Everything you need to know about vegan protein powder

It’s estimated that over a million Brits are now vegans. And this continues to grow.

For avid carnivores, there is often the stereotype of the vegan as a puritanical and often energy-sapped individual who (because of their diet) can barely muster up the energy to walk to the nearest grocers. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Athletes such as David Haye, Mike Tyson and the Williams sisters have all said to have gone vegan over recent years and more sportspeople are following suit. It appears that a plant-based diet can be effective for athletic pursuits after all.

A common concern regarding vegan diets is that they may not contain enough protein to be healthy. This is of particular concern if someone is looking to build muscle mass. Protein is an essential part of any plan to build muscle mass, so how do you ensure that you get enough of it in your diet if you are vegan?

In the second of our no-nonsense guides ( you can read our first guide here- link to best protein powder for muscle growth cornerstone article), we look exclusively at veganism and explore everything you need to know about vegan protein powder.

But before we do that, let’s take a look at what protein actually is and why it’s so important?

What is protein?

Protein is an absolutely essential part of nutrition. It makes up around 17% of the body’s overall weight and is the principal component of skin, internal organs, eyes, hair and nails. Our immune system also needs protein in order to make enough antibodies to keep infections at bay. It also plays a role in regulating our blood sugar, energy function and fat metabolism. Crucially, it’s the main component of our muscles.

Protein foods break down into 22 naturally occurring amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body’s protein. Nine of these are known as essential amino acids, which our body cannot make itself, so we need to get them from the food we eat. Protein also contains a range of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B and zinc. To provide optimum nutrition, it is vital to ensure that your diet includes all of these essential amino acids.

While a varied and balanced diet, combining grains with different vegetables and pulses can help ensure that a vegan diet is healthy, vegan protein powders can play a role in helping with weight management, muscle growth and recovery after exercise, as well as overall nutrition. If someone following a vegan diet is struggling to get enough protein from food, then vegan protein powder could be a smart option.

What is vegan protein?

Vegan protein is any protein that is derived from a plant-based source. Luckily, when you rule out meat, insects and dairy products as a source of protein, you are still left with a wide range of other options to choose from.  These can be eaten in their unprocessed form, and many of them form the basis of many popular vegan meat alternatives.

What is vegan protein made from?

Vegan protein is any food that’s made from plant-based sources that provides the kind of essential amino acids your body needs. Pulses, such as quinoa, lentils and chickpeas often form the basis of many vegan meals and are a great source of protein. Nuts are an energy dense source of protein. Foods that are often regarded as carbohydrate and therefore low in protein such as rice and other grains can also provide part of your protein intake.

Can vegans take protein powder?

The good news for many people is that over recent years a variety of vegan protein powders have been developed that allow vegans to access all of the benefits they bring without the need for meat or dairy products in their production.

While a varied and balanced diet, combining grains with different vegetables and pulses can help ensure that a vegan diet is healthy, vegan protein powders can play a role in helping with weight management, muscle growth and recovery after exercise, as well as overall nutrition. If someone following a vegan diet is struggling to get enough protein from food, then vegan protein powder could be a smart option.

How do vegans get protein powder?

There are several different ways in which protein powders can be developed for vegans and they will usually combine a range of different ingredients of protein. The mixture of different protein types such as rice and pea can help to supply your body with all of the essential amino acids when blended together, that it needs to support your body’s protein synthesis. This is essential for both muscle repair and growth.

Vegan protein powders typically use grains, seeds and legumes as a source of protein. By removing the carbs and fats the protein components can be isolated. Vegan protein powders make it easy to get the protein your body needs.

Here are some of the more common vegan proteins found in protein powders:

Pea Protein

Yellow split peas

Pea protein powders are made from yellow split peas and are a great source of protein. 28 grams of pea protein will contain around 21 grams of protein and 100 calories. Pea protein is rich in the essential branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine. These help to encourage the body to make muscle protein and provide the essential fuel required for working muscles. A range of animal and human studies also suggest that pea protein can help people feel fuller while lowering blood pressure.

Rice Protein

brown rice protein

Rice protein is increasingly used in protein powders and a 28 gram serving contains about 107 calories and 22 grams of protein. It’s low in the essential amino acid lysine but is recognised as a great source of Branched-Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs) to support both muscle building and recovery from exercise.

An 8-week study of a group of young men who ate 48 grams of rice protein powder straight away after weight training three times a week had a 12% increase in bicep muscle thickness. This is a similar figure for men who consumed the same amount of whey protein powder.

Hemp Protein

Hemp seeds

Hemp famously comes from the seeds of the cannabis plant, but from a variety that’s deliberately bred to contain only trace elements of the euphoric compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). So hemp protein can’t make you high.


A 28 gram serving of unflavoured hemp protein powder contains around 12 grams of protein, and 108 calories. Hemp has a range of other advantages and is an excellent source of fibre, zinc, iron, magnesium and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant form of Omega-3 fat.

Hemp is low in the essential amino acid lysine; this means it’s not a complete protein. Consequently, hemp protein will usually be combined with other protein sources, such as pea protein in protein powders.

Other research has suggested that hemp seed protein might be a valuable source of blood-pressure lowering compounds.

Should I take a vegan protein powder?

If you stick to a plant-based diet but are looking for something to help support your exercise, or to help build muscle mass, then vegan protein powder may be helpful. When used as part of a healthy balanced diet they can have a range of benefits. Protein is essential for our bodies, and as a macronutrient it helps to build muscle, repair tissue and make hormones and enzymes. Protein powders make it easier for your body to get this macronutrient and it may also aid weight loss, while helping people to build and tone muscle.

If you’re looking to support a training programme, build muscle, complement a vegan diet or achieve your fitness and weight loss goals, then a vegan protein powder could be right for you.

Is vegan protein powder bad for you?

There are a number of myths about protein powder, many of which have no basis in reality. One of these myths is that taking protein powders is unhealthy and may have negative consequences for your health. In reality, protein powder is not bad for you. It’s an easy and convenient means for people to meet their daily protein needs. It’s particularly useful for people who exercise or who are looking to build muscle mass.

In the past there have been some specific concerns about the impact protein powders might have on kidney and liver function, bone function and digestive health, but these are related to consuming protein powder in very large quantities over a long period of time. We recommend following the guidelines on pack and consume protein powder as part of a balanced diet.

When correctly used, there’s actually little risk associated with using protein powders. Your choice of protein powder should always provide a full list of ingredients which you should check before you start taking the powder in question to ensure that it doesn’t contain anything to which you’re allergic.

As with any supplement, it’s important that you use protein powders correctly, making sure that you don’t exceed the recommended daily allowance. The mostly widely reported side effect of consuming a lot of protein powder are digestive issues. This can cause cramping, bloating and excess gas. This is most closely associated with whey based protein powders

Overall, protein powders are a convenient source of protein that helps many people meet their daily protein needs.

Which vegan protein powder is best for me?

The best vegan protein powder for you is the one which best meets your particular needs and goals. Are you looking for something to help you manage your weight, build muscle, or to support your training? Perhaps you’re looking for an extra source of protein to help support a healthy vegan diet?

At Protein Rebel, we’ve created award winning protein powders to help you run faster, lift more, swim further and cycle longer. Our products are clean, using easy to digest ingredients. They’re kind to the planet, with easy to recycle packaging and planet friendly ingredients. High-quality and backed by rigorous research, we work closely with nutritionists and academics to ensure that our claims are backed by science and data-led.

Growing numbers of people follow plant-based diets and at Protein Rebel we’ve created vegan protein powders to help them achieve their goals.