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Many of the essential amino acids to build muscle are abundant on a plant-based vegan diet. The problem can be with food-combining, making it difficult to form complete-protein meals. That’s where vegan protein powders come in!
The easiest way to quickly put more protein into your body is to use a protein powder supplement. By combining several sources of protein, you can get all the amino acids you need to build muscle, but it’s not really convenient, especially if you’re out training and need a quick protein fix.
That’s why simply taking some protein powder with a protein drink shaker really come in handy.
There are now many protein drinks to choose from depending on your needs. Below are three vegan plant-based protein powders which contain BCAAs and a high concentration of protein.
- Optimum Nutrition Protein Drink – Contains 24 grams of complete protein, vitamins, and minerals to support post-workout recovery (great for gluten sensitive people).
- Plant-Fusion Complete Amino Acid Drink – Contains 21 grams of protein, and its own proprietary blend of enzymes to maximize absorbability of plant-based proteins.
- Vega Clean Protein Powder – A very simple and clean protein powder for those who want a high concentration of protein (25 grams with 18 amino acids), and a premium product.
- Garden of Life Organic Amino Acid Protein Powder – Contains 30 grams of protein providing all essential amino acids and several vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. Designed for performance training and athletes.
Amino acid pool
The protein that we eat from our meals is degraded into amino acids, which are the building block of proteins in the body.
Nitrogen metabolism is crucial for several functions in the body from building muscles, catalyzing biochemical reactions, and regulating hormones.
Proteins don’t just provide us with calories, they are crucial for life.
Amino acids are not stored, and that’s why it’s important to refill the amino acid pool to be used to synthesize new proteins in the body.
One study conducted in 2016 showed that plasma concentrations of amino acids varied significantly in people who ate different diets.
Although vegans had high concentrations of glycine compared to other groups, they had much lower concentrations of methionine, leucine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, and tyrosine.
Any athlete or trainer who is serious about building muscle and staying fit will need to restore proper nitrogen balance and not end up in a catabolic state.
Since vegans tend to lower their calorie intake naturally, and also have a large amount of fiber in the diet, these can decrease amino acid availability in the diet and make it difficult to build muscle if that’s your goal.
Phytic acid and trypsin inhibitors on a plant-based diet are two factors which may limit the availability of plant-based amino acids from protein. Therefore it’s possible that one would need to consume more protein to get the equivalent amount of digestible protein as you would from a meat-based diet. 
Eating a diet which is rich in plant-based protein certainly do have their benefits such as a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, but at the same time, the quality of protein is reduced and the elevation in IGF1 which is required to build muscle is decreased.
Benefits of using protein shakes
There are many benefits to using protein shakes aside from getting all the essential amino acids. Let’s list a few of the main ones.
- Protein powder drinks promote satiety and provide more sustained energy.
- Plant-based protein drinks are non-inflammatory inducing drinks, unlike animal protein.
- Naturally sourced ingredients also include phytochemicals and antioxidants.
- Improves recovery time from a workout and helps preserve muscle mass gained.
- Makes it convenient and you don’t need to think about food-combining to get all essential amino acids if you’re on a vegan diet.
- Provides the high amount of glutamine to promote recovery time
- Includes extra vitamins and minerals to improve performance and replace nutrients lost from training.
Top plant-based protein powders containing all essential amino acids
There are many great brands which provide both low, medium and high concentration of proteins.
Some of them also combine several vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and enzymes to enhance the absorption.
One of the highest-rated protein supplement for vegans that contains a high concentration of protein (24 grams) from a blend of organic pea, organic rice, and organic sacha inchi.
This protein powder was designed for people who are looking for a complete protein source for before or after exercise to enhance muscle building and post-workout recovery.
The plant-based protein shake not only contains a complete set of essential amino acids, but it also provides you with calcium, iron, vitamin C and B12 in the form of cyanocobalamin.
The supplement is suitable for those who are sensitive to gluten because it’s made with grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, chia, millet, and amaranth.
Features: The supplement provides high-quality protein sources with 4 grams of naturally occurring BCAAs. It’s also been certified organic, non-GMO, and is free from artificial colors and flavors.
It has a lot of great reviews which I recommend reading. Some people say that the supplement mixes very well and that it doesn’t leave lumps like certain protein powders available.
#2. PlantFusion Complete Amino Acid, Plant-Based Protein Powder
It contains slightly less protein (21 grams) than the previous shake but makes up for it with its proprietary blend of enzymes to increase digestibility and assimilation of amino acids.
This also helps people who are more prone to bloating and have a sensitive stomach.
The amino acid blend comes from several protein sources which include pea protein isolate, artichoke protein, organically sprouted amaranth powder, and organically sprouted quinoa powder.
It’s good that this company has also made available several different flavors. It’s available in chocolate, chocolate raspberry, Cookies N Creme, Natural unflavored and Vanilla bean.
Features: This provides you with 4.5 grams of BCAA’s and 3.35 grams of L-Glutamine. They’ve also designed the supplement with a blend of enzymes which includes bromelain (enzyme from pineapple) and Alpha Galactosidase.
The supplement is free from all of the major allergens like dairy, gluten, soy, nuts, and fish. And also does not contain any preservatives
Great for people who want a protein drink but have a sensitive stomach. There’s a lot of mixed reviews regarding the flavors, but I guess that is simply personal preference, and you’ll just have to try them out for yourself to find your favorite shake!
#3. Vega Clean Protein Powder – 3.65 lb (45 servings)
It does taste a little sweet due to the stevia leaf extract, but it’s not too powerful. I think it tastes great with unsweetened almond milk, but it can be mixed with different milk substitutes. You can also find stevia free protein drinks here.
Vega has a great range of protein powder drinks, but they come with lots of bells and whistles that you don’t need if you already have a half-way decent diet.
The protein powder is simple but provides a large concentration of protein (25 grams) coming from pea, hemp, pumpkin, and alfalfa which will get you into a positive nitrogen balance allowing you to continue to make gains as you train and do your workouts.
It’s also a bit on the expensive side, but they also provide a small tub for a cheaper price. Both come in two flavors: chocolate and vanilla.
Features: Premium protein sources providing 4 grams of BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) and 25 of total protein content. This makes it one of the highest concentration protein drinks available.
The protein drink is also non-GMO (verified), gluten-free and completely plant-based. Also free from added sugar, flavors, and colors.
If you want a clean, simple and premium product, go with this one.
#4. Garden of Life, Sports Protein Powder with Complete Amino Acid Profile
This protein supplement provides 30 grams of protein, which is a large amount for a plant-based protein supplement. This includes 5 grams of BCAA amino acids, glutamine, and Glutamic acid for improved post-workout recovery time.
With its inclusion of several organic fruits and vegetables, it contains a high number of antioxidants to reduce inflammation and wear and tear damage which can arise from excess free radical damage from training hard.
The main sources of protein come from pea, navy bean, lentil bean, garbanzo bean, organic cranberry protein (seed). This unique blend of protein sources is quite different from a lot of plant-based protein powders on the supplement. So if you’ve had trouble with others, perhaps this one will be better for you. Could be worth a try!
Aside from its high protein content, it also has several vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, selenium, and manganese. It also has 2 Billion CFU of Bifidobacterium Lactis to help improve digestion.
Features: Contains 5.5 grams of BCAAs, glutamine, 2 Billion CFU probiotics, and has been certified by the USDA organic and NON-GMO.
The protein drink is also NSF certified, ensuring that no banned substances are contained in the product and so you can rest easy knowing that this supplement is fine to take if you’re an athlete and competing.
There’s a lot of good reviews about this product. Garden of Life provides high-quality products, and have become one of my favorites over the last several months for vitamins and minerals.
Vegans may need more protein
Due to several factors already mentioned, such as low-calorie intake, high intake of anti-nutrients from in plant foods, as well as lack of proper food-combining.
Taking a protein powder supplement may be the best option for vegans who are looking to increase their amino acid intake due to higher energy demands from work or training.
Some studies suggest that vegetarians and vegans may need up to 1.0 g per kg of body weight as opposed to 0.8 grams for the general population.
For people who are vegan athletes, ISSN’s (international society of sports nutrition) protein recommendations are 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day.
Some organizations recommend up to 2.7 grams per kg a day, especially if you’re in the weight loss phase of your diet.