There’s good reason why vegan protein powder has become a popular topic in the world of nutrition, athletics, and overall general health. Eating vegan, or plant-based, has been shown to offer a number of benefits for one’s health. From lowering the risk of heart and cardiovascular disease to optimizing athletic recovery and performance, all walks of life stand to gain from eating less animal-based foods and consuming more plants.
The topic vegan protein powders, however, has been a pivotal cornerstone to the plant-based push. This is primarily due to the countless celebrity athletes who have made it known to the public that they’re now eating a vegan diet. The protein powder aspect stems from the recovery component, which is one of the primary reasons why so many are embracing the plant-powered way.
So if you’re like many of the vegan individuals (or vegan curious) who are interested in vegan protein powder products, then this post is for you. In this article, I discuss a few specific considerations that you’ll want to keep in mind when reviewing plant-based protein powder products.
Check the Sources of Plant-based Protein
First and foremost, when reviewing vegan protein powders, be sure to look at the plant sources of protein. These sources will often dictate the quality of the vegan protein powder, in addition to the price of the product.
For instance, some of the best vegan protein powders have sources deriving from hemp, pea, brown rice, and other seeds and legumes of all sorts. Some products have unique blends containing artichoke protein, chia seed protein, pumpkin seed protein, and so on. Hemp is one of the most powerful sources of plant-based protein because it contains one of the most rich amino acid profiles (more about amino acids below.) Conversely, soy protein does not have as rich of an amino acid profile and is much cheaper and lesser quality than other plant-based sources (primarily from an athletic recovery standpoint.)
Lastly, review the vegan protein sources to see if they are labeled as isolates or concentrates. In short, protein concentrates are better than isolates. Most plant-based protein isolates have undergone some degree of processing, which can strip the protein of its nutritional co-factors. That’s not say protein isolates are bad. Rather, protein concentrates are more pure, as they’re in their more natural state.
Know What Makes a Vegan Protein Powder “Complete”
Perhaps one of the most important variables for athletes (i.e. endurance athletes and weight lifters) is ensuring the vegan protein powder is complete. Complete proteins are defined by their amino acid profile. Complete proteins contain nine essential amino acids. These include:
Unfortunately, only some vegan protein powder products will actually list the amino acid profile on the label. The products that do this are often high-performance products that are geared for athletes. Examples include Vega protein powders, PlantFusion protein powders, and MRM protein powders, to name just a few. These are some of my personally-favorite brands as they taste great and offer a complete protein for optimal athletic recovery. Read my Vega Sport Performance protein powder review to see what makes this product one of the best plant-based protein supplements for athletes.
Vegan Protein Powders with BCAAs
Branch chain amino acids (or “BCAAs”) are three specific types of amino acids that are absolutely essential for building lean muscle mass and improving recovery after any form of physical exertion. The amino acids that make-up BCAAs are Isoleucine, Leucine, and Valine. Together, these amino acids optimize muscle repair.
If you’re trying to build muscle or improve performance from sports (as well as mitigate the effects of muscle soreness,) supplementing with vegan protein powders with BCAAs are vital. The latter mentioned brands (Vega, MRM, and Plant-Fusion), all offer plant-based protein powders with BCAAs.
Vegan protein powders with BCAAs are often a bit more expensive than other plant-based products without them. So if you’re not too concerned about athletic performance and building muscle mass, then you don’t have to worry too much about it. You can also supplement with BCAAs in capsule form if don’t have a protein powder with that includes them in the blend.