Best Vegan Protein Powders

Last updated September 8th 2016

There are a range of vegan-friendly protein powders available on the market offering a healthy and sufficient alternative to animal-based protein powders.

Given that many of the most popular protein powders on the market are comprised of ingredients derived from animals, it can be difficult for vegans to find a selection of products to choose from. However, there are many different vegan-friendly protein powders available comprised of different plant-based ingredients such as soy protein, pea protein or rice protein.

The best vegan protein powders are those which offer a comprehensive amino acid profile that can rival animal-based powders which tend to possess higher amounts of essential amino acids. Although plant-based protein powders may be somewhat lacking in this department, they still offer many benefits which can make them a great choice for all kinds of people.

What are protein powders?

Protein powders are supplement products which are rich in protein and are purportedly capable of providing a number of benefits to the body. Although the exact kind of protein in each protein powder product can vary, the primary purpose of consuming protein powder is to increase your daily protein consumption.

Many people seek to increase their daily protein consumption for a variety of different reasons. This practice is especially popular with athletes and bodybuilders as it is said to significantly improve the rate of muscle development within the body, something that can help people to put on a significant amount of muscle and improve athletic performance.

In addition to this, increasing your protein intake is something that has also been linked to bringing about healthy weight loss, although the clinical evidence for this is far from conclusive. However, a lot of people up their daily protein intake as some evidence suggests it could help your body to replace stored levels of body fat with lean muscle tissue, something that may not necessarily lead to a reduction in weight but it could help you to achieve a more desirable body shape with a lower body fat percentage.

The two most common types of protein powders are whey protein and casein protein. Whey protein is derived from whey, a by-product of cheese production, and is the most popular form of protein as it is economical to manufacture and is also said to be a fast acting protein which is capable of entering into the bloodstream very quickly. Casein protein is derived from cow milk and is also very popular with athletes and bodybuilders, although this particular form of protein is said to be a slow acting protein that releases itself into the bloodstream over a prolonged period of time, making it especially popular to drink just before sleeping so that your body can receive a constant stream of amino acids during sleep.

However, because these two popular forms of protein powder both contain ingredients from animals, they are not suitable for vegans. But there is still an array of different protein powders available that are suitable for vegans, something that allows vegans to enjoy the convenience and added protein that can be enjoyed from protein powders without having to consume animal products.

Why do people use protein powder?

People use protein powder for a variety of different reasons, whether it is for athletic purposes or simply to improve their diet. Possibly the most popular reason why people consume protein powders regularly is for athletic purposes. Increasing your protein consumption is something that has been linked to an array of health benefits that can be useful from an athletic perspective including encouraging the body to develop muscle mass as well as speeding up muscle recovery times to allow people to exercise more frequently and rigorously.

Some people may also find that their usual diet does not contain a sufficient level of protein in it in order to optimise their level of health, so they can quite easily supplement their daily protein intake with protein powders without having to make any drastic changes to their diet. While most protein powders are not intended to be utilised as a meal replacement product, they can still be a great way to up your daily protein intake if you do not get enough protein from your diet.

It is also important to note the ease and simplicity involved when consuming protein powders, making them ideal for people who are very busy or simply do not possess the culinary skills to be able to include protein within their diet consistently. Protein powders simply need to be mixed with a fluid and then drunk orally, something that can be incredibly quick and easy to do and can help people to save a lot of time instead of having to undertake a lot of food preparation and cooking. They are also very easy to carry and prepare on the go, meaning that you can consume them wherever you are.

What are vegan protein powders?

Vegan protein powders are any protein powders that can be made without animal products. Because whey and casein protein powders are the most popular forms on the market and are both made from animal products, vegan protein powders must be comprised of different ingredients. Vegan protein powders have become increasingly popular in recent years and this is not only because of increasing demand from vegans but also due to the fact that many people believe non animal-based protein to be healthier for the body.

Soy protein

Possibly the most popular vegan alternative to whey and casein is soy protein. This particular form of protein is becoming increasingly popular not only with vegans but with many vegetarians and non-vegetarians who simply believe that it is a healthier alternative to milk-based protein. Soy protein is derived from the soybean plant and is also commonly utilised as a culinary ingredient and can be used to create a number of different consumables including soy milk.

This particular form of protein is also said to be quite low in calories, making it a favourite choice for people who are upping their protein intake in order to attempt to lose weight. While there have been some complaints about soy protein from those who claim that it contains a high amount of phytoestrogens which may have the potential to upset the hormonal balance within the body, it undoubtedly offers a healthy and sustainable protein alternative for vegans.

Soy protein is widely sold as a protein powder and will usually be labelled as soy protein isolate, although you can also find many common foodstuffs and products that are comprised of soy protein which can also be a great way to increase your protein intake. For vegans looking to consume a soy-based protein powder, it is possible to mix the powder with water or soy milk depending on what kind of taste and consistency you find the best.

Pea protein

Pea protein is another vegan-friendly form of protein that is utilised to create protein powders and offers an alternative to soy protein, although both of them are plant based. Pea protein is derived from the common garden pea or yellow pea and allows people to consume protein without having to resort to animal based forms.

Similarly to soy protein, pea protein is also said to be low in calories which makes it useful for people looking to lose weight, while many people favour it over animal-based forms of protein as it is said to be healthier and can be suitable for people with allergies. Some sources have also claimed that pea protein contains particularly high levels of arginine which is an amino acid said to play a key role in the development of muscle, making this particular form of protein potentially very effective for athletes and bodybuilders and some clinical evidence has supported this.

Pea protein is also said to be gluten-free which has made it a popular alternative for people who have cut gluten out of their diet. Although pea protein does not yet enjoy the levels of availability and popularity that soy protein does, it is clear that this particular form of protein possesses a number of health benefits and could soon become one of the most popular plant-based protein powders available on the market.

Is there a difference between vegan and non-vegan protein powders?

While vegans must be able to consume vegan-friendly protein powders, those who are not vegan have a choice whether they want to consume plant-based protein powders or protein powders that are created using animal products. In order to make an informed and to the suitable decision, there are a variety of factors that need to be considered before deciding whether, as a non-vegan, you may actually want to try out a vegan protein powder or simply stick to a milk-based protein powder.

Getting all the amino acids

Getting all of the essential amino acids you need from your protein powder is desirable and will lead to greater results if you are looking to develop muscle or improve your athletic performance. While vegan protein powders do contain many of these essential amino acids, it is widely believed that they do not contain as many of these essential amino acids as milk-based protein powders do, making whey and casein protein powders superior in this respect. Many plant-based proteins are said to be particularly low in certain essential amino acids such as methionine and lycine.

However, while not many vegan protein powders contain the full complement of essential amino acids in such amounts as can be found in animal-based powders, it is still possible to consume all nine essential amino acids so long as you adhere to a balanced diet. While this may somewhat defeat the purpose of protein powders being an easy and convenient option, it does show that it is still possible to get everything you need whilst being vegan.

Allergy and health advice

It has been claimed that vegan protein powders may be more suitable for people with allergies, especially pea protein as it is said to be hypoallergenic. On the contrary, due to the fact that milk-based proteins are derived from animal sources, this may increase the chances of contamination from a variety of different areas which may only increase the risk of people developing some kind of illness or allergy.

While there is very little research available that has been conducted in this area, it is still important to note that many plant-based protein powders can also lead to allergic reactions including the fact that soy is believed to lead to allergic reactions in many cases and rice protein contains gluten.

Nutrient profiles vary

As well as the fact that the amino acid content is different between animal and plant-based protein, the same can also be said of the nutrients that comprise each protein powder. Animal-based protein powders are said to contain much higher levels of a variety of different nutrients such as vitamin D and zinc compared to plant-based proteins. While as a vegan you can simply accommodate for the lower amount of nutrients by making up for it in other areas of your diet, if you are going to be heavily reliant on protein powders then this may become a problem for you.

Striking the right balance in your diet

Whether a plant-based or animal-based protein powder is best for you can be heavily dependent on what your diet is on a day-to-day basis. For example, if you are someone that regularly consumes dairy products as a part of your meals each day, then it could be beneficial to switch to a plant-based protein powder in order to ensure that you do not receive too much dairy each day. However, if you are someone that eats very little dairy products each day, having a milk-based protein powder could in fact do wonders for you.

Having a well-balanced diet is something that is very often underrated and can be far healthier for you than simply loading up on one particular food or supplement that is said to contain health benefits. Adhering to a balanced diet will ensure that your body receives all of the essential nutrients and minerals that you need on a daily basis in order to contribute towards maintaining a high standard of health and allowing you to enjoy higher levels of energy each day.

Conclusion

There are many different vegan protein powders available on the market that offer a healthy and vegan-friendly alternative to many of the milk-based protein powders that are very popular and widely sold. Plant-based protein powders are capable of providing the body with a significant amount of protein to help you to achieve your goals. While there is some evidence available to suggest that milk-based proteins may offer a more complete amino acid and nutrient profile compared to plant-based proteins, vegans who are not able to consume animal-based protein powders can compensate for this by sticking to a balanced diet.

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