Protein powder has become a popular supplement for most of us who take fitness seriously.
Aside from boosting muscle gain, certain protein powders also help relieve soreness and enhance recovery enabling us to push longer and harder during workouts.
However, while the benefits are clear for all to see, is it safe to consume protein powder on a plant-based diet?
Is Protein Powder Vegan?
While everyday protein powder recipes are made with animal ingredients and therefore not vegan, you can find several vegan protein powders on the market today. In fact, vegan protein is becoming so popular that many athletes are switching over to this source of nutrition.
What Are the Animal Products in Protein Powder?
While non-vegan protein powders don’t use meat, they commonly use animal derivatives or other byproducts of the animal industry to boost the protein content. Here are the three most common animal ingredients used in protein powder.
Whey is a byproduct of the dairy industry left behind after manufacturing cheese. In the processing of cheese, enzymes are added to milk, so it curdles into the raw material used for cheese.
These enzymes separate the milk into curds (used to make cheese) and a thick, viscous liquid known as whey. Most non-vegan protein powders add whey to their blend to boost their protein content.
Like whey, casein is a byproduct of the cheese-making process. Casein accounts for roughly 80% of the protein in milk and is found in the thick, curdled portion of milk when the whey is separated.
The most effective way to notice the difference is to open a tin of yogurt and observe how the whey separates. You’ll see that there’s a liquid layer on top, which is the whey, while the more dense layer under it comprises casein.
In casein powders, the whey is first drained away, and the curd portion is washed with water and dried till it turns into a powder which is then added to the protein mix.
Nearly all egg protein powders are made the same way, except, of course, the specific formulas each manufacturer adheres to when preparing their unique mix.
The preparation is much simpler here — the egg whites are separated from the yolk and crushed or pulverized to be used in protein blends. In some cases, manufacturers will liquefy the egg whites for easy storage.
The egg white can be stored for days before being dried out in this form.
Whey, casein, and egg are the three primary ingredients used in non-vegan protein blends.
Some manufacturers use more than one of these ingredients to boost protein content. However, keep in mind that what matters is the protein quality you consume and how effectively your body can absorb the nutrients.
You can be consuming excessive quantities of protein, but it’s futile if your body cannot absorb the nutrition.
The advantage of consuming vegan protein powder is that most sources of vegan protein (pea, hemp, soy, rice) are more bioavailable to the body.
This bioavailability means your body can quickly recognize the components in this protein powder, break down the nutrients, and effectively absorb the nutrition into your system.
If you’re unsure which vegan protein powder to invest in, here’s a list of the best vegan protein powders to help you out.
1. Chocolate Magic by Planet Protein
If you’re looking for a protein blend that goes above and beyond the call of duty, the Chocolate Magic formula by Planet Protein is the one. Made with nine organic nutrients, this protein blend gives your body the clean, green nutrition it deserves.
Aside from meeting your protein requirements, this mix gives you a host of other benefits you won’t find in any other protein powder. It’s packed with BCAAs and contains organic coconut milk powder to soothe your muscles after an intense workout.
Additionally, this mix also contains reishi mushrooms, believed to possess anti-aging qualities and used in Chinese medicine for years. Each scoop comes with the goodness of these other nutrients and packs a whopping 22g of protein per serving, which is pretty high even compared to some non-vegan protein powders.
If there’s one protein powder that will take your workout and body to the next level, it’s the Chocolate Magic by Planet Protein. Sure, it’s a little expensive, but when you’re getting organic, fair-trade, sustainably-developed nutrition, no investment is too much.
2. Iron Vegan Sprouted Protein Powder
The ‘sprouting’ of nutrients before processing is what makes this protein powder so unique and effective. The Iron Vegan mix uses five sprouts grains and seeds in its recipe, including quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, millet, and pumpkin seeds.
Sprouting refers to a process where these seeds are soaked in water and allowed to germinate. During this process, the seeds produce shoots, ensuring that the maximum nutrition is derived from them when added to the protein blend.
Aside from the grains and seeds, this mix uses apple, pectin, and other natural flavors to make it more palatable. Like the previous mix, this one is organic and GMO-free, making it a healthy, wholesome source of protein.
Read the Iron Vegan Sprouted Protein review.
3. Vega Sport Protein
Available in five exciting flavors, including peanut butter and mocha, the Vega Sport Protein (and the others on this list) is ideal for those engaging in rigorous physical activity. Like other top-tier protein blends, this one comes with BCAAs to help boost muscle recovery.
But more importantly, the Vega Sport mix also comes with tart cherry, an ingredient rich in antioxidants that helps to combat oxidative stress in the body. Tart cherry is also anti-inflammatory and can help soothe your muscles quickly after an intense session at the gym.
Aside from the tart cherry, this blend offers many of the same benefits provided by the other protein powders mentioned.
Read the Vega Sport Protein review.
Vegan protein powders have flooded the market and are especially popular as they come with the fiber needed to digest and absorb protein effectively. As such, you can rest assured that if you’re looking for a plant-based protein mix to boost your workout, you can find plenty on the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is whey protein vegan?
No, whey protein is not vegan because it is derived from dairy (milk). In fact, most protein powders contain whey and are not vegan unless stated otherwise or by looking at the ingredients list.
Is whey protein vegetarian?
Yes, whey protein is considered vegetarian because it does not contain any meat and is made using dairy (milk).