Soy Free Vegan Protein Blends
If you’re like me, you want high quality protein but want to avoid soy if possible. I’ve come up with a mix of vegan proteins that works well together, tastes pretty darn good, and is great for both bulking and cutting.
I choose to skip soy for many reasons. First, because soy is added to everything from baby formula to protein bars to facial creams. I try not to eat anything in excess, and this big soy push scares me.
Second, soy isoflavones depress thyroid function, thereby decreasing metabolism and causing other thyroid diseases. The last thing I need when trying to add mass or lean out is a sluggish thyroid and metabolism. I’m busting my tail in the gym to get everything up!
Soy lowers testosterone levels in men and disrupts normal female menstruation. Since our goal is to get our testosterone levels up to bulk up, no reason to eat something that wants to bring it down!
If you’re interested in a comprehensive piece on the dangers of soy, complete with over seventy references to studies, click here. This three-page article is hosted on Mercola.com, but written by Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions) and Dr. Mary Enig (chemist and clinical nutrition editor).
If Soy Is Out, What’s In? I think the safest bet is a blend of hemp, pea, and brown rice proteins, with some optional high-nutrition foods like Vitamineral Green, ground flax seed, and perhaps super fruits.
While relatively new to the protein powder market, hemp has the perfect amino acid profile needed to sustain human life.
Hemp’s essential fatty acids help move lactic acid out of muscles post-workout, making it the best option for your recovery drink .
Cannibis Sativa plants require no herbicide or pesticides, making them good for our bodies and great for the Earth.
Hemp is gluten-free, and therefore safe for those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
It has a subtle nutty flavor which doesn’t interfere with fruit or nut milks in smoothies, and is tasty just in water.
The powder is cold-milled and therefore suitable for those on a raw foods diet.
The Not So Good:
Hemp protein is relatively expensive when compared with whey and soy proteins.
It can be gritty. I use Living Harvest brand myself and find that it’s necessary to have a banana in my smoothie to enjoy the texture. When leaning out, you probably don’t want as many carbs as you’d need to get down two scoops of this stuff.
It’s very calorie dense for the protein punch. One 30-gram serving contains 130 calories, 9 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber.
This particular brand is sweetened with cane sugar instead of stevia. If you get the plain, the nutrition profile changes favorably: 30 grams is 110 calories, 14 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber.
Didn’t think mom knew what she was talking about when she said starving children needed peas to live, did you? OK, so garden peas don’t count, we’re talking about yellow peas here.
I don’t know many people who use pea protein except perhaps Kristen and her husband from Kristen’s Raw (my favorite raw vegan website). It’s relatively new, so here the lowdown:
Pea protein is super easy to digest, safe for babies and the elderly as well as you and I. Doesn’t give you that bloated feeling you get from some other powders.
It’s almost carb-free, amazing for cutting!
Smooth texture, almost disappears in liquid.
Pea protein is gluten-free, fat-free, and sugar-free.
It has a mild taste, and I can tolerate it in just water, preferably with 1 T. of vanilla spice hemp protein powder in the glass (yes, I have a bit of a sweet tooth). It’s definitely not a “plug and chug” flavor, if you know what I mean!
Some brands are raw.
Zero fiber, so take along with another protein or lots of water.
Check your labels. Mercola’s pea protein only has 8 grams protein in a 30 gram serving, whereas Kirkman has 24 grams of protein in a 30 gram serving!
Brown Rice Protein
The Mack Daddy of vegan protein, at least in terms of protein content. Here goes:
Brown rice protein powder has the highest vegan protein powder content in the free world.
Sun Warrior brand is sprouted, giving you the extra nutrition of the enzyme activity sprouting affords.
It is nearly fat-free, and is sugar-free.
A bit of fiber to help get it through the system. I still prefer it with a bit of hemp protein powder for that reason.
Sorry to say, it’s all super gritty. I’ve personally been using Riceotein lately, and think it’s much worse than Sun Warrior. Cetaris paribus, I’ll take Sun Warrior any day.
It’s all vegan, but it’s not all raw. Be careful if you’re a raw vegan, as some brands (like Sun Warrior) are raw, but most are not.
The flavors, augh. I prefer natural (flavor-free) protein powders for the most part, but I can’t hack plain in rice protein. The chocolate it OK in my opinion.
In Riceotein, the chocolate is stevia sweetened. Some brands contain cocoa powder but no sweetener, leaving the choice up to the user. I think that’s a great idea, but I don’t keep any artificial sweetener on hand.
If you’re bulking, a bit of agave nectar is probably your best bet. If you’re cutting I’d go with stevia, or xylitol if you can deal with sugar alcohols. You’ve got to check your labels, since different brands vary to an enormous degree.
Please, I beg of you, do not spend your money on the Mixed Berry flavor of Nutribiotic. It’s bitter and just all kinds of wrong. I shudder at the memory.
Ground Flax Seed
Flax is a vegan’s best choice for essential fatty acids (along with hemp protein, of course) in my opinion. It’s cheap, readily available, and full of fiber.
Several protein powders contain ground flax, and that just bothers me. When you grind flax, it begins to go rancid almost immediately. You must keep it refrigerated, but you’re still losing the Omega 3s to oxidation.
It makes more sense to me to grind your flax seed in a small coffee grinder or Magic Bullet just before use. Personally, I just toss a tablespoon of seeds into my BlendTec and before I make my smoothie.
I love using fresh greens in my smoothie, but I really don’t use much in the way of sea vegetables like kelp, dulse, and nori. I know I should, but I just don’t like them much!
A great way to get them into your diet is a product like Vitamineral Green. It contains low-temperature dried greens, sea veggies, probiotics, and enzymes to keep your health at an optimum level.
If I’m being real, it doesn’t taste great to me. Inside a smoothie however, I can get over it, as the taste is well masked (if not hidden totally).
Of all the green drinks, this is the best in my opinion. It’s got the best nutrient profile and taste, and it’s really worth adding to your diet.
It can be drunk in water, juice, or in your smoothies, and I prefer it in a smoothie or a strongly-flavored juice (such as cherry).
Fruits and Chia
The beautiful thing about adding super fruits to your smoothie is that you’re getting the benefits without all of the calories. When you’re cutting, this is a big deal.
We all know how much nutrition we need, but the calories can be prohibitive. Super fruits, such as Fruits of the Earth from Health Force and Raw Pomegranate powder from Nativas Naturals are great options.
The same seeds from that 80’s wonder the Chia Pet gives us a super food that’s up there with the best of ‘em.
The beautiful thing about chia is that, unlike flax, you don’t have to grind them to release their benefits. Chia produces a gel, which is great for thickening a smoothie.
The nutrition in these little guys is out of this world. They contain easily digestible protein, essential fatty acids (particularly omega-3), soluble fiber (which makes them gel), antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
For cutting, add more chia to your smoothie, because the full feeling will last longer. For bulking, chia may help stabilize blood sugar when you’re adding more fruits. It’s a win-win.
Calorie and protein quantities will change a bit based on which products you use, but here are some of my favorites:
My favorite cutting recipe:
1 scoop (33 grams) pea protein (130 kcal, 28 g protein)
2 T. brown rice protein (60 kcal, 16 g protein)
½ scoop (15 grams) hemp protein (55 kcal, 7 g protein)
1 heaping T. Vitamineral Green (40 kcal)
1 T. chia seed (25 kcal)
1 T. Fruits of the Earth (20 kcal)
12-16 oz water
Mix in shaker and drink it down.
330 kcal, 51 g. protein
My favorite bulking recipe:
4 T. brown rice protein (120 kcal, 32 g. protein)
1 scoop pea protein (130 kcal, 28 g. protein)
1 scoop hemp protein (110 kcal, 14 gr protein)
1 heaping T. Vitamineral Green (40 kcal)
½ oz raw chocolate powder (60 kcal)
2 c. hemp milk (260 kcal, 8 g protein)
1 T. chia seed (25 kcal)
Mix in shaker and love as you sip slowly, savoring.
745 kcal, 82 g. protein
My favorite maintenance recipe:
3 T. brown rice protein (90 kcal, 24 g. protein)
1 scoop pea protein (130 kcal, 28 g protein)
½ scoop hemp protein (55 kcal, 7 g protein)
1 T. Vitamineral Green (40 kcal)
1 banana (105 kcal, 1 g protein)
2 T. Fruits of the Earth (40 kcal)
1 T. Pomegranate Power (50 kcal)
2 c. water
Shake and love the fruity flavor!
500 kcal, 60 g. protein
You may add any sweetener you prefer, if you feel it’s necessary.
I use these smoothies as a meal, which helps account for their high calorie content. If you prefer to use them as snacks, just mix up a batch and divide in half.
Want something icier? No problem! So long as your blender can crush ice, replace half the water with ice and enjoy the cool sensation.
Of course you can always add as many greens to your smoothie as you like, I prefer at least 1 large handful baby spinach or kale, well blended.
While you’re at it, check out some smoothie recipes here!