Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. It’s made from chains of amino acids and is present in every cell in your body. It’s vital for growth and repair and is involved in millions of essential processes that keep you alive and at your healthiest.
Ideally, you should meet your protein needs through a diet of many varied protein sources. However, sometimes this can be tricky; it might be because you’re short of time or because you want to boost muscle growth with extra protein. Whatever the reason, there are times when you need to turn to protein supplements.
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Modern Vegan Protein Powders
The protein found in protein powders is most commonly from milk in the form of whey, but now manufacturers have become increasingly innovative in making vegan alternatives. About ten years ago, when I first began looking for vegan protein powder, all I could get was hemp protein. It was khaki coloured and tasted like intensely bitter soil. Even when mixing it with cocoa powder or smoothies, it was just unpalatable.
Now things have moved on considerably, and there are lots more to choose from. However, there’s still a long way to go. Unfortunately most of the vegan powders on sale today still fall a long way behind their whey counterparts in flavour and texture. Plant-based protein supplements are often a blend of powders from various sources and second to none when it comes to nutrition. But, it’s severely lacking in the flavour department.
With that in mind, I’ve been trying as many different types as I can get my hands on and working out which ones are worth your time.
The Best Vegan Protein Powders Available in the UK
To make our final selection, we considered how they tasted, their texture, the quality and range of ingredients, the price per serving, and the brand’s reputation.
The products on this list provide:
All nine essential amino acids
At least two different protein sources
Offer value for money
1. Best complete protein: Garden of Life Raw Organic Protein
This complete powder contains all nine essential amino acids sourced from an incredible blend of 13 raw proteins from; peas, brown rice, amaranth grain, buckwheat, millet seeds, cracked wall chlorella, quinoa, chia seeds, garbanzo beans, lentils, adzuki beans, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. You also get extra nutrition support from a blend of A, D, E, and K vitamins. Of all the vegan protein supplements I’ve tried, this offers the broadest range of protein sources and offers exceptional plant-based nutritional support. It’s also certified organic, free from GMO and artificial additives.
However, the downside is that the texture is relatively grainy, and it needs a lot of shaking to remove all the lumps before drinking it. I had the vanilla flavour which is pleasantly sweet and not overpowering. There were no intense, unpleasant soil-like flavours but there was a mild mealy taste.
It’s ideal as a general supplement, but it also works well for use before or after a workout. Per 31g serving you get 22g of protein, and there are 20 servings in each container. This is one of the more expensive options at £35 for 620g, but it offers excellent nutrition and a pleasant flavour.
Performance Lab have turned their detailed scientific approach to
produce a plant-based protein powder that gets results. Research has found
that brown rice protein can match whey protein when it comes to supporting body
composition and exercise performance. To harness the power of rice protein
Performance Lab uses a patented organic preparation called Oryzatein. This is
concentrated to provide fast absorption and exceptional muscle mass support.
What makes Performance Lab’s protein stand out is that it also contains a comprehensive blend of naturally sourced organic substances, including cocoa powder, guar gum, yacon root powder, coconut, bacillus coagulans, Himalayan pink salt and monk fruit. These provide an impressive range of nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, potassium, calcium, sodium, iron, phosphorus, dietary fibre, magnesium and manganese. They’ve all been selected for their general health-supporting effects and their ability to enhance protein uptake and protein production.
It comes with a pleasant chocolate flavour that is more palatable than most vegan supplements. It mixes relatively well, and the texture is only slightly grainy. Per 30g serving you get 20g of protein, and there are 20 servings in each container. This is another pricy choice at £44.10 per 600g tub, but Performance Lab regularly offers cheaper deals and sometimes throw in a free tub when you buy in bulk. What’s more, you also get a 30-day performance promise; if you use it for 30 days and don’t see any results, you can get your money back.
Brown rice protein from Oryzatein
Contains a range of additional vitamins and minerals
Also features bacillus coagulans for improved protein absorption
Protein from Form is a complete protein supplement with additional curcumin and
digestive enzymes for better absorption and fast recovery from exercise. The
protein comes from peas, brown rice, algae and hemp.
really sets this one apart is its flavour. If you like sweet protein powders
this one’s ideal for you. We tried the vanilla which was very sweet but had
very little of the mealy soil-like taste of many we’d tried previously.
serving you get 30g of protein, and there are 13 servings in each 520g container.
Slightly better in price this is still at the more expensive end of things with
one tub costing £26.
Protein from peas, brown rice, algae and hemp
It also contains curcumin (from turmeric) and digestive enzymes
No unpleasant bitter, soil-like flavours
Comes in three flavours; chocolate peanut, tiramisu or vanilla
No artificial additives
Sweetened with stevia
30g of protein per 40g serving
The flavour is impressive, but some people will likely find it too sweet.
Bulk’s new vegan protein range is considerably more affordable than most other brands. Each serving delivers an impressive 23g of protein from a blend of peas, brown rice, pumpkin, flaxseed and quinoa. This is a powerful, complete formula with the right amounts of each of the nine amino acids. It also contains DigeZyme, a combination of digestive enzymes to help you break down the proteins for faster access to the amino acids.
You can choose from ten different flavours including apple strudel,
chocolate peanut, strawberry, white chocolate coconut and unflavoured.
Disappointingly, the taste isn’t quite enough to mask the earthy protein. It
needs to be mixed thoroughly and produces a thick liquid that’s still quite
grainy. However, at this price, it’s worth getting creative and hiding it in
smoothies or even baking with it.
There are 16 servings of 30g in each 500g bag. This size is priced at £14.99, but it’s currently reduced to £7.49. This may change, but Bulk regularly offer deals and coupon codes that can significantly reduce the price. A 1kg bag costs £24.99, reduced to £12.49 and a 2.5kg bag is reduced from £49.99 down to £25.
Protein from peas, brown rice, pumpkin, flaxseed and quinoa
What should I look out for when buying vegan protein?
When choosing vegan protein powder, you’ll need to consider:
How much protein do you get per serving? – Whey powders can sometimes reach 27g of protein per 30g serving but vegan options usually stay around 20g per 30g serving.
How digestible is the protein? – The Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is a value that shows the quality of a protein-based on our amino acid requirements and how digestible it is. This table shows which protein sources are the most digestible. PDCAAS is a scale from 0 to 1, 1 being the most digestible. AIB International created this table from the report of the joint fao/who expert consultation on protein quality evaluation:
Soy protein concentrate
Rapeseed protein concentrate
Soy protein isolate
Rapeseed protein isolate
Pea protein concentrate
The amino acid content – To be a useful protein source, vegan powder must contain a range of all nine essential amino acids. Pea, buckwheat, quinoa and soy protein are complete and have all these amino acids, but others only contain a few. Most powders will include a blend of protein from various sources to provide all essential amino acids.
Why is protein important?
Tens of thousands of different
types of proteins are present throughout your body. It plays a critical role in
every major body part, including your organs, muscles, bones, skin, hair and
connective tissues. New protein chains are being built all the time, so you
need to provide your body with a regular supply.
If you don’t get enough protein, you might see symptoms like swelling, unhealthy skin, low immune system and lack of energy. While severe protein deficiency isn’t common in developed, many people suffer from a mild deficiency.
How much protein do I need?
The Reference Nutrient Intake of protein is 0.75g per kilogram of body weight per day in adults. This is interpreted as an average of 56g per day for men and 45g per day for women. However, this is increased if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, more active, looking to build muscle or over 65.
The University of California San Francisco suggests that pregnant women should have on average 60g of protein per day. Later if you choose to breastfeed, this could rise to between 60g and 70g. In general, a healthy balanced diet should include a variety of protein-rich foods in every meal.
Is vegan protein as effective as whey protein?
How effective a protein powder is, depends on which amino acids it provides. Protein is made when amino acids are built into chains that can be bent and stacked into lots of different forms for different jobs.
There are 20 types of amino acids, and our bodies can make some of them itself. There are nine that it can’t make and these are known as essential amino acids. Your food must provide these in order for you to maintain health or build muscle.
Whey protein is an excellent source of all nine in relatively equal amounts, which is why it so commonly used as a supplement. It’s also low in carbohydrates and can be made into tasty powders and drinks reasonably easily.
Plant-based sources of protein tend to contain only a few essential amino acids. This is why you’ll see that most of the powders in this list contain a range of different sources. However, pea protein is comparable to whey protein and provides a good balance of all nine essential aminos. To achieve the most nutritious balance of the right amino acids most vegan protein supplements include pea protein and other sources, including rice, hemp, chickpea or soy.
While this makes them more complicated to produce, the result is a product containing all the amino acids you need. They’re also more likely to contain extra nutrients than whey protein; however, this depends on the brand so you should always read the nutrition information carefully. As a result, vegan protein can be just as effective as whey protein and in some cases, comes with some extra benefits.
My Supplement Recommendations
These are products that I currently use and enthusiastically recommend:
Nootropic – Mind Lab Pro contains eleven natural nootropics that have been proven to support cognitive function and brain health. Read my review.
Collagen – Edible Health Bovine Collagen. This excellent bovine collagen powder is completely tasteless and absorbs quickly into any liquid. It’s third-party lab tested and provides 13g of collagen per serving. Read my review.
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