Ah the wonderful world of vegan protein powder.
It is a world I’ve come to know relatively well since I started my health and fitness journey over 6 years ago now (anyone else starting to feel old?). While I definitely haven’t tried all of the brands out there as there are always a bounty of new ones entering the market, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I have sampled every kind of vegan protein out there. Whether it’s soy, brown rice, hemp or pea protein – you name it, I’ve probably had it.
I often get asked for vegan protein powder recommendations, so I’ve put together a run-down of my personal favourites and what I tend to use them for. Before we get into the list however, I feel the need to add a disclaimer: I do not believe that a balanced vegan diet needs to be supplemented with protein powder. It’s for that reason that even though I do consume it quite regularly I have never included it on a list of foods I get my protein from when asked by vegan-curious friends or acquaintances.
The reason I like to have it is because I lead an active lifestyle and enjoy regular exercise that incorporates lifting weights several times a week. From personal experience, I’ve found that the extra boost of protein helps me build lean muscle faster, aids with muscle recovery and has a significant impact on satiety (particularly when my appetite is on fire after a heavy workout day). Furthermore, it’s important to clarify that I only ever use protein powders when I’m actively working out. I don’t like using them as a meal replacement and lord knows my tubs have been through many a dry spell when they went untouched for months at a time.
So with that in mind, I give you my top vegan protein powder picks!
1. Sunwarrior Classic Protein in Vanilla
This is what I like to call the OG vegan protein powder (that’s original gangster, in case you were not in the know), and by that I mean it’s my tried and tested brand and flavour that I come back to time and time again. It’s also by far the one I’ve used the most consistently, although number two on this list is creeping up behind it quite quickly.
Made completely from raw whole-grain brown rice, this protein is also sprouted & fermented (hello easy digestion and probiotics) and contains a complete Amino Acid profile. It is of course vegan, but also soy-free, gluten-free and non-GMO. Sunwarrior describes it as “simple, wholesome and natural” and I couldn’t agree more. In terms of taste, it is definitely the most natural tasting, the vanilla flavour isn’t too overbearing, and while sweetened with stevia I never find it to be sickly sweet when blending it in with smoothies.
As for the stats, it weighs in with a decent nutritional punch with 15 grams of protein per every 21 gram serving.
While traditionally I’ve used Sunwarrior mainly in post-workout smoothies and shakes I have been known to incorporate it into protein balls, muffins and pancakes. My favourite way to have it as of late however, is as a “protein pudding” mixed in with non-dairy yoghurt or milk and topped with fresh fruit, almond butter and cacao nibs.
Overall I’d recommend this protein if you’re a newbie to protein powders and want to ease in with something uncomplicated and pleasant tasting. It mixes in well with smoothies, although I find with all protein powders that a blender is always superior to just a shaker bottle and water.
2. Vega Sport Vanilla
So let’s put it this way, if Sunwarrior is the classic “old kid on the block” then Vega Sport is it’s flashy, younger, and hipper next-door neighbour that comes with all the bells and whistles. Confused? Let me explain.
First of all, it’s worth mentioning that Vega was created by vegan ultramarathoner and elite endurance athlete Brendan Brazier. Brendan is one of my fitness idols and his book Thrive Fitness was my bible back when I discovered running and started training for my first half marathon.
Honestly, as far as any sport-enhancing protein goes, it really does not get better than Vega. Comprised of a combination of pea, alfalfa, pumpkin seed and organic sunflower seed proteins, this blend is grain and gluten-free and contains all essential amino acids. It also contains probiotics to aid in digestion as well as powerful antioxidants like tart cherry and turmeric extract to reduce inflammation and aid in recovery. Each serving contains an impressive 30 grams of protein as well 6 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) and all of Vega’s proteins are non-GMO, with no artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners added.
While the flavouring may be a little bit strong for some (think really intense vanilla ice cream) this protein is by far my number one choice for a post-workout smoothie (a recipe for which you can expect very soon). Blended in with fruits and non-dairy milk, this stuff keeps me satiated and full all morning after the gym and I definitely notice an improvement in performance, soreness, and muscle definition when I use it consistently. I’d highly recommend this if you’re a more “experienced” protein powder user or if you’re looking for a supplement specifically for weights or endurance training. It’s worth noting that it comes in 4 different flavours – mocha, chocolate, vanilla and berry, if vanilla isn’t your thing.
3. Clean Lean Protein
Next up on my list is a protein I picked up at Whole Foods the last time I was in London – the Clean Lean Protein from Nuzest. Similar to the Sunwarrior, this blend is made from a single source of plant-based protein, premium European golden pea protein. According to their website, their blend is allergen-free, easy to digest and absorb, and contains all nine essential amino acids for optimum repair and recovery.
Luckily I managed to grab a multi-pack to try out their four different flavours; smooth vanilla, rich chocolate, creamy cappuccino, and wild strawberry, and I have to say – I was super impressed with every single one. Not only did they blend extremely well without any chalkiness in just a shaker bottle, but the flavours were perfectly mild, not to0 sweet or overbearing. If I had to pick a favourite, I’d go with the strawberry, but they were all equally good.
On to the stats – each serving contains around 21 grams of protein and the blend is of course vegan, soy, gluten, and GMO-free.
Since I bought the multi-pack, I generally save the sachets to take with me when I travel but I would definitely consider repurchasing to have on hand for convenience and variety of flavours.
As for where to purchase – you can get Sunwarrior and Vega on iHerb.com (the code PAJ598 gets you 10% off your first order). I haven’t been able to track down Nuzest’s protein in Bahrain but there are a couple of sites and shops that sell it in the UAE.
Until next time, friends.