“Where do you get your protein?” If you’re vegan, you’ve probably been asked this question more times than you can count. It’s really not a question as much as it is a veiled statement, “Vegans don’t get enough protein.” The question is asked, and the implication is made often enough, that even some vegans worry that they are not getting enough protein. The USDA daily recommended amount protein is 50 grams. If you’re vegan and you eat well, you probably get at least that much, so you can rest easy.
However, once you start exercising regularly, your dietary requirements change. When you start exercising several times a week, your protein requirements can skyrocket from 50 grams a day to 150 grams a day, or more. It’s difficult to get a lot of protein without also getting a lot of fat or other stuff you may not want from regular old food, and that’s why protein supplements exist. Supplements can make it very easy to get a lot of protein without worrying about what else you’re getting in addition to protein. And of course, supplements can make it easy to get a lot of protein without having to micromanage your diet down the last gram.
There are a lot of vegan protein supplements, more than could be covered in a single review. Protein in vegan supplements can be sourced from soy, hemp, rice, peas, and more. What follows is a review of several protein supplements I’ve tried over the past couple of years while maintaining a cross-fit exercise routine. I’m reviewing them based on the criteria of taste, cost, amount of protein and anything else I feel like throwing in. I mixed all of them with water to drink them. All prices are manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but you are almost guaranteed to find a better price online. All supplements had about 120 calories per serving. I tended to avoid the soy based supplements for no good reason.
Life’s Basics Plant Protein – Vanilla Flavor
Protein Source: pea, hemp seed, rice and chia seed
Protein per serving: 22g
Price: $29, 15 servings per 18.6 container
I have a love/hate relationship with Life’s Basics Plant Protein. On the one hand, it’s actually pretty filling, which makes it great to drink in between meals. On the other hand, it tastes very odd. At this point I’d like to point out to none of the protein supplements I’ve tried really tasted what I would call “great”. At best, they have a flavor that one might call “non-offensive”. But Life’s Basics Protein had a weird combination of flavors that made me want to hold my nose and down it as quickly as possible. The mix of ingredients separated very quickly after it was mixed/shaken with water, which, in addition the odd taste, gave it an odd texture. In fairness, the problem of ingredients separating was common in many of the protein powders I tried.
Nitro Fusion Multi Source Protein – Vanilla
(Also sold as PlantFusion)
Protein Source: pea, artichoke, sprouted amaranth and quinoa
Protein per serving: 21g
Price: $43, 30 servings per 2lb container
For the money, this stuff wins. It’s relatively inexpensive, it tastes good and it has the type of packaging design you expect from a protein powder. You know what I’m talking about: big red and black letters in ALL CAPS yelling at you that this stuff has PROTEIN! It would fit in well on the shelf with the non-vegan protein powders at GNC. It mixes well and doesn’t separate (okay, maybe a little) and the taste is fairly mild. One caveat: when mixed in a shaker, it has a head that would put a badly poured pint of stout to shame. Lots of bubbles. I prefer this stuff stirred, not shaken. This protein powder is also sold under the name PlantFusion, with more subdued packaging.
Vega Sport Performance Protein – Berry Flavor
Protein Source: pea, SaviSeedTM, sprouted rice, hemp seed and alfalfa
Protein per serving: 26g
Price: $65, 22 servings per 28.9 ounce container
Let’s start with the price: that’s sixty-five dollars, American. That’s a lot. But this is Vega’s protein powder. Vega is the to go to brand for vegan athletes and makes a wide range of supplements. But still, sixty-five bucks. Vega Sport Performance protein is palatable and it mixes well enough (it does separate a little). I think Vega put a lot of work into making this stuff not taste terrible, and they largely succeeded… if your price range extends into the sixty-five dollar area.
MRM Veggie Protein
Protein Source: Grape Skin Extract, Blueberry Extract, Raspberry Powder, …
Protein per serving: 22g
Price: $30, 15 servings per 19 ounce container
The first thing I noticed after shaking this powder up with water was how thick it was. It’s the protein drink that eats like a meal. I haven’t made up my mind how I feel about that. On the one hand it’s filling and would work really well in between meals to curb any munchies I might have. On the other hand, I usually have to mix a lot of water with it to keep from feeling like I’m drinking oatmeal. Despite its viscosity, it tastes pretty good.
Garden of Life Raw Protein
Protein Source: Brown Rice, Amaranth Sprout, Quinoa Sprout…
Protein per serving: 17g
Price: $41, 28 servings per 22 ounce container
Unlike the other protein powders reviewed here, this one is raw. For a definition of what raw technically means, visit your local library. This protein powder also differs from the others in that it only has eighty calories per serving. Also, it does not taste good. At all. My method for tasting protein powders was simply to mix them with water, and this one really needed something more to cover the taste. It might be drinkable if mixed into a smoothie with bananas and blueberries (a couple dozen bananas might do the trick), but by itself I just found it unpalatable.
NutriBiotic Rice Protein
Protein Source: Brown Rice
Protein per serving: 12g
Price: $40, 90 servings per 3 pound container
In order to really compare this protein powder to the others, it’s best to double the serving size. Two tablespoons gives you 24g of protein with 120 calories. Even with doubling the serving size, this stuff was the least expensive powder I tried by far. However, like Garden of Life’s protein powder, NutroBiotic’s Rice Protein did not taste all that good to me when only mixed with water. It would likely mix well with rice milk or your vegan milk of choice, but drinking it with just water was not a pleasurable experience.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of vegan protein powders on the market; those listed above are just a few. Feel free to add your own reviews in the comments!
Update: Check out Vegan Protein Powder Roundup Part II – 5 more vegan protein powders reviewed!