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8 Vegan Protein Powders That Don't Taste Like Dirt
Why Pick Plants?
When you first think about protein powder, you might picture a super-jacked dude guzzling down shakes of raw eggs and thick whey protein with a name like "TRIPLE X MASS 3000." The truth, though, is that protein powder is not going to turn you into The Hulk overnight. Plus it isn't all hyper-processed with terrifying ingredient labels, and conventional whey isn't the only choice. (FYI: Here's the list of all the different types of protein.)
You can also get protein from plants, and it's a pretty solid option because it uses fewer resources than most animal-based proteins do. Why? It's more easily extracted, which means minimal processing, says Kim McDevitt, M.P.H., R.D., a plant-based "flexitarian" and Vega National Educator. Plant-based protein also tends to be easily digestible—no lactose issues here—and because it's, well, protein, it's going to help build lean muscle and support muscle repair and recovery after your workout.
But do you really need protein powder? "I'm a huge proponent of eating real foods, but sometimes that's just not possible," says McDevitt. "This is like the next best thing to eating whole foods—a protein powder that's so minimally processed and doesn't have a lot of those fillers and additives in it."
There's just one problem: If you're used to the milkiness of whey protein, or want a protein powder that tastes like Nesquik Chocolate Milk, switching to plant proteins might be more difficult. There are plenty of options out there, but not all of them taste great. That's why we rounded up a selection of plant-based proteins that will make sipping your post-workout shake a delight, not a chore.
Vega Protein & Greens
Vega offers a gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free protein powder with double the benefits: One serving of their Protein & Greens is loaded with 20g of multi-source plant protein (pea, hemp, and brown rice), plus two servings of greens (alfalfa, spinach, broccoli, and kale). That's right—you can get your greens in without having to dump cups of bitter leaves in the blender and then try to figure out a way to cover up the taste. Plus, it comes in flavors like vanilla, chocolate, berry, and tropical that taste so good, you'll want them for breakfast, post-workout, and dessert.
Aloha Protein is an organic, vegan, gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free protein powder that's naturally sweetened with coconut sugar, vanilla bean, and monk fruit extract. You probably wouldn't even notice, though, seeing as the chocolate and vanilla flavors are so dang good you might not realize it's protein powder. But McDevitt says this one's a good fit because it has a complete amino acid profile. "Multi-source protein powder options are best because the more types of plant protein you combine, the higher that amino acid profile is," says McDevitt. "A higher profile basically means you're going to get a more optimal level of amino acids, which will create useful proteins for your body." So look for labels that list multiple sources of plants, like Aloha's blend of pumpkin seed, pea, and hemp protein.
Kashi Plant-Powered Shakes
The iconic cereal and granola bar brand has branched off into shakes—their new plant-powered shakes also have probiotics, greens, beets, and sprouted legumes, plus ground chia seed and flaxseed (which have a whole slew of benefits) and 21g of protein per serving. Translation: It's a really nutritious smoothie option. You can snag it in a plain flavor, or try Matcha Tea Mantra, Vanilla Vinyasa, or Dark Cocoa Powder. With so much loaded into the powder itself (plus its delish flavor), feel free to shake and sip as is—no additional ingredients required.
Arbonne Essentials Daily Protein Boost
This is the ultimate plant-based protein for someone who wants to add an extra hit of protein in the most no-nonsense way possible. With just three ingredients—pea protein, rice protein, and cranberry protein—you won't find added flavors, sugars, fillers, or scary ingredients. One serving of Arbonne's powder has 10 grams of protein, but for a bigger boost you can just go for a double scoop.
Zumba Shake Shake Shake
Zumba has expanded into HIIT and protein shakes—and appropriately named them "Shake Shake Shake." Their three flavors—Thrilla in Vanilla, La Vida Mocha, and Cocoa Loco—pack 16g of protein from pea and brown rice, plus a veggie and berry blend made from broccoli, tomato, carrot, spinach, kale, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, and other fruits. While that's a lot of ingredients, there are a few key things missing: Added sugar, oils, artificial flavors, milk, wheat, soy, allergens, GMO, gluten, or fructose. McDevitt says this is clutch, as the no added sugar "will help keep your glycemic index low and blood sugar stable, and if you're already putting it into a fruit smoothie, you don't need any more sugar in that meal."
Plant Fusion Complete Plant Protein
Plant Fusion protein has a complete amino acid profile, as well as 4.5g of branched chain amino acids (BCAA). "BCAAs are the ones that really matter for people who are working out," says McDevitt. "When we eat those, they help rebuild and repair our muscles. But you have to get a certain amount—ideally 4g or more in a serving." And since this protein powder has 21g of protein, is free of all major allergens, and contains a blend of enzymes for easy digestion, you might as well go on and grab a big scoop (we really like the Chocolate Raspberry and Cookies n' Crème flavors, naturally).
AlkaMind Organic Daily Protein
This powder (made with pea, hemp, and sacha inchi protein) not only contains a flaxseed, chia, quinoa, amaranth, and millet blend, but also 900mg of coconut oil powder per serving—making this a superfood lover's dream. It comes in both a Vanilla Coconut and Creamy Chocolate flavor, so you can throw it in a sweet and tropical smoothie, or whip up something chocolaty for dessert.
Former professional athletes and husband-wife duo Kathryn Moos and Jeff Mroz noticed that a lot of performance protein powders were filled with additives and lacked a complete nutritional profile. That’s why they decide to create OWYN (Only What You Need) a dairy-free, allergen-friendly, plant-based protein powder created from a blend of pea, organic pumpkin seed, and organic flaxseed to deliver all nine essential amino acids without any added junk. Their formula doesn't include any stevia, sugar alcohols, GMOs, or anything artificial. Even without these additives, the proteins (mixed with water or milk) still come out super creamy and naturally sweet. Their flavors—Smooth Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Strawberry Banana, Matcha, and Cold Brew (made with Peruvian coffee—drool!)—each clock in about 20 grams of protein, 500mg of omega 3’s, and a full serving of organic greens. (That's all with less than 5 grams of sugar and only 150 calories, BTW.)