Well-designed, plant-based diets can provide a rich source of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals. While it’s completely possible to reach your desired protein intake without supplementing, athletes of any diet — vegan or omnivorous — can find it useful to reach for a powder instead of preparing a high protein snack.
The truth is that out of the three macronutrients, protein is typically the hardest to prepare and the toughest to find on-the-go, and that goes double for folks whose protein sources lean on soy, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains. Whatever your diet, protein powders are inexpensive and convenient, especially if you’re trying to support an athletic lifestyle.
If you’ve decided to go the protein powder route, we’ve listed the six best vegan options you can find on the market today. Keep reading to find out why we chose them so you can select the option that best suits your individual needs.
Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder – $20.98 from Amazon
Effective, tasty, and at a great price point.
Vega All In One Shake – $39.99 from Amazon
This meal replacement delivers quality protein with a solid macro profile, along with probiotics and much more.
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Plant-Based Protein – $25.04 from Amazon
A very low carb vegan protein that contains a welcome dose of extra vitamins and minerals.
Kos Vegan Protein – $43.88 from Amazon
This meal replacement is nutritious and especially low in allergens, making it useful for a wide variety of consumers.
What to Look for in a Vegan Protein Powder
We’re just talking about protein, here. We aren’t looking at meal replacements, micronutrient supplements, or fat burners, we’re just looking at protein sources. Still, there are pros and cons for these supplements that we did weigh when deciding the best.
Protein per calorie
Compared to whey protein, it’s much more difficult to create a vegan protein powder that’s low in carbs and fat. For this reason we don’t criticize these supplements too much for containing carbs, but it remains true that people buy them as a source of protein. The amount of protein you get per calorie is the main factor, here.
No, these aren’t vitamin supplements. However it’s fair to say that it’s a bit trickier (though far from impossible) to get certain nutrients on a plant-based diet, particularly calcium, iron, and Vitamin B12. If a product is a decent source of these, it gets extra points.
Whether it’s because of lectins, gums, or sweeteners, protein powder can be tough for some people to digest. We draw attention to whether or not a product contains gums or sweeteners and consider it a nice addition if the ingredients list includes digestive enzymes or probiotic bacteria, which may reduce indigestion.
Naturally, this is an important component of selecting your go-to product. Depending on whether or not they’re organic or all-natural, vegan proteins typically cost between 6 and 9 cents per gram of protein.
While it’s unlikely to confer any additional nutritional benefits, many vegan products use only organic ingredients which brings some customers peace of mind as far as farming best practices go.
Should You Avoid Soy in a Vegan Protein Powder?
Debate continues to rage about whether or not soy is a bad idea, with the arguments revolving around the phytoestrogens present in soy. The term refers to isoflavones that may interact with human estrogen receptors, which many interpret to mean that soy messes with your sex hormones.
The truth is that the vast majority of research has found that soy won’t lower your testosterone or increase your estrogen. A meta analysis of fifteen placebo-controlled studies, which included participants eating up to 70 grams of soy protein per day, concluded
neither soy foods nor isoflavone supplements alter measures of bioavailable T concentrations in men. (1)
As for athletes, a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that compared athletes consuming 50 grams of soy or whey per day for twelve weeks found no difference in testosterone levels between the two groups.(2) Note that they were taking soy concentrate, which is far higher in phytoestrogen than your standard tofu or tempeh.
In any case, the fear of soy has resulted in a vegan protein powder industry where very few products contain it anyway, and none of the products we’re reviewing today use soy as a source of protein. As an FYI, though, it doesn’t look like it would matter if they did.