Whether you wish to build muscle mass, supplement your regular diet, pack in nutrients as you train for a sporting event, compensate for skipping meals or are even trying to lose weight, there are many reasons to take protein powder.
Why Choose a Vegan Protein Powder?
There are just as many reasons why people choose a plant-based protein powder over an animal-based supplement.
For some it is due to allergies like lactose intolerance which can be triggered by milk-based supplements. Or they may have issues with fish and/or seafood which can be set off by marine collagen protein powder.
Others wish to take a vegan protein powder for purely ethical motivations. Maybe they follow a vegan diet and principles in all aspects of their life, or perhaps they simply want to consume more sustainable products.
Whatever the reason, there is a wide choice of vegan protein powder here in Australia, so let’s take a look at some of the big hitters.
And if you’d like to know more about animal-based protein supplements, such as whey, casein, egg and most collagen protein powders, see here.
Types of Plant-Based Protein Powder
- Soy Protein
- Rice Protein
- Pea Protein
- Hemp Protein
- Collagen Protein
- Spirulina Protein
- Vegan Protein Powder Blends
The humble soy bean is a complete protein and holds all the essential amino acids that your supposedly superior body cannot make.
To produce soy protein isolate, soybeans have their fat, sugars and fibre content removed and are then dehydrated and powdered.
Soy protein powder is a great source of protein and has obvious appeal for vegans and vegetarians. It is gluten-free and there are brands on the market which are also keto-friendly.
If you’d like to try taking your protein in a delicious smoothie, see our recipe.
Studies have shown that soy protein powder falls between whey protein and casein protein for muscle development. However, soy protein isolate powder also contains phytates and these can prohibit the absorption of some minerals.
And if you like your protein supplement to be ‘natural’, check the back of your soy protein powder carefully as a lot of brands use GMO (genetically modified) soybeans.
For price and information on a recommended soy protein powder, see here.
Many people hear the word rice and immediately think carbs. Well not necessarily.
To make rice protein powder, rice is ground and treated with an enzyme which separates the protein content from the carbohydrate. Brown rice is generally used as it has a higher protein ratio than white.
Rice protein is allergen-free as well as being a gluten-free protein powder. Surprisingly, it is usually low in carbs, even though it’s made from rice, which also makes it a good choice for those pursuing a keto diet. It’s also easy to digest and sits between whey and casein protein powders in terms of how quickly our bodies absorb it. The final big plus is that it is sustainable.
Are you tired of the same old breakfast? Try our nourishing, protein-boosted overnight oats recipe.
Sadly, brown rice protein isn’t a complete protein as it has low levels lysine. However, that’s it only nutritional failing and you can make up for missing sufficient quantities of this amino acid by adding other plant-based (or animal, if you have no dietary or ethical objections) protein supplements like pea protein.
If you are interested in reading some academic findings on the effects of whey or rice protein powder on body composition and exercise performance, see here.
For price and information on pure organic brown rice protein powder, see here.
As we’ve explained above, rice protein is often mixed with pea protein to make a complete protein. If you are interested in a protein powder like this, see here.
This medium-fast absorbing protein supplement is produced by drying peas (think pea and ham soup peas!), grinding them and then removing the dietary fibre and starches.
Pea protein powder is another keto-friendly, low carb, vegan supplement and is naturally gluten-free. It is also easily digestible and sustainable – a consideration that is increasingly important for many of us. However, a lot of people aren’t fans of the taste. Our tip is to shop around and try a few brands to compare. And we feel that the unflavoured brands are usually more palatable.
Like rice protein powder, pea protein powder isn’t considered a complete protein as it only has low amounts of the methionine+cysteine amino acid. This means that you need to get that essential nutrient from another source – such as rice protein powder. In fact, there are quite few blended vegan protein powders whose main ingredients are a mixture of pea and rice protein.
It’s also worth noting that pea protein is rich in iron, so it’s not all bad.
For price and information on a best-selling pea protein powder, see here.
Hemp is a bit of a wonder crop. From clothing, to printer’s ink, to detergents – it seems that hemp can be turned into almost anything. So it comes as little surprise to discover that it’s also a great source of vegan protein.
Made from ground, pressed hemp seeds, hemp protein powder is a perfect blend of fibre, minerals, healthy fats, although whether or not is contains the required levels of the 9 essential amino acids necessary to make it a complete plant-based protein is still being debated. Generally though, it is considered a complete protein. If you’d like to read more on this, see here.
I mentioned healthy fats and interestingly hemp seeds contain both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in beneficial ratios. This can be a bonus for people looking to improve their heart health, though it might not be the solution if you want a lower-calorie protein powder.
It’s also keto-friendly, being low carb, as well as being gluten-free.
Hemp protein powder also punches well above its weight when it comes to antioxidants and is a great source of many minerals, including iron, calcium and magnesium. It’s a very rounded nutritional supplement.
In general, a cup of hemp protein powder contains less protein than the equivalent measure of either soy or pea protein. This is largely because the latter 2 are more processed, so if you want a more natural product, hemp could well be ideal.
It’s worth mentioning that hemp protein powder can be a little bit gritty, depending on the brand – because it isn’t as processed as some other protein supplements on the market. Also, some people can’t get on with the earthy, nutty taste – whilst others love it. As ever, it’s a good idea to sample a few different makes before you sign up for a 5kg bag.
For price and information on a hemp protein powder with strong reviews, see here.
As we said above, many people find the flavour of hemp too powerful to get along with. As a result, many of the best-selling hemp protein comes combined with other, more palatable plants.
For price and information on a highly-rated hemp and pea protein blend protein powder, see here.
We have an awful lot of collagen protein in our bodies. Our muscles, bones and cartilage are full of it, along with our skin, blood and tendons. Age takes it toll on our natural collagen production and so the beauty and health industries are currently scrambling to sell consumers collagen powders, pills and creams on the promise of staving off the ravages of time.
At present, the biggest proportion of the collagen peptide market is produced from animals – usually in the form of bovine collagen powder or marine collagen powder. If you would like to know more about animal-based collagen peptides, see here.
Thankfully, there are also plant-based alternatives* for those looking for more sustainable or vegan protein powder. Many plant-based collagen protein powders are composed of a carefully balanced cocktail of rice and pea protein, spirulina, tremella mushrooms, hyaluronic acid and silica, to name just a few ingredients.
*It’s worth noting that though a search for vegan plant-based collagen will throw up plenty of products, whether or not these supplements truly qualify as collagen powder is another matter. Closer reading shows that many are collagen ‘boosters’ or ‘support’. This means that they claim to provide the nutrients necessary for your body to produce collagen, rather than being a form of collagen themselves that you can ingest.
There is also vegan collagen produced in high-tech labs by genetically modifying yeast and bacteria. Some people avoid GM products on principle, but again, if you are seeking a sustainable product, collagen peptides that can be made with a quick tweak of an abundant raw material will appeal to many.
Like many other plant-based protein powders, collagen peptides are suitable for fans of keto and paleo diets as well as being gluten-free. Collagen protein is another complete protein, so you don’t need to supplement it to get all of those essential amino acids that our bodies need.
For price and information on a plant-based collagen powder with strong positive feedback, see here.
To date, spirulina powder is still taken less as a pure protein powder and more of a nutritional supplement or additive to other sports nutrition blends, but it still has a place on this list.
It is increasingly a go-to post-workout snack and a spoonful of spirulina can easily be added to a protein smoothie or mixed into a protein ball for an added boost.
If you’d like to know a bit more about protein shakers, see here.
Research shows that this single-celled blue-green algae (a cyanobacteria) is a nutrient powerhouse. It contains the essential fatty acids omega-6 and omega-3, the Vitamins B1, B2 and B3, minerals including iron and copper. Importantly, it also provides high quality protein (similar to that found in eggs) as well as having all 9 essential amino acids, so making it a complete protein.
It’s also gluten-free and good for keto diet devotees.
There is a strong argument for spirulina being the king of the superfoods with research from NASA estimating that 1 kilo of spirulina has the same nutritional clout as 1,000 kilos of fruit and vegetables.
To produce spirulina powder, the algae is strained, washed and dried. Flavour-wise, this feisty little nutrient-dense wonder food tastes pretty much as you would expect – like the sea. Some people find this off-putting, but try mixing it with tropical fruits and see how you find it.
For price and information on a popular spirulina powder, see here.
Spirulina powder is often marketed as part of a ‘super greens’ or ‘raw greens superfood’ powder, where it is matched with other nutrient-rich plants like wheat grass, chlorella and acai.
For price and information on a well-reviewed, spirulina-rich, super greens powder, see here.
Vegan Protein Powder Blends
If you look specifically for ‘vegan protein powder’ you will find that many of the most popular brands are made up of a mixture of different plant proteins, plus various other plant extract to boost the supplement’s mineral and vitamin content.
As mentioned above, not all plant proteins are complete proteins, so a bit of mix and matching from can enhance the nutritional value of a powder. A common example is the combining of pea protein and brown rice protein to produce a vegan-friendly complete protein.
For price and information on one of the biggest selling plant-based protein powders in Australia, see here.
And if you are taking a protein powder, but are getting fed up of taking the same old protein shake repeatedly, why not take a look at our Best Bliss Balls Recipe for some ideas on how to make your protein intake more appealing.