Rice isn't the first, second or even third thing you might think of when you're scrounging your house for protein. In its pure form, it's mostly carbohydrate, surrounded by a husk of fiber, but each of those little grains holds a bit of protein that, like whey, can be separated and enhanced, creating a protein powerhouse.
Compared to other plant-based protein powders (such as pea protein) rice protein powder is closer to whey protein which is pleasant and easily mixes for on-the-go nutrition. It also digests slower than whey, which you might want at times for more sustained energy, and frankly, whey protein is the fastest digesting mass-marketed protein, so it's a bit of an unfair comparison.
While white rice powder has health benefits, brown rice protein powder is a nutritional powerhouse. Whether you're looking to lose weight, gain muscle, or boost your health, you'll find something to like about rice protein powder. We'll be looking at its benefits to give you the most useful information for making a solid, nutritional choice.
Does rice even have protein?
As mentioned earlier, rice isn't well known for delivering high levels of quality protein. There are about 5 grams of protein per cup of cooked rice, which isn't terrible but the carbs-to-protein ratio certainly doesn’t help it qualify as a protein supplement.
When making rice protein powder, manufacturers break down grains of rice, grinding them into a powder that is then treated to separate the protein from the carbs. While it takes a lot of rice to make an adequate amount of protein powder, there are some very obvious benefits to using rice protein powder, so let's dive deeper.
Health Benefits of Rice Protein
In a field of competitors as vast as protein powder, there needs to be some solid benefits to using rice over egg, whey or other vegetarian powders like pea or soy protein. Luckily, recent research indicates that there are indeed many benefits that rice protein has over its peers.
Rice protein is gentle on your stomach and digestive tract, breaking down easily and slowly. Some people have discomfort from whey protein powder and this can be explained by both the speed it digests and its dairy contents. Rice protein doesn't have dairy, nor does it have any allergens.
Is it possible to be allergic to rice? Sure, but those with this particular allergy are rare, especially compared to people who have legume, tree nut, dairy or gluten intolerances, and allergies. This makes rice protein a safe choice for people who simply can't stomach other protein supplements.
Functional for Muscle Synthesis
The most important part of a protein supplement is how it helps you build muscle, and rice protein does a great job in that department. Gram for gram, there is little distinguishable difference in whey protein and rice protein; both are easily absorbed, both contain roughly the same amount of carbs per serving and both are easy on the stomach.
Rice protein, perhaps by virtue of its molecular composition, provides faster amino acid uptake to the muscles. This means that whey holds on to leucine and other amino acids longer during the digestive process. For muscle building, rice protein can get those amino acids to the fibers faster during the critical post-workout window when repair is most crucial.
Rich Amino Acid profile
As with most plant proteins, rice isn't a complete source of amino acids, but it does provide one very well: leucine. This particular amino acid spurs muscle growth on its own and is critical to rebuilding muscle fibers after exercise. While leucine is most concentrated in animal sources - like whey - it's only slightly less so in rice protein.
For comparison, whey's leucine content is 100mg per gram, far higher than most protein powders, but rice is a close second at 80mg per gram. The extremely high leucine content alone makes rice protein the best choice for vegetarian, vegan, and food sensitive protein powder consumers.
When coupled with resistance training, adequate leucine intake is critical for developing muscle strength and mass. As rice protein is both highly bioavailable and leucine-dense, it's a perfect protein powder for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts alike.
What makes rice protein powder an incomplete protein is its deficiency in lysine. Keep reading, as we’ll give some recommendations on which foods to combine with rice protein powder in order to get a complete essential amino acid profile in your diet.
Effective for Weight Loss
Some studies suggest that rice protein has the same or possibly greater fat-burning potential as whey protein which has long been known to have a powerful fat-burning effect.
Brown rice protein powder tends towards having more fiber as well, which further slows the absorption rate and increases satiation for longer. This enhances the effect of weight loss, keeping blood sugar even, and hunger in check.
Regularly adding brown rice protein powder to your breakfast should help decrease caloric intake over the course of the day. This is because enzymes expressed in rice proteins suppress ghrelin secretion in people. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, working to make you want to eat. A lower ghrelin level means lower food intake, and better blood sugar as well.
Rice is a sustainable food source
Rice is cheap and easy to grow, and it grows quickly. It's one of the most abundantly cultivated and consumed crops in the world, so the supply is relatively endless. The process by which the protein is extracted is enzyme-driven, so it's not overly expensive or environmentally taxing to produce. Finally, if the demand for rice protein goes down, people will still eat rice, so it's a win for farmers who produce the grain as a commodity.
Rice protein is Vegan and Vegetarian
While there are other veg-friendly protein supplements, they almost all have downsides, and one of those downsides is the price. Vegetarian and vegan foods are already priced at a premium because they're a niche in the fitness community, but rice is cheap and easy to produce.
Additionally, pea or nut allergies can make taking certain vegetarian proteins a no-go, so rice protein powder offers a nutritious, accessible solution for those people who can't use other products.
Are there downsides to using Rice Protein Powder?
The only "downside" is that, like almost all plant proteins, it's not a complete source of amino acids. This is only a problem for people who have inadequate diets and who wouldn't get the necessary amino acids elsewhere. Protein powder should not be your only source of amino acids or nutrition in general - it should be added to a healthy, whole-foods diet to increase your protein intake.
Let's look at some ways you can get adequate lysine in your diet while still reaping the benefits of rice protein powder.
There's a reason why rice and beans are a delicious staple in the diets of humans across the world. Not only do beans taste great with white rice, together they are a complete protein source. Additional sources of lysine in the legume family are:
- Chickpeas and by extension, hummus
Aged, hard cheeses like Romano, pecorino, and parmesan are all great sources of lysine. This is especially beneficial for vegetarians who are wanting to keep their carbs low and avoid beans.
Assuming you're a vegetarian or vegan, you're probably aware of spirulina powder, the protein-dense powdered bacteria many people use as a nutritional supplement. It has plenty of lysine, so if you're already taking it or if ingesting powdered cyanobacteria is something that sounds cool, this can off-set your rice protein's missing aminos.
How to Use Rice Protein
In addition to being added to smoothies and shakes, rice protein can be used in either hot or cold cooking recipes. As long as what you are cooking/baking is not burned or overcooked, the protein is still usable by the body. So feel free to add rice protein to your next batch of muffins or vegetarian casseroles.
Finding Quality Rice Protein Powder
To insure the highest quality, look for the simplest possible formulation. You can easily add your choice of flavour or sweetener to rice protein powder, depending on your taste or your mood of the moment. Blend it with fruits one day or cocoa and honey the next day! The options are endless, as long as the key ingredient is pure organic rice protein powder.
Zen Principle Organic Brown Rice Protein Powder is a protein isolate made from whole organic rice, tested for heavy metals and formulated so its easily mixable. If you take a look at the ingredient label, you’ll find just one ingredient: Organic Rice Protein. No added sweeteners, no fillers, no chemicals — nothing but finely ground rice.