Even if you don’t follow a strict vegan or vegetarian diet, plant-based protein powders are more popular now than ever before. The reason is because plant-based shakes are proven to provide quite a few benefits over their rival, milk-based protein powders. Though whey does have a record of stellar successes in its own right, it’s undeniable that plant proteins are catching up – and getting their featured time in the spotlight.
In this article we’ll explore the reasons why many people are adding more plant-based protein (and vegan shakes) into their diets. We’ll also list some of the best vegan protein shake brands available right now, giving you the full scoop so you’re armed and ready to shop…
Why Vegan Protein Powders?
Easy on the Stomach
For many people, whey protein is simply difficult to digest. This can result in uncomfortable symptoms like fatigue, bloating and gas. If you experience any of these effects after consuming whey, you’re probably lactose intolerant. Note that 65 percent of the human population suffers with this condition!
In contrast, plant-based proteins used in many vegan shakes (like hemp, pea, brown rice and chia), aren’t allergens. Therefore, they’re easy to absorb and digest, usually without the problems whey can cause.
Overflowing with Health Benefits
Many people use protein powders to help with weight loss or enhance muscle building. And when you chose a plant-based option, it comes with additional health benefits. This is mostly because plants naturally offer a ton of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and more.
Many plant proteins are jam-packed with fiber that assists with proper digestion and satiety. One study showed that brown rice contains unique peptides that can help you maintain a healthy weight and cholesterol levels. Many plant-proteins also contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids (like hemp), that can help reduce total body inflammation.
Ideal Workout Sidekick
Recent research shows that certain plant-based proteins are just as effective as whey protein for building muscle. In a study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, brown rice protein proved itself as a mighty contender. In the study, athletes were given either rice or whey protein after a training session for six weeks. When it was over, the athlete who was given the rice protein had built and maintained an equal amount of muscle mass as the other athlete.
One thing to keep in mind with any type of plant protein is to make sure you get a complete protein source, which we’ll discuss next. If the plant protein is not a complete source (with high levels of all 9 essential amino acids), you’ll need to consume another plant protein either within your shake, or at another meal within 24 hours. (1)
Getting The Right Mix Of Vegan Proteins
As we just mentioned, when looking for the best vegan protein shakes, you also want to make sure they have an ideal mix of plant-based proteins. Whereas animal protein sources like chicken, fish and eggs contain good levels of all nine essential amino acids, many plant proteins do not. It’s very important that you get these essential amino acids from food because your body does not produce them.
To get around the issue with plant-based shakes, you can combine unique plant proteins that complement each other to get a complete protein. Quinoa, hemp and soy are all examples of complete plant-based proteins. However, we don’t recommend soy for a number of reasons (which we’ll go into shortly).
One of the most popular combos of plant proteins in order to make a complete protein is pea and brown rice. This combo is a truly effective match because each protein makes up for the amino acids that the other one is lacking. In fact, some sources say this combo may be even more effective than any single plant protein. (2)
How We Rate the Best Vegan Plant-Based Protein Powders
Our list of the 5 best vegan protein powders comes down to the ingredients on the label. We chose the vegan shakes that we did for their overall taste, proteins used, balanced macronutrients, sugar amount and whether or not they contain artificial sweeteners/ingredients.
A Note About Soy…
Though soy is a complete protein and considered a health food in many parts of the world, the soy grown in the US is a different story – because 90% of it is genetically modified. This GMO soy is genetically altered so that it can stay alive after being dosed with toxic herbicide, glyphosate. But residues of the herbicide stay in the plant, which is obviously not good for your health if you consume it.
Soy also contains estrogenic properties called isoflavones. These properties have caused a lot of confusion over whether or not soy is good or bad for our health. Since isoflavones mimic estrogen in the body, this means higher overall estrogen levels. There is controversy over whether or not this impacts hormone or thyroid function and leads to or protects against disease. (3)
Best Vegan Protein List
310 Shakes stand-out for their clean ingredient profile that includes no sugar, dairy, soy, gluten or artificial sweeteners/ingredients. At only 90 calories per serving, each shake contains 15g of plant-based protein from pea, brown rice and hemp. This provides a perfect balance for enhanced digestibility, muscle-building, and fat-burning. In addition, the shakes have 20 vitamins and minerals, superfood greens and probiotics in each serving. They come in a variety of flavors, both standard and seasonal, including fun options like Salted Caramel and Mint Chocolate.
Stand out feature:Reviewers say these plant based protein powders taste like healthy desserts, with creamy, enjoyable textures.
Cost:$68.00 for 28-serving bag ($2.43 per serving)
Vega All-in-One Shake has many impressive qualities, including 20g of plant-based proteins (pea, hemp and sacha inchi). It also has 6g of fiber, 50% daily value of vitamins and minerals, superfood greens and probiotics. Though many reviewers liked the taste, others said the Vanilla has a slight “greens taste”. Despite this, the nutritional profile is stellar.
Stand out feature: Contains 1.5 grams omega-3 ALA from flax and hemp seed ingredients.
Cost: $44.99 for 20 servings ($2.24 per serving)
The Orgain Organic Meal Powder is a great meal replacement shake option if you’re looking for something with clean ingredients that’s all-organic. Although it only comes in two flavors (Creamy Chocolate Fudge and Vanilla), reviewers seem to really enjoy the taste. The protein in this shake comes from a blend of pea, brown rice and chia – providing a great balance of essential amino acids and healthy fats. There is also only 1g of sugar (and 5g of sugar alcohol, erythritol) which is much better for your health.
Stand out feature:This shake contains a number of unique “blends”. These include an organic sprout blend, greens blend, food-based B vitamin blend, veggie blend and fruit blend.
Cost: $44.99 for 16 servings ($2.81 per serving)
If you’re looking for really simple, healthy shakes that will get the job done, Aloha Shakes fit the bill. With only 12 real-food ingredients, the shakes are vegan, USDA-organic, and soy-free. The protein in the shake comes from pea, brown rice, hemp seed and pumpkin seed, providing a complete amino acid profile. Although the shake doesn’t provide the wide range of vitamins/minerals that others do, or a superfood greens blend, there is added calcium, magnesium and iron.
Stand out feature: Some of the flavors include medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil, providing an extra boost for energy and endurance. And they also contain coconut sugar instead of artificial sweeteners.
These raw, organic meal replacement shakes provide a true powerhouse of nutrients, containing a number of different blends for advanced health. They’re also very well-balanced shakes, with only 115 calories, 20g of protein, 7g of fiber, and just 1g of net carbs per serving. There’s also 1.5g of fat, including healthy unsaturated fats. The protein in the shake comes from 13 organic sprouted grains and seeds including pea, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa and flax seed. There’s also a fiber blend, organic fruit and veggie blend, greens blend and probiotics/enzyme blend.
Stand out feature: The raw probiotics/enzyme blend includes 1.5 billion CFU of beneficial live bacteria for a healthy gut. In addition, digestive enzymes are added to further assist with the digestibility of the shake and absorption of nutrients.
Whether or not you’re vegan, all the shake options on this page provide balanced nutrition for healthy living on-the-go. The meal replacement shakes are free from dairy, gluten and soy, while containing clean ingredients you can feel good about. They’re also all low in sugar.
Support your ultimate health with one of the best vegan protein shakes today!