Protein is an essential building block not only for your bones and muscles, but also your skin and blood, and it's needed to produce important hormones and enzymes. This is why getting enough protein in one's diet is crucial for everyone, but especially those following a vegan diet or anyone that is lactose intolerant.
Following a vegan or dairy free diet involves eating a lot of plant-based foods, but avoiding high-protein foods like meat, dairy, and eggs. Although there are plenty of good plant-based protein sources, it can still be difficult to hit one's protein intake... and that's when a vegan protein powder can help!
Whey protein may be the superior protein powder for muscle-building, but there's no need to worry because there are so many great plant-based protein powder options that can still increase your protein intake and help you achieve whatever fitness goals you may have and increase your overall protein intake! But just like with animal based protein powders, there are so many options for vegan powders that it can be overwhelming. Before you get overwhelmed, we're going to breakdown everything there is to know about vegan protein powder! From the different types to what to look for, that way you can find the best vegan protein powder for you.
The different types of vegan protein powder
As you probably already know, vegan protein powders are derived from high-protein vegetarian sources. The most popular being...
- Soy: Soy protein is the most well-known plant-based protein. It's derived from soybeans and makes for a great alternative to whey protein because it contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein! However, there is one downside. Soy contains isoflavones, and consuming too much of it can potentially skew hormone levels and lead to negative side effects. But this is only a concern if you already consume soy products regularly, so it's something to keep in mind!
- Pea Protein: Pea protein, as you can tell, is made from yellow split peas. Pea protein powder is unfortunately not considered a complete protein because it's missing one essential amino acid, methionine. However, it is rich in BCAA's (branched-chain amino acids), and it's actually considered one of the closest vegan protein options to whey. There was a 12-week study conducted on participants doing resistance training, one group consumed whey protein and the other consumed pea protein. Those that had pea protein powder had a similar increase in muscle thickness than those who consumed whey! 
- Brown Rice: Brown rice protein is another great plant-based protein option, however, it lacks lysine so it's not considered to be a complete protein. It would need to be combined with another protein that contains it to be considered complete. Brown rice protein powder has similar findings to pea protein as well! A study published in the Nutrition Journal showed that athletes taking brown rice protein powder had an increase in lean body mass, muscular growth, and power in strength comparable to whey protein. 
- Hempseed: Hempseed protein also is not considered a complete protein due to it being low in lysine and leucine. However, it's rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which is beneficial for heart health, and more! The downside is that it's typically more calorie-dense, so it may not be the best for those trying to achieve weight loss.
- Pumpkin seed: Pumpkin seed protein is rich in vitamin E, magnesium, antioxidants, and most importantly, protein. This protein powder is great for anyone trying to lose weight because the milling process removes fat from the pumpkin seeds which results in fewer calories, less fat, but rich in protein! Pumpkin seeds make it easy for your body to absorb and use amino acids, but it's technically not considered a complete protein due to having very low amounts of methionine.
Knowing the different types of vegan protein powders available is the first step to finding a high-quality powder for you. Another thing is that just like with animal-based protein powders, vegan powders also come in three main varieties – protein concentrate, protein isolate, and protein hydrolysates.
For those who don't know the difference...
- Protein concentrate is produced by extracting protein from whole foods using heat and acid or enzymes. They supply 60-80% protein, and the remaining is composed of fat and carbs.
- Protein isolates is produced the same way, but goes through additional filtering processes that remove more fat and carbs to further concentrate the protein. So, it ends up containing 90-95% protein.
- Protein hydrolysates go even further an heat the protein to break the bonds between amino acids which allows the protein to be absorbed quicker by the body and muscles.
What to look for in a vegan protein powder
Now that you know the types of vegan protein powders there are and the varieties, here are some more tips that will help you find the best one that not only increases your protein intake, but also improves your recover and muscle development...
Look for one with a blend of different plant-based protein sources
Instead of choosing a protein powder with one main plant-based source, look for one that has a blend of different protein sources!
As you can see above, soy protein powder is the only one that is considered a complete protein, but if you're regularly consuming soy products you may want to avoid soy protein. Although pea, rice, hemp, and pumpkin seed protein aren't considered to be complete, the right combination can make them be considered a complete protein! For example, a vegan protein blend of pea, brown rice, and pumpkin seed will be considered a complete protein. That's because pea and pumpkin seed protein are missing the amino acid methionine which brown rice contains, and brown rice is missing lysine, which pea and pumpkin contains.
Aside from helping you get all the essential amino acids you need, you can also benefit from the other nutrients found in certain plant-based protein powders.
Avoid a long ingredients list
As with any workout supplement, look for a short ingredients list – and in this case, make sure that protein is the first ingredient listed! The reason is because some protein supplements can contain a lot of unnecessary fillers, artificial sweeteners, colors, etc., basically a bunch of stuff you don't really need. This can bring the actual protein content down, and the carb, fat, and sugar content up.
So, look for a protein source or blend first, followed by a handful of ingredients that are used to help make the protein better. There are a few single-ingredient protein powders that are unflavored so you can easily mix them with whatever you prefer, but if you prefer something already mixed and tasty then look for natural flavors opposed to artificial sweeteners and coloring. And make sure it has at least 20 grams of protein per scoop!
Need help knowing which ingredients to avoid?
Look for organic and non-GMO
You should consider the source of the protein as well! Getting a vegan protein powder that is certified organic and non-GMO is best because those sources avoid contamination with pesticides, which are harmful to your gut.
Ready to grab yours?
As you can see, vegan protein powders are very similar to animal-based proteins, they just come from a different high-quality protein sources. So, follow our tips above so you can find the best vegan protein powder that increases your daily protein intake and helps you achieve any fitness goals you may have!