Plant-based protein powder is an easy, no-prep way to boost your protein content for the day. Whether you’re looking for a meal replacement, post-workout recovery drink, or to simply just get more protein in each day, plant-based protein powders make it easy!
But where do you start?
Even in the plant-based or vegan world, the options can be fairly overwhelming. From hemp to pea protein, to power blends of proteins and superfoods, there’s no shortage of plant-based protein powders.
Finding the best plant-based or vegan protein powder that works for you is dependent on many variables, from your budget to taste to mix-ability and ingredients.
Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about vegan and plant-based protein powders and which plant-based protein powder is best for you. It’s time to unlock the potential of the power plants!
What is Plant Based Protein Powder?
These refer to protein powders made from plants, opposed to the typical whey protein from cows’ milk.
The drawback to plant-based protein powders is that most plant proteins aren’t complete. To have a complete protein source it needs to contain all the essential amino acids to support protein synthesis. The good thing is, if you eat a variety of plant proteins you can still consume the right amino acids to make things work.
Best Plant Protein Sources
Pea protein is an excellent source of protein for all plant-based goers, including gluten-free, lactose-free and dairy-free.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast I have some good news: Pea protein contains plenty of branch-chain amino acids (BCAA’s). This is important because many proteins lack adequate levels of the amino acid leucine. These amino acids help energize your muscles and signal your body to begin muscle growth and repair.
The only downfall to pea protein is that it’s lacking methionine, an essential amino acid.
Brown Rice Protein
Like pea protein, brown rice protein contains BCAA’s to support healthy muscle growth. Although, it does lack adequate levels of the amino acid lysine, so you’ll want to look for that in other plant-based sources to complete your diet.
Some studies even say that brown rice protein is on-par with whey protein for muscle building and growth.
Hemp protein is lacking in the amino acid department; however, it makes up for this shortfall with its healthful nutrition package. Hemp is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, fiber, zinc and iron. These qualities make hemp protein one of the best plant-based proteins on the market.
Pumpkin Seed Protein
These nutritious seeds don’t get enough credit. Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and provide an excellent source of magnesium, zinc and iron.
Mixed Protein Blends
Many plant-based protein powders contain a blend of different plant-based proteins to create a complete protein source. These are great choices and highly recommended because they contain all the essential amino acids and plenty of other nutrients to boot.
For example a good mixed protein blend could contain: Pea, Brown Rice, Hemp and Pumpkin Seed Proteins.
When you’re purchasing a mixed protein powder blend it’s important to make sure they don’t contain added sugar, fillers, or chemical ingredients.
Yes, soy is a fairly popular plant-based protein.
But, due to conflicting information around soy, we do not recommend supplementing with soy-based products. Many health professional state that its consumption is unsafe. Isoflavones found in soy products have been thought to mimic the effect of estrogen and increase the risk of hormone-related cancers. Since this is still a debatable topic and there is no strong evidence, we have left soy-based protein powders out of our list.
Why choose soy when there are so many other awesome, nutritious plant-based options out there?
Benefits of Plant-Based Protein Powder
Why should you choose a plant-based or vegan protein powder over whey protein?
Meet your daily protein needs even if you’re lactose-intolerant, sensitive to dairy or just simply want to reduce your dairy intake.
Achieve Weight Loss Goals
Plant-based protein powder will keep you satisfied and feeling full longer. Often times they even contain added ingredients like chia seeds which expand your stomach to help you feel satisfied.
One scoop taken in water, almond/coconut milk, or your favorite smoothie can act as a full meal with complete protein sources and powerful nutrients.
Most vegan protein powders, especially plant-based blends contain other powerful ingredients which support different parts of the body.
What To Watch Out For
When you choose a plant-based protein powder the plan is to improve your health, right? That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye out for harmful ingredients. Don’t assume just because you’re buying plant-based protein powder that the product is truly healthy and in its purest form. The sad truth is, there are many “health” products out there that are not healthy. Before you buy it turn over the bottle and check out the ingredients.
Check the label and only consume clean ingredients. Whenever possible choose USDA organic and non-GMO. Watch out for fiber fillers such as guar gum and chicory root. These are usually listed in the fine print at the bottom of the label.
Also, look for a Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP) stamp. These companies have taken the time to be third party tested.
Keep an eye out for what they use to sweeten the protein powder. Many companies will use added sugars (sucralose) or artificial sweeteners. Stay away from these!
Look for products with healthy and safe sweeteners such as stevia or monk fruit.
Related: The Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners
Contains All Amino Acids
Choose a plant protein powder that contains all of your essential amino acids. This is why I love protein powder blends that contain proteins from different sources such as pea, brown rice, pumpkin and hemp.
How Much Protein
A protein powder with 15-21 grams of protein is ideal. This is the perfect protein window for satiety, staying power and replenishing muscles. Total carbohydrates should also be fairly low at around 7g or less and sugar per serving should be under 2g.
Now that you know what to look out for, here are the best plant-based protein powders:
Best Plant-Based Protein Powders
Top Pick – KOS Plant Protein
KOS Plant Protein has a well-deserved spot at the top of our list! Infused with Peruvian cacao, Himalayan pink salt, coconut milk, a dash of stevia and monk fruit, this organic vegan chocolate protein blend is simply delicious! It also contains proteins from 5 different sources (Pea, quinoa, pumpkin seed, chia and flax) making it a complete protein source!
Garden of Life Plant Protein
Garden of Life Plant-Based Protein is one of my favorites! The texture is spot on, the flavor is neutral, and the sweetness is perfectly balanced. It contains all the essential amino acids to form a complete protein source and is mixed with an antioxidant blend of superfoods and probiotics.
Ora Organics Plant Protein
Ora Organics plant protein powder contain zero sugar and its infused with superfoods! Made with a blend of pea protein, rice protein, and hemp, this protein powder also has digestive enzymes to help you easily break down and absorb the nutrients. Ora Organic proteins are sweetened with a hint of stevia and monk fruit and come in a variety of flavors including vanilla chai.
Best Protein x Superfood Blend – Your Super
Don’t be fooled! This plant-based protein powder isn’t just a source of protein. This protein superfood mix contains pea and brown rice proteins, maca, lucuma (Peruvian fruit), and banana powder. These ingredients together make the perfect energizing post-workout superfood drink. We love this company because for each bottle sold they also make a donation to Action Against Hunger to help hungry children.
Best Single Ingredient – Naked Pea
Naked Pea is your best choice if you’re looking for a single source of protein. Like the name suggests, the only ingredient in this product is Pea Protein – nothing else.
The drawback to Naked Pea protein is that it is not a complete protein source, meaning it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids that your body needs. If you choose to go with a single source protein like Naked Pea, we recommend mixing it with some of their other products like Naked Rice Protein.