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5 Best Vegan Protein Powders You Need to Taste

Posted on September 24, 2018

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In a market flooded with brands, it can get a little overwhelming when you're looking for a product that tastes great and delivers quality nutrition. Especially when each brand's label claims look completely different, even when they contain similar ingredients. So how do we find out what the best vegan protein powder, or more aptly put, what is the best vegan protein powder for you? After all, you are an individual, with slightly different needs compared to everyone else.

 

 

If you want to strip a protein powder down to the basics, and forget about the flashy label and exciting marketing claims, it's important to take it back to the basics- as boring as it may seem. It is important to look the ingredients listing and nutrition panel. Of course, if you have specific allergies or other concerns, check out the allergen declarations and warnings section as well. Now this might all sound a little tedious, but these mandatory areas on a label are where a product will reveal all of its secrets.

 

Protein powder companies are fortunate these days, as they have tonnes of raw material suppliers to choose from. This is because so many people are becoming interested in plant-based protein—even meat eaters too. Because vegan protein powders are in such high demand, it's no surprise that raw material suppliers are always looking for better ways to extract and process proteins from plant, like legumes and seeds. Now we even have watermelon seed and chia seed protein on the market in Australia.

 

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Due to this rise in manufacturer availability of different types of plant based protein, the brands commonly seen in sports stores, health food stores, gyms and supermarkets have always got something different to offer you
the prospective consumer. However, this can make things confusing for anyone without a degree in nutrition.

 

 

People are switching to plant-based protein powders for very personal reasons. Sometimes the decision has nothing to do with nutrition, and instead might be a choice based on any combination of economic, environmental, ethical, and even spiritual, reasons. This means the increased availability of vegan protein powders probably won't be slowing down any time soon.

 

 

Despite the differences in switching to a vegan protein powders, we could all agree that we need a product that can deliver the best nutrition, and that is clean and safe, and preferably does not taste like sawdust.

 

The Fusion of Science and Plants

Keeping our protein intake sorted out on a vegan or vegetarian diet has never been simpler. We are blessed to have such an awesome range of vegan protein powders available. Let's face it, with the best vegan protein powder at hand, we can be sure that we are covering one of the most important nutrients for the human body. And all with a simple shake.

 

 

Think about it. What are the most important nutrients that we need to survive, and even better, thrive? We all know that we can’t do too long without oxygen, and not so long without water either. After this it comes down to the nine essential amino acids, which are found in quality protein sources. That's right, quality protein, containing the essential amino acids, clocks in at number 3, after oxygen and water! Then come the essential fatty acids. And on and on from there throughout all the nutrients required by the human body, some of which scientists probably haven’t even discovered yet ...

 

 

You see, quality protein is not just about building muscle for aesthetic purposes. Though it has become fashionable to carry some muscle bulk, there are other reasons we need muscle mass. Skeletal muscle mass is important for movement. And though it may seem that we don't need much for this, it really becomes important in older age when building muscle mass is very difficult. At this age, muscle mass is relied on for coordination and to prevent falls. However, one of the most crucial roles for muscle mass is its ability to store and release as-needed the essential amino acids. Muscle is literally an amino acid reservoir that we tap into during periods of fasting or or illness. Dr Robert R. Wolfe covers this topic extensively in one of the many research papers he has authored, called "The Underappreciated Role of Muscle in Health and Disease", published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2006.

 

So what are proteins, really? Proteins are complex 3-dimensional structures. They are made up of chains of amino acids joined together by peptide bonds. If you picture a long chain, where each link in the chain is an amino acid, and then gather that chain up into a big ball, that’s kind of what proteins look like under a microscope. They are not perfectly straight lines, all laid out, ready for digestion. They are a big jumbled mess that our digestive system has to unravel like a rubik’s cube, with chewing, peristalsis, acids and enzymes.

 

 

After we eat or drink some protein, it first needs to be unfolded (denatured) by stomach acid, which also helps to destroy any harmful bacteria that may be present. Then, specific enzymes (pepsin and protease) start breaking the links in the chain—the peptide bonds. This creates smaller and smaller units. When the proteins are broken down enough (dipeptides, tripeptides and single amino acids), they are ready for absorption from the intestines into the blood. From here, once past the liver, they are circulated to the organs, muscles and the brain.

 

 

Given the countless roles that essential amino acids play in the body, the importance of good protein nutrition cannot be overstated. The fact that protein shakes are so well known these days, tends to take the shine off of just how helpful they really can be ... like the boy who cried wolf ... or the girl who cried tiger.

 

 

Fortunately, Sportys Health stocks an impressive range of sports nutrition and wellness products, each with their own point of difference. Hooray! In fact, we are sure to have a product that will qualify as the best vegan protein powder for you. So, let’s take a closer look at the 5 best vegan protein powders on the market in 2018.



Balance Plant Protein

Balance is one of the latest sports nutrition companies to release a protein for vegans in Australia. As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Does it rate as the absolute best vegan protein powder? Let’s take a look.

 

 

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Balance took their sweet time in putting together this product, but rushing to market can sometimes lead to an incomplete product. This plant protein contains a formidable blend of quality ingredients, delivering an unparalleled taste and texture. Balance Plant Protein is a smooth and delicious protein powder, currently available in chocolate, vanilla and berry flavours.

 

When it comes to plant-based protein powder, texture becomes just as important as flavour. Umlike the natural milky quality of plain whey protein, plain plant proteins can be gritty and grainy. This makes it tough when balancing (no excuses for the semi-pun) flavours for an astute palate. This is where Balance have done their homework. Their plant protein has one of the best texture and flavour jobs on the market. When mixed in water the finished product glides over the palate quite nicely, with a moorish flavour. It also works superbly in smoothies, shakes and in baking. If it's not the best vegan protein powder, it's definitely up there as a leading contender.

 

 

Of course, protein is not just about how good they make our morning smoothie taste. We have to consider the nutritional impact on our body. Most people also take into consideration the cost-effectiveness as well. After all, some people drink these protein shakes daily, for decades. One single 30 gram serve taken daily for 10 years equates to almost 110 kilograms of powder! Just imagine how much of a difference it would make putting 110 kg of a low quality product into your body versus something that’s premium sourced? And how this would impact quality of life …

 

 

The protein in Balance Plant Protein is extracted from 4 plants, which are pea protein, organic brown rice protein powder, chia seed and sacha inchi seed. And though this ingredients list all sounds very natural and impressive, we do have to consider the essential amino acid (EAAs) values of the finished product. And if we really want to dig a little deeper, take the time to look at the bio-availability of this profile.

 

 

Bioavailability takes into consideration not just the total amount of the 9 EAAs in a product, but the balance between them. For instance, grains, such as wheat and rice, tend to be low in an essential amino acid called lysine. The 9 EAAs work well as a team, and so a low lysine value limits how we uptake the other 8 essential amino acids. Lysine would therefore become the weak link. Fortunately, Balance Plant Protein has a healthy 5% lysine content, even though some of the protein is derived from rice. A lysine content like this is comparable to egg white powder, which has an excellent biological value.

 

 

Balance Plant Protein also contains a solid 70% protein, with 20.9 grams of protein per 30 gram serve, and delivers a mere 0.3 grams of fat per serve, along with 2.5 grams of carbohydrates per serve. A small amount of glutamine and branched chain amino acids have also been added, as well as the bromelains and papains digestive enzymes, derived from pineapple and paw paw, respectively. This product is also naturally sweetened with stevia and thaumatin.

 

 

Now if you're concerned about the addition of the BCAAs to the product, let me alleviate your fears. We've all heard the stories of amino acid spiking, but this is certainly not that. Firstly, quality vegan BCAAs are not cheap, and secondly, they can bio-enhance the finished product. As Leucine is a potent activator of mTOR, this means muscles can be primed to take-up more amino acids, generating more protein synthesis. This is especially helpful in advancing age, and may assist in overcoming anabolic resistance. Why add extra isoleucine and valine then? These 3 amino acids need to be kept in balance, as just adding leucine would drop levels of the other 2 BCAAs, due to stimulation of oxidation enzymes, which would limit protein synthesis.

 

We were impressed to say the least with this addition to the Balance Sports Nutrition range. It tastes great and delivers the quality nutrition that we have come to expect from this leading brand.

 

Gold Standard 100% Plant

Optimum Nutrition, owned by Glanbia, are the biggest protein powder supplement company in the world. So it goes without saying that the staff of Sporty's Health were more than a little excited when they first heard about this product. Gold Standard 100% Plant is a protein powder that contains all natural sweeteners and flavours. It is made from pea protein, organic brown rice protein powder and organic sacha inchi protein, which is a common though effective blend of vegan protein powders.

 

 

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Optimum Nutrition have gone the extra mile and added an organic grain blend, including amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, millet and chia. Carb alarm bells ringing anyone? Despite these wholefoods grains, the carbohydrate content per serve is still only a mere 4 grams, 1 gram of which is sugars. So this product is still an excellent low carbohydrate and low fat option.

 

 

And given that Optimum Nutrition have won best protein powder for their whey products many years in a row, puts Gold Standard 100% Plant in good contention for the best vegan protein powder.

 

                         

Providing 24 grams of solid protein nutrition per serve, Gold Standard 100% Plant contains plenty of essential amino acids. In addition, pomegranate powder has been added, as well as vitamin B12 and vitamin C. Pomegranate is a fruit which has some great health benefits associated with it. Research published in Advanced Biomedical Research in 2014 indicated that pomegranate is a great source of antioxidants, which assist in quenching free-radicals that are especially generated during aerobic exercise.

 

 

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Gold Standard 100% Plant also contains a generous amount of naturally occurring iron and calcium. This is great news for people on plant-based diets, as these two nutrients can be difficult to get enough of. Each serve contains 4.6mg of iron and 100mg of calcium. Another key point that impressed was the near equal potassium to sodium ratio. Most pea protein containing products tend to be higher on sodium content. However, the team of experts at Glanbia have accommodated for this nutritional “discrepancy” and somehow managed to boost up the potassium content. As you may be aware, most westerners tend to get far too much sodium, and not enough potassium, which can have adverse health effects.

 

 

Despite the products slightly earthy flavour, the Sporty's Health team were impressed with the quality of protein, and the added benefits of the whole food extracts and micronutrients. If you're looking for vegan protein support with added benefits, this is your product.

 

 

Bodyscience Organic Vegan Protein

Bodyscience are a tried and trusted brand that focus on natural protein powder ingredients with banned substance free assurance. Their products undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are free from prohibited substances, allowing peace of mind for sports professionals and athletes.

 

This protein for vegans, and omnivores too, is a blend of pea protein and brown rice protein powder, with natural vanilla flavour and the natural sweetener stevia. These two protein sources are often used in a plant-based protein powder, as they tend to complement each other with regards to taste, texture, and amino acid profile.


Body-Science-Organic-Vegan-Protein.jpgBodyscience Organic Vegan Protein has a pleasant taste, is gluten free and 100% natural. Each serve delivers just under 20 grams of protein, less than 1 gram of fat, and 1.4 grams of carbohydrates, 0.1 grams of which are sugars. This means each serve is a mere 95 calories!

 

 

 

At such a low energy content, this makes it a great product for anyone on a fat-loss program.

 

Bodyscience have kept this product nice and simple, not adding any other ingredients. In fact, vanilla flavour contains only 4 ingredients. So if its clean and simple you like, then this is the best vegan protein powder for you.

 

Organic Vegan Protein is a great addition to the Bodyscience range, providing a clean, simple and natural product that will help you hit those macronutrient targets. This is certainly a product in good contention for the best vegan protein powder.

 

Amazonia Raw Protein Isolate

 

Amazonia are well known for their range of sprouted and bio-fermented proteins. They do a great job at including as many organic ingredients as possible. The Pea protein powder and rice protein powder are both certified organic, making this as close as you will get to a 100% organic product. This is the best vegan protein powder if your focus is organic.

 

 

amazonia-raw-protein-isolate.jpgAmazonia really hone-in on the power of digestion with this product as well, capitalising on the bio-fermentation process and the addition of a digestive enzyme blend. The bio-fermentation process should make this product lighter on the digestive system.

 

The enzymes added, particularly protease, are responsible for physically breaking down proteins into smaller units which are then absorbed. This means less hard work for the digestive system, which is a great thing for anyone prone to digestive difficulties.

 

Amazonia Raw Protein Isolate contains natural sweeteners and flavours, including organic vanilla bean and stevia extract. It contains a healthy amount of iron, at around 6 to 9 mg per serve, depending on the flavour. This is a decent amount of iron, given that the recommended dietary intake is 8 mg per day for men of all ages and women over the age of 50. Young women need quite a bit more at 18 mg per day. With one Amazonia Raw Protein Isolate protein shake per day, anywhere between 35% and 100% of the RDI for iron can be covered.

 

This product contains all of the essential amino acids, including a healthy branched chain amino acid percentage of 19.23% (cacao coconut flavour). This is comparable to whey protein isolate. And the BCAAs are naturally occurring and derived from plants- not added as free form amino acids. Add in the greater than 20 grams of protein per serve, with minimal calories, fat and carbs, and you’ve got a wholesome plant-based product that is light on digestion and delivers unsurpassed quality vegan protein.  

 

Prana Power Plant Protein

Prana are a market leader in sports nutrition and wellness, especially when it comes to gourmet flavour. For so many, the hardest part of switching to a plant-based protein powder is finding a product that tastes good. Plain unflavoured whey protein tastes quite neutral, making it easy to flavour.

 

Pea protein and rice proteins, however, have a harder flavour and texture profile to work with. Prana have weaved some magic when it comes to flavour and texture, which sets is apart from all others in the industry. In fact, they’re so good that some mix them into water to eat for dessert.

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Prana Power Plant Protein is a blend of pea, rice protein powder and sacha inchi protein, fortified with leucine, glutamine, arginine and beta alanine. The fortified amino acids total 1.64 grams per serve, and are a unique addition to the powder. Extra leucine for a protein powder is certainly a good thing.

 

In fact, added leucine improves the ability of the essential amino acids to stimulate muscle repair and healing. This is because leucine triggers mTOR, an important part of the muscle protein synthesis process.

 

Furthermore, research into leucine fortified whey protein doses show that its potency is increased quite remarkably with the addition of extra leucine. Given plant-protein's excellent essential amino acid profile, there's no reason the same results could not be achieved with it instead of whey. Check out the research snippet below.

 

 

 

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Beta alanine is an amino acid mostly found in the diets of meat-eaters, so its inclusion in this formula, from vegan sources, is a great thing for muscle health. Beta alanine supports carnosine synthesis, a small protein that helps to alkalise muscle tissue and has a muscle-specific antioxidant role.

 

 This product also contains probiotics and protein digestive enzymes. Though it does contain a small amount of artificial sweetener (sucralose) along with its natural sweetener stevia. If flavour and texture are a big issue for you, look no further than Prana Power Plant Protein. There are more than a few people who class this as the best vegan protein powder.

 

Conclusion

 

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It can be a tricky affair pulling apart a protein powder to see how they compare.

 

If you are after a simple formula with minimal ingredients that is banned substance tested, then Bodyscience have the best vegan protein powder for you.

 

However, if organic and wholistic is your thing, then we suggest Amazonia.

 

If the best vegan protein powder should taste amazing with a smooth texture, and be all natural, then Balance certainly ticks all of the boxes.

 

Worried about quality and getting some extra nutrition with your protein? If so, the best vegan protein powder for you is Gold Standard.

 

 And finally, if you want to keep your sodium low and want a gourmet taste second to none, Prana will bring home the mushrooms and fry them in the pan.

 

The best vegan protein powder is a very individual thing. So consider your needs, and take it from there ...

 

Feel free to leave a comment below.