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11 best vegan protein powders: Plant-based shakes that support workouts

From vanilla to toffee and coffee flavours, give yourself a post-exercise boost with these tasty shakes

Alice Barraclough
Monday 04 April 2022 13:52
<p>As per packet instructions, we taste tested these with just water</p>

As per packet instructions, we taste tested these with just water

When it comes to protein powders, it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. With so many brands and flavours to choose from – each with its own list of rather unfamiliar ingredients – it’s hard to know which is the right one for you (and actually tastes OK, too).

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want an animal or plant-based protein powder. Of course, this comes down mainly to dietary preference.

If you opt for an animal-based protein powder, you’ll likely be recommended whey protein (which comes from cow’s milk). But if you want a plant-based protein, you’ll need to look for “vegan” on the label – or powders made from pea protein.

The debate around which is best, and whether vegan protein shakes are as effective as regular ones, is a topic for another day. But the best vegan protein powders seem to be the ones composed of a variety of protein sources, from pea and rice to hemp and algae.

Next, you need to choose a flavour – and you’ll be surprised by how many different options there are out there, from chocolate and vanilla to toffee and coffee.

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Personally, we tend to prefer to disguise the often chalky texture of protein with as many ingredients as possible – and whizz up a protein shake with milk or yoghurt, oats, frozen berries, bananas and even a little bit of peanut butter in a blender. Or, if we’re feeling fancy, we’ll bake with unflavoured protein to make protein-packed flapjack or banana bread.

How we tested

For this taste test, we tried some of the leading vegan protein powders with just water, as per packet instructions. They were all tested primarily for flavour, with nutritional information taken into account.

For the best results, we’d still recommend blending protein into a fruit smoothie, but if you’re in a rush straight out of the gym and you’ve only got a water bottle to hand, they’re ideal for that post-workout boost.

The best vegan protein powders for 2022 are:

  • Best personalised vegan protein powder – NGX bodyfuel: £159.47, Nutri-genetix.com
  • Best award-winning protein powder – Innermost health protein: £29.95, Liveinnermost.com
  • Best vegan protein for women – Free Soul vegan protein blend: £24.99, Herfreesoul.com
  • Best for rehydration after exercise – Indi build: £35, Indisupplements.com
  • Best value for money – Misfits protein powder: £19, Misfits.health
  • Best tasting vegan protein powder – NUA vegan protein: £22, Nua.health
  • Best for easy digestion – Bulk vegan protein powder: £17.99, Bulk.com
  • Best for nutritional value –  Form performance nutrition: £26, Formnutrition.com
  • Best for smoothies – Neat Nutrition vegan protein: £29.95, Neat-nutrition.com
  • Best protein powder to cook with – Tribe cocoa shake: £17.50, Wearetribe.co
  • Best smooth vegan protein powder – Foodspring vegan protein: £29.99, Foodspring.co.uk

NGX bodyfuel

Best: Overall

If you’re looking for a completely personalised take on nutrition then it doesn’t get better than Nutri-Genetix (NGX) – the world’s first genetically personalised nutrition shake, tailored to your own DNA. After a super quick and easy swab test (inside the cheek), we sent off our DNA and then received a personalised blend of NGX “bodyfuel” based on our own genetic make-up. You’re also given a very detailed report of your results – explaining how you metabolise and process different nutrients. Turns out we have reduced levels of vitamin B12, who knew?

Each serving contains up to 27g of plant protein and 30 essential nutrients, including iron, omega-3, vitamin B complex and vitamin D. The best part? It’s unflavoured, so it’s much more versatile – and you can get specific flavour add-ons, we tried the antioxidant-packed super berry, so it actually tastes delicious too.

Innermost health protein

Best: Award-winning protein powder

Award-winning wellness brand Innermost is all about creating targeted and specific solutions for different health and fitness goals. It’s developed protein especially for building muscle, weight loss, performance and for wellbeing.

We tried the health protein which claims to “boost your health, immune system, and support muscle repair”. Using a combination of pea and brown rice protein, it’s filled with all of the good stuff (and none of the bad). Each serving includes an impressive 31g of protein and contains all the essential amino acids your body needs for repair, recovery and muscle development. But we do recommend mixing this into porridge or smoothies, as the aftertaste can be quite bitter when just mixed with water.

Free Soul vegan protein blend

Best: Vegan protein for women

Specially designed with women in mind, Free Soul vegan protein powder was formulated by Dr Adam Cunliffe, a leading UK nutritionist, to enhance the performance of the female body. Alongside an impressive 20g of protein per 30g serving, this gluten-free, soy-free, vegan protein features numerous nutrients and vitamins, including ingredients such as Peruvian Maca (to help regulate female hormone health), Ginseng (to support energy levels), Iron and Magnesium.

Claiming to target important aspects of female wellness – from hormonal balance and bone density, to energy, metabolism, and hair, skin and nail health – this protein powder is touted as the protein powder for busy women on the go. There’s three flavours to choose from – chocolate, vanilla and ginger biscuit – we decided to taste test the chocolate (which arrived with a free coconut water). And, actually, it tasted pretty good. Not too sweet – and no earthy artificial taste. Granted, it’s better whizzed up in a shake with a banana and some oats, but if you opt for it with just water, the mixability is pretty decent.

Indi build

Best: For rehydration after exercise

Launched in January 2021, Indi supplements were designed to address the nutrition gaps in typical western diets. Similar to Innermost (£29.95, Liveinnermost.com), it’s created four plant-based blends aimed at targeting different woes – body, mind, tone and build.

We tested the build supplement which is aimed at repairing and growing muscle. With the “Informed Sport” label, you can be sure that this supplement has been rigorously tested for prohibited substances and is completely safe for athletes to use. It contains 23g of plant protein per serving, with added ingredients such as montmorency cherry, cocoa extract and coconut water. This aims to reduce muscle soreness, speed up recovery and rehydrate by replenishing lost electrolytes, making it perfect for drinking after exercise.

We particularly loved the recyclable cylinder packaging with colourful stripes outlining the exact proportions of the ingredients – so you can see there’s no added sugar, artificial flavours, preservatives or bulking agents. Despite mixing two heaped scoops with 250ml of water (as per the instructions) we did find this a tad on the watery side. So again, we’d recommend mixing in a smoothie.

Misfits protein powder

Best: Value for money

Perhaps better known for their protein bars, Misfits are constantly thinking out of the box with their whacky protein bar flavours (PB&J, anyone?). But have you tried their protein powder? With four flavours to choose from – double chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream and salted caramel – Misfits offers 17 grams of plant-powered protein from pea and sunflower to help you build muscle, reduce muscle damage and improve recovery speed. It’s ideal as a general supplement, but it also works well for use before or after a workout.

We tried the cookies and cream flavour and were really impressed with its mixability. Personally, we preferred this protein powder with milk, not water (for a more creamy shake), but it goes well in a smoothie, too. The packaging also really stood out in comparison to its competitors – plastic-free and fully biodegradable, it marks high for its sustainability efforts. And, price-wise, it’s also one of the cheaper options out there. Win, win.

NUA vegan protein

Best: Tasting

NUA – which stands for “nothing unnecessary added” – is a brand new protein company that makes great-tasting products that blend well while only using seven simple ingredients. Using a mix of pea protein and hemp, each serving contains 35g of protein, and includes natural flavouring and sweeteners such as xylitol, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum and stevia.

Out of all the chocolate vegan protein powders we tested, this was probably the nicest and had the most “chocolatey” flavour. The best way to describe it is like hot chocolate, but cold. For those who prefer something a little sweeter, fear not, Nua is launching two new vegan flavours – strawberry cheesecake and chocolate salted caramel. Sign us up.

Bulk vegan protein powder

Best: For easy digestion

Formerly known as Bulk Powders, this brand is already a household name among gym goers. In fact, it’s arguably one of the most popular nutrition brands in the UK thanks to having athlete ambassadors such as Anthony Joshua on its roster. The bulk whey isolate 90 is often applauded for providing maximum gains. But does its vegan offering measure up?

Loaded with 23g of protein per serving, bulk’s plant-based protein blend includes pea, brown rice and pumpkin proteins, as well as flaxseed powder and quinoa flour. It’s also soya- and gluten-free. But what lets it down is its somewhat gritty texture. While the sweet vanilla flavour tested here didn’t really do much for our taste buds either, we did find it one of the easiest on the stomach. That’s possibly thanks to the additional “digezyme” – a popular blend of five digestive enzymes which help you break down the protein.

If vanilla isn’t really your vibe, Bulk offers eight other flavours, including; apple strudel, banana caramel, caramel latte, chocolate mint, chocolate peanut, peanut butter, strawberry and white chocolate coconut.

Form performance nutrition

Best: Nutritional value

Form’s performance protein is a little on the sweeter side (which is a plus, in our opinion). Combining wholesome ingredients such as organic pea, brown rice and hemp protein, it’s designed to support the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. And with 30g of protein per serving – plus a complete amino acid profile and additional probiotics to help boost the immune system – it marks highly on nutrition.

We tested out the tiramisu flavour (it also comes in vanilla and chocolate peanut) and blended with just water, we found it surprisingly smooth. The flavour isn’t far off an iced coffee or frappe – so if you like coffee, you’ll find this enjoyable enough. But mix it in with almond milk – plus a banana and a large teaspoon of nut butter, and then you have a tasty treat that ticks all the boxes.

Neat Nutrition vegan protein

Best: For smoothies

Neat Nutrition looks nothing like the oversized barrels of powder that have gained popularity in the past – and we loved the minimalist brown-paper packaging. But we know not to judge a book by its cover.

Made from a blend of pea and hemp protein to deliver 26g of protein per serving, this powder didn’t have much flavouring. We’d describe it as smooth and not overpowering, and ideal to whizz up into a smoothie. Neat has lots of recipe ideas and suggestions on its website so try adding this vegan powder with cauliflower, frozen blueberries, frozen strawberries, banana, spinach and milk to create a five-a-day creamy blueberry milkshake (with a dollop of protein).

Tribe cocoa shake

Best: Protein powder to cook with

In terms of nutrition, Tribe’s shakes optimise both pea and rice protein with nutrient-rich natural ingredients such as goji berry powder, aiming to support recovery. With 20g of protein per portion, it’s the lowest offering on this list, so perhaps not the best option for serious muscle-building. But it does provide a complete amino acid profile while being dairy and refined-sugar free – so no nasties here.

There are four flavours in the range (the latest, salted caramel, launched in January) – we tried the cocoa and sea salt and the flavour is very subtle. So subtle, in fact, it barely tastes of anything. The upside? The weak flavour makes it ideal for cooking. Protein pancakes, homemade protein balls and fruit shakes will all be cleaner using Tribe vegan protein powder.

Foodspring vegan protein

Best: Smooth vegan protein powder

Foodspring’s vegan protein contains not one protein source, but a combination of many – including; peas, sunflower, hemp and chickpea. Why? Well, using four high-quality plant-based protein sources means this drink contains all of the essential amino acids your body needs. Plus, chickpea gives it that silky smooth texture.

With 21g of protein per portion, Foodspring’s vegan protein is low in sugar and packed full of the good stuff – including; fibre, Vitamin B12, B6, folic acid and biotin. It comes in a choice of three flavours, vanilla, chocolate and neutral.

Our thoughts? Packaged in a tall cardboard tub, it takes up slightly less space in the kitchen, while the wide opening to the tub makes it easy to scoop out the amount you need. The protein powder itself has an unusually earthy scent, but we were actually pleasantly surprised by the taste.

It’s definitely not as sweet as some of the other brands out there (this is no McDonald’s milkshake) and while it’s a long way from the bitter, sand-textured vegan shakes you may be used to, the flavour still isn’t quite as delicious as it’s whey counterpart. It does, however, make an impressively smooth liquid – with no lumps. Oh, and it comes with a free shaker, too.

Vegan protein shakes FAQs

Can you build muscle with vegan protein powder?

Yes – provided that you buy a powder with mixture of plant proteins – such as those from pea, rice, hemp and algae – for optimal nutritional value.

Which is better vegan or whey protein?

While this is a hot topic that requires more than a simple answer, there are a few main points to be made. In terms of muscle gains, this study published in Nutrition Journal found that brown rice protein performed just as well as whey when building muscle, gaining strength, and aiding in recovery.

Plant protein is also generally digested more easily. Although, as mentioned earlier, vegan protein powder needs to include a combination of different plant proteins to create a full amino acid profile like the one found in animal proteins.

The verdict: Vegan protein shakes

If money were no issue, the NGX bodyfuel, with its personalised nutrition, is definitely the most impressive vegan protein powder currently out there. We loved the fact that it’s optimised especially for you and targets everything your body personally needs. The downside is that unless you want to set up a regular delivery, it will cost you a pretty penny for a one-off DNA test and bodyfuel.

But if you’re not ready to commit to a monthly delivery just yet, then we’d recommend opting for Nua – with a creamy texture, it tastes great, there’s no cheap ingredients or fillers and packs a massive 35g protein punch.

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