow.
The anabolic window is the three or four hours following a good workout during which your body is in an anabolic state. During this time, your protein synthesis is optimized by your needy, gasping, post-workout muscles, replacing their exhausted glycogen content and reducing—and then reversing—the breakdown of muscle proteins that characterize a tough gym session.
In the wake of such a session, hurling an intentional, nutrient-rich plant protein-based shake at your system helps your body optimize and accelerate its rate of self-repair, a practice that necessarily helps with myofibrillar protein synthesis—gaining more muscle mass. A measured and thoughtful post-workout protein shake will provide your body the molecular tools needed to increase the rate of muscle repair and anabolic growth.
Plant-Based Protein: Just Call it Protein
There is no longer any question that the plant-based diet offers broad-based benefits, and can offer specific measurable interventions in the areas of obesity, diabetes, and cardiac health.
As far as a workout protein goes, while whey proteins are still the predominant choice among athletes, using a plant-based protein powder is a less-allergenic, less windy option (shall we say), and is devoid of some of the potential baggage of whey products associated with factory-farmed cows.
Cow-based protein IS plant protein that has been processed by the animal in question. Animals don’t produce protein, they get it from the plants they eat. By the time when we get the plant protein back out of the meat it has been degraded.
As onetime world record-holding strongman Patrik Baboumian—a vegan—has said; “Someone asked me, 'How could you get as strong as an ox without eating any meat?' and my answer was, 'Have you ever seen an ox eating meat?’”
The plant kingdom has spent two billion years perfecting its amino acid profile so that we may share the goods. Go ahead—drink your protein.
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