Is rice protein worth all the buzz its getting? While the protein boom is at its highest peak, its important to take critical approach and research all the facts. Let’s take a review on rice protein.
What is rice protein
Rice protein is usually made from brown whole grain rice by treating it with enzymes and that causes protein to separate from carbohydrates.
When making rice protein whole grain brown rice (sprouted or nonsprouted) is being grind up or minced to powder and then mixed with water. After that natural enzymes are being added one after the other to break up and separate carbohydrates and fibers from protein portion of the mass. Because process is enzyme based temperature is being kept low in order to maintain enzyme activity at high level.
Low temperature and chemical free processing prevents protein from denaturing which is usually being seen with the processing of soy and milk products.
Rice protein is easily digestible protein isolate which is excellent alternative for more common whey and soy protein. Absorption speed of rice protein is average, when fastest is hydrolyzed whey protein and slowest is casein from milk.
Protein content of a rice protein in the end product is 70-90% (protein content of normal boiled rice is only 5-7%).
Some manufacturers have developed fermentation process where rice grains are first sprouted, which will add all nine essential amino acids to the rice protein end product.
Sprouting increases nutrient levels by hundreds of percent, and puts vitamins and minerals to “living” form when rice grain enzymatic activity begins to function.
Amino acid profile of normal non-sprouted rice is not that great but sprouting increases its amino acid profile.
When rice grain sprouts its biochemistry changes amino acid profile so that protein becomes more complete protein source. This increases especially lysine, which has low concentration in a traditional non-sprouted rice protein.
Rice protein amino acids
Amino acids are required for muscle building and recovery among with other things. Is rice protein amino acid profile competitive against a whey protein?
As you can see from that picture – amino acid profile of high-quality rice protein is quite similar to a whey protein, there is only ~1-3% difference in some amino acids. Rice protein is generally better in arginine and glutamine, while whey protein is better in branched chain amino acids (BCAA) such as leucine.
Vegetarians therefore will not really lose anything at all if they replace whey protein with a high-quality rice protein.
But remember that amino acid composition of rice protein can vary considerably depending on the method of production used by the manufacturer. See rice protein amino acid comparison to whey, egg and bovine protein here.
Main advantages of rice protein:
Rice protein is hypoallergenic. It is much less allergenic compared to animal proteins or soy protein.
Rice protein is highly digestible. It does not irritate stomach and is suitable for even the most sensitive stomach.
Rice protein does not cause intestinal gas like whey protein does for many people.
Rice Protein is a good option if you suffer from digestive canal problems (such as irritable bowel syndrome), food allergies or lactose intolerance.
Rice protein good as whey protein?
In studies rice protein has been found to work as well as whey protein with body builders and people who go to gym as long as the dose is sufficient (48 g in that study) so that the body can get enough anabolic amino acid leucine.
In summary, researchers noted that post-exercise whey or rice protein intake increased body’s fat-free mass, muscle strength and muscle hypertrophy (i.e. the increase in the volume of muscles due to the enlargement of its components cells) as well as reducing fat from the body. Both proteins, whey and rice protein worked equally well and there was no difference between them (sources 1, 2, 3).
Rice protein – Best protein for dieting and weight loss?
Rice protein can also be a good additional protein especially for people after weight loss. The following rat study found that rice protein can modify triglyceride metabolism (i.e. how fats are processed in your body).
Rats that received rice protein collected weight 17-19% slower than rats that were receiving casein. In addition to that rice protein group had 12 or 15% less fat than casein group rats. Slimming effect is probably based on the fact that rice protein activates lipase enzymes in the walls of blood vessels and the liver. Lipase enzymes cleave triglycerides (fats) in the blood, thus allowing muscles and organs to absorb these free fatty acids and burn them for energy.
At the same time rice protein also limits FAS enzyme (fatty acid synthase) that fat cells use to store energy in the form of fat. The slower the FAS enzyme works the more time body has time to burn fatty acids and glucose.
In summary, rats in the rice protein group became healthier; their bad cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations decreased and lipid metabolism improvement, which led to a decrease in body weight and fat amount. However, more additional studies is needed to determine the exact mechanisms behind the obesity lowering effects (sources: 1, 2, whole article).
How to choose a rice protein product?
– First of all I would draw attention to the rice protein amino acid profile – does it contain all nice essential amino acids, does producer promise that the rice protein product contains all essential amino acids?
– Rice protein must be “raw”, in other words: while manufacturing rice protein hasn’t been exposed to high temperatus but all processing is done on room temperature.
– Prefer rice protein which hasn’t been prosessed using chemical solvents.
– It is important to ensure that the rice protein doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners that are potentially harmful to health.
– You should also watch out for potential heavy metal dangers in rice protein products and favor well-known manufacturers who test their products heavy metal concentrations.
Dangers of Rice Protein – Heavy metals in rice protein?
Recently, there has been lots of exposure and publicity about rice protein containing high levels of heavy metals. Originator for all this was probably Mike Adams from NaturalsNews who measured heavy metal levels for rice protein and other protein products.
I asked about the issue from Sunwarrior customer servise and this was the answer I was given:
Thank you for writing in to our office with your questions about the heavy metal levels in our Classic brown rice protein. We take testing of our products very seriously here at Sunwarrior and have strict policies that are followed for every ingredient we use. Currently, we source ingredients from all over the world including the US, Canada, Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. Our testing process is repeated 3 times starting with the suppliers who test for heavy metals, mold, yeast, e Coli, salmonella, melamine and many more as soon as the ingredient is harvested. It is then tested a second time by the FDA when it comes into port, and finally a third time when it arrives at our facility in Utah by a third party independent lab.
Once all of the testing has been completed, the ingredients are then blended and packaged for consumption. Since we use only natural ingredients these test results will vary dramatically from batch to batch however, they consistently fall well under the guidelines of organizations such as the EU, World Health Organization, and the FDA thus limiting us on how much we can share. You can see these guideline limits on the info-graphic link posted below.
There is no natural item that will ever test zero for heavy metals including rice as they occur naturally in the earth’s crust, water,and air. With all the steps that we take to provide our customers with only the highest quality products, you can feel safe knowing that our rice protein is not harmful to you. Please see the additional links below for even more information on this topic (1, 2, 3). If you find that you are still uncomfortable taking a rice protein, we also offer a plant based one made from pea, cranberry, and hemp seed that tests routinely at almost 0 in regards to heavy metals (Natural. If you have further questions, you can contact our Customer Support department Monday through Friday from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM (PST) at 1-888-540-3667. We would like to thank you for being a valued Sunwarrior customer).
To sum it up: raw materials for Sunwarrior rice protein are being tested three times and limit values are clearly below the EU, WHO and FDA set limits.
If you are scared about rice proteins heavy metal limits, I recommend to use this raw vegan plant protein which is made from pea, cranberry and hemp protein and which is regularly tested for almost zero in heavy metals. Also NaturalNews Mike Adams tests certify the purity of this protein, see the results here (requires email address).
Future looks bright for rice protein as long as all the manufacturers commit to new improved low standard caps. In the meantime, I recommend using rice protein only from well known manufacturers who have facts to show about the contents of their products. In the future, at least these manufacturers products will be safe.
On the other hand if no one has put forward enough clear facts and data the whole thing could be almost regarded as superfluous fear-mongering. But I thought to mention this problem because for hardly anyone its always good to eat the same protein supplement. Of course you should have common sense and not to buy something cheap untested rice protein.
High-quality rice protein products
High-quality rice protein is generally better tasting than other protein products (whey or soy) and has a complete amino acid profile, including all essential amino acids. Rice protein may be flavored or unflavoured and but I recommend only the naturally flavored versions.
Sunwarrior rice protein
Sunwarrior rice protein is sprouted from brown whole grain rice, it is GMO and gluten-free, hypoallergenic. Sunwarrior rice protein is created using cold extraction method. The product has a silky smooth composition, and has all the essential amino acids.
Sunwarrior rice protein powder is 83% protein and also contains some amount of fiber.
This rice protein is also a gourmet lover’s number one choice, especially for those who want a tasty extra protein without chemical sweeteners, solvents, milk products, soya or any animal products.
Sunwarrior rice protein in chocolate flavor is delicious, perhaps the best protein I have ever tasted (goes easily with plain water only). Sunwarror rice protein is also ideal for lactose-intolerants, and is probably the best source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
Where to buy rice protein?
Any natural health food store probably has some rice protein stocked. But if you want to save money while buying rice protein I recommend you to order from internet, example from Amazon.com.
If you live outside of U.S or can not order from Amazon.com – For example if you live in Russia, Singapore, Brazil or Europe, then your best and and probably cheapest choice is iHerb.com which ships to over 150 different countries.
Your local store price might be even double (applies to Europe at least) what it costs to order from iHerb. iHerb shipping cost only $4 dollars (air mail) almost worldwide and has very worthwhile discount for the first time orderers: you’ll get $5 off from your first order, if you order for more than $40 dollars you’ll get $10 off. You get the discount code automatically from my links and while you’ll benefit from this, I also benefit by getting “iHerb credits” that I can use towards my next orders. Thank you for this!
“Besides all the advantages that are claimed about how good Sun Warrior is, I have never drank a better tasting protein shake than this protein powder. Quality has it’s price, and Sun Warrior is worth it.” – Sun Warrior Protein (Chocolate) from the reviews”
Good alternative to rice protein
If the taste of protein supplement is not so important for you, you can get more value for your money by ordering (also palatable) unflavoured vegetable protein version of the product. This product is made from pea, hemp and cranberry protein and also contains a small amount of MCT-oil powder. This product contains somewhat more protein than the chocolate rice protein product. This product is also gentle on stomach.
Summary – If you are unable to eat whey protein you do not lose much by replacing it with high-quality rice protein. For vegetarians and vegans rice protein is one of the best protein sources.