Protein powder is a staple in many active lifestyles. However, being vegan presents a hurdle. Since most protein powders on the market feature dairy, finding good options can be difficult. Of course, the best vegan protein powder isn't just dairy-free. In order for a protein powder to be truly beneficial, it has to feature a range of amino acids. Here's a full breakdown to guide you in making the right decision.
What Makes a Protein Powder Great?
A great vegan protein powder doesn't just feature a plant-based source of protein. The final product has to feature a balanced array of nutrients in order to fuel your body and lifestyle.
The primary thing to look for when shopping for protein powder is value. That means you need to locate a powder that gives your body the right amount of calories and protein for the price. This is important because if the powder isn't giving you what you need, it's a waste of money.
It's also important to think about the long-term cost. Look at the number of servings per container and then do the math to see how long that will last you. The cost needs to fit within your budget, or you'll end up using the powder too sparingly in an attempt to save money.
The third factor after nutrition and cost is also very important: taste. You already know that you aren't going to gleefully drink a protein shake every day if it tastes bad. Taste is an important factor in sticking to your routine. If you don't like the flavor of protein powder, you'll go back to using it too little, which won't benefit you at all.
How Vegan Protein Powders Are Different
Whey protein is by far the most popular protein source out there. You're bound to come across it when searching for a protein powder. Whey protein is readily available and offers every essential amino acid your body needs. However, whey protein obviously isn't vegan-friendly.
Other popular sources of protein for powders include milk proteins and egg protein. These sources have their benefits, but so do plant-based sources.
Soy protein is one common vegan alternative. This protein powder also has many extra benefits. Two of those are the ability to reduce the symptoms of menopause in some women and reduce high cholesterol. Plus, it can help rebuild bone mass, aiding those who suffer from osteoporosis.
Rice protein is another vegan protein source to consider. It's 100% plant-based and it's great for vegans and vegetarians. Plus, it's gluten-free.
Another vegan option is pea protein, which is hypo-allergenic, readily available, and highly digestible. Finally, hemp protein is also worth considering. It, too, is 100% plant-based. And, it's a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.
8 Vegan Protein Powders Compared
If you're starting to get confused, this breakdown will help you understand which types of protein are suitable for vegans.
1. Pea Protein Powder
You might picture green sweet peas when you think of pea protein powder. However, pea protein powder is actually derived from yellow split peas, which have more protein.
If you consume 1/4 cup of unflavored pea protein powder, you'll be getting roughly 100 calories and 21 grams of protein. Keep in mind that pea protein powder is low in methionine (an essential amino acid). However, it's rich in leucine, isoleucine, and valine (essential branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs).
2. Hemp Protein
Hemp is often associated with marijuana, but they're actually two very different plant varieties. For starters, hemp does not contain THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. However, hemp is a great source of protein.
In one 1/4 cup serving, you'll find 108 calories and 12 grams of protein. And you'll also be getting alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), iron, zinc, magnesium, and a good dose of fiber. Hemp is also a plant-based source of omega-3 fat.
Hemp is low in lysine, an essential amino acid. However, you can fill the gap by supplementing your diet with quinoa or legumes.
3. Sunflower Seed Protein
Isolated from the seeds of the sunflower plant, this is a new source of vegan protein, but one that's quickly taking off. Sunflower seed protein is also low in lysine, but it's a great source for all the other essential amino acids your body needs.
In a 1/4 cup serving, you'll get 91 calories and 13 grams of protein. Sunflower seed protein also features BCAAs to help your body build muscle.
4. Pumpkin Seed Protein
When consumed whole, pumpkin seeds are high in protein, but they're also high in healthy fat. If you're looking to cut down on the latter to control calories, you're in luck. Processing these seeds into powder removes most of the fat and, therefore, a lot of the calories.
A 1/4 cup serving contains 103 calories and roughly 18 grams of protein. However, this protein source is low in threonine and lysine (two essential amino acids). It does offer minerals like zinc, magnesium, and iron.
5. Brown Rice Protein
Affordable and readily available, brown rice protein powder is popular. In a 1/4 cup serving, you'll find 107 calories and about 22 grams of protein. It lacks lysine but you'll get plenty of BCAAs to help your body build muscle.
6. Soy Protein
One of the primary reasons that soy protein is so popular is because it's a complete protein. It's hard to find a plant protein that is complete, so soy is very coveted. Plus, it's high in BCAAs.
A 1/4 cup serving contains 95 calories and about 22 grams of protein. The plant compounds found in soy protein can lower cholesterol levels, too.
7. Chia Seed Protein
The chia plant produces seeds that turn into a gelatinous consistency when soaked. This has made them popular for smoothies and even baked goods, but they also make great protein powder.
In a 1/4 cup serving of this protein powder, you'll find 50 calories and 10 grams of protein. Again, this protein source is low in lysine. However, the same serving size will deliver 8 grams of fiber to your body along with biotin and chromium.
8. Sacha Inchi Protein
The sacha inchi seed grows in Peru. While that makes it hard to find, the protein powder produced from it is great. A 1/4 cup serving of it will contain about 120 calories and 17 grams of protein.
While it lacks lysine like many plant-based protein powders, it's a great source of arginine (another essential amino acid). Arginine triggers the body to make nitric oxide, which improves blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
The Best Vegan Protein Powder
So, how do you go about choosing the best vegan protein powder? As you'll find from reading the above list, a lot of plant-based protein sources have some of what your body needs, but it's hard to find just one with everything.
For this precise reason, the best vegan protein powder doesn't rely on just one source of plant protein. Instead, it blends multiple sources together to create a more than complete protein source that gives your body everything it needs.
The 1Up Vegan Protein Powder blends together organic pea protein isolate, organic sunflower seed protein, and organic pumpkin seed protein with other organic ingredients to create a balanced source of plant protein. With organic stevia used to sweeten it and organic natural cocoa to flavor it, you'll find this protein powder to be a truly delicious product.
Every ingredient in this protein powder is USDA organic, eco-certified, and vegan certified. The protein blend is also non-GMO, gluten-free, and soy-free, and contains no synthetic or artificial ingredients. You also don't have to worry about added sugar.
In order to earn all of these designations, this protein powder has gone through multiple certification processes. Learn more about what makes it a great vegan protein powder here.
Finding the best vegan protein powder is no easy feat. It takes research and a lot of due diligence. Fortunately, 1Up has done the work for you. By blending multiple plant protein sources together, you can be confident that you get a balanced and complete protein source without the hassle of mixing powders and products yourself.