Protein powder is just for getting fit, right? Not anymore. Did you know that that there’s a type of protein dietary supplement that can improve liver and heart function and regulate your cholesterol, in addition to supporting your weight loss and muscle-building efforts?
It’s time to introduce brown rice protein powder. From hardcore athletes to the casual gym-goer, many people looking to enhance their fitness results now have more than benefit-rich whey protein to choose from. In fact, a 2013 Nutrition Journal study shows that that brown rice protein is just as effective as whey protein in supplementing body composition and exercise performance!
If you seek to avoid dairy or are a vegan, there’s another reason to use brown rice protein. Recent research indicates that brown rice protein includes unique peptides that reduce weight gain more than those in white rice protein or soy protein.
Most mornings for breakfast, and within 30 minutes of every one of my workouts, I drink a supercharged shake, full of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids, fiber and antioxidants. The main ingredient? Brown rice protein powder. Let me tell you more.
Why Use Protein Powder, Anyway?
It’s true — a balanced, quality diet should provide you with the amount of protein your body needs to function. So why do I recommend the use of supplementary protein? I have two answers. First, protein powder is a quick, simple method to ingest a high amount of protein without needing ample prep time for a full meal or standard protein foods, especially in the morning.
Second, your body has a time frame of about 30 minutes after working out in which you can absorb the amino acids in protein more quickly than at any other time. (1) Protein powder in a smoothie is a convenient way to consume this protein when you may be too worn out to eat solid food.
There are several common forms of protein powders you should be familiar with — and remember, all protein powders are not created the same. The three top-selling protein powders are whey, soy and rice. Whey proteins are globular proteins derived as by-products of cheese production, soy proteins are derived from dehulled and defatted soybeans, and rice proteins are extracted from sprouted brown rice.
Of these three, sprouted brown rice protein can be the healthiest! Also sold as a beneficial raw protein, brown rice protein is dairy- and gluten-free, totally plant-based, and excellent for your body.
This doesn’t mean whey protein is devoid of amazing benefits. In fact, I personally use whey protein from time to time. Scientifically, whey protein and rice protein have almost identical results when it comes to amino acid absorption, except that rice protein shows a faster absorption rate for leucine, a particularly helpful amino acid that slows the degradation of muscle tissue and may decrease food intake and body weight.
Meanwhile, I advise that you steer clear of soy protein. Is soy bad for you? Because of the phytoestrogen load as well as the fact that most soy is genetically engineered, the answer is “yes.”
The Importance of Protein
You may already know that protein is the building block of yourself. There is nothing more important than protein! These long chains of amino acids are the important molecules we get from our diets. Amino acids can be found in many kinds of food, especially animal-derived sources.
Proteins make up vital organs, muscles, tissues and even some hormones of your body. They develop, grow and maintain just about every part of you. They also boost metabolism and increase your fat-burning potential. Without proper protein consumption, it’s common to find yourself struggling to lose weight, fighting fatigue, suffering from mood swings and many other health issues. I’ve explained some ways to determine if you have a protein deficiency and how to get the protein you need.
On average, a person needs about half of his or her body weight in protein each day. If you weigh 140 pounds, you should probably consume about 70 grams of protein through food to burn fat properly and build muscle the right way. However, this ratio increases for athletes.
Your body has the ability to absorb about 0.9 grams of protein for every pound you weigh, and if you’re an active athlete, you should get as close to this as possible. Instead of 70 grams of protein for a 140-pound person, your goal should be about 127 grams of protein per day to enhance muscle repair, especially taken in the morning and immediately after working out.
Nutrition Facts of Brown Rice Protein Powder
Brown rice protein is packed with incredible antioxidants and nutrients to support weight loss. It’s also the answer to the question about what do vegans eat? It’s the perfect protein supplement for them. Depending on which brand of powder you choose, the nutritional value changes slightly.
Whether you are vegetarian/vegan or just cutting animal products out of your diet for a day, it is still important that the body receives the same protein and amino acids that animal proteins provide. Luckily, plant-based proteins can still do just that.
Alone, brown rice does not provide all of the nine essential amino acids that the body needs. That’s why brown rice protein powders often also contain quinoa or chia proteins to compensate for what the brown rice lacks. When you are buying a brown rice protein powder, check the label for these proteins as both quinoa and chia proteins are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids.
Hypoallergenic brown rice protein, packed with plant-based nutrients, will aid in muscle recovery, fat burning, stabilizing blood sugar and more. (2)
One scoop (about 25 grams) of Sunwarrior’s brown rice protein powder contains: (3)
- 100 calories
- 2 grams carbohydrates
- 20 grams protein
- 2 gram fat
- 2 grams fiber
- 5 milligrams iron (30 percent DV)
- 39 milligrams calcium (4 percent DV)
- 44 milligrams vitamin C (70 percent DV)
Benefits of Brown Rice Protein
1. Increases Weight Loss
Protein supplements, in general, support weight loss by speeding metabolism and decreasing food intake. But even more importantly, recent research suggests that brown rice protein in particular includes unique peptides that reduce weight gain more than those in white rice protein or soy protein. (4)
Most people trying to lose weight fast fail to do so because of a lack of protein. Don’t forget, the protein in brown rice protein powder should supplement a diet already high in protein. However, because of its unique properties, brown rice protein may do double duty in helping you reach your weight loss goals!
2. Reduces Glycemic Response
Every time you consume any type of nutrient, whether high or low on the glycemic index, your body elicits a glycemic response. Simply stated, nutrition affects your blood sugar levels, meaning your blood glucose and insulin levels rise after eating and then return to “fasting” levels after a couple of hours.
It’s important to maintain a healthy A1C blood glucose level (average blood glucose over a period of two or three months), especially for individuals with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions, and women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. That’s why you want to be aware of blood sugar spikes, which can cause you to feel fatigued after eating, blur your vision and give you a general ill feeling all over. Long term, these spikes can lead to an elevated A1C level, which can contribute to heart disease, as well as other serious health complications.
Sprouted grains, and brown rice protein in particular, have been shown in multiple studies to reduce glycemic response across the board. (5a)(5b) That means this supplement may significantly impact the severity of blood sugar spikes and help you regulate glucose levels.
3. Improves Liver Function
Brown rice protein is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants help prevent specific types of cell damage, especially damage caused by oxidation (free radical formation caused by oxygen molecules traveling freely in the body), which can cause liver disease.
One 2015 study found brown rice to prevent some oxidative stress on the liver and protect against injury from further oxidation. (6) Another study tested rice protein in particular and found the same antioxidant qualities in the protein as it exhibited “hepatoprotective” effects — put simply, that it protects your liver against oxidative damage. (7)
4. Regulates Cholesterol
While there are many conflicting ideas regarding cholesterol levels, it is important to note that healthy cholesterol levels can be reached by eating diets high in healthy fats and cholesterol. Yes, you read that right! (I’ve already explained why low cholesterol levels are actually more dangerous than high levels.)
Brown rice protein is a great step in achieving your goal of cholesterol regulation. Studies show that the peptides in brown rice protein, in addition to increasing weight loss, help your liver to synthesize the cholesterol created by the liver itself and by other cells in the body. (8)
5. Great for Heart and Kidney Health
It’s no surprise, then, that this protein is also associated with heart health! Over the last couple of decades in the 20th century, a study was conducted with over 29,000 postmenopausal women, following them to discover incidences of cancer, coronary heart disease and death.
Participants who developed coronary heart disease (CHD) over the course of the study had a 30 percent lower mortality rate when they consumed vegetable proteins over animal proteins! A higher mortality rate of CHD patients was associated with high consumption rates of dairy products. (9)
Another long-term study (this one examining patients with chronic kidney disease, or “CKD”) noted the effects of vegetable proteins over animal proteins. This research showed that vegetable proteins (such as brown rice protein) are linked with a lower level of toxins that often build up in the blood of CKD patients as a result of poor kidney function.
According to Nephrology News, for each 10-gram increase in vegetable protein intake each day, the risk of death had dropped by 14 percent by the end of the study.
6. Hypoallergenic and Easy to Digest
I mentioned above that sprouted brown rice protein powder is both gluten- and dairy-free. Very few people are allergic to brown rice protein, unlike whey, which is not generally recommended for people with lactose or gluten intolerance.
In addition to its hypoallergenic qualities, sprouted brown rice protein is extremely easy to digest and is unlikely to bother your stomach.
History & Interesting Facts
For centuries, athletes have searched for ways to increase their strength, energy and stamina. In the early 1900s, modern bodybuilding found its start, along with a push to enhance muscle growth by certain dietary standards. One bodybuilder encouraged the use of “beef juice” to enhance muscle recovery.
The 1950s marked the first widely marketed egg-based protein powder, as bodybuilding became more and more popular. In the ’70s and ’80s, the protein powder industry exploded in popularity alongside the surge of recreational exercise and modern marketing.
The U.S. signed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) into law in October 1994. This act stated that manufacturers bore the singular burden of determining that the dietary supplements they produce are safe and would no longer need approval from the FDA to prove effectiveness. The DSHEA subsequently pushed protein powder supplements even further into the mainstream and sparked unprecedented industry growth and sales.
While brown rice protein powder has long been surpassed by whey protein as the most popular form of protein powder, it has recently gained more popularity as the benefits of a plant-rich or completely plant-based diet have been made known. With science backing the claim — a 2013 Nutrition Journal study — that brown rice protein is just as effective as whey protein in supplementing body composition and exercise performance, it’s not a shock that more health-conscious people are turning to it as a staple of a high-protein, plant-rich diet. (10)
A few firefighters in New Jersey have actually begun using brown rice protein as part of their healthy cookie recipes as they sought to bake a healthy treat for themselves and other fitness enthusiasts within their fire department in 2011. They’ve since founded “Cookie Republic,” and continue to develop delicious, nutritious cookie recipes with hypoallergenic brown rice protein.
How to Use Brown Rice Protein
Protein powder is generally consumed in shakes and smoothies. Brown rice protein has a very mild, sweet flavor and mixes well into smoothies.
One interesting thing to note about brown rice protein is that, while it is technically a complete protein source (meaning it contains all essential amino acids your body needs), it’s lower in the amino acid lysine than whey protein. Therefore, it’s common to combine brown rice protein with pea protein for a superior amino acid profile. I like to rotate brown rice protein with a whey protein supplement to ensure maximum benefits.
Here are some recipes to try:
For a chocolate and mint flavor, try my recipe for a Thin Mint Protein Smoothie, substituting a scoop of brown rice protein for the whey protein mentioned in the recipe.
If you’re looking for something with more of a fruity taste, you can also try my Berry Smoothie, again substituting sprouted brown rice protein powder for whey.
Smoothies aren’t your only option — you can mix protein powder into some guiltless desserts to curb cravings for sweets! Some of my favorites are Dark Chocolate Protein Truffles and Lemon Protein Bars. No one at the gym will complain if you pull a box of either of those treats out of your bag, I can assure you.
Potential Side Effects
While sprouted brown rice protein has no proven side effects, excess protein (more than one gram per pound you weigh) has been suspected to cause diarrhea when consumed over long periods of time. There are also some unfounded claims of liver damage, although no scientific evidence has backed these claims.
However, it is important to follow serving directions for all supplements and to consult your physician if you experience any adverse physical effects after starting a new fitness or dietary regimen.