Purchasing supplements can be an overwhelming process, whether it’s protein powder, fish oil, or an every-day multi vitamin. There are so many brands available, all with varying claims and reviews. It’s difficult to know what you should be purchasing and incorporating into your daily routine.
A personal supplement hunt of my own has been around finding the best tasting plant-based protein powder that meets my nutritional standards. Although I like to get the majority of my protein through whole foods, I still find this difficult to do in the morning, or when I'm really busy, which is why I turn to a powdered supplement to help me meet my protein intake goals.
As I’ve noted in the past, I prefer plant-based proteins because I tend to digest them much better than whey. This isn’t uncommon, as whey is a dairy-based supplement, and can be somewhat inflammatory, depending on your system.
Now, if you’ve never had a plant-based protein, I’m just going to say it: it’s not as good as whey isolate. Disagree if you’d like, but my personal opinion is that it’s rare to find a plant protein with a texture that even comes close to whey. For those of you who are regular consumers of plant-based protein, I’m sure you understand where I’m coming from—it can be grainy, chalky, and simply not good, flavour wise.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with a few brands. So, I thought I would take some of the guess work out for you, and provide a brief review of each, based on my own experiences.
The three brands I am going to review are:
Vega Sport Performance Protein (vanilla)
Garden of Life Raw Protein (chocolate)
Lean Fit Naturals Complete Green Protein (vanilla bean)
When I’m looking for a protein powder, I am not looking for a meal replacement. That is, I almost always mix my protein powder with other foods, whether I’m making a smoothie, or (more often than not) a protein pancake. So I don’t need a nice balance of carbohydrates and protein. I can easily get my carbs and fats from other sources (I don’t know about you, but finding carbs to eat generally isn’t an issue for me…). So I look for brands that offer an adequate dose of protein (20g is preferable for me), while remaining low in carbohydrates (under 10 grams).
Vega Sport Performance Protein (vanilla)
I have previously been an avid consumer of Vega protein, because I didn’t know what else to use. However, I was never quite happy with the macronutrient breakdown. I felt like the protein was a bit low and the carbs were a bit high. So when I discovered Vega Sport, I was optimistic: for every 33g serving (131 cal), there are 26g of protein, and 4.5g of carbs. I was impressed with the numbers, so all it had to do was pass the taste test. I threw some into my morning pancake, and was reasonably satisfied. The taste was pretty good and the texture was smooth.
Vega is primarily a pea protein, with some sprouted whole grain rice protein added in. In my experience, pea protein is where it’s at, simply because of the texture it provides.
All in all, Vega Sport Performance receives my stamp of approval and I will continue to purchase it. As an added bonus, Vega products are readily available at many stores, so you don’t have to drive 45 minutes to your nearest organic/raw/local/really-expensive grocery store to find it. I picked this one up at the Loblaws down my street in the health section. It will run you around $55 (829g)—but watch the sales. I’ve seen Vega products on sale in Loblaws quite a bit.
Garden of Life Raw Protein (chocolate)
First things first: great marketing, Garden of Life. Your label makes me feel ultra healthy, like I must be making the right chose by purchasing your protein powder. Unfortunately, as soon as I put the product into my mouth, I was worried that my protein container had accidentally been filled with sand.
Ok, that was a tad dramatic. But, regardless of the macros or taste, the first thing I noticed about this protein was its texture. And not in a good way. “Grainy” would be the adjective to use in describing it. Although the chocolate flavouring was quite good, I just couldn’t get past the texture.
Although I won’t be purchasing this one again until some changes are made, I’ll give you the nutritional breakdown anyway. For every 23g serving (90 cal), you get 17g of protein and 1g of carbohydrates. So, although it wasn’t my favourite, the numbers are good. For those of you who don’t take texture into consideration, this could be a reasonable option for you. It contains sprouted brown rice protein, amaranth sprout, quinoa sprout, buckwheat sprout, garbonzo bean sprout, lentil sprout, and the list goes on (with more sprouted stuff). Its protein content is certainly different than most plant-based powders I’ve seen, which could speak to its different texture. Something to keep in mind when shopping around.
I do have to hand it to Garden of Life: they take mercy on all us food-intolerant folk and advertise that their protein is raw, vegan, organic, gluten free, fairy free, lactose free, and contains no fillers, no synthetic nutrients, no artificial flavours, or sweeteners or preservatives. Basically, if you eat it, you’re going to live forever (I think that’s what it means, anyway).
I paid about $32 for this protein (650g) on vitacost.com, my favourite online health and supplement site (but that’s another post).
Lean Fit Naturals Complete Green Protein
This one is a bit of a wild card. My mother actually discovered it at Costco for a reasonable price, so I decided to check it out. I had never heard of this company, never mind the protein. Despite putting in a good search effort, I couldn’t find any reviews or check points on this product, so all I could do is go off of the information provided by the label and my own opinion. I don’t love using a product regularly without reading up on some outside reviews, but it will just have to do in this case until the protein gains some popularity (if that day ever comes).
I have to admit, when I picked it up from Costco, the health snob in me said to keep my expectations low. So when I first gave it a go, I was pleasantly surprised. The taste was excellent, while the texture was smooth and combined well with other foods. Its nutritional breakdown includes 110 cal for every 30g serving, 18g of protein, and 8g of carbohydrates. Lean Fit uses a plant protein blend of pea, hemp, flax, brown rice, and chia seed.
I like it so much that I just ran out. That’s why I made my mom take a picture of her own supply and send it to me, so I could feature it here. That leads me to the product's main downfall: I have not been able to find it anywhere else except Costco. So, if you don’t have a membership, it could make keeping it in stock a little tricky (I am exhibit A, since I mooch off my parents’ membership every chance I get).
Update: Since this post was published, Leanfit has increased their availability and can now be purchased at many grocery stores and drugstores, in addition to Costco. I am fortunate to have become an ambassador for Leanfit, and am enjoying working alongside this growing company, as they continue to develop a variety of high-quality supplements in the health and fitness industry.
To wrap it up…
Based on numbers, taste and availability, I will be sticking with Vega Sport Performance protein, but will definitely pick up a container or two of Lean Fit Naturals when I have the chance, despite the lack of literature surrounding it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
Just as a side note...
I am almost halfway through my nutrition coaching certification, and am loving every minute of it! The content is heavy and can often leave me needing a nap... but I'm soaking it all up. The first half of my course has focused on the science behind nutrition, while the second half will focus on effective coaching. Thank you to everyone for all the support!