The protein found in protein powder is an essential nutrient and can be incredibly beneficial in repairing and building muscle, reducing body fat, and sustaining energy. Even better, powders make it easy for you to get a nutrition boost when you’re on-the-go — which, with the speed we live our lives today, is a great added bonus!
But… what happens if you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or just want to follow a more plant-based diet? How much choice is there for vegan protein powder in Australia?
The good news is: there’s heaps! Whilst just a few years back the vegan protein powder market was a little short on choice, that’s certainly not the issue now.
So if you’re looking to try a veggie protein powder we’re here to help you find the best protein powder for women just like you.
Let’s do it!
Vegan protein powder and power of the plant
Whey-based formulas have traditionally been the go-to for protein powders. But vegan protein powders are now giving dairy mixes a run for their money, thanks to the protein power of plants!
In fact, not only can you get all the protein you need from a plant-based powder, but vegan protein powders also have a number of added benefits:
- Plant-based proteins are more environmentally-friendly
- They are easier to digest for those with dairy sensitivities
- Vegan powders contain no animal products at all — zilch, zero! — so they can easily form part of a plant-based diet
- And what’s more: some have higher levels of fibre and iron versus whey — helping make vegan protein powders actually some of the best protein powders for active women, full stop!
And, seeing as the trend for plant-based and vegan eating has skyrocketed of late, brands are all vying to make the best vegan protein powder for women. This is great news, as it means there’s always new and delicious flavours of vegan protein powders popping up in health food stores across Australia and NZ.
But you want a vegan protein powder that not only tastes good but does good too, right?
The best protein powder for women is one which helps them repair muscle and supports them in their fitness goals — and vegan protein can do just that.
The ‘complete’ story about vegan protein powders
Typically, vegan protein powders are made from brown rice, pea, soya, or hemp proteins, though some blends include one or more of these sources to create a more ‘complete’ source of protein.
If you’ve been weighing up the benefits of plant-based and whey-based protein then you’ll undoubtedly have come across the concept of ‘complete’ protein — something a lot of people argue is found in animal protein, but not so much in veggie protein powders.
So is that true? Let’s run through the science quickly to find out.
First up, a source of protein is considered to be ‘complete’ if it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs.
Amino acids, the chemical compounds that make up protein, exist in two states: essential (those that your body can’t produce on its own and, therefore, must be sourced from diet alone) and non-essential (those that your body can produce as needed).
All animal sources of protein are complete proteins because they contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids. Single plant-based protein sources, on the other hand, are incomplete proteins, because most only contain some of these essential amino acids.
Thing is, that does not mean that vegan proteins aren’t as good, only that you need to be more conscious of the types of plant-based proteins you consume over a twenty-four hour period, in order to get your ‘complete’ amino acids.
So if you want to take a vegan or veggie protein powder, just be sure to back this up with a variety of other protein sources so you get the complementary amino acid profiles you need.
Simply use a plant-based protein powder alongside a healthy, balanced, protein-rich diet (vegan, veggie or otherwise!) and you should have no trouble at all.
Finding the perfect vegan protein powder
Alright, so now you know why vegan protein powders shouldn’t be seen as second-best to whey… so how do you choose the right one for you?
You could look at the primary plant ingredient, e.g. pea, rice, soya etc., as each have their benefits and their drawbacks...
Pea protein is actually one of the best plant proteins you can find. Studies have found that pea protein works just as well as whey for building muscle mass and it blends easily with liquids to gives a smooth, creamy texture.
Use 2 scoops of a pea protein powder in a breakfast smoothie, and you’ll have a whopping 21 grams of protein in your hands. But if smoothies aren’t your thing, then a flavour-free pea protein can also be blended seamlessly into soups, making it one of the most versatile plant-based options.
Another benefit of the little green miracle protein is that it is easily digested, so no gurgly post-protein smoothie belly awaits you at the end!
Brown rice protein also stacks up well against whey in terms of muscle support, offering around 22 grams of protein per serving.
However, you may find that rice protein doesn’t play as nicely in smoothies, due to its chalkier texture. To make the most of brown rice protein, look for a chocolate, or vanilla variety and use it like a flour to give your baked goods an extra boost of nutrition. After all, starting the day with a delicious protein-rich muffin for brekkie will keep you fuller for longer.
An added bonus: as rice sensitivities tend to be very rare, this is a safe pick for those with any digestive issues.
Hemp protein is slightly lower in protein than other plant-based options, coming in at about 12 grams per serving.
But, what it lacks there, it makes up for in critical nutrients such as fibre, iron, zinc, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Because of all this extra nutritional content, hemp protein is especially energising when added to a morning or arvo smoothie. With this one, make sure to seek out either a flavoured powder or mix it well with a flavoured base — it is very ‘earthy’ taste, to put it lightly.
Soya protein is one of the old standbys when it comes to vegan proteins. It’s easily mixed, blends smoothly and does offer some real biological advantages.
It is a complete source of protein, which is great for days when you may not be able to pack in multiple plant-based protein sources. It also contains BCAAs, which are useful for boosting energy and performance while exercising, as well as reducing fatigue post-exercise.
Soya protein also packs high levels of protein at about 22 grams per serving, while still being lower in calories than many other protein sources.
However — and this is a big one — the vast majority of soya is genetically modified, so, if you are making the switch to plant-based sources of protein for the sake of the environment, this might not be the best pick for you.
That, and soya’s link to increased risk of breast cancer due to it being a xeno-oestrogen, have paved the way for many brands to develop more soya-free vegan alternatives.
Additionally, soya may not be the most friendly vegan protein powder for those with food sensitivities, as soya can be a common irritant.
Plant-based blends, though less common and usually a bit pricier, can be an excellent option for achieving a more complete source of protein, while also reaping the rewards of plant nutrients.
Usually, blends will be flavoured, so just check the ingredients to make sure that they haven’t been packed with a load of chemical additives, which would counteract many of the health benefits of a blend. Blends are ideally suited to smoothies and can pack a great nutritional punch in a small package.
All in all, there’s no reason not to try a vegan protein powder. A little shopping around, and you’re bound to find the best protein powder for you!
No matter which source of vegan protein you choose, it’s important to be an informed consumer and pay attention to nutrition label. Often keeping it simple is best — too many ingredients, especially those with names you can’t pronounce, are usually a red flag.
Also, consider your personal goals when choosing a protein powder that’s right for you. If you’re hoping for weight loss or gain, pay attention to the caloric content and also think about how you will use that protein — if it is best mixed into baked goods or smoothies, that will add additional calories.
The best vegan protein powder for women who want a more complete nutrition profile will be one which also packs some magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, and iron. On the other hand, if you have food sensitivities, steer clear of known irritants, such as soy.
Like all parts of a healthy routine, your protein supplement should be personalised to your tastes and needs. There is truly no one-size-fits-all solution, but with so many great options on the market now, you are sure to find the perfect match!
If you need more info on how to live an active, healthy lifestyle, then head over to our blog. Or if you’re all set to go on your vegan protein powder shopping trip, then check out our protein-packed recipes, too.