Quick history lesson: Plant based proteins marketed to athletes is nothing new. In fact, soy protein powders enjoyed modest success in the 1980s – sold in meal replacement shakes and marketed by sports celebrities on TV. In the early 2000’s soy made a small comeback again, driven by desperate brands looking for way to differentiate their protein to bodybuilders who were buying whey in large quantities from the 3-4 brands that dominated the industry then.
Since then the estrogenically controversial soy has been supplanted by a number of novel plant based ingredients and in the last decade nearly every major supplement company has released a “plant based” protein at some point as marketers rushed to ensure that their brands covered off the portion of their consumers that avoid whey and animal-based protein. Of course, plant-derived proteins are one of the fastest growing sectors in the protein business – and nobody liked leaving money on the table – even if it meant dropping some generic rice protein in a bottle with a logo on it. As a result – there are lot of same-same plant protein powders out there – but not a lot of innovation for the serious athlete or hardcore trainer.
While the past crop of plant proteins wasn’t inherently terrible, they weren’t science-driven and paled in comparison to whey. They’re short on the sulphur containing amino acids cystine and methionine and they don’t quite pack the same BCAA power as milk-based proteins. They also have horrible reputations for taste and solubility.
If you’ve been on the fence about pushing your whey or casein protein aside and relying on one of the many vegan or plant based protein options that were on the market – but decided to keep your whey – you probably made the right call.
The MuscleTech Plant Protein Odyssey
As we previously mentioned, in a market a saturated with numerous “me too” products that quite frankly, lack great flavor and don’t deliver meaningful innovation or results, a plant based protein from MuscleTech would need to truly stand out, be scientifically backed and effective. Our brand has never been out being a “me too” and we certainly were not going to make an inferior product for our loyal customers.
So before a Plant Protein bore the prestigious MuscleTech logo, MuscleTech Researchers needed to solve these three plant-based issues first:
- Optimal amino acid profile and bioavailability: When it comes to evaluating the quality of a protein, it all comes down to bioavailability and amino acid profile. A MuscleTech plant protein had to stand up to whey and other animal proteins.
- Incredible Taste and Mouthfeel: Let’s face it – ground up lawn clippings could probably outperform many of the plant proteins lining store shelves with their beany flavor profiles and gritty texture. We needed a protein where we could deliver a taste experience that matches the smooth, creamy and delicious taste of whey.
- Deliver a protein amplifier and recovery boosting ingredient without affecting taste: Compared to animal-based protein, plant proteins have reduced digestibility and bioavailability. So even if your protein boasts 25g of protein per scoop – it
’s effectiveness is limited by how much actually gets absorbed.
Needless to say, the above is tall order. Making a great tasting product on it
’s own or designing an effective blend of proteins isn’t difficult – but flavoring the right combination of plant based proteins along with other ingredients takes time and careful (and endless rounds of) taste testing. And it has to flat out work.
Here’s how each of these challenges was met by our world class team:
Challenge: Optimal amino acid profile and bioavailability
Solution: 5 Protein Sources
There is no one single source of plant protein that can match whey. Forget it – you won’t find it. So knowing that, it was important too look at combining plant-based protein sources together in the right sequences in order to deliver optimal levels of Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) – including BCAAs, and most importantly Leucine – while still delivering adequate levels of Methionine and Lysine. On top of that each protein source had to work from a taste and mouthfeel perspective as well. Poor taste and texture is a common weakness with most plant protein powders which can also affect how often you use it (who wants to regularly consume something that doesn’t taste good?)
In the end it was a novel patent-pending combination of these 5 protein sources that did the job:
From a plant protein perspective, pea protein considered one of the most complete plant-based proteins supplements available. In fact, pea protein is about 30% essential amino acids, which compares favorably with casein protein which has 34%.1 Pea also has solid amounts of essential amino acids, specifically, leucine, isoleucine, valine, and – making it the one of the best, if not the best non-animal based choice for protein supplements.
Pumpkin seed protein is a by-product of the pumpkin oil manufacturing process and is very similar to pea protein in amino acid composition. In particular, when it comes to digestibility. Pumpkin Seed Protein, has a PDCAA score of a 0.9, which is very similar to pea protein and to that of whey, casein, and egg.2 For reference, PDCAAs are based on both the amino acid requirements of humans and their ability to digest it. Most plant proteins have low bioavailability (meaning the body has a hard time absorbing the nutrients). But that’s not the case with pumpkin seed protein – making it a solid addition to this protein supplement.
While most will associate “rice” with “carbs”, rice actually has a solid amount of very usable protein. As a powder, rice protein is made by grinding up rice grains and then utilizing an enzyme that separates the starch from the protein.
Mung beans are small, green beans that deliver some big benefits (they’re legumes in the same family as lentils). From a musclebuilding perspective, Mung beans deliver additional EAAs, notably leucine, lysine, and phenylalanine to the total formula.3 It’s notable that mung bean (and pea protein) contain the highest amount of dileucine among all plant proteins. Dileucine is a dipeptide consisting of two leucine molecules that stimulates muscle building.4
Faba beans are an incredible plant protein source, both from a nutritional standpoint, but also to the creamy texture it delivers – making it comparable to milk and whey proteins in terms of mixability and texture.
From an amino acid perspective, Faba beans deliver an overall well-balanced amino acid profile that is similar to pea and contains a high amount of lysine, leucine, isoleucine, threonine, and histidine.5
4https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00295.2021 5 https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/14/8/1541/pdf
Challenge: Incredible Taste and Mouthfeel
Solution: Internal and Third-Party Taste Testing
The MuscleTech R&D team has a huge advantage over other supplement companies in that they have access to in-house labs and the ability to flavor products quickly and test them with an on-site staff of
200 active individuals who make up Iovate Health Sciences in Oakville, Canada. This is in stark contrast to other brands who often deliver a product pre-formulated and sold to them by a third party. The extra care and time MuscleTech R&D puts into flavoring shows throughout our product line when it comes to superior taste.
As such MuscleTech Plant Protein was the subject of almost a year of in-house testing. While the Covid-19 pandemic raged on in Canada, the Research team spent months tweaking flavoring, testing, updating and eventually utilizing a major University to test final formulas against not just other plant proteins, but also leading whey protein brands as well. With this many rounds of flavor testing, we’re confident this is a superior-tasting plant-based protein. What’s equally as impressive about the flavor of MuscleTech Plant Protein, is that is also non-GMO and free of artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners!
Challenge: Deliver a protein amplifier and recovery boosting ingredient without affecting taste
Solution: Boosted with OPTI-ZIOME P3 HYDROLYZER™
The larger particle size, fibers and other plant components of plant proteins make it harder for the body to break down these proteins. This is why we’ve partnered with BIO-CAT and are the first to utilize OPTI-ZIOME P3 HYDROLYZER™ a novel blend of enzymes specifically formulated to increase protein performance. In a simulated gastric digestion model in vitro, OPTI-ZIOME P3 HYDROLYZER™ released 295 percent more leucine and 225 percent more BCAAs from plant protein.6 This is an exciting new ingredient with much emerging research.
Solution – a Researched Dose of NordicCherry®
We were the first brand to incorporate Tart Cherry extracts like NordicCherry® when we utilized tart cherry in our Anabolic Halo all-in-one formula 10 years ago. With this lineage of use, we have more experience than anyone flavoring this unique ingredient utilizing it in a number of groundbreaking formulas from protein to creatine. With this background, we were able to skillfully utilize 500mg of this ingredient in each serving while keeping the delicious flavor profile intact!
NordicCherry® tart cherry extract is one of the most bioactive, full-spectrum, whole-fruit tart cherry extracts available and is made with is made with whole fruit Prunus cerasus Stevnsbaer tart/sour cherries grown in Denmark that are concentrated in polyphenol bioactives. It has been clinically shown to enhance exercise recovery through reduced soreness and improved muscle strength recovery.6
The Final Formula
After almost a year of development, we’re proud of this formula. The final formula delivers 25 grams of protein, more than 9 grams of EAAs, 4.7g of BCAAs and 2.1g of Leucine in each scoop. All comparable to our Nitro-Tech Whey Gold whey protein formula from an amino formula – with a taste to match. There is simply no other performance plant protein formula on the market that can match it.
Lastly (and this is the exciting part of our Research team) MuscleTech Plant Protein is the subject of an ongoing clinical study at the Exercise and Performance Nutrition Laboratory of Lindenwood University in Missouri – as we compare this formula to Whey and other Plant Proteins. Keep an eye on our Research page for updates as that study comes to conclusion!