GAT Sport Vegan Plant Protein -- Beware Marketing Hype
Plant protein powders, vegan-friendly supplements, and plant-based diets have been on the rise the past several years. In that time, a slew of supplements have been released both by brands who specifically position themselves as “vegan” or “plant-based” as well as previous “hardcore” and “mainstream” companies (e.g. bodybuilding and sports nutrition brands) trying to appeal to the emerging consumer sector that is concerned with all things plant-based and vegan as well as those looking to “diversify” their diet and/or reduce their intake of animal-based products (e.g. whey or egg protein powder).
Most of the products promote (“hype”) themselves using all sorts of marketing jargon, including:
- Best-in-class flavors
- Doctor developed
Truth be told, when it comes to actually improving performance, health, or well-being, these words are meaningless.
I’ve tried many of them over the years, and in the early days of taste-testing vegan protein powders, it was rough…literally. Vegan protein powders from ~2010-2020 (with the very rare exception) didn’t mix well, had a gritty texture, and tasted (at best) like sweetened grass clippings mixed with a bit of dirt and mulch. I should note that these vegan protein powders were mostly blends of pea protein, brown rice, and a host of other plant protein sources. The OG plant-based protein (soy protein powder) mixed considerably better than blends of pea, rice, seed proteins, etc., but then some fear-mongering led to soy protein falling out of the limelight (man boobs, GMOs, etc.).
Fortunately, a growing body of evidence, some of which I’ve covered before, shows that consuming soy protein powder, even daily for weeks on end, won’t cause you to have gyno, lose your gains, or start crying at sappy romantic comedies (though it is always ok to get a bit teary-eyed when Goose dies in Top Gun).
In the past couple of years, there have been a few standouts among the plant protein family that I’ve had the privilege to try. However, almost all of them are with the caveat of “they taste great for a plant protein powder.” I have yet to try a vegan protein powder that actually is identical (or superior) to the taste, texture, and mixability of whey-based protein powders.
That brings us to the topic of today’s article.
As I do most days, I was perusing Stack3D and came across yet another sports nutrition company releasing a plant protein powder (or, in this case, returning to the land of vegan protein supplements).
GAT Sports, a long time sports nutrition brand and bodybuilding supplement company, has decided to re-enter the plant-based protein powder market with the “inspired” name of “Plant Protein.”
GAT Sport Plant Protein Ingredients
GAT Plant Protein contains the following in every serving:
- Calories: 110
- Protein: 20g
- Total Fat: 3.5g
- Carbohydrates: 3g
- Sugar: 0g (added sugar: 0g)
- Fiber: 0g
Nothing looks too out of the ordinary here until you start looking at the marketing images for the product:
GAT Plant Protein “Fortified from Agave Inulin”
Agave is the plant from which tequila is made, and its syrup (agave syrup) has gained popularity in recent years (concomitant with the rise in “natural” and vegan products) in both culinary and cocktail applications. While it may be “natural”, agave syrup is still glorified, refined, concentrated sugar (which isn’t bad, but isn’t some magical fat-loss or blood sugar-regulating elixir either as food brands/influencers/and cooking shows would have you believe).
Inulin is a “natural” fiber present in a number of plants, including agave and chicory (note: if you’re a fan of motor oil-looking coffee, seek out New Orleans Chicory Coffee…it’s sublime).
As for the differences between inulin from agave and inulin from chicory, there’s not much -- at its heart, it’s still inulin.
What is Inulin?
inulin is a fiber which supports the gut microbiome, digestive health, and blood sugar levels. We’ve been told about the importance of consuming enough daily fiber since childhood. Yet, the average individual barely gets 50% of his or her daily fiber requirements (25-38g/day).[1.] And, not consuming enough fiber is associated with poor health outcomes, including increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.[2,3,4]
Research finds that consuming 5 or 7.5 grams of agave inulin fiber per day can improve gut microbiome composition. Other studies also show that both agave- and chicory-derived inulin comparably stimulate the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (two groups of “good” gut bacteria).
Up to this point, you might thing that everything seems ok.
GAT Sports released a Plant Protein that is “fortified with agave inulin.” Fiber’s good. Plant protein is acceptable. So, what’s the problem?
Take a closer look at the supplement facts panel of GAT Sport “inulin-fortified protein”...
There is no meaningful amount of dietary fiber in the product!
None from the much-hyped “agave inulin” nor any other contributing fiber typically found in plant protein powders. To be more blunt, there is precisely ZERO fiber in the product per the supplement facts panel.
Now, is it a “bad” thing that a protein powder contains no fiber? No, not in the least. It is a protein powder after all, not a fiber supplement.
GAT Sport Plant Protein delivers 20 grams of plant-based protein per serving from a “Quad-Blend” protein mixture, including:
- Pea protein
- Rice protein concentrate
- Pumpkin seed protein
- Sunflower seed protein
This is a fine mix of plant protein powders, and these protein sources are used rather frequently by other companies (though in varying concentrations and combinations). However, the leucine content is rather pitiful, clocking in at a mere 1.60 grams per serving. Leucine is the “king of amino acids” and is known to be the anabolic EAA that flips the “switch” on mTOR, thereby stimulating protein synthesis, aiding muscle recovery, repair, and growth. Research, to date, indicates that the “optimal” dose of leucine to stimulate mTOR and protein synthesis is between 2.5-3g.[7,8,9]
(Note: studies using mixed meals, including carbs, protein, and fat, suggest a lower total leucine/EAA content may offer similar affects on mTOR and muscle protein synthesis as 2.5-3g of leucine/25g whey protein).
More Marketing Schlock
Looking at the other advertising images for GAT Sport Plant protein, we find this gem:
As I mentioned above, the term “natural” (and its derivatives -- naturally sourced, naturally made, naturally sweetened, naturally flavored, etc.) is pretty meaningless and only slapped on products to deceive customers, tricking them into the notion that the product they’re purchasing is somehow “superior” to other products that are not labeled “natural.”
But, take a step back and really think about that term -- “natural.”
Is it “natural” to isolate protein strands from plants, extract them, throw away the other parts of the plant, add some sweeteners, thickeners, “healthy fats” and other common agents found in food products and dietary supplements?
Not in the least.
Does this mean that these products are “unhealthy” or “dangerous”?
It just serves to drive home the point that just about every term you see slapped on the outside of a consumer packaged good (CPG) is meaningless -- window dressing, schlock, etc.
Frankly, if you’re really after “natural” plant-based eating, then go buy a bag of beans and rice and cook them yourself.
GAT Sport Plant Protein claims to be “naturally” crafted, but honestly, what the hell does that even mean?!
- You “naturally” thought of the idea for the protein blend?
- The ingredients “naturally” refined themselves, organized specific amounts of themselves in a proprietary blend, and gentled floated into a plastic container?
- The product "naturally" found its way onto a palette, on board a loading truck, and stocked on a shelf?
In other words, the term “naturally crafted” means nothing…absolutely nothing.
It’s a marketing term, plain and simple.
Is GAT Sport Plant Protein Any Good?
It could be. The flavor, taste, texture, and mixability could potentially be very enjoyable, and it’s likely on par with other plant-based protein powders released from other major brands in the industry.
The supplement facts, ingredients profile, and packaging are on par with the competition, and likely produced at one of the facilities used by their competitors. GAT Sport is not the only, first, or (unfortunately) last company to use meaningless jargon when hyping a product. Honestly, I’m just tired of seeing crap like this continually occur in the industry.
My point behind this article is that you (the consumer) need to be exceedingly aware of the shenanigans supplement companies (and/or the marketing firms they hire) will employ to entice (lure) you into buying their products.
Hopefully this article helps you to be more informed about your purchases. If you ever have a question about a particular products’ claims, feel free to contact me. For in-depth help formulating your own supplement regimen, schedule a one-time consultation or join the Engineer Insider and get on-going support.
- King DE, Mainous, III AG, Lambourne CA. Trends in dietary fiber intake in the United States, 1999–2008. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012;112:642–8
- Liu S, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB, Rosner B, Colditz G. Relation between changes in intakes of dietary fiber and grain products and changes in weight and development of obesity among middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:920–7
- Schulze MB, Liu S, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Willett WC, Hu FB. Glycemic index, glycemic load, and dietary fiber intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;80:348–56
- Streppel MT, Ocke MC, Boshuizen HC, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Dietary fiber intake in relation to coronary heart disease and all-cause mortality over 40 y: the Zutphen Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:1119–25.
- Holscher, H. D., Bauer, L. L., Gourineni, V., Pelkman, C. L., Fahey, G. C., & Swanson, K. S. (2015). Agave Inulin Supplementation Affects the Fecal Microbiota of Healthy Adults Participating in a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial. The Journal of Nutrition, 145(9), 2025–2032. doi:10.3945/jn.115.217331
- Rondanelli M, Nichetti M, Peroni G, Faliva MA, Naso M, Gasparri C, Perna S, Oberto L, Di Paolo E, Riva A, Petrangolini G, Guerreschi G, Tartara A. Where to Find Leucine in Food and How to Feed Elderly With Sarcopenia in Order to Counteract Loss of Muscle Mass: Practical Advice. Front Nutr. 2021 Jan 26;7:622391. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.622391. PMID: 33585538; PMCID: PMC7874106.
- Rieu I., Balage M., Sornet C., Giraudet C., Pujos E., Grizard J., Mosoni L., Dardevet D. Leucine supplementation improves muscle protein synthesis in elderly men independently of hyperaminoacidaemia. J. Physiol. 2006;575:305–315. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2006.110742.
- Witard OC, Wardle SL, Macnaughton LS, Hodgson AB, Tipton KD. Protein Considerations for Optimising Skeletal Muscle Mass in Healthy Young and Older Adults. Nutrients. 2016 Mar 23;8(4):181. doi: 10.3390/nu8040181. PMID: 27023595; PMCID: PMC4848650.