Choosing the best vegan protein powder that is right for you can be a difficult process. The different types of powders and brands provide a dizzying range of options.
This article explains how to choose the best vegan protein powder by looking at:
-The different types of powders available (whey, egg, soy) and what they do for you
-How protein interacts with your body when consumed as raw material or in pre-digested form
-The importance of different amino acids, especially branched chain amino acids (BCAA)
-The purpose of different nutrients in the diet, including fat and carbohydrates
-How certain ingredients affect hormones and other chemicals in your body
-A guide to selecting a reliable product
Why Should A Vegan Consider Protein Powders?
For overall health, getting the right amount of protein is extremely important. In particular, while athletes do need more protein than the average person, they still need a fair amount of nutrition.
The body uses protein to repair cells and make them bigger and stronger. It is the body’s raw material. It is used to make enzymes, hormones, muscles, and skin. Red blood cells are made of protein and stored in the spleen and liver. The immune system involves proteins embedded in cell walls waiting for an attack that activates them like antibodies to fight off bacteria or viruses.
Common sources of proteins include :
-Animal products, including meat, dairy products and eggs.
-Plant sources such as nuts, seeds and grains.
-Protein powders made from soy (such as soy protein) or hemp (such as hemp protein).
Protein itself has no flavor unless it is hydrolyzed (broken down into its building blocks) by boiling it in water. Powders are often flavored with natural ingredients or artificial flavors to make a shake that tastes good and is easier to drink.
What is Vegan Protein Powder?
Protein powders are made by isolating the protein from a food source, like soy or wheat.
This isolating process makes protein powder easy to transport and use, but also means that the purity of the powder is not as high. Most plant-based proteins are less expensive than animal-based proteins because there are not as many steps in the process.
Isolated protein is combined with micro-nutrients, vitamins, minerals and other chemicals (some of which are artificial). This combination is called a protein powder and leaves you with 90%+ pure protein.
In addition to isolated protein, there are two additional methods, Protein concentrates and Protein hydrolysates. Protein concentrates are made by evaporating the protein out of the other ingredients and then concentrating it, giving you very concentrated protein. Protein hydrolysates are made by separating the proteins from the other ingredients and then breaking them down into their components.
Unfortunately, both of these processes result in a loss of some vitamins and minerals.
What Are Vegan Protein sources Used for Powders?
Protein powders can be made from a number of different sources. For example: oats, pea protein, barley and Blue-Green Algae.
Oat Protein Powder – Oats are a great choice of Vegan protein, as it is a grain that is high in proteins, vitamins and minerals. Oats are a common source of protein for vegan bodybuilders and athletes because they contain high levels of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids). This is the form of amino acids that helps the body build proteins.
Brown Rice Protein Powder – Brown rice protein powder is commonly used because it has a good nutritional profile for vegans. Brown rice protein comes from hulled brown rice, which has been dried. The bran and germ have been removed leaving behind a powder that works great in vegan products.
Pea protein (or soy) – Pea Protein powders are a great source of protein and do not contain estrogenic compounds that are not good for you. This type of protein powder is naturally vegan, and can be useful for bodybuilders. However, since peas have a lot of fiber that is not digested well by the body, it can cause gas and bloating if you don’t drink enough water.
Blue-Green Algae is currently being used as a protein source in Southeast Asia. It is said to be a very healthy food, but if it is not organic, so it is definitely not worth the risk.
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant and is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains no GMO products and less amounts of phytoestrogens.
Is Whey Protein Vegan?
Whey, is the most common protein powders. Since whey protein can be found almost anywhere (it is easier to transport and handle), whey protein powder is used by many people as a good source of quick energy that doesn’t cause any stomach upsets when consumed.
Whey protein has a higher amount of one branch amino acid called lysine, which is important for building muscles. It also has a high percentage of cysteine, which is an anti-inflammatory that can help with joint health issues (like arthritis).
Whey is made as a byproduct of cheese production, so it is not vegan. It does have very strong bitter flavors from the chemicals used to make cheese, so it is not good for everyone.
How to Choose the Best Vegan Protein Powder
Below are some tips to help you find the best vegan protein powder for your workout routine.
Read the Label
One of the ways to find out if a product is vegan is by checking the ingredients label on the package. You will want to ensure there are no gelatin, whey powders, or any other animal products. Make sure you also check for the sugar content and ensure that there is no artificial sweeteners.
Other Ingredients to Look for?
Other than protein, it is important that your protein powder does not contain fillers and artificial flavors. That means you want to look for ingredients like aspartame, sucralose, and artificial colors.
Many will have BCAAs, omega-3s, and probiotics included in their products. You will need to determine of these are needed for you based on what your are trying to accomplish.
If you are a runner, you may not need or use any of these ingredients. If you are interested in maintaining a healthy body and lifestyle, this is a must!
Make sure you look at the ingredients list because some companies will have things like gelatin and xanthan gum, which are food additives that they add to their products to make them ‘better’. It is important that you don’t need these additives in your veggie-based protein powder.
Third Party Testing
It is always a good idea to make sure that the companies who produce your protein powder are third party tested. You can do this by looking at the ingredients label and see if there is a percentage of protein listed. If there is not, then you should contact the company and ask for the protein content (and sugar content).
The above list of of tips for choosing the best vegan protein powders is a good start to the selection process.
You will want to do your homework before settling on any specific product. Many people use vegan protein powder products and swear by them, while others find them to be too expensive or have an unpleasant taste. For some people, they are not worth it so they stick with whole food sources instead.
Whatever your needs may be, it is important to do your research and consult with your trainer or nutritionist on what is the best for you. Make sure you take into consideration your personal health, physical activity levels and goals.
Keep in mind that many people (including myself) don’t need vegan protein powder at all.