People seeking alternatives to animal-based foods is a growing trend worldwide. That trend is prevalent in the protein powder market too. With the vast array of protein powders available nowadays, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that many people are perplexed by the different types available. This is certainly a risk when it comes to vegan protein powders. With that in mind, this article asks: what is vegan protein powder?

If you have ever scrolled through a protein supplement website or visited a supplement shop, you’ll probably have noticed what seems to be an ever-growing range of products, particularly in the vegan protein category. Why are there so many variations and what are vegan protein blends? How do they differ from each other and which one is best suited to your needs and dietary requirements?

This article deciphers these queries in a clear and concise manner so that regardless of whether you’re a novice to the world of protein supplements or not, you’ll have a simple guide to assist you in choosing the best products in your supplement shopping spree.

What is vegan protein powder? - Plant based spelled out

What does vegan mean?

Before we delve into vegan protein powders, let’s take a moment to look at what the word vegan really means. We all probably think we know, but then again, it can get confusing when you think of all the diet variations available.

Veganism can be defined as a way of life that endeavours to eliminate all means of animal cruelty and exploitation. In terms of the vegan diet, this consists of omitting all animal products, such as dairy, meat, eggs, seafood and animal-based ingredients. An example of foods that vegans tend to eat include:

  • Fruit: Apples, bananas, pears
  • Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, soybeans
  • Nuts: Almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts
  • Seeds: Chia seeds, hemp, flaxseeds
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potato
  • Wholegrains: Quinoa, rice, spelt

In response to the question, what is vegan protein powder? It is essentially a protein powder that is derived from vegan/plant sources (such as legumes, nuts and seeds) and contains no traces of animal products (such as beef, milk or eggs) in the ingredients. Vegan protein powders could also be named plant-based protein powders.

What is vegan protein powder? - Vegan protein wrap with tomatoes, avocado and corn

Types of vegan protein powders

Rice protein powder

As you may have guessed, this product is generated from rice. It is a suitable option for those intolerant to dairy, gluten, soy and yeast. It’s also considered an easily-digested product, which is an added-bonus for those who experience digestive issues.

Rice protein powder has an excellent quantity of 8 essential amino acids, but is slightly too low in lysine to be quantified as a complete protein source. Fortunately, combine this with grains, legumes or other protein powders, such as pea protein, and you’ll achieve a complete source of protein.

The protein content of rice protein powder is excellent for a plant-based product and is comparable with pea protein powder. Furthermore, it’s relatively low in calories, fat and contains no sugar whatsoever. As it is derived from a carbohydrate source, there is a slightly higher level of carbohydrates present when compared with soy and pea protein powder, however, it’s not significantly higher either.

A 30g scoop of rice protein powder will provide you with:

  • Calories: 116
  • Protein: 24g
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Saturated fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 4.5g
  • Sugar: 0g

Some studies have suggested that rice protein powder may be as effective at supporting muscle building as whey protein powder. The price is also comparable with whey protein powder.

What is vegan protein powder? - Rice in glass bowls

Hemp protein powder
Hemp protein powder is derived from the cannabis plant, but the euphoric compound, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is removed, so you need not worry about experiencing any high effects.

The nutritional value of hemp protein powder is not as impressive as the likes of soy or pea protein powder. You’ll see from the below nutritional breakdown that it contains about 45% less protein, higher quantities of fat, carbohydrates, sugar and calories. Despite this, it does contain commendable levels of fibre, iron, magnesium and zinc. It is also suitable for people avoiding corn, gluten, soy and yeast.

A 30g serving of pea protein isolate will provide you with:

  • Calories: 120
  • Protein: 15g
  • Fat: 4.5g
  • Saturated fat: 0.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 6g
  • Sugar: 1g

What is vegan protein powder? - Scoop of hemp protein powder

Pea protein powder

This is probably one of the most popular vegan protein powders available. It is comprised from the yellow split pea, which are a type of pea with the highest protein content. It is a favourite amongst vegans who seek a protein source free of gluten, soy and yeast. It is almost a complete source of protein, however, it is too low in methionine to achieve that classification.

The protein content of this protein powder is fairly impressive, although it slightly lags behind soy protein powder. The nutritional value is also commendable, with absolutely no sugar or saturated fat and a very low carbohydrate, fat and calorie content. This makes it ideal for those on a weigh loss programme or those following a ketogenic or low-sugar diet.

A 30g serving of pea protein isolate will provide you with:

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 24g
  • Fat: 1g
  • Saturated fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Sugar: 0g

A study has found that the degree of muscle protein synthesis was similar in individuals who consumed pea protein compared with people who consumed whey protein powder. Other studies have suggested that pea protein powder consumption may lower blood pressure and promote feelings of fullness.

What is vegan protein powder? - Yellow split pea

Soy protein powder

Soy protein powder is derived from soybeans. This product is one of the only vegan protein powders that features a complete source of protein, i.e. it includes all 9 essential amino acids. Despite containing all 9 essential amino acids, some people shun soy protein powder as it contains phytoestrogens, which are suspected to increase oestrogen and suppress testosterone in the body.

In terms of nutritional value, soy protein is a strong performer for protein content, compared to other vegan protein powders. It contains 90% protein, which is comparable with high-quality animal-based protein powders. There are a couple of hidden gems when it comes to high-quality soy protein powders.

For instance, this Soy Protein Isolate would put a superior whey protein powder to the test. For a 30g scoop serving of soy protein isolate, you’ll obtain:

  • Calories: 117
  • Protein: 27g
  • Fat: 1g
  • Saturated fat: <1g
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Sugar: 0g

Vegan protein blends

Many vegan protein powders available on the market are comprised of a combination of protein powders. One of the primary benefits of blending ingredients is that it achieves a complete source of protein, i.e. it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Additionally, protein blends tend to enhance the nutritional value of the product, with an increase in minerals and vitamins usually occurring.

Protein blends are generally comprised of 2 or more protein powders mixed together. For instance, one manufacturer has developed a protein blend combining pea protein, rice protein, flaxseed protein, quinoa protein and pumpkin protein powder together in an effort to enhance the minerals, nutrients and protein content. Additionally, this combination of ingredients improves the flavour and texture of the protein blend.

If you’re purchasing a vegan protein blend and you have a sensitive stomach or suffer from intolerances to certain ingredients, then particular caution should be observed to ensure that there are no ingredients present that could cause you irritation or worse still, an allergic reaction.

A 30g serving of vegan protein blend will provide you with:

  • Calories: 111
  • Protein: 20g
  • Fat: 1.8g
  • Saturated fat: 0.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Sugar: 0.4g

Did you know? If you’re looking for a complete source of vegan protein powder, simply mix brown rice protein powder with pea protein powder. Brown rice protein contains methionine, which is the only essential amino acid that pea protein powder is low in.

What is vegan protein powder? - Vegan protein blend packet

What vegan protein powder suits you?

When choosing a vegan protein powder, or indeed any protein powder, there are some factors that you should consider before investing. Below is a list of questions which should guide you towards the most suitable protein powder for you.

  • Do I need a protein powder that is a complete source of protein?
  • Do I have any intolerances to ingredients, such as gluten, nuts, seeds or soy?
  • Do I need to opt for a vegan protein powder that has hypoallergenic properties?
  • How much will cost play a factor in the choice of protein powder?
  • How will I be consuming the protein powder, e.g. in a shake, mixed in with food?
  • Is the protein content of the protein powder an important factor in the product I choose?
  • Is the nutritional value important, e.g. calories, fat and sugar content?
  • What flavours do I enjoy and what flavours do I dislike?
  • Would I be better off choosing an unflavoured protein powder?

What is vegan protein powder? - Checklist on page with yes and no boxes

Summary

  • Vegan protein powders are derived from plant-based products
  • Soy protein powder is the only one classified as a complete source of protein
  • Most vegan blends would be classified as a complete source of protein
  • Protein powders should be chosen based on factors including dietary requirements, budget and personal preferences
  • Not all plant-based protein powders are comparable in terms of protein content
  • Soy, pea and rice protein powders are some of the protein powders with the highest protein content

What is vegan protein powder? Drink in glass

The list of protein powders above is only a sample of some of the best vegan protein powders available. There is an extensive range of other plant-based protein powders available to choose from too. Remember that they all ultimately perform a similar function; for the majority of people, that purpose is to assist you in increasing your protein intake, a task that can be difficult when following a vegan diet. Fortunately, you’ve many different protein powder to choose from to help you reach your target.

Now that you’re knowledged in the different types of vegan protein powders available, why not put them to use by cooking with them? Did you know that plant-based protein powders are often superior to animal-based protein powders for cooking as they don’t dry out the food as much? Put your culinary skills to the test here with the best ways to use protein powder – 16 ideas.

Do you use vegan protein powders? What type do you go for? Do you struggle to reach your protein targets? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below.

Sources

Bulk.com. 2020. Vegan Protein Powder. [online] Available at: https://www.bulk.com/ie/vegan-protein-powder.html [Accessed 23 August 2020].

McCulloch, M., 2018. The 9 Best Vegan Protein Powders. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-vegan-protein-powder [Accessed 23 August 2020].

Smith, D., 2015. The Ultimate Guide To Protein Supplements. [online] Greatist. Available at: https://greatist.com/fitness/protein-supplement-nutrition-guide#8 [Accessed 23 August 2020].

Ultimate Performance. 2017. The Different Types Of Protein Powder Explained. [online] Available at: https://upfitness.com/diet/nutrition/different-types-protein-powder-explained/ [Accessed 23 August 2020].

Categories: Blogs

4 Comments

Christine · 26/08/2020 at 12:34 AM

Hi,

Lately I have been reading a lot on different protein powders. This article gives a great explanation. I don’t usually take protein powders, but I have thought about getting it to make some nice shakes in the morning. Luckily there is a lot of plant-based and healthy protein available, so I never found it necessary to buy protein powder. It does, however, make things a little easier, especially in the mornings when you’re in a hurry. Pea protein is indeed excellent. Thanks for the tip of mixing rice protein with pea protein, I’ll remember that one 🙂

    Sharon · 26/08/2020 at 8:01 PM

    Hi Christine,

    Good to hear, I’m glad you found it valuable and enjoyed it! That’s a great way to increase your protein content in a smoothie. I’m currently doing that to cover up protein powder that I don’t enjoy the taste of. No problem, glad to be of assistance.

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Best wishes,
    Sharon

Kerryanne · 26/08/2020 at 2:39 PM

I do love to cook, I love to eat, as well 🙁 and I love “real” food. I always thought natural food is the best source of everything our body needs, so protein powder is not for me. I do understand, though, the need for a derived protein, for a myriad reasons, or simply out of personal preference.
We are not vegan, but do have occasionally a vegan guest for a couple of days. Now I learnt a lot from your article again and I think I can incorporate some soya protein into the next vegan breakfast, for example, I’ll prepare for our guest.
Thanks for sharing the knowledge.

    Sharon · 26/08/2020 at 8:04 PM

    Hi Kerryanne,

    Real food is always the preference, but sometimes it can be difficult as a vegan to obtain the necessary protein without using a protein powder.

    It can be tricky catering for vegans if you’re not one yourself and don’t know exactly what they like. Soya would be a good option, hopefully they don’t have any allergies to it!

    Thanks for visiting and providing your feedback on my page!

    Best wishes,
    Sharon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *