Protein powders are some of the most popular and frequently consumed supplements on the market. Protein powder is the "gateway" supplement for many individuals beyond the chewable vitamins they enjoyed as children.
For decades, the de facto protein powder was whey protein. It was cheap, relatively easy to flavor, and provided a high-quality source of amino acids to support muscle recovery, body recomposition, and overall health.
However, due to several factors, including rising costs and an increased desire for non-dairy protein powder options, plant-based protein sources and vegan protein powders have skyrocketed in popularity.
Previously, plant protein powders were eschewed due to a belief that they were inferior to animal-based protein powders for building muscle and strength. They also were notoriously underwhelming in taste and texture (which is a generous way of saying they tasted like ground-up grass clippings with a side of dirt).
Recently though, flavoring technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and there have also been innovations in non-dairy creamers and other natural additives to enhance the mixability and texture of plant protein powders.
Moreover, research shows that plant-based protein powders can be just as effective as whey protein powder for building muscle and strength. [1,2,3]
In other words, plant-based vegan protein powders can easily support all your fitness and healthy lifestyle needs.
And, if you’re wondering where you can find a high-quality plant-based protein powder, then you’re in luck!
We'll discuss our choice for the best-tasting vegan protein powder.
But, before we get to that, let’s first discuss…
Is Plant-Based Protein as Good as Whey or Casein?
As we mentioned above, common thinking (as well as advice from top-level coaches, trainers, and “gurus”) was that animal protein sources were superior to plant protein sources.
The reason for this is due to a few factors.
For starters, individual plant proteins (rice, beans, etc.), by and large, are incomplete protein sources, which means they are lacking or deficient in one or more of the essential amino acids (EAAs).
This is important because the body cannot produce EAAs on its own, meaning that they must be obtained through the diet (either whole food or supplements like whey protein powder or EAA/BCAA supplements). Failure to consume enough EAAs each day can limit an individual’s ability to repair damaged muscle tissue, support muscle growth, or even satisfy the basic functions of human physiology.
Based on this, you might think that consuming only plant-based protein sources would be counterproductive since most of them are missing one or more of the essential amino acids.
However, combining multiple plant protein sources (e.g., rice and beans, nut butter and bread, etc.) can provide a robust and complete amino acid profile, thereby satisfying the EAA requirements for an individual. Note that this does require some additional work on the plant-based athlete or fitness enthusiast, such as making sure the diet includes a variety of high-protein plant-based foods.
Additionally, plant-based protein options suffer from decreased bioavailability compared to animal-based proteins. What this means in real-world applications is that you would have to consume a higher amount of plant-based protein from whole foods to obtain an equivalent of biologically active protein compared to animal-based proteins.
For instance, you may need to consume 35-40 grams of plant-based protein to achieve the same level of amino acids and rise in muscle protein synthesis rates as 20-25 grams of animal protein. Researchers are still investigating why this happens explicitly. Still, it may be due, in part at least, to the presence of anti-nutrients that reduce or impair the utilization of amino acids derived from plant protein sources.
Furthermore, short-term, isolated studies have indicated that whey protein and/or casein protein powder led to more significant elevations in muscle protein synthesis than vegan protein sources. However, these brief snapshots don't account for weeks, months, and years of proper nutrition, hard training, and quality sleep.
So, where does that leave you?
Should you consider using vegan protein powder, or should you toss it in the dumpster?
Plant-based protein can be just as effective as whey or casein.
This has been shown repeatedly in research trials, not only individual studies but also systematic reviews! [1,2,3]
What to Look for in a Vegan Protein Powder
One of the main arguments against plant-based protein powders is incomplete proteins. However, this only applies to certain foods -- rice, beans, lentils, etc.
When you combine different protein sources, these various sources can essentially “fill in the gaps” of each other, thereby creating a complete protein and supplying the body with sufficient amounts of the requisite essential amino acids to fuel protein synthesis, stop muscle breakdown, and support muscle growth and recovery.
Employing this knowledge, you want to look for a plant-based vegan protein powder that includes a variety of high-quality plant proteins, such as pea protein, sunflower seed protein, and pumpkin seed protein.
What's the Best Tasting Vegan Protein Powder?
Vegan protein powders have been notorious for their less than stellar taste, texture, and mixability. Over the years, you'd be lucky not to have to chew, cough, and choke down your plant-based protein.
Fortunately, there have been titanic improvements and innovations in flavoring, mouth-feel, and mixability.
SteelFit® Steel Vegan, quite simply, is the best-tasting vegan protein powder on the market.
Every serving delivers a robust 20 grams of high-quality protein from a combination of pea, pumpkin seed, watermelon seed, and sunflower seed protein. Steel Vegan mixes and digests easily. In addition to supplying the mind and body with premium-grade protein, it also provides a bounty of micronutrients to support total body health and wellness.
Click here to learn more about Steel Vegan and our other vegan-friendly supplements.
1. Hevia-Larraín, V., Gualano, B., Longobardi, I. et al. High-Protein Plant-Based Diet Versus a Protein-Matched Omnivorous Diet to Support Resistance Training Adaptations: A Comparison Between Habitual Vegans and Omnivores. Sports Med 51, 1317–1330 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-021-01434-9
2. Lynch HM, Buman MP, Dickinson JM, Ransdell LB, Johnston CS, Wharton CM. No Significant Differences in Muscle Growth and Strength Development When Consuming Soy and Whey Protein Supplements Matched for Leucine Following a 12 Week Resistance Training Program in Men and Women: A Randomized Trial. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(11):3871. Published 2020 May 29. doi:10.3390/ijerph17113871