Let’s talk about vegan protein powder. You have people that are die-hard gym rats who love their protein, love whey protein (which is made from dairy), and they say vegan protein isn’t as good. I definitely don’t believe in this. Vegan protein powder can be just as effective, but there are a lot of different kinds, so it is a little bit trickier. I’m going to break down the best ones to look out for, why I like them and my favorite brands.
Typically when I buy protein powder, I’ll get unsweetened or unflavored- I like to control that myself and add a little bit of stevia or cacao to flavor it.
A lot of plant-based protein powders are blended with a lot of different things- pre and probiotics, digestive enzymes, extracts of all different fruits and veggies, extra vitamins, etc. I am not a fan of blended protein powders because I think it’s too much, especially when you’re eating healthy or eating other supplements, oftentimes too many products do this and then it’s overkill. Foods with too many ingredients in them are harder to digest, and make it hard to navigate what’s working for you and what isn’t.
It might seem weird if you see something that’s made from rice or even pea protein because they don’t really have much protein. When they take a protein from any kind of plant source, they basically extract out the protein and eliminate the fat, starch, carbs, sometimes some of the nutrients as well…but, they’re really just making it a concentrated source of protein. For the most part, this does mean that it’s processed. If you watch any of my content, you know that I try to recommend the least amount of processed food as possible…but honestly, we’re not all perfect, we can’t always eat whole foods all the time. If you’re in a pinch and you want a protein source, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have a really clean, plant-based protein.
My favorite ways to incorporate it:
Generally, right after a workout. This can be at night, in the morning…I know I talk about food combining and how I like to have protein later in the day, but if I end up getting a weight-training workout in early in the morning, I will have a protein shake after. So, you don’t always have to stick to exact guidelines when it comes to that, but if I do have a protein shake, I make sure to give myself a good 3-4 hours before having anything else so that my body has time to digest it.
Hemp comes from the seeds of a cannabis plant, but the THC is very very minimal, so you’re not going to get high from hemp protein. It is a really good source of protein, omegas, zinc, iron, magnesium- super clean. You can choose to have the seeds or use the powder and blend it right in. I find hemp mixes really well with almond milk- blend it, then add your sweeteners of choice. I recommend looking for cold-processed or higher quality hemp. I like the brand Nutiva.
Pea protein comes from yellow split peas because they have much more protein. Of all protein powders, if you have issues with digestion, I definitely recommend starting with pea protein- it’s 94% digested and easier on the stomach. It also has a higher amount of protein per gram than the other ones (usually around 20 grams compared to around 15). Pea protein is really high in BCAAs, and there’s actually been data that shows it can be just as effective as whey protein! My favorite brand is Now Sports.
Moon Juice Deep Chocolate Adaptogenic Protein
This protein blend is the exception to me not liking protein blends. I like this because it’s super clean, only 7 ingredients – shatavari root powder, brown rice protein, maca root extract, cacao powder, ashwagandha root, cinnamon powder and stevia extract – these are pretty much all the ingredients I love. This has 17 grams of protein in one serving. One issue a lot of people ask me about is the arsenic: Is eating too much rice going to raise your arsenic levels or give you arsenic poisoning? Having too much rice definitely isn’t a good idea, so this is where you would use your judgement. If you don’t eat any rice normally, then having a rice protein is completely fine. But if you really love rice and you include it in a lot of different foods, then that’s something to pay attention to.
If you are going to get plant-based protein, I do recommend sticking to one of these types. Definitely don’t get soy protein- there’s just no need. Soy products were created a long time ago before we had so many other options. Processed soy is really unhealthy. The only soy that I recommend is fermented (e.g. tempeh, edamame)- this is when soy is in its natural state, and it’s actually healthy for you.
I hope you enjoyed reading this!