Finding the best protein powder to add to your morning smoothies or post-workout shake can be tricky enough, but throw a vegan or plant-based diet into the mix? Well, to say things get harder is an understatement since whey is immediately out of the equation. But if you’ve been struggling to find the best protein booster with little success, hang tight because we’ve just rounded up the very best vegan protein powders out there (taste included, of course).
But before we get on to who made the cut, how much do you really know about vegan protein powders? If you’re a seasoned vegan then, sure, you likely know all about the best meat-free sources of protein. But if you’re new to the game, stand by for the lowdown on just where all that meat-free and dairy-free protein comes from. Keep scrolling for your complete guide to vegan protein powders, including the best-tasting formulas out there.
WHAT'S REALLY IN A VEGAN PROTEIN POWDER?
While the proteins in whey powders come straight from a separation of the components that make up cow’s milk (or as a byproduct of cheese-making, but hey, that’s still cow’s milk), vegan protein powders look to protein-rich plant sources instead. Among the most popular bases are pea, hemp, brown rice and soy, though some also look to pumpkin seeds, cranberry seeds, quinoa, spinach, spirulina and chia seed proteins too. Ideally you should look for a blend that covers all nine of the essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine) needed for building and maintaining a healthy, strong body.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN POWDER SHOULD WE BE HAVING?
For this, we asked the pros. “Protein requirements vary between men and women and also depend on your diet, the amount of exercise you’re doing and your lifestyle,” say Lee Forster and Charlie Turner, former professional Team GB swimmers and now the founders of Neat Nutrition.
“If you already have a protein-heavy diet and you're not undertaking much exercise, you don’t need to add lots of protein shakes to your daily routine. If, on the other hand, you’re doing a heavy workout in the morning, we’d suggest you have a protein shake before your commute, and then have another one mid-afternoon with some fruit or vegetables to give your body the tools it needs to repair.
“Everyone is different, and you should listen to your body, taking into account your dietary needs. For all our Neat protein powders, we recommended a serving size of 30 grams (1.1 ounces) per shake or meal.”
ARE VEGAN PROTEIN POWDERS AN EFFECTIVE SOURCE OF NOURISHMENT?
Naturally, both Lee and Charlie say yes, but here’s a breakdown of why they’re so into vegan protein powders, particularly. “You can of course get your protein from food and traditional meat sources, but it takes more time for your body to break down the protein in solid food,” they explain. “Add to this the fact that most people fit exercising around busy lifestyles—you can’t always nip home after a workout and cook yourself up a protein-rich meal. So for us, protein powders are an easy and effective way to incorporate more protein into your diet and lifestyle.”
“That’s especially true for those who follow a vegan diet, as they can sometimes be lacking in levels of lysine (an essential amino acid we need, but one that the body can’t produce it), so adding a protein powder to your day, whether it’s through a shake or stirred into a meal, can help to address that—as well any other amino acids and nutrients you might be missing.” On that note, here’s our roundup of the best vegan protein powders to start adding to your menu.
The Blend: Whole pea and hemp make the building blocks for this complete protein powder, meaning that you get all the aminos you need, along with a dose of metabolism-boosting herb yerba mate.
The Taste: While the chocolate was the winner for us (creamy and delicious), this also comes in vanilla and mixed berry flavours so you can mix it up.
Protein Per Serving: 20 grams
Shop: £20 for 490 grams, Strippd-UK.com.
The Blend: A blend of pea and hemp proteins means that you get a full serving of all the essential amino acids your body needs. The company recently dropped stevia as its natural sweetener in favour of thaumatin, a naturally occurring protein found in the katemfe fruit, so that’s even more boost for your buck.
The Taste: While the chocolate is hugely popular, we’re big fans of the berry flavour too, especially when mixed in a shake with almond milk.
Protein Per Serving: 24 grams
Shop: £34 for 1 kilograms, Neat-Nutrition.com.
The Blend: With pea and brown rice proteins at the base, The Super Elixir blend also includes dandelion and pomegranate to offer all nine amino acids as well as B vitamins and fibre to help balance your blood sugar, boost metabolism, aid in tissue repair and leave you feeling full.
The Taste: If you’re not one for overly sweet chocolatey flavours, we’d champion the vanilla, which is just sweet enough without falling into the realm of sickly.
Protein Per Serving: 19.3 grams
Shop: £48 for 500 grams, Net-a-Porter.com.
The Blend: Brown rice and yellow pea combine with cranberry seed, cacao, sacha inchi (a protein- and omega-rich nut that grows in Peru) and ceylon cinnamon, for a complete protein powder that’s rich in adaptogens, antioxidants, flavonoids and magnesium, too. You’ll also enjoy the hormone-balancing and energy boosting effects of maca root.
The Taste: Although the cacao, cinnamon and stevia give this powder a natural-tasting sweetness, it’s really quite subtle, making this a great one if you’re not a fan of anything too overpowering.
Protein Per Serving: 19 grams
Shop: £35 for 454 grams, PlanetOrganic.com
The Blend: One of the OG vegan protein powders, Vega’s formula now combines pea, hemp and pumpkin proteins for a complete amino offering. It’s low in sugars too, making this an easy one to track in your eating plan.
The Taste: Though it’s becoming a bit of a protein-powder cliché, the chocolate flavour wins hands down here on account of it being one of the most chocolatey of them all.
Protein Per Serving: 25 grams
Shop: £27 for 552 grams, HollandandBarrett.com.
The Blend: Stepping things up from the classic SunWarrior rice protein, the Warrior Blend adds pea, hemp, goji berry, cocoa and whole ground coconut to the mix for a complete protein blend that’s enriched with antioxidants and reparative vitamins.
The Taste: If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll love the chocolate flavour (seriously rich), so it comes as no surprise that this is one of the best sellers on Amazon. The powder also comes in vanilla and natural, though, so there are options for all tastes.
Protein Per Serving: 19 grams
Shop: £29 for 1 kilograms, Amazon.co.uk
Next up! 12 must-try vegan makeup brands that’ll transform your kit.