Avoiding animal products doesn’t have to mean missing out on protein.
Whether you’re on the go or trying to refuel quickly after a workout, you can choose from a variety of plant-based protein powders — plain or flavored — to mix with water, non-dairy milk, smoothies, oatmeal or other foods.
Plant foods like rice, peas and sunflower seeds aren’t protein-packed the way meat and fish are, but food processors can remove most of the fat and carbs and isolate the protein found in these foods to make protein-rich powders.
Despite some claims, most plant proteins aren’t complete, meaning they don’t contain optimal levels of all the essential amino acids to support protein synthesis in your body. However, this isn’t a problem if you regularly eat a variety of plant proteins.
As you explore vegan protein powders, you should compare prices by weight, such as per ounce or per 100 grams. Protein powders from grains and legumes generally are about half the price of powders made from seeds.
Here are the 9 best vegan protein powders and their nutritional highlights.
1. Pea Protein
Pea protein powder isn’t made from sweet green peas but from their higher-protein cousins, yellow split peas.
A quarter-cup (28-gram) serving of unflavored pea protein powder packs about 21 grams of protein and 100 calories, depending on the brand. Like other legumes, it’s low in the essential amino acid methionine.
However, pea protein is especially rich in the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine, which help fuel working muscles and stimulate your body to make muscle protein.
In one 12-week study, 161 young men ate 25 grams or about 1 ounce of pea protein powder twice a day, including right after weight training. The weakest participants had a 20% increase in bicep muscle thickness, compared to only 8% in the placebo group.
Moreover, the muscle gains experienced with pea protein were similar to those of people consuming whey (milk) protein.
Animal and human studies also suggest that pea protein may promote feelings of fullness and lower blood pressure.
Pea protein powder is rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. Preliminary research suggests that it’s as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle gain. It may also help you feel full and lower your blood pressure.