Vegan & Plant-Based Protein Powder: Your Strength, Longevity, and Nutrient Guide

Looking to bump up your protein intake without the fuss? Plant-based protein powders might be just what you need. These versatile supplements are a quick and convenient way to meet your protein needs, and they’re incredibly easy to incorporate into your daily meals. Whether you’re blending them into morning smoothies, stirring them into oatmeal, or even adding a scoop to your favorite pancake mix, plant-based protein powders make it simple to get the nutrients you need. In this article, we’ll dive into the nutritional benefits of different types of plant-based protein powders. We’ll also cover protein needs for different groups and provide affiliate links where you can easily order the best protein powder online.

What Are Vegan Protein Supplement Sources?

Vegan protein powder is a dietary supplement made from plant-based protein sources rather than animal-based ones like whey or casein. These protein powders are designed to provide high-quality protein for those who follow a vegan or plant-based diet or those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products. Vegan protein powders can also be a suitable choice for people looking to diversify their protein sources.

There are various plant-based protein sources used to create vegan protein powders, including:

  • Pea protein: Derived from yellow split peas, it is a high-quality protein source with a complete amino acid profile, making it one of the most popular options for vegan protein powders.
  • Brown rice protein: Extracted from brown rice, it is a hypoallergenic protein source that is easy to digest. However, it is low in the essential amino acid lysine, so it is often combined with other protein sources.
  • Hemp protein: Obtained from hemp seeds, it is a complete protein source that also provides a good amount of fiber, omega-3, and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Soy protein: Derived from soybeans, it is a complete protein source and one of the most common options for vegan protein powders. However, some people may have concerns about soy due to possible allergies, sensitivities, or its impact on hormone levels.
  • Mixed plant proteins: Many vegan protein powders contain a blend of various plant-based protein sources, such as pea, brown rice, hemp, chia, quinoa, or pumpkin seed protein. These blends aim to provide a complete amino acid profile and a balanced nutrient profile.

What are the Benefits of Plant Proteins?

When compared to whey or egg-based protein powders, vegan protein powders offer several benefits for human health, including:

  • Hypoallergenic: Plant-based milk substitutes, derived from legumes, oilseeds, cereals, or pseudocereals, are increasingly favored over cow’s milk due to allergy concerns and lifestyle preferences. These substitutes undergo processes like grinding, homogenization, and occasional heat treatments to ensure stability and safety, making them hypoallergenic alternatives suitable for persons with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. PMID: 32247441
  • High Fiber Options: Replacing animal proteins with plant proteins in diets led to lesser saturated fat, increased fiber intake, and improved blood cholesterol levels, suggesting that shifting towards more plant-based diets could be healthier and more sustainable. PMC7231027
  • Environmentally friendly: Plant-based protein sources generally have a lower environmental impact compared to animal-based protein sources, and it’s associated with lower risks of chronic diseases, making vegan protein powders a more sustainable and healthier option. PMC6316289
  • Supports a plant-based diet: A study, comparing a vegan protein blend to a carbohydrate supplement for muscle recovery after exercise, found that the vegan protein blend supports faster muscle recovery and improved performance in activities like jumping and squatting. Therefore, vegan protein powders can aid persons following a vegan or vegetarian diet in meeting their daily protein needs, promoting overall health and adequate nutrition. PMID: 33063541

Vegan Protein Sources

Vegan protein powder is a dietary supplement derived from various plant-based protein sources. It is not naturally found in whole foods. However, I can provide a table listing some plant-based food sources that are rich in protein and may be used to create vegan protein powders. The protein content may vary depending on factors like processing methods and product variations.

Plant-Based Food SourceProtein Content (approximate)
Peas (1 cup cooked)8 grams
Brown Rice (1 cup cooked)5 grams
Hemp Seeds (3 tablespoons)10 grams
Soybeans (1 cup cooked)22 grams
Pumpkin Seeds (1 oz)7 grams
Chia Seeds (1 oz)4 grams
Quinoa (1 cup cooked)8 grams
To obtain concentrated vegan protein, it is best to use a vegan protein powder supplement made from one or more of these sources.

How Much Protein Do We Need?

When it comes to protein intake, one size doesn’t fit all. The debate over higher versus lower protein consumption has been a topic of interest among nutrition experts, athletes, and those concerned about long-term health. Whether you’re looking to build muscle, manage a medical condition, or simply improve your overall health, understanding the advantages of different levels of protein intake can help you make informed choices tailored to your individual goals and needs.

RDA for Protein

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for healthy adults. This translates to about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. Both men and women fall under this general guideline. These recommendations aim to meet the nutritional requirements of most healthy people. Older adults and those who are losing weight or exercising may benefit from higher levels. Women’s needs during the second and third trimester of pregnancy go up to 1.1 grams per kg (0.5 grams per pound). PMC5872778

Some Experts Call For Much More Protein Than The RDA

Recent research suggests higher protein needs than past RDAs showed, especially for athletes, the elderly, and those healing from illness. Studies now recommend a protein intake that may be significantly above the standard guidelines, to support muscle health, weight management, and overall health.

A growing body of research shows that protein intakes well above the current Recommended Dietary Allowance help to promote healthy aging, appetite regulation, weight management, and goals aligned with athletic performance. Higher protein intakes may help prevent age-related sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass, and strength that predisposes older adults to frailty, disability, and loss of autonomy. Higher protein diets also improve satiety and lead to greater reductions in body weight and fat mass compared with standard protein diets, and may therefore serve as a successful strategy to help prevent and/or treat obesity. Athletes can also benefit from higher protein intakes to maximize athletic performance given the critical role protein plays in stimulating muscle protein remodelling after exercise. … Despite persistent beliefs to the contrary, we can find no evidence-based link between higher protein diets and renal disease or adverse bone health… Current evidence shows intakes in the range of at least 1.2 to 1.6 g/(kg·day) [0.55-0.8g per lb.] of high-quality protein is a more ideal target for achieving optimal health outcomes in adults.

Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health [PMID: 26960445]

If you’re engaged in muscle-building exercises like weightlifting or strength training, your protein needs are generally higher than those of the average person. For optimal muscle growth and recovery, it’s commonly recommended to consume between 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This translates to about 0.54 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This higher protein intake supports muscle protein synthesis, aids in muscle repair, and helps you gain lean muscle mass more effectively. Timing also matters; consuming protein before or after workouts can maximize muscle growth. However, individual needs can vary, so consulting a sports dietitian for personalized advice is a smart move.

To increase muscle mass in combination with physical activity, it is recommended that a person that lifts weights regularly or is training for a running or cycling event eat a range of 1.2-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight.

American College of Sports Medicine

If you’re aiming to lose weight, increasing protein intake can be beneficial. Protein can help you feel fuller for longer periods, reducing overall calorie intake. It also helps preserve muscle mass, ensuring that most of the weight you lose is from fat. A common recommendation is to consume between 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day when you’re on a calorie-restricted diet. However, the specific amount can vary based on individual factors like activity level and metabolic rate. Consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice tailored to your weight loss goals. PMID: 25926512

For elderly people, protein intake becomes especially important to combat age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, and to support bone health. The general protein recommendation of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight may not be sufficient for older adults. Some experts recommend a higher intake of around 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day or about 0.54 g per pound. This helps maintain muscle mass and strength. Adequate protein can also play a role in reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. PMC4924200

What Are the Health Advantages to Lower Protein Intake?

Lowering protein intake can have some advantages, especially for certain groups or in specific conditions:

  • Kidney Health: Reduced protein intake can ease the workload on kidneys, which is particularly beneficial for people with kidney issues. Anyone with low kidney function should seek out a registered dietitian nutritionist to discuss the much wider scope of nutritional requirements. PMID: 31882231
  • Lowered Cancer Risk: Reducing protein intake without causing malnutrition has shown promise in preventing diseases and promoting health. Studies suggest that low-protein diets may lower the risk of cancer and inhibit tumor growth by affecting various cellular processes. PMID: 29596961
  • Longevity: Recent studies suggest that reducing protein intake, particularly certain amino acids like methionine and branched-chain amino acids found in animal protein, may promote longevity and metabolic health. However, it’s essential to ensure adequate protein intake to prevent issues like muscle loss, especially as we age. PMC6562018
  • Environmental Impact: A study investigated the sustainability of different protein intake patterns and found that diets rich in plant-based proteins and fish are the most sustainable, offering health benefits and environmental protection. Conversely, diets high in meat have higher environmental impact and health risks, highlighting the benefits of reducing meat consumption for both health and the environment. PMC10587119

What Are The Advantages of Higher Protein Intake?

Increasing protein intake has several health benefits for specific groups and conditions:

  • Muscle Gain: A study analyzed whether increasing daily protein intake contributes to muscle gains and physical performance in healthy adults. It found that higher protein intake can lead to small increases in muscle mass and strength, especially in those who do resistance exercise training.
  • Weight Loss: Recent evidence suggests that higher-protein diets may aid in weight management and improve cardiometabolic risk factors. PMID: 25926512
  • Elderly: Recent studies suggest that consuming higher protein levels, around 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, may help older adults maintain muscle health, which is crucial for supporting bone health and reducing the risk of fractures and osteoporosis in this population. PMC7996767
  • Post-Surgery Recovery: During post-surgery recovery, consuming protein between 1.6 to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight daily is recommended. To support muscle strength and function, timing meals and snacks around therapy sessions, including protein shakes before and after, can aid in faster recovery, as increased protein aids tissue repair and recovery. PMC8156786
  • Athletic Performance: The study shows that consuming more protein helps maintain muscle strength and exercise performance. PMC9880233

Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist for tailored advice, as protein needs can differ from person to person.

Is Plant Protein Powder Safe?

Vegan protein powders are a safe and effective way to supplement your protein intake. Plant sources like peas, hemp, and brown rice usually don’t contain lactose or animal byproducts, making them well-suited for people with dairy allergies or those following a vegan diet. Most reputable brands undergo testing for contaminants and are subject to quality control standards, making them a reliable option for boosting protein levels.

Medications That Interact With Protein Powders

  • Thyroid Medications: Protein powders, like all food intake, can interfere with the absorption of medications for hypothyroidism, such as levothyroxine.
  • Parkinson’s Medications: All protein sources can interact with Parkinsons medication. Some vegan protein sources, especially those derived from legumes like soy, contain natural amino acids that may compete with Parkinson’s medications for absorption. This could affect the effectiveness of these medications.

Supplement Interactions with Vegan Protein Powder

  • Iron Supplements: Some plant proteins like pea protein are high in iron. Combining them with iron supplements could lead to excessive iron intake.
  • Calcium Supplements: Protein can bind to calcium, which could affect calcium absorption if consumed at the same time. This is of particular concern if you’re relying on supplements for your calcium intake.
  • Magnesium Supplements: High doses of magnesium from supplements combined with magnesium from pumpkin seed protein could lead to excessive magnesium intake.
  • B-Vitamin Supplements: Since some plant proteins are already fortified with B-vitamins, combining them with B-vitamin supplements could lead to exceeding the recommended daily intake. This can be a problem if high folic acid levels mask a B-12 deficiency.

Order Plant Protein Powder Supplements Online

When choosing a vegan protein powder, factors such as personal taste preferences, allergies, and specific nutritional needs should be considered. Some people may find that a blend of different plant-based protein sources best suits their needs, while others may prefer a single-source vegan protein powder. Here are some options:

  • Pea Protein: Pea protein is high in essential amino acids and is easy to digest. It’s also hypoallergenic but may lack some amino acids and can have a strong flavor. 1 TBSP = 8 g protein and no fiber. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Hemp Protein: Hemp protein contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is easy to digest. It has lower protein content compared to other sources and can be gritty in texture. 1 TBSP = 5 g protein and 2 g fiber. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Soy Protein: Soy protein has a complete amino acid profile and high protein content. Some people may have soy allergies or sensitivities. There are both concerns and advantages to phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens can alleviate some symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats but may be problematic in that it mimicks estrogen. Men, children, people with hormonal imbalances like PCOS, and those with hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer or endometriosis may want to avoid estrogenic compounds. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Pumpkin Seed Protein: Pumpkin seed protein is a good source of magnesium and zinc and is easy to digest. Pumpkin seeds lack the essential amino acid lysine. 1 TBSP = 8 g protein + 2 g fiber + magnesium. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Chia Protein: Chia protein is high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. It is low in protein compared to other sources and can have a gritty texture. 1 TBSP = 3 g protein + 3 g fiber. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Sunflower Seed Protein: Sunflower seed protein is easy to digest and rich in vitamin E. Sunflower seeds lack the essential amino acid lysine. 1 oz. = 15 g protein + 2 g fiber. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Quinoa Protein: Quinoa protein has a complete amino acid profile and is a good source of fiber. It has lower protein content compared to other sources and is often added to vegan protein mixtures.
  • Protein Mixtures: Protein mixtures often combine various plant-based sources to create a complete amino acid profile. They can also offer a broader range of nutrients from different ingredients. Some options can be expensive and may include additives or artificial ingredients to improve taste and texture. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.
  • Brown Rice Protein: Brown rice protein is easy to digest and is usually inexpensive. It has an incomplete amino acid profile, missing the amino acid lysine, and can be chalky. 2 TBSP = 12 g protein + 1 g fiber. Order on Amazon through our affiliate link.

To Sum It Up

Plant-based protein powders offer a range of benefits, making them a versatile and healthy addition to your diet. Easy to blend into smoothies, these protein powders are a convenient way to boost your protein intake while benefiting from other nutrients and fiber. Whether you’re an athlete, someone looking to lose weight, or simply aiming for a balanced diet, plant-based proteins provide a flexible and health-conscious choice.


This Article is Not a Substitute for Medical Advice

Dietary supplements are not designed to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The Supplement Sciences website seeks to provide comprehensive access to the most relevant supplement information along with convenient online ordering. We do not provide medical advice and cannot guarantee that every product suggested is completely without risk. Since each person is unique in their health history and medication use, it is important to discuss supplements with your personal physician. Specifically, pregnant women and individuals being treated for cancer or liver or kidney problems must consult their physician about every nutritional supplement they plan to take. People taking medications for the treatment of HIV or with a history of organ transplant must not take supplements without consulting with their physician.


About the Author

Stephanie Figon, MS, RDN, LD

Creator of Supplement Sciences and NutriScape.NET. As a dietitian since 1992, Steph has had experiences in consulting, 15 years in clinical, and has operated a private practice nutrition counseling office for since 2011. Log in to comment and save this article on your board or send your comments to reviews@supplement-sciences.com

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