Why Do Vegans Need A Plant-Based Protein Powder?
If you’re the type of vegan who doesn’t do much research about what you’re eating and drinking, you’re going to end up being a not very good one!
While standard protein powder may seem like an innocent little dust you can add to your drinks and baking regimes, the vast majority are made with either whey or casein as their base ingredient. Both of these are unfortunately dairy products, meaning such protein supplements are not suitable for your diet.
This can be frustrating if you’re a vegan athlete, as getting enough protein in your diet from natural plant sources is already tricky enough as it is, so learning that the most popular supplement in the world is a diet no-go can be pretty disheartening.
Thankfully though, plant-based protein powders are widely available and pack a protein punch that’s just as effective as your standard recipes.
Types of Plant-Based Protein
A favourite since the dawn of vegans, soy protein isolate is a popular vegan protein powder base, as it has had most of its fat and carbs removed and remains a high-protein source.
It also contains a lot of essential amino acids for muscle tissue, such acids are most commonly found in meat, so soy acts as a fantastic substitute.
Rather than the average garden pea, pea-based protein powders come from yellow split peas which are a legume high in many BCAAs which promote muscle protein synthesis, repairing muscle damage and speeding up recovery. They also provide plenty of protein per portion.
Brown Rice is often seen as an alternative to the more popular pea and soy based solutions, as some vegans may suffer soy allergies or digestive issues with pea protein.
It’s much lower in protein than those sources though and low in amino acids, meaning it’s most commonly used in blends as a digestion aid.
Gaining more popularity in recent times thanks to its essential amino acid properties, hemp is a 100% plant-based protein which is high in fibre and unsaturated fats, giving it plenty of added nutritional benefits.
It is slightly lower in protein than pea and soy, but much higher than rice.
If you have no issues with any of the above in your diet, the most effective vegan protein powders are often blends, which contain various percentages of a few or all of the most common vegan protein sources to help provide you with all their benefits in one scoop!
Things To Consider Before Purchasing
Protein Per Serving
The most important thing to look at when purchasing any protein powder is its protein per serving and whether that is far more or far much less than what you need to meet your goal of either muscle maintenance or growth.
For most people looking to build muscle mass, it’s recommended to consume 1.5 – 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight every day.
If you naturally consume close to that anyway, you can probably manage a small 15g protein portion for post-workouts. However, if you’re going to require a serious boost, you’ll want to look for options of around 25g or more.
If you want to get a good bang for your buck, it’s always wise to study the size and serving amount of every vegan protein powder you buy.
The lowest sizes of protein powder tend to come in at around 500g and then can go up in 0.5Kg – 1Kg increments, with the largest sizes being around 5Kg.
Given that the average scoop for a portion is around 30g, a 500g pack will last you just 16 servings. A 5Kg pack, however, would last you 166 servings.
Think about how often you need protein shakes per week and then work out which is a more cost efficient option for you!
If making protein shakes on the go is more convenient for you, it might also be wiser to buy 500g or less pouch designs which can easily fit into bags and act as portable protein powder.
Vegan protein powders can vary greatly in price with some being as low as £15 and others as expensive as £30 for just a 500g pack.
Spending lower or higher than these amounts is likely going to result in either an inferior, poor quality ingredients product or an overpriced protein source your bank balance and muscle gains could survive without!
Another important aspect of any great vegan protein powder is it’s flavour, as if you’re going to be drinking or eating it on a regular basis, it can’t be unpalatable!
There are plenty of dessert flavoured vegan products out there which remain dairy-free, but beware some of the more 100% plant-based formulas such as pea and hemp will have an unavoidable distinctive taste and mouthfeel.
Checking Your Ingredients
If you’re someone who is terribly concerned with the things they put in their body, you need to be very careful and always read the label of any plant-based protein you’re considering buying.
Just because it’s made of plants, doesn’t mean some ingredients you may not be keen on can’t slip through the ranks.
While all are of course vegan-friendly and free of anything in that sense, the sweet-toothed flavours mean they can often be filled with additives, artificial sweeteners and flavours.
If that bothers you, be sure to go with a product that promises no artificial ingredients!
Plant-based powders which contain other nutritional benefits such as added vitamins and minerals can help turn your protein punch into an all-round health kick to keep your body thriving and growing with optimum goodness.
Low Calorie, Low Fat, Low Sugar
The whole point of high-protein powders is that they can help provide your body and muscles with the appropriate kind of energy to recover from your strenuous gym session. While carbs can also be important in recovery, what isn’t important is high amounts of fat or sugar.
Amino Acids & BCAAs
Something you’ll see mentioned a lot in vegan protein powders is the advertising of amino acids, a vital nutrient that vegans need to adequately replace in their diet, as it is so often found in meat.
Amino acids are crucial in helping to create more proteins in the body and are important building blocks in helping your muscles grow and repair. Given most vegans are naturally lacking in them, it’s best to choose a protein powder high in their number!