Plant-Based And Vegan Protein Powder

Plant-Based And Vegan Protein Powder
Table Of Contents
  1. Why proteins are needed
  2. How Protein Powders are Produced
  3. Difference between Protein Powder Concentrates and Isolates
  4. Types of Protein Powders - Single-Component Protein Powder
  5. Multicomponent Protein Powder / Blends
  6. Criteria for a Good Protein Powder
  7. Carbohydrate and Sweetener Content
  8. Calories
  9. Losing Weight with Protein Powders
  10. Myths
  11. Side Effects of Protein Powder
  12. Usage
  13. Price
  14. Conclusion

In general, protein powders are dietary supplements. No vegan protein powder can replace a balanced diet. The higher protein requirements of athletes can be easily met with a vegan diet through protein-rich foods and high-quality proteins1.

Nevertheless, many athletes supplement their diet with protein shakes to accelerate recovery after training or competition, support muscle building, or prevent muscle breakdown. Protein powders allow the body to easily and quickly receive high amounts of protein. Often, it's also simply the reward after a strenuous workout that motivates reaching for a protein shake.

Vegan protein powder is free from whey protein and lactose.

Over the years and with the rise of conscious nutrition, new vegan protein powders have been constantly developed and their formulations continuously improved. We will explain what to consider when making a purchase.

Why proteins are needed

Proteins are nitrogen-containing substances that consist of amino acids 2. Proteins consumed through diet are broken down into amino acids. Depending on the needs, these are then combined to form peptides (less than 100 amino acids) and proteins (100 or more amino acids).

Amino acids serve as building blocks for muscles and other types of tissues in the body. They are also needed for the production of hormones, enzymes, and hemoglobin 3.

How Protein Powders are Produced

Protein concentrates are typically produced by passing a protein source through a very small filter. Water, minerals, and other organic plant materials pass through the filter 4. The proteins that do not pass through the filter due to their size are collected. This results in protein powder or protein concentrates.

Difference between Protein Powder Concentrates and Isolates

Protein concentrates can contain significant amounts of carbohydrates and fats 5.

If the protein concentrate undergoes one or more additional purification steps such as additional filtration or techniques like ion exchange or cross-flow microfiltration, it becomes a protein isolate 6. They contain very low amounts of carbohydrates and lipids due to the additional processing. They consist almost entirely of pure protein.

Types of Protein Powders - Single-Component Protein Powder

Protein powders can be developed from almost all plant-based foods with a higher protein content. The most well-known ones are:

  • Hemp Protein
  • Pea Protein
  • Rice Protein
  • Soy Protein
  • Wheat Protein (Seitan / Wheat Gluten)

Less well-known ones include:

  • Pumpkin Seed Protein
  • Sunflower Seed Protein
  • Chia Seed Protein
  • Quinoa Protein
  • Pistachio Protein
  • Cranberry Protein
  • Coconut Protein
  • Almond Protein
  • Peanut Protein
  • Sesame Protein
  • Lupine Protein

Multicomponent Protein Powder / Blends

In addition, multicomponent protein powder (blend) is also available, which consists of several different proteins. For example, rice protein, hemp protein, and pea protein are combined to form a protein powder. Various protein sources enhance the quality of the protein powder in most cases. The powder becomes higher in quality.

A combination of different proteins could also bring optimal benefits for performance, according to studies. 7.

Criteria for a Good Protein Powder

Important for a good protein powder are primarily the protein content, the amino acid profile, and the digestibility of the amino acids. The amino acid profile describes the presence of amino acids in specific quantities and provides information about the quality of the protein powder for humans. If one or more amino acids are deficient, the profile is considered incomplete. 8 Most plant-based foods and protein powders lack one or two amino acids (usually methionine, lysine, and/or leucine). 9 10 In this case, the term "limiting amino acids" is used.

For protein powders with an incomplete amino acid profile, the profile can be enhanced by adding one or more protein sources (= multi-component protein powder). The required intake of essential amino acids that must be obtained through diet can be viewed by clicking the link. This allows an evaluation of the extent to which the protein powder is capable of meeting individual needs.

Digestibility can only be determined through scientific research. In the individual articles on protein powders, we address digestibility if there are scientific findings. It has a significant impact on amino acid metabolism due to the absorption of proteins or amino acids in the digestive tract.

Secondary factors in assessing a good protein powder are solubility and taste. Taste is subjective. However, the protein powder should taste good and not induce gag reflex when used for an extended period.

The biological value as a method for determining protein quality is outdated as it neglects numerous factors that influence digestion and fails to consider the interactions of proteins with other foods prior to absorption 11. More recent methods such as PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) are more helpful in evaluating protein quality. PDCAAS assesses protein quality based on human amino acid requirements and the ability to digest the proteins 12. With a score of 1.0, soy protein is the only single-component protein that achieves the highest possible PDCAAS value and is referred to as a complete protein in scientific literature 13 14 15. Complete Proteins contain all nine essential amino acids in optimal quantities for humans. A PDCAAS value lower than 1.0 is also attributed to the limiting amino acids.

Carbohydrate and Sweetener Content

Depending on the protein content, the proportions of other macronutrients also shift. The lower the protein content, the more carbohydrates (especially fiber) are included. Isolates contain very few carbohydrates as the protein content is significantly higher.

Flavor-neutral single-component protein powder generally contains fewer carbohydrates than flavored and sweetened ones. Multi-component protein powder is often commercially fortified with additional sweeteners, which can slightly increase the carbohydrate content.

Artificial sweeteners (such as Acesulfame, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose) are frequently added. A look at the ingredient list provides information about this. We particularly advise against protein powders containing Aspartame, as this sweetener can have negative effects on brain function and lead to irritability, depression, and impaired spatial orientation. (Source: 16). There is now a wide selection of protein powders available without artificial sweeteners.


Protein powder is not calorie-free. Most vegan protein powders contain between 300 and 450 kcal per 100 g. So, with a serving size of 30 g, approximately 100 kcal are provided to the body.

Losing Weight with Protein Powders

Proteins in general and protein-rich snacks increase the feeling of satiety to a greater extent than carbohydrates and fats 17 18. Therefore, protein powder can also slightly accelerate weight loss.


Protein powder goes directly to muscle mass: False. Proteins are a source of energy for the body. They contain 4.1 kcal per gram of protein 19. Like lipids (fats) and carbohydrates, proteins can be converted into glucose and used for the body's energy supply. However, they are not the preferred source of energy 20. In case of insufficient supply of carbohydrates and fats, proteins can be burned and/or released from the muscles to ensure the essential bodily functions. Additionally, regular muscle exertion is necessary for muscle growth to occur.

Protein powder consists of 100% protein: False. Protein powder contains not only proteins but also fiber, carbohydrates, and fats. The proportions vary depending on the industrial production and differ from product to product. Additionally, artificial sweeteners, flavors, and digestive enzymes are often added. The ingredient list provides information about this.

Side Effects of Protein Powder

Rarely does an excess of protein have negative effects on health because excess proteins are usually converted into glucose and may be stored as fat tissue. A protein intake of 2 g per kg body weight is considered safe for healthy adult individuals 21. A maximum daily limit of 3.5 g per kg body weight has been established. However, chronic protein intake above 2 g per kg in adults could lead to digestive, renal, and vascular anomalies.

In rare cases, high fiber content in certain protein powders can also cause digestive discomfort or diarrhea.

Specific artificial additives or secondary plant compounds can cause allergic reactions and trigger skin responses, for example.


Protein powder is mainly used for protein shakes and smoothies before and after training. Normally, 30 g of protein powder is mixed with 300 ml of water or plant-based drinks such as oat milk, rice milk, or almond milk. Use more or less liquid depending on the desired consistency. It can also be stirred into soy curd.

Furthermore, vegan protein powder can also be used as an ingredient in protein bars, ice cream, cakes, breads, pancakes, cookies, and brownies.


The price is subject to debate. In most cases, good protein powder is more expensive than lower-quality ones. The purchasing decision should be based on the protein content and amino acid profile. The more proteins and the better the profile of essential amino acids compared to another product, the more likely it is to choose that product.

However, each product has its value, and that value is also influenced by consumer behavior.


Protein powder is recommended for individuals with higher protein requirements, such as athletes or those engaged in physically demanding occupations. It can also be helpful for addressing a protein deficiency, in conjunction with a protein-rich diet, to rectify a protein deficiency.

Those who are cautiously approaching vegan protein powder or seeking the easiest option should opt for a multi-component product. Such products contain all essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to positively impact muscle building when combined with proper training. Of course, it is possible to mix your own protein powder and enjoy it with natural sweeteners like agave syrup or grape sugar for quick carbohydrates after training.