Last updated: 17/10/2022

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There are a wide range of myths surrounding the vegan diet, particularly where proteins are concerned, and especially when talking about quantity and quality of nutrients available. While there is no debate that vegan protein is not as complete as animal proteins, there are certainly notable exceptions, including things like quinoa and amaranth. But does every vegan person truly need a protein supplement?

Vitamin B12 is really the only supplement that people on vegan diet shouldn’t avoid. But there’s one problem: the modern pace of life can be so hectic that our diet has the tendency of becoming very monotonous.  The lack of variety often means that we are exposed to protein deficiency. This is when vegan protein supplements become crucial for us to maintain a good health and muscle mass.


  • Vegan protein supplements are recommended for vegan athletes who train at high intensity and for long durations. They are also useful as supplements in unbalanced or monotonous vegan diets.
  • Plant proteins have an inferior biological importance than animal proteins, since they generally lack one or more essential amino acids. We call these absent amino acids “limiting”. Each plant group (cereals, pulses, nuts) has different limiting amino acids.
  • Vegan protein supplements are usually manufactured from pea, soy or rice protein. Pea protein is often used because it is rich in BCAAs (branched amino acids), which promote muscle mass increase.

The best Vegan Protein Supplements: Our Picks

You might be fully aware of just how challenging it can be to find a vegan protein supplement that is of high nutritional value and great tasting. Sometimes the nutritional value is lacking. In other cases, it can be phenomenal, but tastes so terrible that it is difficult to consume on a regular basis. In the next section, we’re ranked the very best vegan proteins on the U.S. market to help you find the right product for you:

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about vegan proteins

Many vegan protein supplements come with a remarkable amino acid profile. While many of these products were originally made with vegan athletes in mind, non vegan and vegetarian athletes can get just as much out of taking these supplements. The following section will provide you with some of the different vegan proteins out there, and help you make an informed decision about which ones are best for you and your needs.

Vegan Protein

More and more people are taking on a vegan diet.
(Source: Subbotina: 26015845/ Subbotina: 26015845/

What are vegan protein supplements exactly?

They are products made from the best vegetable protein sources. Soy, hemp, amaranth, peas and rice are the most frequently used ingredients. The raw produce is generally pressed to extract the oils, while the remaining paste is dried and crushed into powder.

A single protein source (soybeans, hemp, rice, peas, pumpkin seed) or a combination of several types of vegetable protein (a mixture of peas, hemp and rice, for instance) can make up vegan protein supplements. Their ingredients are generally organic, with natural added colours and flavourings.

Vegan Protein

A vegan diet has many health benefits to offer.
(Source: Kolpakova: 38616874/

How are proteins used by the human body?

The structural function is the better known one of these nutrients. This means that they provide provide support, resistance and elasticity to our body tissues – such as tendons, skin and muscles. Proteins are also found in our digestive enzymes, antibodies and hormones.

Proteins facilitate the transport of substances like oxygen.

What is the nutritional composition of vegan protein supplements?

The types of ingredients found in a supplement determine how much protein is available per serving. This is why there is such a range of protein content depending on which manufacturer you are looking at (indicated on the nutritional information label found on the product). With that in mind, below are some of the most important elements of a high quality vegan protein supplement:

  • 50-86% protein, essential amino acid sources
  • 1-10% carbohydrates
  • 1-11% fat
  • 4-13% dietary fiber
  • Regarding energy, the recommended portion of vegan protein powder (between 20 and 30 grams) will provide you with between 100 and 130 calories.

As we had mentioned earlier, the nutritional composition of vegan protein supplements can very much vary. This is why you should always read the nutrition label. It would also be ideal to consult a nutritionist before starting supplementing with this kind of product. A higher protein content doesn’t necessarily rhyme with better quality.

Vegan Protein

Many vegan proteins are made from peas.
(Source: Kostman: 41256287/

When are vegan protein supplements useful?

Vegan protein supplements are formulated to improve the protein intake (quantity and quality) of vegan athletes and promote the development of their muscle mass. While traditional plant foods can still provide all the necessary protein for our body, supplements are easy to take and our organism can assimilate it better.

Non-vegan athletes can be intolerant to milk protein supplements and experience bloating, flatulence, or diarrhoea after consuming it. This is when vegan protein becomes particularly useful for them. Older adults can also use these supplements to reach the right protein intake.

T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.Author of The China Study
“There is a mountain of compelling research showing that plant protein allows for slow but steady synthesis of new proteins, and is the healthiest type of protein.”

What is a good amino acid profile?

There is a standard protein – called the FAO protein – whose amino acid profile is considered optimal to meet our needs. A vegan protein supplement will basically be worth taking if its profile is similar to that of the FAO protein. You’ll find the essential amino acid content of this standard protein in the table below:

Essential amino acid Milligram per gram of standard protein
Isoleucine (branched) 2.8
Leucine (branched) 6.6
Valine (branched) 3.5
Methionine + cysteine 2.5
Lysine 5.8
Tryptophan 1.1
Threonine 3.4
Phenylalanine + tyrosine 6.3

How can I choose a quality vegan protein?

You should aim for a product that contains a minimum of 50% protein. However, as we mentioned earlier, more protein doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a higher quality supplement. The amino acid profile is truly the key: essential amino acids are the basic units of proteins, those that our organism cannot produce on its own.

A protein containing all the amino acids (both essential and non-essential) is called complete or whole, and it is considered to be of high biological value. Three main essential amino acids – called branched (BCAA) – play a key role in the development of muscle mass: leucine, valine and isoleucine.

Vegan Protein

There are many sources of vegan protein.
(Source: Naumenko: 64449148/

Here’s a more concrete example: a pure pea protein supplement may contain over 80% protein, but it will lack an essential amino acid, methionine. On the other hand, the right blend of pea protein, rice and hemp with 65% protein can provide ALL amino acids, including BCAAs and methionine.

Do protein supplements guarantee an increase in muscle mass?

In short, no. These supplements will ensure that your body has enough of all amino acids required to create muscle proteins during synthesis. However, you won’t be able to increase your muscle mass (hypertrophy) without physical exercise that generates a load force on your muscle fibers.

On the other hand your existing muscle mass can be reduced if you train your physical strength – like weightlifting – without consuming enough protein. Keep in mind that carbohydrates are also essential to maintain adequate levels of glycogen,  which is the fuel of your muscle cells.

Viviana ZambranoSports Nutritionist
“The body needs proteins to form new structures. A muscular catabolism is generated if we don’t provide those proteins, making the organism look for nourishment through our tissues, therefore consuming muscle mass.”

Why are BCAAs (branched amino acids) so important for athletes?

All amino acids are actually essential to create new proteins, but it is true that branched ones (leucine, isoleucine and valine) are particularly important in sport. BCAAs facilitate recovery after intense trainings and can hinder the destruction of muscle protein.

These amino acids also promote muscle mass gain by stimulating the release of growth hormone and insulin, both of which are related to anabolism – protein creation through amino acids, in this case. Either way, it is important to consume these supplements responsibly and according to manufacturer instructions, as they can impact your cardiovascular health.

Vegan Protein

A vegan diet can also be high in protein.
(Source: Maridav: 39027334/

Are vegan protein supplements only for vegans?

No. Many athletes who follow an omnivorous diet have difficulties tolerating whey protein, as it can lead to digestive discomfort. This is why they decide to add vegetable proteins as supplements to their diet. Lactose-intolerant individuals naturally cannot consumer cow’s milk protein, and they often find that soy protein is an excellent source of essential amino acids.

Supplements are commonly used to counter a deficient protein intake in elderly people. Unfortunately, they may have diarrhoea and flatulence when taking whey protein due to lactase deficiency (lactase being an enzyme that digests lactose.

Did you know that vegetable protein is the best assimilated by the body?

What are the differences between vegan protein and whey protein?

Their origin is naturally the very first major different. Whey protein is obtained from cow’s milk whey, while vegan protein comes from seeds, cereals or pulses. Whey protein also presents a higher content in branched amino acids (BCAAs), dissolves more easily and has a more pleasant texture than plant-based protein supplements.

One great advantage of vegan protein is that it usually contains 100% organic ingredients, including colourants and flavourings. On the contrary, you can find many artificial additives in whey protein. Unlike their counterpart, vegan supplements are completely suitable for lactose intolerant and milk protein allergic individuals.

Whey protein Vegan protein
Origin Animal (cow’s milk) Vegetable (pulses, seeds, cereals)
Flavour Available unflavoured, or in different pleasant flavours (strawberry, vanilla, chocolate) Available in natural flavour or with vanilla, banana or chocolate flavour, for example. Note that the natural flavour is not well liked, especially that of pea protein.
Texture Foamy, creamy (when diluted in water) It tends to form lumps or take on a sandy texture in water. Soy protein has a very pleasant texture.
Solubility High Medium
Amino acid profile Complete Complete in the case of the mixture of various vegetable proteins, hemp or soybeans. Pure vegan protein from peas or rice is incomplete.
BCAA content Superior Provides branched amino acids, but in lower quantities than whey protein.
Assimilation Excellent. More than 90% of the protein is assimilated. The percentage will vary. It is lower than that of whey protein because vegan protein contains fiber, which interferes with bioavailability.
Digestive tolerance It can generate laxative effect or flatulence when consumed in excess. Lactose generates digestive discomfort for intolerant individuals. It is generally very well tolerated.
Allergens Cow’s milk protein Soy protein

What are the differences between vegan protein bars and vegan protein powder?

Vegan protein bars can more easily satiate you. Vegan protein powder is diluted in water (or another drink); as you might know, liquids remain in the stomach for less time than solid foods. One great advantage of protein bars is that you can eat them anywhere you go.

Regarding digestibility, there is virtually no digestion with vegan protein powder, which is quickly absorbed. On the other hand, the composition of a protein bar will determine how long it takes to be digested, but this tends to fall between 2 and 3 hours. Here’s a table to help you compare the two types of vegan protein supplements:

Vegan protein bar Vegan protein powder
Flavour Delicious, widely accepted by consumers. Some have a pleasant taste, while others have a peculiar natural taste.
Form of consumption Ready to consume Must be mixed with another liquid or solid preparation before consumption.
Satiating capacity High Moderate
Digestibility Requires greater digestion. Digestion is very simple and the product is rapidly absorbed.

Can vegan protein powder help me lose weight?

No. Unlike what is often claimed in the advertising of these products, vegan protein powder does not promote the use of fats as an energy source. The one advantage of this supplement is that it can contribute to slightly increasing your diet’s satiety value. The protein and fiber therefore make you have less appetite, but this is truly a small effect.

How should vegan protein powder be consumed?

Neutral or natural-flavoured vegan protein is best added to shakes, soups, waffles or pancakes. Products that feature added flavours should simply be blended with water. The proportions are generally 30 grams of powder diluted in 8.4-10 Oz of liquid. It is recommended to pour the liquid in the glass first, then add the powder and stir well.

Vegan Protein

Chickpea protein is very popular amongst vegan people.
(Source: Handmadepictures: 37427625/

What is the best time of day to eat vegan protein?

The best time to take a vegan protein supplement (or any protein supplement for that matter), is one hour before any physical activity, and/or 30 minutes prior to finishing. It is best not to wait too long after a workout to take a supplement because there is a metabolic window when your body is most capable of assimilating the greatest proportion of a supplement’s nutrients.

Can a vegan protein shake replace a main meal?

No, protein shakes should only be used as snacks before or after training. Your main meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner – should include other foods that provide your body with carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as protein.

Remember that you can never replace a balanced diet with supplements.

Are there any contraindications or side effects linked to vegan protein?

You are generally safe from side effects if you follow the recommended dosage of 20-40 grams per day. However, you may expose yourself to long-term liver and kidney problems if you consume too much protein, as these organs respectively metabolise proteins and their wastes. Moderation is always the key when it comes to supplements.

Excessive intake of branched amino acids has been linked to cardiovascular disease, and too much protein can also provoke headaches and dizziness. Individuals suffering from allergy to soy protein should naturally stay clear of supplements containing this legume.

Dr. Joseph M. MercolaFellow of the American College of Nutrition
“Excess dietary protein can lead to elevated blood sugar, weight gain, kidney stress, leaching of bone minerals, and stimulating cancer cells.”

What type of vegan protein supplements are there, and which one is right for me?

Vegan protein supplements can be divided into two major groups: protein blend and pure protein. This influences their composition, as well as their texture and taste. We have already mentioned their differences in this guide, but here are some more details regarding their amino acid profile:

  • Protein blend: the most common combination is peas, rice and hemp, and are available in very tasty flavours. Their offer excellent quality: while peas lack methionine and rice lacks lysine, they compensate their limiting amino acids when mixed together. Hemp seed, on the other hand, is a whole protein.
  • Pure protein: The most commonly used protein sources in supplements are peas, soybeans, rice and hemp. Pure pea, rice and hemp proteins generally have a natural flavour, while soy protein comes in different flavours (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and banana).

Soy and hemp both contain all the amino acids (essential and non-essential), while peas lack methionine and rice lysine. Soya supplements are easily dissolved in water and have a soft, pleasant texture. Hemp has a nutty taste.

Smoothies made with naturally flavoured pure pea protein aren’t well liked when blended with water only, but they mix very well with vegetable drinks (oat or almond), cocoa and cinnamon. Pure rice protein presents a neutral taste.

Did you know that peas and soybeans are the vegan proteins richest in BCAAs (valine, leucine and isoleucine)?

Shopping Criteria

As you now know, vegan protein products can greatly vary in terms of solubility, amino acid content and taste. In the following section, we’ll go over the most important factors that you need to take into account in order to find the most suitable supplement for your needs. These aspects are the following:


Vegan protein supplements with added flavor are particularly useful, as all you need to do is dissolve them in water and they’re ready to be consumed. Unflavoured or natural tasting protein can be added to juices, milkshakes, soups and pancake dough. Pea protein have a very peculiar natural flavour, but you can also find them in neutral flavour on the market.

Dissolution capacity and texture

As we mentioned earlier, vegan soy protein powder easily dissolves in water and produces smooth, foamy shakes. Certain proteins, on the other hand, may give a thick, granular or sandy consistency to your protein shake if you don’t mix it thoroughly. To avoid this, we recommend using a blender or an electric mixer.


Vegan proteins in powder are generally free of allergens, lactose and gluten. That being said, individuals suffering from food allergies – including gluten intolerance – must absolutely verify that the product they are buying is certified free of  dangerous ingredients. People allergic to soy protein should naturally avoid them altogether.

Protein and BCAA content

Quality vegan protein supplements provide at least 50% protein, and up to 86%. The content in branched amino acids is another key factors to consider. As you now know, they promote the development of muscle mass and recovery after intense training. Here are approximate BCAA values:

  • Leucine: 2.43 grams per portion of 30 grams
  • Isoleucine: 1.56 gram per portion of 30 grams
  • Valine: 1.6 gram per portion of 30 grams


You might not have thought so, but vegan protein supplements can truly have an amino acid profile as complete as whey protein. The market offers a wide variety of flavours, brands, and combinations. The most commonly used ingredients are soybeans, peas, hemp and rice, which are marketed as pure protein or as part of a protein blend.

The objective when taking vegan supplements is to get all of your essential amino acids, both in terms of quantity and quality, in order to build muscle mass. After having read the above article, you should have everything you need to go out and choose the vegan protein that makes the most sense for you.

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(Source of featured image: Sripromma: 42071885/