Alright guys, I have a confession to make, a few months ago I finally took the plunge. I went vegan. Now, this article is not to sell you on the virtues of veganism or even to explain why I ended up going vegan. No. This article is because of the huge problem I ran into pretty quick as a vegan.
I’ve always been a fan of protein powder, even before I went vegan it was a staple in my diet, it wasn’t just a convenient way to get my protein in, but also a tasty treat. However, now that I’m vegan, it’s importance as a source of protein has increased dramatically.
What I found - and what led to the writing of this piece - is that the number of options for quality protein powder and meal replacement shakes without whey is EXTREMELY low. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of options out there, but almost none of them are half decent.
So, as I tend to do, I obsessed over the issue. I became a man on a mission to find the best protein powder without whey. I’m honestly not sure how many protein powders and meal replacement shakes I tried, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was over 50.
Now, after A LOT of nasty protein powders and very few actually good ones, I’ve compiled them into a list so that you don’t have to go through all the work - and tastings - I did. Down below you’ll find the cleanest, tastiest, smoothest vegan protein powder money can buy.
My Search for a Quality Whey-Free Protein Powder
My search for a decent protein powder that could meet my dietary requirements started pretty normal. Just a trip to my local supplement store, I figured as a total newbie in the vegan department I could use some help.
Unfortunately, they were anything BUT helpful and after some digging online I realized that my best resource to find what I was looking for was gonna be amazon. However, that in itself posed a challenge, as you get over a thousand results when you search for “vegan protein powder”.
So.. yeah, I had my work cut out for me. Since I was going to be trying loads of different protein powders, I figured I needed a system. That’s why I created a set of requirements my ideal vegan protein powder or meal replacement would have.
My Requirements for a Clean Whey Free Protein Powder
- Must contain no whey
- Good taste and texture
- Easy to dissolve and prepare.
- No junk fillers
- No dairy
- No proprietary blends
Must Contain No Whey
A no brainer right? That’s why we’re here after all. Why am I so against whey? Well to be honest, I just don’t see the point of including whey in my diet anymore. It used to be that whey was considered the end all be all when it came to building muscle.
However, as time went on, we realized that it wasn’t really that way at all. In fact, it turned out whey had some issues of its own. Here are some things that make whey a poor choice as a protein source.
It's Terrible for The Environment
This one isn’t on just whey products, but on the dairy industry as a whole. Livestock production requires a lot of land, as well as a lot of food, transportation and energy. When you add it all up, you get a whole lot of pollution.
It Contains Lactose
In case you didn’t know, whey comes from milk, in fact, most of the whey that ends up in supplements starts as a byproduct of cheese production. When the milk is curdled, the liquid that’s left behind? That’s whey.
Why does this matter? Well because while theoretically lactose intolerant folk can consume whey, in reality there is always some lactose that ends up in your protein powder and might upset your stomach, or worse.
Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, it has been linked to bloating and bad gut health, so it’s still a good idea to cut whey from your diet.
It Can Make Acne Worse
If you’re one of my younger readers, and you’re looking for some supplements to help you bulk up, then whey may be a double edged sword. Yes, it will help you bulk up, but it can also make your acne worse, or even start flare ups if you had no acne before. So consider sticking to other protein sources.
Good Taste and Texture
In my opinion, if the supplement isn’t fun to take, you’re less likely to take it. A protein powder should be a nice treat, it should be a way to satiate your sweet tooth, a dessert. Even more so when it comes to meal replacement shakes, you’re skipping actual food to take it, so it better be good.
When it comes to taste, if you stick to usual flavors like chocolate or vanilla, most supplements nowadays make the cut. Yeah some taste more artificial than others, but you shouldn’t end up with something that’s inedible.
Texture is what makes all the difference in my opinion. It's what sets apart a decent protein powder or meal replacement shake from a great one. Ideally, I want something that's creamy and smooth, no chunks or other weird stuff.
Easy to Dissolve and Prepare
I’m a big fan of taking my protein shakes with me, carrying them around until hunger strikes, or until after a workout. That means that I don’t have a blender available, only my shaker bottle. If the powder doesn’t dissolve easily in water, without the need of a blender to get rid of chunks and clumps, then I don't want it.
No Junk Fillers
This one shouldn’t need a lot of explanation. When we buy protein powder, we buy it for the protein, so ideally, you’d only be getting protein and nothing else. Anything that isn’t protein is technically a filler, but not all fillers are made equal. Some are good, some are bad.
Good fillers are what provide flavor, texture and solubility to your shake. A necessary evil if you will, it means you’re paying for something other than protein, but at least they make the product better in some way. An example with be cocoa powder or sweeteners
The ones we wanna avoid are those that serve no purpose other than increasing bulk product. It’s what shady manufacturers add to “cut” the product, decreasing its quality and protein content per serving, but increasing the amount of product they can sell you.
Basically, protein powders with junk fillers are pretty much scamming you of some of your money by selling you junk alongside your protein. I don’t like to waste my money, so I’m staying clear of fillers.
No Proprietary Blends
The problem with proprietary blends is blatantly obvious in their name. They’re proprietary, that means that they are secret to some extent, so you don’t actually know what's in them and have to trust the supplement company to have your best interest at heart.
Yes, they are required to tell you their components to prevent allergies and the like, but they’re not required to tell you how much of each component. What usually happens is that they include components that could be beneficial, but they don’t include enough of it to be an effective dose.
Basically, you’re getting none of the beneficial effect, but the company is definitely charging you extra for it. This point is more important for meal replacement shakes than protein ones, since on a protein shake you basically want JUST PROTEIN, so a blend of ingredients doesn’t really make sense.
On a meal replacement shake, you don’t want just nutrients, but also other nutrients that comprise a healthy meal. If the company keeps you in the dark about the ingredients, then you can’t be sure that you’re actually getting proper nutrition.
Best Protein Powders and Meal Replacements Without Whey
Alright, with our requirements out of the way, let's get down to business. I reviewed a BUNCH of products based on my requirements and these are the ones that came out on top.
1. Lyfe Fuel Recovery Shake Affordable, - My Favorite Protein - Clean, Great Tasting
Lyfe Fuel Recovery Shake Review
Okay, so this right here is THE BEST tasting protein I’ve ever had, yes even including non-vegan ones. However, it’s not just a protein shake. It's a plant based shake that includes a carefully crafted mix of micro and macronutrients that will help you recover better and faster after grueling workouts.
Now, if you take a look at the nutrition label, you’ll see that there are in fact proprietary blends. No, I haven’t gone insane, I know what I said about proprietary blends. However, in this case it's not concerning because it's a superfoods blend and a berry blend.
These are important and they definitely have an impact on your recovery and muscle building, but they’re not the KEY ingredients, those are your proteins, vitamins and amino acids. We’ll talk about those later.
Why Is Lyfe Fuel a Good Option
Lyfe Fuel is one of the greatest vegan supplement brands you’ll find on the market. Not only do they have tried and tested products, but they also do third party testing on their stuff to assure customers that they aren't just talking. You know you get what you’re paying for.
Lyfe Fuel Ingredients and Nutrition Facts – What’s in It?
If I had to list everything that’s in this shake, we’d be here from dusk till dawn. So I’ll focus on the basics, and skip out a lot of number crunching. If you’re a geek like me and want to check out every little detail, head to their amazon listing and you’ll find the nutrition label.
So, in each scoop of lyfefuel’s recovery shake you get 25 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat and 6 grams of carbs. Coming up to 150 or 140 calories, depending on which flavor you go with. If you ask me, that’s quite a large serving of protein for just 150 calories, so if you’re on a diet, definitely consider this one.
That’s not all you’ll find on this shake though. You also get a large full serving of amino acids, which are absorbed faster than regular protein, thus improving your recovery rate. Finally, you also get a bunch of vitamins, as well as the superfood blends I mentioned above.
Who Is Lyfe Fuel Best For?
If you ask me, for anyone who wants to have a protein or meal replacement shake. I’m telling you it's THE BEST I’ve ever had. Even more so for anyone who’s looking for an ethical company, that does sustainable business and uses non GMO products.
If you’re like me, and sometimes don’t have the time or energy to meal prep and take your post workout meal with you, this recovery shake is a godsend. I have it after my workouts and it 100% improves my recovery and by extension, my performance on my next gym session.
What Are Customer Reviews Saying?
Just in case you don’t wanna take my word for it, there are thousands of satisfied customers that can back me up. In fact, if you search for reviews online, you’ll find hundreds of posts, videos and comments that say pretty much the same thing I do. This is a damn good post workout shake.
After learning just how good lyfe fuel is, you gotta be wondering about the cost. Vegan alternatives are more expensive as it is, even more so when they’re premium products. However, you’d be surprised at how affordable this shake is.
Of course, it’s a bit more expensive than whey, but not by much. In fact, a month’s supply of lyfe fuel will set you back just a couple bucks more than a quality whey protein.
Just a side note that I thought was worth mentioning, lyfe fuel also contains maca root powder, which has a bunch of different properties, one of which is increasing energy and blood flow. It will help you get better pumps at the gym!
2. Kachava - My Absolute Favorite Meal Replacement - Clean, Filler Free, Great Tasting
Alright, so I already showed you guys my favorite protein shake. Now meet my absolute favorite meal replacement shake. So good in fact that sometimes I’d rather have this than actual food!
What is Kachava? Well its a meal replacement shake with over 70 different superfoods and many flavors and a ton of recipes that go along with these flavors, all of that will have you feeling like superman all day long. I know it sounds like bull, but I’ve been having this shake for years now - even before I went vegan - and swear you feel lighter, energetic and powerful when you take it.
I’ve been having Kachava almost daily for about 3 years now, and I can’t recommend this product enough, even more so the vanilla flavor. But don’t take my word for it, let me show why it’s so great.
What 's in It?
Okay so this is a meal replacement shake, not just a protein drink, so those of us who take this aren’t just looking for a high protein content, but also a good nutrient profile that can replace a meal and still provide good nutritional value.
When you take a single serving of Kachava, you get 240 calories, about as much as a sad meal of chicken breast and rice, but this one actually tastes good! Each serving contains 27.75 grams of protein, 9.62 grams of antioxidants - they make you age slower - and 7 grams of fiber.
Fiber and protein are specially important here. I shouldn’t have to explain why protein is, it's the building block for muscles, I think most people know that. What most people don’t consider is fiber, it's great for digestion, but it also makes food a lot more filling.
This is paramount for meal replacement shakes, since liquid food is digested a lot faster and because of that, it tends to be less filling than it’s solid counterpart. By adding a large quantity of fiber to the mix, it improves how long you’ll feel satiated.
Who Is Kachava Best For?
Not everyone needs a meal replacement shake. If you’re stuck at home the entire day, you probably can cook a meal just fine. However, if you’re on the move during the day and want to lose weight, or just stay on top of your nutrition, you should consider meal replacement shakes.
It's quite simple honestly, instead of having to go through the hassle of meal prepping or having to eat out every day, you can just pack a serving of Kachava and you’ll be good to go. It’s also probably cheaper than eating out!
What Are Customer Reviews Saying?
Once again, I’m a frequent consumer of this product, so I can vouch for it. However, if you look it up online, you’ll see I’m not just an outlier. Most people who have tried this product are really, really happy with it. I even saw a guy that was told by his DOCTOR to take it!
Kachava comes in only two flavors, - just the classics - vanilla and chocolate. I’ve had both and they’re both awesome, but I like vanilla just a bit more. In any case, you should give both of them a go. Maybe switch them up so that you don’t get tired of it.
I mentioned above that replacing one of your meals with Kachava could end up saving you money, and I meant it. If you’re not into meal prepping and you usually eat out at your job, then you’re probably spending quite a lot of money on food, and it’s probably not even healthy!
With Kachava, each meal comes out to only 4.66 usd. I dare you to get a healthy meal that’s packed with nutrients, superfoods and protein for such a low price!
Just in case you’re new to meal replacement shakes, I feel it's worth mentioning that you SHOULD NOT replace all of your meals with Kachava. It's a great alternative, but you need to eat some solid food too!
3. Shakeology Plant-Based Vegan - One of the Best in the Business, but Slightly More Pricey
I had a hard time figuring out just what Shakeology is exactly. It’s not a meal replacement shake, but it’s SO MUCH MORE than just a protein shake. After using it for a while I came to the conclusion that Shakeology is kind of a nutritional bomb, that can plug any gaps on your eating habits. This made it a very close second to my favorite protein shake Kachava, and for a while before that it was a tie between Kachava and Shakeology.
Who Is Shakeology Best For?
Well, as I said above, Shakeology is packed to the brim with nutritional value. That’s why I think Shakeology works best for those who are struggling to meet both their macro and micronutrient requirements.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great protein shake that will leave you satiated for longer than most would thanks to all the nutrients. However, if you already have a decent diet and just want some more protein, there are cheaper alternatives. You can check a recent comparison we did with a cheaper alternative to Shakeology, Herbalife here.
What 's in It?
Alright so what do you get in a serving of Shakeology?
Each scoop has 16g of protein sourced from peas, flax, quinoa and rice. Not the highest protein content of the bunch, but still a very respectable amount, especially considering how little calories you’re getting in
Shakeology is packed with probiotics and prebiotics to help develop your gut bacteria for better digestion as well as 6 grams of soluble and insoluble fiber that will help you stay full and satiated for longer.
Low GI Carbohydrates
What’s a “Low GI” carbohydrate? There's a lot of science, biology and chemistry that goes into measuring the GI - Glycemic Index - of carbohydrates, but for our purposes we only need to know one thing. Low GI carbohydrates take longer to digest.
This translates to a “slow burn” kind of effect where energy is released all throughout the day. The opposite happens for high GI foods, where energy is released all at once, a common example being “sugar rushes”.
This way, you still get a filling shake that only contains 17 grams of carbs and comes out to just 160 calories total.
Nutrients and Antioxidants
Shakeology contains a healthy dose of nutrients and antioxidants that will help shore up any deficiencies on your daily nutrition, as well as reduce the effects of stress and aging by eliminating free radicals.
Like I said above, Shakeology is a touch more expensive than most other protein shakes. However, it contains a lot more than just protein, unlike most other protein shakes. I personally think it’s a decent trade off if you’re struggling to get your nutrients otherwise.
If you’re not sure about Shakeology yet, go ahead and try it. They have a 30 day money back guarantee, so if you’re not feeling its effects or just don’t like it for some reason then you get your money back. No questions asked.
You might have heard of Soylent before, as they made headlines when they launched a massively successful Kickstarter campaign to fund their product. Their goal was to create a shake that would completely eliminate the need for other food.
While I’m far from wanting to drop all other food from my diet, they’ve managed to create a damn good meal replacement shake, and when I find myself wanting a break from Kachava, I switch to Soylent for a while.
What’s in Soylent
Unlike other meal replacement shakes, Soylent wasn’t designed with weight loss in mind. You can lose weight while using it and you probably will if you’re coming from a subpar diet. However, since its purpose is to replace food all together, they can get away with a higher calorie content.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that a full serving comes out to 400 calories, composed of 20 grams of protein, 19 grams of fats and 42 grams of carbohydrates. Don’t worry though, these aren’t just regular ingredients, but specially selected ones to optimize your health.
The protein comes from soy, since it's more sustainable and easier on the environment than pea, flax and rice; The carbs are “slow burning”, low GI carbs that will provide energy throughout the day and the fats are healthy, essential fatty acids like omega-3.
That’s not all though, since this is intended to replace most meals, it contains a hell of a lot of nutrients. In fact, it contains over 39 different nutrients and vitamins to keep you healthy, even if you decide to forego real food.
Who Is Soylent For?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Soylent is for crazy folk who won’t eat real food anymore. While you can, I don’t think you should stop eating and just consume Soylent, but it's still a great meal replacement shake that packs more of a punch than most low calorie, diet oriented products. It is for example a great alternative to Huel; the ,somewhat, pricey protein shake we made a detailed breakdown and comparison of the two protein shakes you can find it here.
So, if you’re not really trying to lose weight, you have a really big appetite, and need a quick and easy meal on the go, then Soylent might be just what you need.
Side Note About Reviews
It’s kind of hard to find good reviews for Soylent, at least when you intend to use it as an occasional shake. That’s because ever since it went viral a few years ago, most people try it as a “Soylent Challenge” where they only eat Soylent for 30 days.
While it's an interesting experiment, it doesn’t really do justice to the product. Yes there are a ton of Soylent alternatives out there, and you’re bound to get tired of it if you’re eating Soylent and ONLY Soylent, so by the end, most people are not really happy with it.
That’s why this is a product that you gotta try for yourself. The flavor is great, the texture is great, and the nutritional profile is great. Just don’t try to use it for EVERY meal and you should be fine.
5. Kos Plant Protein
Kos Plant Protein Review
One of my best finds on this project, Kos is a great alternative for a protein shake for those that want to avoid either soy, gluten also for people who want a creatine-free protein powder. I don’t have anything against soy, but I know some people do, mostly because of GMO concerns. Similarly, celiacs can’t have gluten, so it's a win win.
What 's in it
For starters, you get the basics, 20 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat and 9 grams of carbs. Coming down to a total of 170 calories per scoop. A pretty good macro profile if you ask me, high protein, low carbs, low fat. What more could you want?
Well, in this case you also get a very complete micronutrient profile, with plenty of vitamins to fill any nutritional gaps you may have. That’s not all though, you also get an enzyme blend that will help you digest the protein far faster.
That means better absorption rate to your muscles, as well as preventing you from feeling sluggish or heavy due to poor digestion.
What Are Customer Reviews Saying?
It comes as no surprise that most customers are really happy with this protein powder, it’s tasty, filling and nutritious, basically, it gets the job done. What does come as a surprise is just how pleased they are with the different flavors.
For testing purposes, I mostly stick to the classic flavors, chocolate & vanilla. However, with KOS you can also go for mint or peanut butter chocolate, and from what I’m reading, they’re an instant hit.
I already mentioned this above, but I feel it's worth pointing out by itself. If you’ve got GMO concerns and wanna stick to something more natural, KOS is the one for you, since it's got only non-GMO, ethically sourced ingredients.
6.Vega Sport, Plant Based Premium Protein
Vega Sport Review
Another great option for those with dietary restrictions or allergies or want protein powder for sensitive stomachs, Vega’s premium protein is GMO free, gluten free and vegan certified.
What 's in It?
If you’re looking for a protein powder with a really high protein to calorie ratio, then this is the one for you. With Vegas Premium protein powder you get 30 grams of protein per scoop, for only 160 calories, that are mostly made up of fat (3 grams) and carbs (5 grams)
Who Is Vega’s Protein Powder For?
While anyone looking to add a little more protein to their diet can benefit from it, thanks to the high protein content and low calories, this is an ideal product for those looking to lose weight.
The protein makes the shake a lot more filling, while the low calories will help you stay in a caloric deficit and eventually lose weight.
Vega Sport’s protein powder is keto friendly!! Thanks to the low carb content, drinking this shake won’t take you out of ketosis!
7. Orgain - Organic Protein
This time I have something different for you guys, Organic Protein is your run of the mill vegan protein. It’s good enough and gets the job done, Orgain and Vega One the previous entry on our list have a lot of similarities, but there are two things that set this protein apart.
As you might have guessed from the name, this protein is made from 100% organic ingredients, so if that’s your thing, have at it.
However, there are a few options out there for those who wanna eat organic, but I’ve never seen a protein powder labeled as kosher before this one. So, if your dietary restrictions include only eating kosher food, I’ve got great news for you!
What 's in It?
Aside from being both organic and kosher, you get pretty much the usual package. Each serving (2 scoops) contains 21 grams of protein, 15 grams of carbs and 4 grams of fats, which rounds out to 150 calories per serving. Not bad if I may say so myself.
Who Is It For?
Well, I shouldn’t have to tell you that anyone looking for kosher products should be quick to snatch up this protein powder. It’s not something you see often in the supplement industry. That being said, anyone looking for a protein powder can use it, though there are better options above.
Another great thing about this product is its cost. It’ll set you back just as much - maybe even less- than regular whey protein, without all the downsides.
8. Promix - Unflavoured Vegan Protein Powder
At first I couldn’t understand why anyone would want a protein powder that has no flavor at all. None. I actually look forward to having my shakes as a tasty treat, so I couldn’t find a reason why people would want to get rid of that.
However, as my little experiment dragged on, I found myself getting sick and tired of some flavours, or simply wanting to throw my powder on a smoothie without having the shake overpower everything else. That’s when I saw how a flavorless shake could come in handy.
What 's in It?
Nutrition is always the most important when discussing a protein powder, but since there’s no taste, it's doubly more so for this one. Luckily, since they don’t need to make it tasty, they can spare carbs and you get a protein to calorie ratio you won’t find anywhere else.
A serving of Promix’s powder packs 25 grams of protein but only 3 grams of carbs, and ZERO grams of carbs. Even better, you get all of that for ONLY 115 calories! If you’re trying to lose weight, it gets no better than this.
However, you’re most likely gonna use this powder alongside something that gives it flavor, so try to stick to low calorie foods or sweeteners.
Who Is It For?
Well, I consider this protein powder to be more of an ingredient than a standalone supplement. I don’t see many people just chucking this in their bag for a post workout shake, it wouldn’t be very pleasant.
So, to sum up, this is for folk who need to add some protein to their diet but don’t wanna do it in the form of a traditional shake. Maybe you like mixing your protein powder with smoothies, maybe you wanna use it for cooking, possibilities are endless.
Maybe because of the need for less ingredients, maybe it's just a great deal, all I can tell you is that this protein powder is absurdly cheap. I’m definitely keeping some on hand for when I get tired of classic flavors.
9. Optimum Nutrition Plant Based Protein Powder
Optimum Nutrition Review
If you’ve ever had whey protein, then you have probably heard of Optimum Nutrition. To call them a staple of the supplement industry would be an understatement, and it's no surprise that they’re trying their hand at a plant based protein too.
What's in It?
The composition for this one is fairly standard, 24 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat and 7 grams of carbs, totaling at 150 calories per serving. It’s almost the same you’d get from their whey protein, just a little more fat and carbs.
Who Is It For?
This is a good protein powder for sure, but definitely not the best in this list. I’d suggest this one for those that are dipping their toes into plant based proteins and want to go with a brand they know and trust.
This protein powder also comes in an unflavored variant, so if the previous entry sounds like something you’d like, but you wanna go with a more well known brand, you can use this one instead!
10. Garden of Life
Garden of Life Protein Powder Review
Last but not least we have the Garden of life. It’s the only entry on this list that is both RAW and organic. Why go for raw protein? Well they claim that the high temperature manufacturing that most protein powders go through denatures the protein and reduces their bioavailability.
In layman’s terms, it means that when heated to high temperatures, proteins are harder to take in by your body. Garden of life uses low temperature manufacturing to ensure the quality of the ingredients is not compromised along the way.
What's in It?
Depending on the flavor, you can go for either a 120 calorie option (Chocolate) or 110 (Vanilla), but no matter which one you pick, you still get 20 grams of protein as well as vitamins to fill any deficiencies and enzymes to aid in digestion. and it's also a low-sodium protein powder which helps stabilize your blood pressure among health benefits.
Who Is It For?
Well the answer is kind of obvious for this one isn't it? Those of us who follow a raw diet, or just wanna dip their toes in and start introducing it to their lifestyle, this is a great choice.
This protein is also gluten and GMO free, so you can be safe if you’re celiac or if you wanna avoid non organic ingredients.
Interesting Question That Most Have
Which Is Better? Whey Protein or Plant-Based Protein?
On the one hand, you can say that protein is protein, no matter where you source it from, and yes to your muscles it doesn’t really make a difference. HOWEVER, whey comes with a host of problems like gut issues and global warming, which make it a less desirable choice.
Can You Build Muscle Without Whey?
Of course you can! Like I said, protein is protein, you could even build muscle without any protein powder at all. Though if you’re on a vegan or vegetarian diet you might struggle to actually get enough protein to build muscle as fast as possible. The most important thing is, to work out; that's how you build muscle. Don't drink protein shakes without workouts and think you are going to build muscle.
How Much Protein Should I Have Per Day?
The usual recommendation is anywhere between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight or target weight in the case of those suffering from obesity. Eating more than than is kind of pointless since your body will just dispose of it.
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