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Protein powders are no longer reserved for body builders. With increased interest in healthy diet and lifestyle, even casual exercisers are turning to the hulking tubs of powder to improve recovery after workouts, aid muscle growth and boost energy.
Protein is one of three basic macronutrients alongside carbohydrates and fat that our bodies need to function at their best. It’s made up of amino acids which help repair tissue, grow and maintain strong bones and muscles and keep our immune system strong. Of course, it’s entirely possible to get all the protein you need from food, with the NHS currently recommending 55.5g a day for men and 45g for women. However, protein powders as supplements will ensure you meet your requirements, recover from aches and pains and help build muscle when consumed alongside a targeted exercise programme.
Protein powders can be animal or plant-based, but those who follow a vegan diet can choose powders derived from a variety of protein sources including pea, rice and hemp. It’s important to choose carefully and not assume plant-based is automatically healthier though. “Vegan protein powders can still hold ingredients such as added sugar, thickeners and artificial flavouring,” says sports nutritionist Dr Leila Dehghan (M.D., MSc (Nutr), ANutr) at Plant Based Health Professionals. “If you choose to supplement with protein powders, make sure to carefully check the list of ingredients or if necessary, contact the manufacturer and ask about any other contaminants. Always opt for those with a low content of additives.”
We tested a range of vegan protein powders in various flavours to find our favourite; considering cost, nutrition and the all-important taste test. For each one, we blended the powder into a shake with water or plant-based milk as per the instructions, but we found nearly all tasted better when added to a smoothie with extra fruit.
Huel Complete Protein
If you’ve been put off protein powders in the past because of the chalky texture or odd aftertaste, this is the one for you. This was definitely the best tasting powder we consumed and comes in a variety of flavours including vanilla fudge, strawberries and cream, banana milkshake, salted caramel or unflavoured and unsweetened, which is perfect added to baking. Our favourite was the chocolate fudge brownie, which smelt divine and tasted (almost!) as good as a chocolate milkshake when mixed with plant-based milk. It could even be blended with vegan yoghurt as a healthy dessert alternative. We preferred to use around 100ml less liquid than suggested to get the perfect consistency but it’s worth adjusting quantities to find your perfect shake.
Complete Protein packs a great nutritional punch too and claims to be the world’s first nutritionally complete vegan protein powder. Made of sustainably-sourced hemp, faba and pea protein, each serving contains 20g of protein plus all 26 essential vitamins and minerals. It’s a source of fibre, carbohydrates and fats. The powder is sugar-free with no artificial colourings or flavourings and somehow has only 105 calories per serving. As a great-tasting, do-all wonder drink, it can’t be beaten.
Buy now £25.00, Huel
Battle Ready Fuel Vegan Warrior Protein Powder
This Vegan Warrior protein powder is the brainchild of SAS: Who Dares Wins star Ollie Ollerton, formerly of The UK Special Forces. While we can’t guarantee this will give you his muscles (or steely stamina), it’s a no-frills, does-what-it-says-on-the-tin product that claims to hydrate your body, build muscle and repair damaged muscles and tissues. It includes 10.8g of hydrolysed pea protein per serving, which is designed to be easier for the body to break down and absorb. This is paired with B vitamins, biotin and folic acid to improve metabolism and reduce fatigue.
Though protein content is lower than some other powders we tested, this is a good option if you’re already eating a good diet and don’t want to take on excessive protein, or want to split protein intake over two shakes during the day. It also has one of the lowest calorie contents of all the tested powders at just 51.2 kcal per serving and comes in either lemon & lime flavour or tropical punch with pineapple and grapefruit. Both are flavoured using real fruit juice for a zesty alternative to the more common chocolate and caramel flavours often used in protein powders.
Buy now £24.99, Battle Ready Fuel
Arbonne FeelFit Pea Protein Shake
Prefer to gulp down your protein shake first thing to set you up for the day? This banana pancake flavoured protein shake means you can – sort of – pretend you’re tucking into a stack of freshly made pancakes, without the hassle of cooking them first.
Containing 20g of protein derived from peas, cranberries and rice, the shake blends very easily without leaving any grittiness and packs in over 20 vitamins and minerals including methylated forms of vitamin B12 and folate. It has no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners but promises to build and repair cells and tissues – though your bank balance might take a battering at this price. And if you’re the type who usually can’t stomach any breakfast at all? Don’t panic. There’s a coffee-flavoured shake available too.
Buy now £65.00, Arbonne
Ultimate Performance Vegan Protein
There’s not much Ultimate Performance don’t know about getting shape. Founded in London in 2009 by personal trainer Nick Mitchell, the brand now has 19 gyms and 300 personal trainers around the world with celebrity clients including Olivia Colman, Paddy McGuinness, and Scott Mills.
The company also makes a range of supplements – initially designed for their personal training clients – including this vegan protein powder. Made of pea protein, every serving contains 24g of protein, all nine essential amino acids and is low in fat and carbohydrates. Anything salted caramel flavour is okay by us too, so we were happy to get a (healthy) sweet fix every day with this shake. We found using slightly less water than the 150 – 200 ml recommended worked better for us but it can be adjusted for preference as required.
Buy now £24.99, Ultimate Performance
Supernova Living Life Blend WOMAN 01
Protein powders don’t have to come in giant ugly tubs you need to hide away in the kitchen cupboard. This stylish, understated tube in white and taupe looks more like a high-end beauty product than the typical bodybuilder staple. It’s designed by luxury wellness company Supernova Living which is founded by Premiership footballer Jermaine Beckford and his wife, TV presenter Laura Beckford. Products are developed with a naturopathic nutritionist, cater specifically to either female or male bodies and are entirely organic and chemical-free.
The women’s protein powder we tested aims to support tired, busy women and delivers a decent 17g of protein from organic brown rice and fermented pea proteins with a full amino acid complex. More unusual ingredients include agave inulin powder to promote digestive health, medicinal mushroom wild chaga to ease fatigue and enhance skin health and raw camu camu – an Amazonian berry with 60 times more vitamin C than an orange. Together, they had an almost immediate effect on our energy levels and digestion and helped us feel fuller for longer too. Though it’s flavoured with 18 per cent raw organic cacao, it tasted a little earthy for us when blended with only water, so we’d recommend mixing with almond or hazelnut milk or adding a scoop to a smoothie with a banana and peanut butter.
Buy now £35.00, Supernova Living
KIN The Vegan Pouch
There’s more to this power powder than a hefty dose of protein. The formula was created by personal trainer Kyle Maslen after he realised many of his clients were developing bloating and stomach problems from using poor quality protein powders. Together with this wife Kelly, the couple spent six months devising a powder with just six ingredients that would deliver a protein hit without the side effects.
The result provides 25g of protein from high quality pea and white hemp in a powder that supports gut function with added fibre. It comes in vanilla, dark chocolate, coconut or blueberry flavour and has an impressively smooth texture, even when blended with water with no artificial aftertaste. Even added to plant-based milk, it feels noticeably gentle on the stomach so is a great choice for anyone who suffers digestive issues.
Buy now £24.99, Amazon
Bio-Synergy Lean & Green
A favourite with professional athletes including David Coulthard and James Cracknell, Bio-Synergy has been creating sports supplements and well-being products since 1997. They have since supplied everyone from the Commonwealth Games to the British & Irish Lions so you’re in good company as you sip.
The vegan protein powder is unlike many others as it’s entirely free from soya and hemp but packs in 22g of protein from pea, buckwheat and brown rice proteins. Each 30g serving also has 2.3g fat, no sugar and just 104 calories, with L-glutamine for its amino acid profile. Available in peanut, chocolate and mint and butterscotch flavours, it smells so good, we found it hard to believe it wasn’t chock-full of calories. The mint chocolate (almost!) made us feel like we were tucking into ice cream but we found the peanut the most versatile, particularly in smoothies and even in baking. If you’re not keen on drinking protein powder mixed with water, this is a game-changer.
Buy now £29.09, Sweatband
Musclemary Berry Haze
Dr David Jack is already known as one of London’s leading anti-ageing doctors, with a respected Harley Street clinic and a vast range of targeted skincare and supplements to his name. He’s now making moves on the fitness world and has launched his own vegan sports nutrition products with his brother, personal trainer and precision nutrition coach Stuart Jack. All include a blend of B and C vitamins, zero added sugar and 18g of protein derived from pea and white hemp. So far, so normal.
What sets this shake apart is the unexpected extra ingredients including Japanese organic ceremonial grade matcha green tea for calm energy, glucomannan fibre and macca to encourage fat reduction and goji berry and acai for antioxidant support. Available in various flavours including vanilla dream and caramel kiss, we tried berry haze and enjoyed the raspberry, strawberry and blackberry flavours that made it easy to mix with water and sip straight after a workout. We’d also recommend trying some of the great recipes on Musclemary’s website including the divine Berry Haze Pancakes.
Buy now £35.00, Musclemary
The Fast 800 Keto Protein Powder
Britain’s unofficial weight loss guru, Dr Michael Mosley revolutionised the diet industry with his best-selling book The Fast Diet. He’s since become a regular face on television and is now on a mission to convert us all to The Fast 800, a programme that combines intermittent fasting with time restricted eating and a healthy Mediterranean diet for a long-term healthy lifestyle.
There’s also a range of shakes, soups and vitamins to help us along the way. The protein powders in chocolate or vanilla flavours are designed to be especially useful on the diet’s fasting days although anyone can use them. They have no added sugar, artificial additives or preservatives but 22g of protein from peas to help keep you full, build muscle tone and release energy steadily. We could detect a slight chalky aftertaste when we mixed with just water, but the chocolate flavour worked a treat in smoothies and with Greek yoghurt for an easy hit of protein whenever it’s needed.
Buy now £19.99, The Fast 800
WelleCo Nourishing Protein
Naturally, we’re willing to try anything to help us look even vaguely like supermodel Elle Macpherson. This protein powder from her beauty and wellness brand sadly can’t work miracles but is at least packed with good stuff including pre and probiotics, B vitamins and herbal extracts.
A blend of plant-based proteins including pea and sprouted brown rice provides just over 20g of protein per serving with all nine essential amino acids needed for muscle recovery. It’s available in chocolate and vanilla flavours and we found it didn’t taste gritty at all, but blended especially well with plant-based milk for a surprisingly satisfying post-workout drink.
It also made a noticeable difference to our mid-morning sugar cravings when we threw it into our breakfast smoothie and it seemed to help reduce bloating too. We’re still waiting to wake up looking like Elle though…
Buy now £55.00, Cult Beauty
Nutri-Genetix (NGX) have already made waves in the fitness world as the creators of the world’s first genetically personalised nutrition shake, devised to your exact needs following an at-home DNA test.
If you want to give it a go without personalising first, this PowerPack is the ideal introduction. It blends protein, slow-release carbohydrates, creatine and green tea to aid workout recovery, boost performance and increase muscle development. NGX recommend taking one scoop immediately after a workout or an hour before.
Ingredients include blended pea protein, brown rice, oats and creatine and the whole thing is unflavoured so you can use it in almost anything. Two flavour add-ons – super berry or a chocolatey cacao and coconut – are available if you want to drink it as a shake, but it’s just as easy to use in cooking, add to a fruit smoothie or even stir into pancakes or porridge to get your day off to a flying start. We noticed a discernible boost to our energy levels after just two days testing so reckon we’d have superhero powers after a month.
Buy now £23.79, NGX
Form Nutrition – Superblend Protein Chocolate Salted Caramel
Containing pea, brown rice, hemp and whole algae protein, we couldn’t believe we were drinking something that was actually good for us. We tested the Chocolate Salted Caramel with unsweetened Almond milk as well as water and the results we unanimous: Yum. This multi plant based formula is so truly delicious we forgot it was actually good for us too.
Ideal as a post workout recovery drink as well as a mid-afternoon workday boost, we found it helped maintain energy post workout (and pre office lunch) while providing that perfect amount of fullness.
Full of amino acids this excellent blend also contains maca and spirulina which has shown to help manage stress and fatigue. Form also offer a discount on monthly subscription packages if you’re committed to a protein regime. They also makes one of the best blender bottles we tried.
Buy now £26.00, Form Nutrition
Peanut Butter Protein Shake
This powder combines yellow pea protein, raw pumpkin seed protein, and hemp seed protein. All organic and with whooping levels of amino acid.
Using organic peanuts roasted to reduce the fat to only 12 per cent, by comparison pure peanuts are around 50 per cent fat, Motion Nutrition have concocted a incredibly delicious and very peanuty protein powder. When tested with water it produced a surprisingly thick texture and had an authentic nutty taste.
We also tested it with almond milk and a banana which in the words of one tester created a “dream vegan milkshake” but without the refined sugar and post milkshake guilt. Overall this product delivered excellent taste and texture that went beyond the realm of protein supplement. Discount available when you buy three or more.
The brand has also launched a new sustainable packaging that is entirely free from plastic.
Buy now £9923.00, Amazon
Free Soul Vegan Protein Blend
This soy and gluten free vegan protein powder is formulated specifically for women, and the addition of the vitamin B complex gives this option from Free Soul an extra special edge. Containing thiamin, folic acid, biotin (shown to promote hair growth) riboflavin and vitamin B12 and B6, the concept behind Free Soul is targeted at you mental well-being just as much as your physical.
The metal blender, which can be bought alongside the powder, is also worth the mention as it proved better than anything at keeping our vegan blends chilled and well mixed.
The Vegan Collection makes for a lovely gift and includes a metal shaker, protein powder and two containers of tea for waking up and getting to sleep. It’s all beautifully packaged and whilst protein powder might not naturally conjure thoughts of gifting, the Vegan Collection from Free Soul is a wonderful exception.
It contains Pea Protein, White Hemp Protein, Maca Powder, Siberian Ginseng, Guarana, Calcium, Magnesium, Flaxseed Powder, Iron, and Vitamin B Complex.
Buy now £9919.00, Free Soul
Gorilla Juice – Game, Set, Matcha
This pale green powder contains a wide range of superfoods as well as green tea for a little extra oomph. The flavour is surprisingly sweet but without any trace of vanilla or chocolate to help it along.
Blending with almond milk proved to be the most delicious in our office taste test, but several of us noted that rice milk was preferred when fruit was added as it made the thickness goldielocks perfect—not too thin, not too thick.
Certified by the Vegan Society and made in the UK, Gorilla Juice also offer their superfood protein powder in Strawberry Shebang and Caramel Latte Crush.
But it’s the Game, Set, Matcha that has won us over. A protein powder that doesn’t try to taste like a candy car but maintains a level this tasty definitely gets our vote.
It’s made up of pea and brown rice protein powder, broccoli, spinach, watercress, green kale, yucca root, garden herbs, avocado and matcha (green tea) powderâ.
Buy now £29.33, Amazon
Bulk Vegan Protein Powder
Here’s the thing about Bulk Powders vegan line, hands down it’s the best strawberry flavour out there – after a month of mixing and shaking our way towards a healthier lifestyle we can safely say this one takes the non-dairy berry cake. Free from soy and gluten, this low sugar vegan option has a consistently smooth and silky texture. Add frozen strawberries and suddenly it feels like a dessert.
Not only did it knock out our late afternoon sugar cravings but for a special at home treat, we used frozen almond milk from our ice tray to blend one heck of a healthy dessert, topped with a bit of vegan rice whip and
Priced at £15 for a 500g bag, this is one of the best top quality options you can afford to get each month.
The contents include Pea Protein Isolate, Quinoa Flour, Brown Rice Protein, Pumpkin Protein and Flaxseed Powder
Buy now £14.39, Bulk
Pulsin Hemp Protein
If flavoured protein drinks aren’t your thing Pulsin make a very adaptable unflavoured protein perfect soups, stews and general baking.
Sometimes drinking an entire shake might not fit into you meal plan but adding a scoop or two of Pulsins unflavoured protein powder still provides a wealth of vitamins and minerals without you really knowing it’s there.
It might sound strange but I blend this powder with either oat, almond or rice milk then pour it over cereal. It doesn’t change the flavour of the cereal but makes it a lot more nutritious.
Made with hemp protein and produced from whole seeds cold pressed for superior nutrition. Pulsin also produce an excellent array of flavoured powders with the chocolate option particularly nice and void of any artificial aftertaste.
It is made up of 100 per cent Hemp Protein Powder. Rich in omega 3, fibre and essential vitamins including B1, B3, B6, B9, Iron, Zinc, Copper and Manganese.
Buy now £6.74, Holland & Barrett
Wyldsson Vegan Protein – Chocolate
As the top rated vegan protein powder on Amazon we had high expectations for this one, and in a week long testing phase filled with haphazard breakfasts and missed lunches it came to the rescue and did not disappoint.
We tried the vanilla flavour as well as the chocolate with both oat and rice milk — the chocolate/oat milk being the clear winner and receiving more mmmmms overall compared to the vanilla.
The taste is chocolatey but the interesting thing about this flavour is that it actually tastes like raw chocolate and not the fake sugary stuff. There is, infact, no artificial flavours in this one whatsoever.
You get the benefits of organic blend of pea, pumpkin, coconut and sunflower plus an organic fruit blend of dates, strawberry, and banana. Also contains cinnamon and turmeric.
Buy now £29.99, Amazon
Huel Complete Protein is the outright winner for its tasty flavours and impressive nutritional content that make it far more than just another protein powder. We also really felt the difference using NGX PowerPack and liked the fact one pack could be adjusted with flavours or used on its own for maximum versatility.