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Spirulina, alfalfa herbs, pea, hemp, brown rice, soy protein sources and products -- vegans have it easy when it comes to options for vegan protein powders.
However, the real question is, do all plant protein powders provide the same nutritional value as whey protein?
Truth is, not all vegan protein powders are created equal, and there are a lot of details you need to scoop up if you're looking for the top plant-based protein powder on the market.
Especially when you're considering a complete amino acid profile, which you should.
Here, we go over our personal top 10 best vegan protein powders to help you find the best products that can support your plant-based, protein-filled life.
1. Transparent Labs Organic Vegan
OUR #1 RATED - Editor's Choice
3. Orgain Organic
1. Transparent Labs Organic Vegan (Editor's Choice)
What I appreciate about this vegan protein powder from Transparent Labs is that it has quite a clean flavor. It has no aftertaste, and the texture is not gritty.
I can combine it easily with most of my favorite drinks and foods without issues.
This powder only has 140 calories, and it serves up 24 grams of rice and pea protein combination and very little fat and total carbohydrate per serving, which might be ideal for those who are looking to build lean muscle.
Based on user reviews, this one from Transparent Labs is one of the best vegan protein powders, since it's completely plant-based, has no fillers, is gluten-free, and non-GMO. It also claims to improve digestion because it contains fiber.
Additionally, the powder combination of rice and pea protein makes the powder a complete protein source.
2. Performance Lab® Protein
Performance Lab® has only recently joined the protein party. And it’s a game-changer.
As you’d expect, this powder is cleaner than most vegan protein powder products.
It's one of the best vegan protein powders that's gaining popularity in the vegan community because it's 100% plant-based and organic without fillers, artificial flavors or nasty chemical processing.
This powder is made exclusively from quality plant-based source of whole brown rice protein, which science has shown to be every bit as effective as whey for increasing muscle mass, as it has all the essential amino acids the body needs.
But the proof of this protein powder is in the eating… It tastes amazing -- actually one of the best tasting vegan protein powders out there. A velvet smooth blend of organic cocoa, vanilla and Ceylon cinnamon means building muscle has never tasted so good.
3. Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder
When I tried this protein powder out, I found that it mixed well with plain water or almond milk. The taste of the vanilla bean flavor was alright. However, when I mix it with a flavored drink or shake, it's a totally different story.
Also, I'm not a fan of the overall aroma.
Flavor aside, I think it is still one of the best products when it comes to being a rich source of vegan protein. It's an organic protein with a nice blend of pea protein, chia seed protein, and rice. Each serving (two scoops) has 21 g of protein, 15 g of carbohydrates, and 4 g of fat. It also has 5 g of dietary fiber per serving without the sugar and serves a total of 150 calories.
This Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder is completely non-GMO and dairy-free as well. Best part of all, the combination of rice, pea and chia seed protein makes it a complete protein containing a complete essential amino acid profile.
Not surprisingly, this brand also has an organic protein and greens superfoods powder with the added nutrition of spinach, kale, and other vegetable extract.
You don't want any chemical sweeteners in your protein, so no sucralose or acesulfame potassium, which are the cousins of aspartame. They can be inflammatory, and some studies have suggested they can inhibit growth - Melissa Piercell, Naturopathic Doctor
4. Nuzest Clean Lean Protein
This protein powder from Nuzest is made up of pure pea protein isolate, so it's free from any nonsense crap, including gluten and GMO, as well as common allergens like dairy and soy.
This pea protein powder provides 21 grams of protein with only a gram of fat and carbohydrate per serving.
The Just Natural variant has a neutral flavor that is good for baking. I've made some protein bars and cookie dough with it, and they didn't taste pea-y at all. It has a subtle sweetness from the blend of fruit extract.
I'd consider this brand as one of my favorite vegan protein powders when it comes to making some protein-filled baked goods.
I don't appreciate it with just water, but it's more palatable with some coconut milk.
Since it's a pure pea protein powder, it contains all 9 essential amino acids.
Related post: Other recommended pea protein powders
5. LeanHemp Pure Hemp Protein Powder
This one from LeanHemp is made from pure hemp seeds protein powder. It has three flavors available, including pure hemp, chocolate maca, and peanut butter.
I tried all the flavors of this protein powder brand, and my favorite is the chocolate maca. It has some cocoa powder, maca root powder, and coconut sugar as added ingredients on top of the hemp seeds powder.
The texture of this hemp seed protein powder is a bit chalky, so I suggest you blend this with your drink and put it in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours before taking it — it might improve the overall consistency.
It has 20 g of protein and 7-8 grams of fiber per serving. Watch out for the sugar though. The pure hemp variant has the lowest amount of carb and sugar. Read our full review of the best hemp protein powders.
Pea protein has a complete protein profile, but can also be stacked with rice or chia seeds.
6. Zen Principle Organic Brown Rice
Brown rice protein powder is known for being hypoallergenic, so if you're allergic to soy or nuts, this may be a healthy option.
Each serving is about 4 scoops and has 26 g of whole grain brown rice protein without the unnecessary fats and carbohydrates.
Like most rice protein powder, the texture isn't the best, but I like mixing it with my cold-infused morning tea. As with many vegan protein powders, it comes off a little bit chalky, so make sure to stir it well.
7. Garden Of Life
The unflavored raw organic protein powder from Garden of Life only has 110 calories per serving, making it popular for those who are aiming to lose weight. With a single scoop, you get 22 g of vegan protein with only 2.5 g of fat and 2 g of carbs.
It's a combination of brown rice and pea protein, with 13 raw organic sprouts, including quinoa, buckwheat, pumpkin seed protein, chia seeds and lentil, among its many other ingredients. This extensive protein blend makes this protein powder a healthy source of vegan protein. It provides vitamins A, D, E, and K as well.
Because of its dense nutritional value, it may be suitable as a healthy meal replacement.
It has a variety of classic flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and vanilla chai.
Oh, did I mention there's 0 grams of sugar? Garden of Life knows us so well.
8. IronVegan Athlete's Gainer
There are many vegan products that promise significant bodybuilding gains, and IronVegan Athlete's Gainer is one of the most popular in the bodybuilding community. With a 2.85:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, it's not difficult to see why.
A double scoop of this protein powder provides 42 g of protein, 8 g of fats, and 120 g of carbs, which may make it the top choice for gaining and bulking up.
While it's quite high in carbs, it's low in sugar and serves up a total of 720 calories per serving. You also get 14 mg of iron, which is significantly higher that most on this list.
This protein powder from IronVegan provides well-balanced macros with its vegan carbohydrate blend, giving a 2.85:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.
This one is a pea protein powder source that is high in protein and low in carbs. Each serving contains 24 g of protein, with about a gram of fat and carbohydrate.
It's free of soy, gluten, and dairy, which may be a top choice for those concerned with certain allergic reactions.
I appreciate that it is unflavored, so I can combine it with some of my favorite drinks. Blendability is quite easy too. It dissolves nicely, even with just plain water.
Most vegan protein powders and other plant-based products have that distinct earthy flavor. This one from EarthChimp may be an exception.
It's not exactly like a chocolate milkshake, but it tastes better than most vegan protein powder brands, especially when mixed with frozen fruits (I like mine with banana or berry). It makes a refreshing recovery drink or protein shake.
A single serving of this protein powder contains 20 grams of plant based protein with 2.5 grams of fat.
It's quite high in carbohydrates though, with 18 grams for a double scoop. But I appreciate that this has 5 g of fiber and some probiotics and digestive enzymes.
This protein powder is a blend of pea, pumpkin seed protein, sunflower, and coconut, which may be the ideal choice if you're allergic to soy.
How many grams of protein do you need?
You need between 1.6g and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight (0.73 to 1 gram per pound) if you want to maximize your muscle gains.
Soy based foods are some of the best foods you can eat on the planet. Soy provides a plant based protein source; a slew of vitamins and minerals crucial for reducing risk of chronic disease; and fiber that helps you fill up and feel satisfied.
International Olympic Committee Consensus on Sports Nutrition
However, you have to remember that dietary protein tends to correlate with the amount of newly synthesized muscle fibers. With this in mind, I recommend going with the upper end of the protein range suggested by the scientific literature to be optimal . This is essential because plant protein is generally less anabolic and not as easily digested than whey protein.
For example, a vegan athlete weighing 80 kg or 176 lbs would need around 128 to 176 grams of protein per day. That's 1.6 to 2.2g x 80 kgs.
With these numbers in mind, and taking into account the general lifestyle of a vegan athlete, here's why I believe plant-based protein powders to be so invaluable:
What to Look for in a Good Vegan Protein Powder?
Here are 4 things to look for in a vegan protein powder:
1. Value - Protein per Dollar
To spend the least amount of money for the most amount of protein, here's the number you need to be looking at:
Dollar per gram of protein.
The basic formula to calculate this looks like:
Protein per serving * Number of serving per container/Price
This is the quickest way to find out how much protein is in the product you're buying per dollar. Just make sure that the plant-based protein sources are of high-quality and not something cheap with limited bioavailability.
Also, you may want to consider choosing between protein isolate and concentrate. Concentrates usually have a slightly lower protein per serving content but are definitely cheaper than isolates.
2. Percentage of Protein
If you're purchasing a protein powder, chances are you're looking for a high percentage of plant proteins above everything else on the ingredients list. This is a good time to calculate the protein yield, which is the percentage of protein in a supplement.
The higher the percentage of protein is in a product, the less space is taken up by carbs, fats, sugar, and other nutrients that you may (or may not) want. The only time you would want these other macros would be when you're bulking and trying to consume a ton of calories.
Depending on your diet, as well as health and fitness goals, you need to make sure that you get the right amount of quality proteins. If you're bulking and need that extra help in getting more calories, you may want to consider taking a vegan mass gainer.
3. Flavor & Mixability
We, vegans, have it hard enough as it is – we shouldn't be subjected to disgusting chalky shakes, which are more akin to gruel than anything else.
You need to keep an eye out for powders that taste decent and can mix easily into fruit smoothies, protein shakes, and other drinks, such as nut milk. You can add them to your foods, as well. In my experience, I find the soy and hemp mix well with most flavors.
Consider how you're going to consume your protein and then decide how to make it palatable. If you're doing something with simple milk or water, maybe go for a flavored powder.
Alternatively, if you're planning on scooping your protein into your entire regimen, you should be fine with unflavored varieties. I make my favorite protein shake with unflavored plant protein, and I can't complain.
Protein is great and all that, but you also have to consider everything else is in a product. Just because something is packed with protein doesn't necessarily mean it's right for you.
Try to consume products that offer you lots of benefits from a nutritional perspective, such as a complete essential amino acid profile and vitamins and minerals.
Take time to find what source of protein is best for your diet and fitness goals. For example, peas are known to have the complete essential amino acids with the added benefit of BCAAs. BCAAs works to further improve muscle gains.
Hemp, on the other hand, is a great source of omega-3s for better cardiac health.
Apart from BCAAs, omega-3s, and other added nutrients for certain health purposes, the protein source is also a crucial consideration if you're suffering from certain allergies or diet restrictions.
It's mostly common sense, but also keep an eye out for additives, sweeteners, fillers, gums, unnecessary carbs, and other crap that shouldn't be in your plant based powdered protein. I always tell my clients to double check the nutrition label and ingredients to be on the safe side.
Generally speaking, if the ingredients list on the bottle resembles the Magna Carta, then you're probably best off going with something simpler. When it comes to your health, and ultimately, your plant-based protein powder, you may want to avoid the complicated stuff as much as possible.
What's Our Favorite Vegan Protein Powder?
While all the plant proteins on this list provide the protein needs of a pure plant eater, I recommend Transparent Labs Organic Vegan as one of the best vegan protein powders on the market.
Its low-carbohydrate and low-fat formula might be best for keeping any extra pounds off, while the 24 grams of protein content is essential to your plant-based diet and overall health.
People on restricted diets might consider it helpful too, as it's free of gluten, GMO ingredients, and other nasty preservatives. With its price and nutritional content, it also wins on a dollar per gram value among all the protein powders on this list.
Note that it does contain organic stevia, so that can be one consideration for some people.
What is the best vegan protein powder for you? And which of these plant protein powders have you tried? Share your experience with us!
Our #1 Recommended Vegan Protein Powder
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