What Protein Source is Best for Your Supplement Brand? Plant Protein Versus Animal Protein

By Jae O. Haroldsen

Are you interested in breaking into the thriving protein supplement market? With so many different protein powders on the market, are you wondering what protein sources to use in your brand?

There is a large protein powder market focused on muscle building. However, niche markets are taking off, too. To focus your brand, let’s take a look at what protein does, protein amounts in animal foods and plant-based foods, and various niche markets. 

The Power of Protein

Protein is the basic building block in the human body and includes twenty-four forms of amino acids. Nine of these amino acids can only be acquired from the protein foods we consume.

Studies have shown that four of these essential amino acids (Isoleucine, Leucine, Methionine, Valine) are required in larger quantities for optimal muscle growth, endurance, and muscle repair and rejuvenation.

Isoleucine: Boosts energy levels and assists the body in recovery from strenuous physical activity. Participates in hemoglobin synthesis which regulates blood sugar and energy levels to prevent muscle wasting and help heal muscle tissue (Reference).

Leucine: Aids the body in using fat for fuel. Helps regulate blood sugar levels and produces growth hormones, resulting in muscle repair and growth. Prevents the breakdown of muscle proteins caused by muscle stress or injury (Reference).  

Methionine: Helps reduce inflammation. Supplies sulfur needed for normal metabolism and growth (Reference).

Valine: Helps maintain muscle nitrogen levels to enhance muscle metabolism and tissue growth. Supplies muscles with extra glucose to increase energy production. Effective appetite suppressant (Reference).

Determining a Protein Powder Market for your Brand

Protein Supplements can aid numerous individuals in their various stages of life. These markets include:

  1. Serious Athletes including bodybuilders, professional or pre-professional athletes, endurance runners and bikers, or those with physically demanding work like military, firefighters, or construction workers?
  2. Health-conscious people working out four to six times weekly working to live healthy, active lives.
  3. Overweight people trying to lose fat and reduce the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
  4. Menstruating women who need the additional heme iron and vitamin b-12 support from protein supplements.
  5. Elderly people struggling to consume all the calories and nutrients they require.
  6. Lactose intolerant people.
  7. Individuals following vegetarian diets or vegan diets. 

Looking closely at the needs of each of these niches will determine the protein sources, plants and/or animals, that best fit your brand. 

Plant Versus Animal Protein Supplement Comparison

With your niche in mind, the following table shows each amino acid with a raw protein source (reference), the source’s protein absorption rate known as its biological value (BV) with higher numbers giving better absorption rates, the protein digestion time (DT), and Heme Iron and Vitamin B-12 content.

Protein Source  Isoleucine g/100 g raw material  Leucine g/100 g raw material  Methionineg/100 g raw material  Valine g/100 g raw material  BV 1-100   DT hours  Heme Iron mg/serving  Vit B-12 mg/100 g 
Whey  3.8  8.6  1.8  3.5  95  2-2.5  0  0.3 
Casein  2.3  5.8  1.6  3.0  80  4  0  0.002 
Potato  3.1  6.7  1.3  3.7  79  1*  2  0 
Pea  2.3  5.7  0.3  2.7  48-69  3-3.5  1  0 
Brown Rice  2.0  5.8  2.0  2.8  70-93  3-3.5  1  0 

*indicates time for source to enter the intestines, not for the protein to enter the bloodstream.

Red color indicates the top animal protein’s source for a given amino acid. Green color indicates the top plant protein’s source.

Determine the Right Protein for your Brand

Many studies suggest whey protein supplements optimize muscle growth, rejuvenation, and repair in serious athletes (reference). Training advantages of whey protein are due to high levels of isoleucine, leucine, methionine, and valine available with a high adsorption rate and a fast digestive time.

Additionally, for those involved in heavy physical training, studies show that casein supplements taken at night give a gradual, steady release of amino acids to muscle cells, reducing the rate of muscle protein breakdown during sleep (reference).

Whey and casein supplements are derived from dairy products and may cause problems for lactose intolerant individuals. However, whey protein in its isolate form has such low levels of lactose, it might not be a problem.

If you are looking at the vegan market, studies have shown that both brown rice (reference) and pea (reference) proteins are comparable to whey though they have lower absorption rates. One study indicates a digestive enzyme added to a pea/brown rice protein mix increases the mix’s biological value making it very comparable to whey protein for muscle growth and repair. (reference) No research was available for potato protein, further research is warranted.

A protein supplement will support those dealing with cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes to help them lose fat and increase lean muscle mass. It will help them to reduce their saturated fats, processed red meat, meat poultry, and overall red meat consumption.

For weight loss, a supplement high in leucine will use fat to fuel activities. A supplement high in valine will help suppress appetite thereby reducing calorie intake.

A protein supplement high in heme iron and vitamin B-12 will support menstruating women to relieve anemia and associated low energy levels.

Often elderly people can’t eat the amount of protein needed to maintain their muscle mass. In such cases, a supplement with all nine essential amino acids is necessary.

Get started building your protein supplement brand today!


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“Fast & Slow Proteins – Choosing Wisely for Maximum Results.” Reflex Nutrition. 2015. https://reflexnutrition.com/blogs/community/fast-and-slow-proteins-choose-wisely-for-maximum-results

Hanson, Matt. “How do Vegan Proteins Stack Up?” 1st Endurance. 2017. https://firstendurance.com/vegan-proteins-stack/

Gazaeva, AM. “Biological Value of Soy Protein Concentrate.” PubMed. 1985. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4060681

“Digestion Time of Various Foods.” Free Trainers. https://www.freetrainers.com/forums/topic/digestion-time-of-various-foods-33135/

Mangano, Kelsey M et al. “Dietary Protein is associated with Musculoskeletal Health Independently of Dietary Pattern: The Framingham Third Generation Study.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28179224

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Brigham Haroldsen 22 July 2020