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Hemp, brown rice, soy protein sources -- vegans have it easy when it comes to options for vegan protein powders. However, the real question is, do they provide the same nutritional value as whey?
Not all plant-based protein powders are created equal, and there are a lot of details you need to scoop up if you're looking for the top vegan protein powder on the market. Especially when you're considering all the essential amino acids the body requires.
Here, we go over our personal top 10 vegan protein products to help you find the protein powder that may 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 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.
With only 140 calories, it serves up 24 grams of rice and pea protein combination and very little fat and total carbohydrate per serving, which may be ideal for those who are looking to build lean muscle.
It may also help improve digestive health due to its fiber content. It has no fillers, gluten-free, and non-GMO.
2. Performance Lab® Protein
Performance Lab® have only recently joined the protein party. And it’s a game-changer.
As you’d expect, it’s cleaner than clean…
100% plant-based and organic. With no fillers, artificial flavors or nasty chemical processing.
Made exclusively from whole brown rice protein. Which science has shown to be every bit as effective as whey for increasing muscle mass.
But the proof of this protein is in the eating…
It’s tastes amazing. 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 brand out, I found that it mixed well with plain water or almond milk. However, when I mix it with a flavored drink or protein shake, it's a totally different story.
Also, I'm not a fan of the overall aroma.
Flavor aside, I think it is still a rich source of vegan protein. Each serving (2 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.
It's completely non-GMO and dairy-free as well.
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 one 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.
It provides 21 grams of protein with only a gram of fat and carbohydrate per serving.
The Just Natural variant has a neutral flavor that may be ideal for baking. I've made some protein bars and cookie dough with it, and they didn't taste pea-y at all.
I don't appreciate it with just water, but it's more palatable with some coconut milk.
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, 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 may be quite 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 may improve the overall consistency.
It has 20 g of protein and 7-8 g of dietary fiber per serving. Watch out for the sugar though. The pure hemp variant has the lowest carb and sugar content.
Read our full review of the best hemp protein powders.
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.
The texture isn't the best, but I like mixing it with my cold-infused morning tea. 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 pea and brown rice proteins, with 13 raw organic sprouts, including quinoa, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and lentil, among its many other ingredients. This extensive protein blend makes it a healthy source of vegan protein. It provides vitamins A, D, E, and K as well.
Because of its dense nutritional content, it may be suitable as a healthy meal replacement.
Oh, did I mention there's 0 grams of sugar?
8. IronVegan Athlete's Gainer
IronVegan Athlete's Gainer is quite popular in the bodybuilding community. With a 2.85:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio, it's not difficult to see why.
A double scoop 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 your muscles up.
While it's quite high in carbs, it's low in sugar content and serves up a total of 720 calories per serving.
It 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 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 powders brands, especially when mixed with frozen fruits (I like mine with bananas or blueberries). It makes a refreshing recovery drink. It contains 20 grams of plant-based protein with 2.5 grams of fat per serving.
It contains 20 g of plant-based protein with 2.5 g of fat per serving. It's quite high in carbohydrates though, with 18 g for a double scoop. I also appreciate that this has 5 g of fiber and some probiotics.
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. Soybeans provide 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.
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 a plant-based protein supplement to be so invaluable:
Benefits of 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 * Servings 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 protein it contains is high-quality and not something cheap with limited bioavailability.
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, sugars, 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 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.
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.
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 amino acid profile and vitamins and minerals. It's mostly common sense, but keep an eye out for additives, sweeteners, fillers, gums, unnecessary carbs, and other crap that shouldn't be in your vegan protein powder. 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?
Overall, I recommend Transparent Labs Organic Vegan as the best overall plant-based protein powder on the market. Its low-carbohydrate and low-fat formula may be good for keeping any extra pounds off, while the 24 grams of protein content may help to staple vegan 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.
Which of these vegan protein powders have you tried? Share your experience with us!
Our #1 Recommended Vegan Protein Powder
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